British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to head off a massive protest vote in tomorrow's midterm elections by confirming that he will set out his departure plans next week and anoint Gordon Brown as his successor. The Chancellor is likely to take over from Blair in the first week in July after a seven-week election campaign in which he may not even be opposed.

On the 10th anniversary of Labour winning power, the prime minister used perhaps the warmest words he has ever used about Brown as he was campaigning in Scotland. It was an attempt to win back voters who the polls suggest are deserting Labour for the Scottish Nationalists, and to soften the impact of what are expected to be poor results across the country.

"Within the next few weeks I won't be prime ,Minister of this country. In all probability a Scot will become prime minister of the United Kingdom," Blair said. "That's someone who has built one of the strongest economies in the world and who I've always said will make a great prime minister."

Read the original report in the London Times.

Blair is expected to announce his departure plans after the weekly Cabinet meeting on May 10.

"I will make my position clear next week. I will say something definitive then," Blair told GMTV.

Once Blair has announced his plans, the party will confirm the leadership election timetable. The final election conference is likely to be held in London. The date has yet to be set but will probably be in the first week in July.

"Tony Blair's time as prime minister started with great hope but has ended with disappointment," Conservative Party leader David Cameron said.