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Blair wanted to quit year before Iraq war - book

By Staff
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Google Oneindia News

LONDON, July 8 (Reuters) Tony Blair wanted to quit as Britain's prime minister a year before the Iraq war after a fall in his poll ratings, his former chief media aide Alastair Campbell said today.

Blair asked a group of advisers in 2002 whether he should announce he would not lead Labour into a third election, Campbell said in an extract from his diaries, due to be published tomorrow.

In the end Blair only finally handed over the leadership to his successor Gordon Brown last month, after a decade in power and more than two years after winning a historic third consecutive term for Labour in the 2005 general election.

The moment of doubt came in June 2002 after Blair had been briefed on how his poll ratings on trust had ''really dipped'', Campbell said.

''In truth I've never really wanted to do more than two full terms,'' Campbell quoted Blair as saying.

''It was pretty clear to me that he had just about settled his view, that he would sometime announce it, say that he was going to stay for the full term, but not go into the election as leader,'' Campbell noted.

The extracts were released a day before the publication of Campbell's political memoirs, based on the diaries he kept during his time as Blair's official spokesman and later director of communications.

In a BBC television interview, Campbell defended his decision to publish his insider account, ''The Blair Years''.

''There are lots of people in government who think I shouldn't be doing this. There will be people in the civil service who think it is wrong.

''It is an attempt to say to people -- 'Forget all the stuff you have read and you hear and the rest of it, some of it is accurate and some of it is not' -- this is my perspective on what it was like while I was there,'' he said.

Campbell said it had been his decision to take out certain references to rows between Blair and Brown because he did not want to give Conservative leader David Cameron ''a goldmine'' to use against the new prime minister.

''I'm not going to deny ... there weren't times when relations (between Blair and Brown) were pretty tense and when some pretty harsh things were said, there were,'' Campbell said.

Brown told Sky News he would not be reading Campbell's book.

''I'm not going to read diaries. I am more interested in the future.

I think the past is the past,'' he said.

REUTERS PD PM1848

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