PM refuses to confirm Brown's future

Last updated at 12:49 06 January 2005

The Prime Minister has reacted angrily to accusations that he is deliberately trying to grab the media spotlight from his Cabinet colleague Gordon Brown today.

Tony Blair's office arranged his monthly press conference for 10am - exactly the same time as the Chancellor keynote speech on the crisis in South-East Asia and his pet themes of aid and debt relief. It is the first time the PM's press conference has not been held at midday.

Mr Blair today refused to be drawn into answering questions on a future role for Mr Brown in the Cabinet if Labour secured a third term at the next General Election.

The Prime Minister claimed that his partnership with Gordon Brown is strong and repeated his claims that he "has done a superb job at Chancellor and I am happy with the job he is doing".

There has been widespread speculation in Westminster that Mr Brown may be moved from the Treasury after the election to put an end to widely-reported tensions between 10 and 11 Downing Street.

Speaking at his monthly press conference at Downing Street, Mr Blair said: "I don't take, as some people do, our re-election for granted.

"Whenever the election is, it's going to be a tough election fight. We are going to have to do everything we possibly can to persuade the British people that we deserve re-election. I take absolutely nothing for granted.

"I'm not getting into the business of what happens after elections and reshuffles and all the rest of it.

"But I can tell you, he's done a superb job for many years and I have no doubt he will continue to do a superb job."

Challenged on whether this meant Mr Brown would continue to do the same job after the election, Mr Blair responded: "He is doing it now, for goodness sake."

Hailed public response

Mr Blair told reporters that Britain would respond "positively" to a United Nations appeal for the victims of the Asian tsunami and repeated predictions that official British aid would eventually run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

He hailed the "remarkable" response of the British public to the Boxing Day tragedy.

And he said his heart went out to the hundreds of British families who have lost loved ones. Many of those now listed as missing would eventually prove to have died on Boxing Day, he said.

He also pledged to cover the costs of repatriating the bodies of British victims of the tragedy.

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