London: British Prime Minister Tony Blair's exit from office should be planned to the last detail and show him as a "star" on a "farewell tour", according to a memo leaked to a newspaper on Tuesday.
The memo, drawn up by a team of Blair's top aides and published in the Daily Mirror, shows how a government lampooned for its obsession with spin since Blair came to office in 1997 is still determined to manage his image to the end.
It proposes a whirlwind of TV and radio appearances in the final months of Blair's premiership and declares: “His genuine legacy is not the delivery ... but the dominance of New Labour ideas, the triumph of Blairism.”
"As TB (Tony Blair) enters his final phase he needs to be focusing way beyond the finishing line, not looking at it. He needs to go with the crowds wanting more. He should be the star who won't even play that last encore," the memo says.
In office for nine years, Blair has said he will not seek a fourth term and will give his successor, expected to be finance minister Gordon Brown, ample time to settle in before the next general election, expected in 2009. But despite intense pressure, Blair, 53, has refused to set a date for his departure.
He dashed the hopes of many members of his Labour party by insisting in an interview with The Times last week he had no intention of saying more about his future. "I've said I'm not going to go on and on and on ... Now at some point I think people have to accept that as a reasonable proposition and let me get on with the job," he said.
Iraq is "elephant in the room"
Blair's popularity has plunged after a series of government scandals over sleaze and mismanagement, and controversy over the Iraq war. Opinion polls put Labour well behind the opposition Conservatives, who are resurgent under their youthful, pro-environment leader David Cameron.
Entitled ‘Reconnecting with the public, a new relationship with the media’, the leaked memo gives no hint of a departure date, but does highlight issues that threaten to tarnish Blair's carefully choreographed image.
It describes the Iraq war as "the elephant in the room" and says: "We need to incorporate this into our media plan". The memo zooms in on the final month of Blair's premiership, saying it "needs a daily grid, planned to the last detail". It should be "as much as possible a farewell tour, looking to the future, making sure the party is in the right place and the public remember him as he should be," it says.
Cabinet minister David Miliband told BBC radio Blair was "committed to making sure he does the right thing" for his country and his party and would probably quit in about a year. "The conventional wisdom is that the prime minister sees himself carrying on for about another 12 months," he said.