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I'M NOT POTTY; Blair on the back foot as Brown pal savages him.

Byline: IAN SMITH

TONY Blair was branded a "psychopath" yesterday as his leadership came under unprecedented attack.

And Downing Street was forced to issue a bizarre denial that the PM had gone "potty".

The barrage of abuse began as soon as the PM left the country to fly to Washington.

In an extraordinary attack on Blair's leadership, his sanity was questioned in the New Statesman, the weekly left- wing magazine which supports Labour.

The magazine carried a series of articles questioning whether Blair could continue as leader amidst the growing Iraq scandal, and asked whether it was time for Chancellor Gordon Brown to take over.

The criticism sparked a fresh wave of speculation over relations between Blair and Brown, who many believe should succeed him as PM.

The speculation was fuelled by the fact that the New Statesman is owned by one of Brown's closest allies, Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson.

The magazine argued Labour would have a better chance of winning the 2005 election if Brown took over, because Blair had lost the public trust.

In the most astonishing attack, the magazine ran an article which asked psychologists and psychiatrists to analyse the PM and give their views.

The piece concluded: "One view emerged strongly: There appears to be something worryingly adrift in the mind of Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, a man who doesn't really know who or what he is.

"More technically, he is diagnosed as a psychopath capable of reinventing himself with remarkable dexterity, like an actor."

The charge echoed the suggestion by an anonymous member of Blair's inner circle that Brown had "psychological flaws".

Downing Street yesterday hit back at the accusation the PM had gone "potty".

Blair's official spokesman said it was a "very strange term to use" given the Prime Minister's record.

He said: "The term potty, I think, is, if I may say so, potty."

"You have got to look at what the Prime Minister has achieved in the past six months in terms of handling major international issues like Iraq, in pursuing the goal of progress in the Middle East settlement, in pursuing public service delivery at home.

"I think you will see a Prime Minister who has a very clear sense of direction, who understands fully the difficult issues and the difficult decisions this country is faced with, who understands the need to maintain progress and to work through the process of investment and reform which the Government is."

The magazine's editorial said the Chancellor would appeal more to the public

It said: "Mr Brown, like Margaret Thatcher but unlike Mr Blair, has a focus."
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jul 18, 2003
Words:433
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