Blair admits times tough
Britain's Tony Blair yesterday admitted he was going through a tough period as his supporters urged him to reassert his control of government.
Mr Blair suffered the resignation of close government ally David Blunkett on Wednesday and was then forced to shelve counter-terrorism plans to avoid losing his first major vote in parliament.
The Prime Minister told a Cabinet meeting yesterday that "times are tough, but they are tough because we are trying to do tough things", his spokesman said.
Mr Blunkett's resignation from government, for the second time in the space of just 10 months, captured all the headlines.
But more worrying for Mr Blair was the way rebels in his Labour party cut his parliamentary majority to just one - its lowest ever - over counter-terrorism measures, forcing his ministers to shelve major parts of the legislation.
Mr Blair had personally insisted on Wednesday that police needed powers to hold terrorism suspects for up to 90 days. Now the government will consult again in search of consensus.
"He needs to get back on the front foot and fast," said one Labour parliamentarian loyal to Mr Blair.
Mr Blair has declared he will not fight another election but insists he will serve a full third term in power and force through radical reforms.
Many of those - overhauling schools and hospitals, the terrorism law and plans to get people off welfare and back into work - are unpopular with a number of Labour MPs who have developed a taste for rebellion.
"What we saw yesterday was the authority of the Prime Minister diminishing to vanishing point," Conservative leader Michael Howard said.
An election in May cut Mr Blair's parliamentary majority to 66, about 100 less than before, meaning a rump of disaffected Labour members can cause havoc by voting with opposition parties.
Mr Blair faces a critical few months, at home and abroad, running up to local government elections next May.