Gay MP to Blair – time to go

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Gay MP Chris Bryant has been leading calls for Tony Blair to step down as Prime Minister.

Mr Blair has recently faced increased demands to name a departure date as party members and politicians become more split over the direction of Labour and goverment policy.

It was revealed this morning that at least two letters have been drafted to Mr Blair requesting his departure, one from 38 MPs elected in 2005 and one reportedly less direct, led by usually loyal MPs Sion Simon and Mr Bryant.

Commentators have noted that the second letter is backed by a large number of MPs elected in 2001, meaning that the two newest intakes of MPs, who should be considered Blairite, are unhappy with the current situation.

The letters have not yet been delivered to Downing Street, the BBC reports

Bryant, the 44-year-old MP for Rhonna, recently resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Constitutional Affairs minister Lord Falconer. He is a former Anglican priest, and caused controversy earlier this year after auctioning a copy of the Hutton report, signed by Cherie Blair, to raise funds for the Labour party. He has been open about his sexuality throughout his career, and was previously seen as a personal favourite of Mrs Blair.

His decision to leave the government is significant as it indicates the level of unhappiness about Mr Blair’s refusal to name a departure date. Lobby journalists report that the majority of backbench Labour MPs want the prime minister to announce his departure at the party’s annual conference, being held in Manchester later this month.

However, Mr Blair has defied his party once again, declaring in an interview with The Times last week that he has no intention of telling the party his future plans, a move that infuriated activists and MPs worried about keeping their seat at the next election.

This morning, David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, admitted on Radio 4’s Today programme that twelve months is a reasonable timetable for the Prime Minister to go. Miliband brushed aside questions about a leaked memo from Downing St outlining a Blair ‘victory tour’ of Britain to mark the end of his leadership. The tour was to include farewell appearances on Blue Peter and Songs of Praise.

Meanwhile a Times Populus poll placed David Cameron’s Conservative Party above Labour regardless of who is in charge at the next general election.

Gordon Brown is still regarded as almost certain to become prime minister when Mr Blair quits. Other contenders are rumoured to be John Reid and Alan Johnson, though there is speculation that Blair wants his protege Miliband to take over.