Blair: I will quit on June 27th

Tony Blair will step down as prime minister on June 27th, he confirmed today ending months of speculation about the future of the Labour party.

The new leader of the Labour party, most likely Gordon Brown, will be elected at a special leadership conference on June 24th. They will be appointed prime minister by the Queen soon after.

Mr Blair confirmed his departure in front of Labour activists in his Sedgefield constituency.

He made the announcement in Durham Trimdon Labour Club in the same room he launched his own leadership campaign in 1994 – “where my political journey began and it is fitting this is where it will end,” Mr Blair said.

The prime minister first met with Cabinet colleagues in Downing Street. He informed them privately of his plans, before travelling to his home seat.

The seven week process of selecting his successor has now begun, with Gordon Brown officially on the final stretch towards Number Ten.

Labour MPs will have three days to seek nomination from the parliamentary Labour party before a seven-week period of hustings and elections.

The chancellor is expected to begin his campaign tomorrow, unveiling his broad policies as prime minister. Gordon Brown’s supporters claim he has already been backed by more than half of Labour MPs.

He is unlikely to face a Cabinet level challenge for the leadership. Despite pressure for a Blairite challenger, David Miliband, Charles Clarke and John Reid have all confirmed they will not contest the leadership.

Either John McDonnell or Michael Meacher still hope to pose a leftwing challenge to Mr Brown. They will hold a press conference this afternoon announcing which of them has the necessary support to make it onto the ballot. Despite optimistic sounds from both hopefuls, it is doubtful either will obtain the necessary support from 44 MPs.

As the Labour party concentrates on electing its successor, Mr Blair will be countering claims he is a ‘lame duck’ prime minister. He is set to embark on what is already being termed his farewell world tour.

Mr Blair will push for global progress on climate change, aid for Africa and a streamlined EU ‘treaty’. At least two bills will be published in the UK, covering criminal justice and terror, and the prime minister is set to publish two final policy papers.

Conservative leader David Cameron yesterday told Mr Blair he was presiding over a “government of the living dead”.

He told MPs: “We’ve got a home secretary splitting his department but he’s already resigned. We’ve got a foreign secretary negotiating a European treaty that she won’t be around to ratify and we’ve got a prime minister who even after last week’s drubbing simply doesn’t understand that it’s over.”

He continued: “I don’t know why the Cabinet are all shouting – the chancellor’s spin doctors are all running around the lobby, handing out all of their jobs. This is the government of the living dead.”

The prime minister’s official spokesman (PMOS) has denied claims Mr Blair will be a ‘lame duck’ for his final weeks in office. He will remain “fully engaged” as prime minister until he steps down in early July, his spokesman insisted.

“Whatever the prime minister says about his party position does not affect his governmental position and he would remain as prime minister,” the PMOS said.