Brown appears guaranteed to succeed Blair

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer and Labour Party leadership candidate Brown gestures during an event in Manchester
Treasury Chief Gordon Brown has been credited for much of Britain's recent economic boom.Phil Noble / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gordon Brown's only challenger for the leadership of the Labour Party pulled out of the race Wednesday, making the Treasury chief a lock to succeed Tony Blair as Britain's prime minister.

Member of Parliament John McDonnell, a former trade union official, announced he was quitting because he did not have enough support to qualify for the contest.

Brown's campaign manager, former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, said his team was delighted that the party was uniting behind Brown.

Officials for Brown, 56, said he would make a statement Thursday after a formal announcement by the party.

Credited with economic boom
Often described as dour, Brown has been credited for much of Britain's recent economic boom but remains largely an enigma, with little known about his political leanings.

He has close ties to Democrats in the United States and is expected to maintain Britain's strong relationship with America. But he has signaled that he would abandon Blair's presidential style of leadership by restoring Parliament's authority in decisions such as when to go to war.

The question is how much Brown will shift Britain's role in the Iraq war, which has divided the country. He has indicated he wants to devote more time and resources toward the creation of jobs and basic services for the Iraqi people, and has said he will make his first trip to Iraq in coming weeks to inspect the situation.

"Naturally, I congratulate Gordon and wish him every success in government, but it is a great shame that Labour Party members will now not be allowed a vote on the leader of their party or the party's future direction," McDonnell said. "I had hoped by standing I would have given them a voice in this crucial decision."

Brown now has six weeks to prepare to replace Blair, who departs June 27.

Tension with Blair
The pair had been the principal architects in the Labour Party's 1997 ascension to power after 18 years in the wilderness, but the relationship cooled in recent years as Brown's ambition to take the top post created tensions between two.

Blair who had said he would complete a full third term, was forced this year by dissatisfied lawmakers to announce he would be leaving his post two years earlier than expected.

Brown, if he becomes party leader, will face a difficult challenge from the resurgent Conservative Party and its popular young leader David Cameron before national elections likely in 2009.