Ministers back Blair as he heads into tough week

 

Senior ministers rallied round British prime minister, Mr Tony Blair today in an attempt to bury speculation over threats to his leadership ahead of a tough week which will put Iraq back at the top of Britain's political agenda.

The next five days will help set the backdrop for the next election, expected in 2005, with a report into intelligence failings over Iraq's weaponry, two closely watched by-elections and the unveiling of government's three-year spending plans.

I think as they see power passing to the Iraqi people themselves, as they see the United Nations getting more engaged that some of that animosity, some of the distrust about our own motives is diminishing.
British health secretary, Mr John Reid

Mr Blair's personal trust ratings were dented by the Iraq conflict and with ally Us president George Bush also feeling the heat over the war, this weekend sees the Mr Blair once again fighting off reports that he considered quitting.

Ministers dismissed such talk.

"I think his position is very strong, has always been strong, has never been under threat and that he will continue up to the election and beyond," said cabinet member Mr Charles Clarke.

But senior politicians acknowledged the government has been through an extremely challenging few months.

"I would not say for a moment that this has not been a very difficult episode,," health secretary Mr John Reid said.

"I think as they see power passing to the Iraqi people themselves, as they see the United Nations getting more engaged that some of that animosity, some of the distrust about our own motives is diminishing," he said.

Analysts say the worst might be over, but as long as British soldiers remain in Iraq, the issue will continue to dog Blair.