Thursday 15 January 2004

Hutton poll heaps pressure on Blair

I think a simple resignation doesn't cut it. I'm in favour of putting some stocks in Tower Green, sticking Blair, Straw and Hoon in them and then providing free rotten tomatoes to all the tourists who want to relive history!

Tony Blair should resign if Lord Hutton rules that he authorised the leaking of the name of government scientist David Kelly, a new poll revealed today.

The Channel 4 News survey by YouGov said more than half of voters - some 57% - think the prime minister should quit if he is found culpable by the inquiry.

Mr Blair chaired the meeting where the media strategy that led to Dr Kelly's identification as the Iraq mole was decided, the law lord heard during last year's inquiry. But the peer is expected to say that is not the same as leaking it when he delivers his report, expected within weeks. Only 17% said the prime minister had not acted wrongly in the weeks leading up to Dr Kelly's death. Mr Blair was blamed "a great deal" by 18%, a "fair amount" by 28% and "a little" by 17%. More than a third of voters who had backed him at the last general election said Mr Blair had betrayed their trust.

The findings will heap further pressure on Mr Blair, who is set to appear on a Newsnight special next Monday as part of Labour's big conversation initiative to let members of the public grill the PM directly. However, he will only take questions on the government's plans for university tuition fees.

Opposition leader Michael Howard claimed at prime minister's question time today that Mr Blair was in a "desperately dodgy" position over his role in the strategy that led to the outing of David Kelly.

Asked by Mr Howard whether he stood by his claim that he did not authorise the naming of the government scientist, who was found dead last July, Mr Blair insisted he stood by "all that I have said in relation to this issue".

But the Channel 4 poll appeared to be a reflection on politicians in general as much as Mr Blair in particular. Almost one in five, 19%, thought he was more honest than other MPs with 25% saying less. The majority, 51%, said he was typical.

But Mr Blair faced wide ranging criticism from those questioned, with almost three quarters, 70%, saying he was out of touch - including 55% of traditional Labour voters.

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