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British Labour party to announce its new leader June 24

Britain's Labour party will announce its new leader June 24 at a conference in northern England to replace Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair will formally step down as prime minister June 27, handing power to his replacement almost certain to be Treasury chief Gordon Brown.

Nominations of candidates to replace Blair and his deputy John Prescott will open Monday, when lawmakers with the backing of 44 fellow Labour lawmakers can put themselves forward.

Two leftist lawmakers are hoping to run against Brown for the Labour leadership and force the party to hold a ballot, but neither man has yet secured the necessary backing.

Six senior lawmakers have said they will compete to replace Prescott, who announced he would also relinquish his position June 27.

Blair will be replaced as Labour leader June 24, but remain as prime minister for three days before formally presenting his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

"This will be the first time in our history that the party as a whole is electing not only a new leadership team but also a party leader who will become prime minister," said Labour lawmaker Jacqui Smith, the party's chief whip.

Nominations for both posts will close Thursday and candidates will take part in a campaign tour across England, Scotland and Wales, making a series of speeches and taking part in debates, Labour said in a statement.

The party will hold a conference in Manchester on June 24 to announce the results of postal ballots. Around 3.2 million party members, Labour lawmakers and member of affiliated labor unions will vote. If Brown has no challenger, members will vote only for a deputy.

The Treasury chief held a round of campaign events Sunday, pledging to help young Britons priced out of the housing market to purchase homes.

"We have got to make it possible for that to happen," Brown told British Broadcasting Corp. television. "It shows that we are the party and the government on the side of people with aspirations."

Brown said his vision of Britain was as a "home-owning, asset-owning, wealth-owning democracy."

Blair has given Brown his endorsement as his successor, saying he had the "strength, judgment and experience" to be British leader.

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