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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Blair's parting shots?
By Nick Assinder
Political correspondent, BBC News website

Tony Blair probably has, at most, only three of these monthly press conferences left.

Tony Blair
Tony Blair has few of these events left
Will Gordon Brown, should he be the successor, continue with them?

Clearly Mr Blair believed there was something in it for him to meet the press face-to-face on a regular basis.

Apart from the obvious benefit of appearing accessible, open and transparent (not to be underestimated), he clearly believed they would also allow him to engage in the sort of policy debate with voters he feels is sadly absent from modern politics.

And, during this latest event, he again lamented the fact that, in the soundbite age of 24 hour media attention, he usually only got a few seconds air time to explain complex policies.

One of the biggest questions facing his successor, and politicians from all parties, was to find more sophisticated ways of getting over such policies and open up genuine dialogue with the public.

He appears to believe he has failed to come up with that alternative - certainly that these events have not provided it.

Not answering

Was that a hint that his successor may be wise to abandon the experiment?

David Miliband
Mr Miliband's plans were top of the agenda
Now he has opened this particular door, however, it would be difficult to suddenly slam it in the media's face. Not the sort of image a new prime minister will want to offer.

As if the prove his point, Mr Blair then once again spent most of this press conference answering questions - or, more accurately, not answering questions - on issues he would rather had never been raised.

On this occasion it was about his successor. Should David Miliband stand, was Gordon Brown an election loser, was Mr Miliband as good a minister as Mr Brown, what sort of bloke was the chancellor? None got an answer.

What did, perhaps surprisingly, get a full response was a question about his own negative impact on the government's current standing.

Legacy question

"When I go, obviously a lot of the static and unpopularity that will inevitably attach itself to any prime minister after 10 years goes with me. That is true.

"But the essential New Labour position, to get over some of the old divisions of left and right in politics....will hold." A small echo of Margaret Thatcher's aim of ending the great ideological divisions in British politics perhaps.

Certainly the legacy question is clearly in the front of his mind. Earlier he had insisted his often painful reforms to the NHS and education would stand the test of time, even branding them a "revolution in public services".

Then the latest monthly prime ministerial press conference was over.

And, having observed Mr Blair's demeanour and heard his analysis of the "problem" of engaging with the public, another question presented itself.

Is it possible this was actually his last?

Tony Blair takes questions in his monthly news briefing

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