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Last Updated: Sunday, 8 January 2006, 11:48 GMT
Blair says strong case for Brown
Gordon Brown and Tony Blair

Tony Blair has given his strongest endorsement yet for Chancellor Gordon Brown to succeed him as Labour leader.

Mr Blair said he believed New Labour would "continue long after I've gone".

He told the BBC there would be a new leader at the next election, adding "let's assume it's Gordon", who will take New Labour "on to a new level".

He rejected following the Tories in jumping to a new generation, saying the best thing was to have experience "with the youthful team in support".

'Without peer'

He told BBC One's Sunday AM: "When you've been in government and you've got that weight and experience and strength and power there, you know, you can have the best combination, which is the experience with the youthful team in support.

"And I think that's a very strong case for Gordon... Alan Greenspan (long serving US Federal Reserve Board Chairman) a short time ago described him as the 'finance minister without peer in the western world'.

"I mean, it's a pretty good endorsement. And therefore I think what is clear is that if we're sensible as a political party and carry on learning the lessons of why we spent 18 years in opposition and now we've got three terms of government.

"If we're sensible about it, we can move to the next level, the next stage and be extremely successful. And that's what I want to see.

Relax, because the changes he is trying to make in the Conservative Party are changes to the basic settlement New Labour represents.
Tony Blair on what to do about David Cameron

"There is no doubt in my mind that New Labour will continue and will continue well after I have gone," he said.

"It is sometimes said that Gordon is, you know, not New Labour, he is old Labour, he is a roadblock to reform. It is complete nonsense. He is completely and totally on the same lines as me."

Mr Blair also said he would not rethink his plan to stand down as prime minister before the next election.

Earlier, in an interview with the Observer newspaper, Mr Blair said he had not "the faintest idea" whether new Conservative leader David Cameron would make a good prime minister.

Mr Blair said people should accept that the media would give Mr Cameron "a more than fair wind".

"Now, what do you do about that? Relax, because the changes he is trying to make in the Conservative Party are changes to the basic settlement New Labour represents."

Tory reinvention

Asked about Mr Cameron, Mr Blair told Sunday AM the repositioning of the Conservatives was "not the same as having a policy agenda for the future".

"The question we should be posing is a set of policy questions for the Conservatives as to whether having talked the talk, they can walk the walk," he said.

The Tories know that they have to pretend they are becoming more like New Labour in order to win, he said.

"The absolutely obvious thing to do is to carry on being New Labour and take it to a new level."

Shifting to the left to open up ground between the two main parties would be "the Kamikaze strategy ... the daftest thing beyond belief".

Mr Blair offered further reassurance to his own rebel backbenchers over his schools plans, again saying "we have no intention of bringing back academic selection".

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