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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"With an election approaching the parties are diverging significantly"
 real 28k

Tessa Jowell, Minister for Employment
"We have achieved a lot, but there is still a lot more to do"
 real 28k

David Willetts MP, Shadow Social Security Secretary
"They are taking credit for a trend line that was already established"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 12 July, 2000, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Blair denies 'annus horribilis'
Tony Blair addresses Downing Street news conference
Tony Blair: "We're delivering on the fundamentals"
Tony Blair has denied he is suffering an "annus horribilis", focusing instead on his government's record on job creation and its stewardship of the economy.

Mr Blair told journalists that it was "now possible to talk about full employment in Britain", saying that one million people had benefited from the government's welfare-to-work scheme.

He rejected the suggestion that the past few weeks had been damaging for the government, insisting that the "personal difficulties of the past week to 10 days" would not "decide the future of the country."


What we're getting from Tony Blair today is yet another re-launch from a government that's had more re-launches than Cape Canaveral.

William Hague
While rejecting the suggestion that his Downing Street news conference was preparing the ground for a snap election, Mr Blair did draw the battlelines for the campaign ahead by trumpeting new unemployment figures showing a fall to a 20-year low.

'Annus horribilis'

A brisk "no" was all Mr Blair replied when journalists asked him if his troubles had amounted to an "annus horribilis," or whether his news conference marked the start of a campaign for an autumn election.

Asked to respond to comments that he was "knackered" and his government appeared to be "fumbling", Mr Blair said: "These things happen from time to time. I think what's important is to concentrate on getting the fundamentals right.

"In the end you've got to decide what's important," he said.

"Perhaps I'm being naively optimistic but I believe that in the end people will get back to asking the big questions about the things I came into politics to do."

'Second stage'

Mr Blair told the media his government had delivered on its first priority - sound economic management - and insisted that "Britain is stronger because we are delivering on the fundamentals".


I know there have been some difficulties in the past week to 10 days but in the end I don't think these are the things that decide the future of this country

Tony Blair
He said it was now time to look to the second stage and "tackle the problem of poor productivity and lack of essential investment in the nation's future".

He said the forthcoming spending review would look at increasing the productive capacity of the British economy.

He said that this, coupled with an increase in employment and changes in the economy, was part of "one driving vision - to create the conditions for a Britain in which everyone, and not just a few at the top, get the chance to succeed and make the most of themselves".

Insisting that the government was finally making inroads into the dependency culture, he said the welfare bill was falling for the first time in 30 years.

He acknowledged there was more hard work to be done, but "we are getting there".

'Another relaunch'

The Conservatives have condemned the press conference as "just another re-launch" in the face of deteriorating public services.

Leader William Hague said: "It's the people of the country who create jobs.

"The government hasn't created any jobs apart from employing a few more civil servants.

"What we're getting from Tony Blair today is yet another re-launch from a government that's had more re-launches than Cape Canaveral."

Tory party chairman Michael Ancram said "They are increasingly held in contempt by the British public, they are at each other's throats over how to pursue their plan to scrap the pound and Tony Blair himself has lost the plot."

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Business
UK unemployment falls
09 Jul 00 | UK Politics
'Give knackered Blair a break'
05 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Questions over Blair's Commons blunders
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
New Deal claims 'exaggerated'
01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
New Deal 'an expensive flop'
12 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Blair moves back to substance
12 Jul 00 | Business
Does the New Deal work?
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