The Prime Minister has announced that he is resigning as leader of the Labour party and will hand over power once a successor has been elected.

Tony Blair told his Cabinet of his intention this morning and then travelled to his constituency in Sedgfield in county Durham to make his announcement.

In Trimdon Labour Club, he told supporters he is proud of achieving equality for gay people. He told supporters that:

“The party will now elect a new leader and on 27th June I will tender my resignation to the Queen.

“I have been Prime Minister for just over 10 years and in this job in the world today I think that is long enough for me and more importantly long enough for the country.

“The only way you conquer the pull of power is to set it down.”

On Sunday the National Executive Committee of the Labour party will instigate the process of electing a new Labour leader.

The process will take over six weeks.

Gordon Brown the favourite to succeed Mr Blair as Prime Minister, though there is likely to be a challenge from a left-wing MP, either Michael Meacher or John McDonnell.

They have delayed a decision about which one of them will run until next week. It remains unclear if collectively they have the support of 45 MPs needed to become a candidate.

Mr Blair has led the party since 1994. He became Prime Minister in 1997 in a landslide and won again in 2001 and 2005.

During his time in office Mr Blair LGB people have been given protection at work and in the provision of goods and services, been granted the right to have civil partnerships, seen the abolition of Section 28 and the equalisation of the age of consent.

Speaking at the Stonewall Equality dinner in the Dorchester Hotel in central London last month, Mr Blair said it was a positive development that every major party leader supports equality and he is hopeful that will not change in the future.

He went on to say that the example Britain has set in giving gay and lesbian couples equal rights to those enjoyed by heterosexuals was influencing politicians in Italy and Spain to grant similar rights.

“Just before I came here tonight, I, er, this is a sad reflection of type of thing you do towards the end of your time in office, I got out one of my old speeches and re-read it.

“It was a speech back in 1994, when, I think it was on an amendment by Edwina Currie and Neil Kinnock, interestingly enough, it wasn’t a combination that was often found,” he said.

“They had come together to move an amendment on equality on the age of consent. The thing that really struck me, re-reading the speech this evening, was just how a whole lot of things that nowadays we would more or less take for granted.

“I really just wanted to say two things about the changes that have happened over the past ten years, which you will know very well.

“There are a lot of important things, but I think civil partnerships is really the thing … as I was saying to people earlier, it doesn’t just give you a lot of pride, but it actually brought real joy.

“I don’t know whether you remember the very first day, and it was quite a bizarre circumstance that the first ceremonies were actually in Northern Ireland.

“I was so struck by it, it was so alive, I remember actually seeing the pictures on television. It is not often that you sort of skip around in my job, I can assure you, But it really the fact that that the people were so happy and the fact that you felt just one major, major change had happened, of which everyone can feel really proud.

“This is my second reflection about it all.

“There are a whole load of different pieces of legislation, which I will not rehearse here, but what has happened is that the culture of the country has changed in a definable way as a result of it. And here is what I think is really interesting.

“The change in the culture and the civilising effect of it has gone far greater than the gay and lesbian community.

“In other words, by taking a stand on these issues and by removing prejudice and discrimination, and by enabling people to stand proud as what they are, it has had an impact that I think is far more profound in the way the country thinks about itself.

“And I want to say we have an immensely proud history, that is able to stand on its own merits in the 21st Century and say that we know we have a great future.”