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Labor lawmakers plot to challenge Blair

Lawmakers in Britain's ruling Labor Party are plotting to challenge Prime Minister Tony Blair's leadership to protest his governing style and his support for possible U.S. action against Iraq, a legislator said Saturday.

Jeremy Corbyn of the Labor Party said lawmakers had discussed fielding a candidate to challenge Blair for the party leadership. Although it was unlikely such a plot would succeed, it would reflect growing unrest within the party, he said.

"There is disquiet . . . about issues of foreign policy, varying between people like myself, who are strongly opposed to the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, and the threat of bombing Iraq, so there is a lot of disturbance, yes," Corbyn said.

"Under Labor Party rules it is very difficult to mount a challenge . . . but discussions are taking place."

If Blair lost a challenge to his party leadership, tradition dictates he would step down as prime minister.

Unrest among some Labor backbenchers has been growing in recent weeks over fears Blair would support U.S.-led military action against President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The party's left wing has long been unhappy about Blair's moderate, pragmatic stance, and wants to resurrect traditional Labor policies such as higher taxation of the wealthy and increased social welfare programs.

As Labor lawmakers considered censuring Blair for his stance on Iraq, the opposition Conservative Party said it was ready to back Blair if he decided to take military action.

Public approval of Blair's performance declined from 71 percent to 52 percent in a recent poll of 1,003 people last weekend.