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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
The message in Blair's speech
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Millions of words will be written about Tony Blair's decade in power - he wants it to be summed up in just thirteen.

Tony Blair at Trimdon Labour club
Mr Blair spoke to supporters in his constituency

"Accept one thing, hand on heart, I did what I thought was right."

The prime minister knows there are many ready to write off his premiership for failing to fulfil the hopes and dreams he encouraged in 1997.

And that Iraq will dog him for years to come - that was clear from the protesters kept away from his resignation speech in Trimdon Labour club.

So his final message to his constituency supporters was an attempt to put all that into the context he believes it deserves, rather than one chosen by his critics.

That meant he accepted expectations in 1997 were probably too high and, as a result, he may have failed to meet some of them.

Abstract messages

There was, despite the apparent humility, no real hint of who or what he believed was responsible for raising those expectations unrealistically.

Indeed, he said he would have had it no other way and that while politics was the art of the possible it was worth giving the impossible a go sometimes.

Iraq bomb
Iraq was at centre of Mr Blair's concerns
What he believed those impossible goals had been was also left unanswered.

In any case, he still apologised for "those occasions" - again unspecified - where he fell short.

Whether he really did mean Iraq will remain an open question for, as was so often the case with Mr Blair, the messages were abstract.

He did not say, for example, that he apologised for anything to do with the process that led to that conflict, or even the consequences of it.

Instead, he insisted it was right to see the war through, that it was a test of will and belief which Britain must not fail.

He did, however, accept there had been a "blowback" from global terrorism as a result of the war.

Tip the scales

Similarly there was much talk of transforming Britain for the 21st century and making the country "comfortable in its own skin".

And he urged his supporters to think back - really think back - to the country as it was in 1997 under the Tories and before his "new dawn".

That was probably the core of this inevitably emotional speech - which is unlikely to be the last of its type as uses the next seven weeks to stamp his own mark on his legacy.

It was to recall 1997, both as a way of suggesting things really did get better, but also in an attempt to recapture some of that enthusiasm and optimism that marked the first New Labour government.

And, he will hope, to ensure that will add something to the other side of the scales currently tipping heavily towards Iraq.

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