Blair to battle on, despite quitting reports

Mr Blair was dissuaded from resigning by four senior Cabinet members, the BBC reported.

Ministers Charles Clarke, John Reid, Tessa Jowell and Patricia Hewitt separately approached Mr Blair because he was “seriously reviewing” his future as prime minister, the BBC said.

Mr Blair, who led his Labour Party to election victories in 1997 and 2001, has suffered a massive loss in popularity because of his decision to take Britain into last year’s war in Iraq.

Blair loyalists were quick to rally round the Prime Minister ahead of another difficult week for his government as it faces the findings of an inquiry into the failings of British intelligence on Iraq as well as two key by-elections.

They were quick to douse fresh speculation over Mr Blair’s future, insisting he would solider on. British tabloid The Sun reported Mr Blair hoped to serve five more years in office, a full third term if his Labour Party wins elections expected next year.

And British Education Secretary Charles Clarke told BBC television he believed: “Tony will stay as leader for a very, very long time”.

“I think his position is very strong, has always been strong, has never been under threat, and will continue up to the election and beyond,” Mr Clarke said.

Health Secretary John Reid said the Prime Minister “will lead us into the next general election and, God and the electorate willing, will be prime minister in this country for many years to come.”

However, Conservative Party co-chairman Liam Fox said: “The fact that four Cabinet ministers have apparently asked the Prime Minister to stay on shows how deep the divisions have become within this failing Government.”

On Wednesday, former civil service chief Lord Robin Butler will report the conclusions of a five-month inquiry into whether Britain fought the Iraq war on the basis of false intelligence.

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