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Most Britons want Blair to resign now -poll

Reuters
Sunday, February 4, 2007

Most Britons think Prime Minister Tony Blair should step down now, according to an opinion poll published on Sunday after a week of damaging headlines for the premier over an investigation into political funding.

Blair, who plans to resign later this year after more than a decade in power, was questioned by police for a second time last month about the case which has also seen some of his closest aides arrested.

Blair said in a speech to activists from his Labour Party on Saturday that he did not underestimate the scale of the problems facing his government. But he has said the cash-for-peerages probe will not force him to bring forward his departure date.

The ICM poll published in the Sunday Express found 56 percent of those polled believed Blair should resign now. Even among those who termed themselves as Labour voters, 43 percent said Blair should leave his post immediately.

Blair has refused to name a date for stepping down but many politicians expect him to hand over to Chancellor Gordon Brown in July.

Police are investigating whether Labour and other parties recommended donors, or those giving loans, for state honours that come with seats in the unelected upper house of parliament.

Labour's top fundraiser and a Blair aide were arrested last month on suspicion of obstructing justice, leading opposition politicians to draw parallels with Watergate, the scandal that forced former U.S. President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974.

The affair has added another dent to the image of a government battered by the Iraq war, and the Conservatives now consistently lead Labour in opinion polls.

The ICM poll found that 66 percent of those interviewed believed Blair's Downing Street office had tried to cover up evidence regarding the investigation into political funding.

Of Labour supporters, 56 percent of those questioned shared the view that there had been an attempted cover-up.

In December, Blair became the first serving prime minister to be questioned by police in a criminal investigation.

Police have interviewed him both times as a witness, not a suspect. No one has been charged and all those questioned deny wrongdoing.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron was quoted by the Daily Telegraph on Saturday as saying Blair's government had passed a "tipping point" and was in a "state of paralysis".

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