David Cameron has been accused of arrogance and “taking the British public for granted” after ruling out seeking a third term as Prime Minister if he is returned to power in May.
The criticism came after the PM said he was standing for election to serve for a full second term but would quit after that.
He also named three of his senior colleagues – Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor George Osborne and London mayor Boris Johnson – as potential successors as Conservative leader when he steps down.
Following Mr Cameron’s comments, Downing Street moved quickly to insist the PM was focused on the need to win the election on 7 May.
Mr Cameron said he was standing for election to serve for a full second term, but added: “Terms are like shredded wheat: two are wonderful but three might just be too many.”
Asked in an interview with BBC News if he would go for a third term if he remained PM after the election, Mr Cameron said: “No, I think I’m standing for a full second term.”
He added: “I’m not saying all prime ministers necessarily definitely go mad, or even go mad at the same rate, but I feel I’ve got more to bring to this job, the job is half done, the economy’s turned round, the deficit is half down and I want to finish the job.
“I didn’t just come to do this to, you know, deal with the debts and the mess, I want to go on with the education reforms and the welfare reforms.
“There definitely comes a time where a fresh pair of eyes and fresh leadership would be good, and the Conservative Party has got some great people coming up: the Theresa Mays, and the George Osbornes, and the Boris Johnsons.
“You know, there’s plenty of talent there. I’m surrounded by very good people. The third term is not something I’m contemplating.”
Political leaders should never think they are “indispensable”, he said.
But Labour campaign strategy chairman Douglas Alexander said: “The Tories are taking the British public for granted.
“It is typically arrogant of David Cameron to presume a third Tory term in 2020 before the British public have been given the chance to have their say in this election.
“In the UK it is for the British people and not the Prime Minister to decide who stays in power.”
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “It’s incredibly presumptuous of David Cameron to be worrying about a third term as Prime Minister weeks before the General Election.
“He should spend a bit more time considering how he can possibly justify to voters the Tories’ dangerous plans to cut public services than agonising over his own long-term legacy.”
Mr Johnson told Sky News: “Frankly it’s people making a fuss about nothing.
“The crucial thing is David Cameron is going to be serving for another five years until 2020 as our Prime Minister and embedding the very considerable economic recovery and progress that we are seeing and delivering the long-term economic plan that this country needs.”
In the interview Mr Cameron also paid tribute to his wife Samantha for keeping him “sane” in Downing Street and also revealed she would be playing a part in the Tory election campaign.
He said: “She keeps me sane because she’s one of the most organised people that I’ve ever come across, so home life, the children’s life, everything is just brilliantly organised.
“Otherwise you wouldn’t get this family time – unless you’re really well organised everything would be blown off course, you wouldn’t get the chance. She’s amazing like that.
“But we’ll be out on the campaign trail because we’re passionate about this election and what comes next. She is right behind me and what I’m trying to do.”
He added: “She will be out there campaigning with me some of the time, she will be out there on her own supporting Conservative candidates some of the time, but she has also got a job and we’ve got three children.”