Tony Blair admitted "it's hard to let go" as he used his last Labour conference speech as leader to urge the party to unite and win a fourth term. He won a long standing ovation, telling an emotional Labour gathering.
He praised Gordon Brown and laughed off his wife's alleged criticism: "At least I don't have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door." (a reference to alleged comments made about Gordon Brown’s speech yesterday). "The truth is you can't go on forever, that's why it is right that this is my last conference as leader. "Of course it is hard to let go. But it is also right to let go. For the country, and for you, the party. Over the coming months, I will take through the changes I have worked on so hard these past years. And I will help build a unified party with a strong platform for the only legacy that has ever mattered to me - a fourth term election victory that allows us to keep changing Britain for the better.
As Mr Brown did in his speech, Mr Blair admitted there had been difficulties in their relationship. "But I know New Labour would never have happened and three election victories would never have been secured without Gordon Brown," he said. "He is a remarkable man, a remarkable servant to this country - and that is the truth."
With the Conservatives ahead in the opinion polls, Mr Blair urged people to remember there were three years until the next election. "Don't ignore the polls but don't be paralysed by them either," he said. Mr Blair's advice for the next election from his "hot seat" was that Labour had to meet the challenge of global changes - getting the balance right between openness and security and also continuing reforms to public services. "The danger in all this, for us, is not ditching New Labour. The danger is failing to understand that New Labour in 2007 won't be New Labour in 1997," he said.
Blair delivered a rousing speech and deserved the rapturous applause he received. It was a fitting swan song to over 12 years in power. Even if I can be gloomy about Labour’s prospects, I do appreciate what Blair has done for the Party. Despite some missed opportunities and major mistakes (Iraq being one). Once again, here’s hoping we can put aside the infighting (some hope I fear), have an orderly leadership election and then go on to win a fourth term. Hiho.....