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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Clinton gives glimpse of the future
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News Website

Tony Blair has no need for the Tardis or some other fancy time-travel machine to see his future when he has Bill Clinton.

Bill Clinton and Tony Blair
Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, undefeated electioneers on stage together

Former President Clinton - he may keep the title but that word "former" now invariably precedes it - stood before the Labour conference to offer some gentle, brotherly advice on how the party should remain the "agents for change" to keep power.

He was also there to offer some warm words of praise and admiration for his friend Tony Blair.

Like the ghost of Christmas future, he brought with him a warning and a hope.

The warning was spelt out. If you take your political achievements for granted, if you think they have come about by accident and that another government would surely never undo them - think again.

"It can change quickly," he repeated. Just look at the US where, he said, so many of the economic advances made under his watch were being undone by his successor George Bush's Republican administration.

The warning was not lost on the rally which has seen many similar warnings from the platform of the threats posed by a potentially revitalised Conservative Party and a disunited Labour Party.

Life after politics

Here, standing right in front of them was a man many of them consider one of their own. A man who, to use his own words, has been there.

And then there was the perhaps unintentional insight into Tony Blair's future.

Bill Clinton
Mr Clinton offered a warning and a hope

At one point, speaking about the Clinton Foundation, created to tackle climate change, Aids and other global issues, he declared: "I found there was life after politics."

All eyes immediately swivelled across the platform to examine Tony Blair's expression for any sign of recognition or enthusiasm.

Perhaps this is what he has in mind when he finally closes the door of No 10. A Blair Foundation, perhaps even a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Clinton Foundation.

The world, not just Great Britain, would be his project.

As Mr Clinton kept suggesting, some things are just too big for national governments alone. What is needed is international partnership and non-governmental organisations working together.

Asked after his speech if he would miss Mr Blair, he helped the speculation.

"Well, I hope I'm going to see him more. If I didn't see him, I would miss him," he said.

So, things after power need not be bleak, or empty. Bigger challenges beckon. And the promise of continuing special close trans-Atlantic relationships.


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