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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 11:19 GMT
Blair warns Wales over Tory rule
Tony Blair during his Llandudno speech

Tony Blair has warned against the Tories seizing power in a "rag-bag coalition" in Wales, at the opening of Labour's Welsh conference in Llandudno.

Mr Blair said Wales had been "stronger, fairer and better" under Labour.

In his final speech to the Welsh party as prime minister, he said the only other choice in May's assembly election was a Tory-led coalition.

Earlier, First Minister Rhodri Morgan told BBC Wales that the exit strategy from Iraq was "very very problematic".

The prime minister said Labour had made "extraordinary" progress in Wales since 1997 in reducing unemployment and overhauling public services.

He said: "Only Labour can represent the whole of Wales, north, south east and west - only Rhodri can get the best for Wales in the United Kingdom."

Mr Blair said: "There's only one thing you need to know about the Tories - that underneath whatever posturing, whenever it comes to a vital decision where the interests of the few conflict with the interests of the many, they put the interests of the few first and the interests of the many last."

He told delegates: "A strong record, strong progress, the chance of a better future, strong leadership taking the country forward.

The top table - senior Welsh Labour figures listen to the prime minister.

"Or there is an alternative, which is a Tory-led coalition. A Tory party that damaged Wales in the past, has opposed the progress in the present and has nothing to offer Wales for the future."

He raised a laugh at the start of his speech when he thanked delegates for their welcome and said: "It's amazing how nice people are about you when they know you're going."

Mr Blair told the party in Wales at the end of his 31-minute speech that they could be "really proud" of what they had done.

In an echo to Mr Blair's speech, earlier, Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said there was a "very clear choice" on 3 May between Welsh Labour under Rhodri Morgan "continuing the success we've had or the Tories back in power in a coalition with the nationalists and Liberal Democrats."

He told the BBC: "That's really the choice... the Tories coming back to run hospitals and schools again and all the destruction that brought to Wales and elsewhere in Britain when they did it."

Mr Hain and Scottish Secretary Douglas Alexander are also due to address the two-day conference, which is Labour's last before the Welsh assembly elections in May.

First Minister Mr Morgan will address the conference on Saturday.

Rhodri Morgan in Llandudno
All I can see from the outside is that the exit strategy has been very very problematic
First Minister Rhodri Morgan on Iraq

On the eve of the conference, Mr Morgan said Welsh Labour was focusing on the eradication of child poverty, improving education and training and working towards a carbon-free future for Wales.

Mr Morgan told BBC Radio Wales' Good Morning Wales that the exit strategy from Iraq was "very very problematic" and not "properly thought through".

He said it was not for him to "say whether Tony Blair should apologise about Iraq or not". Pressed on the fact that 800 Welsh soldiers will be going to Iraq at the time of the May elections, Mr Morgan wished them "a safe return" and said everyone is the armed forces was expected to "do their share" of military service in places like Iraq.

Mr Morgan was asked why he could not make his mind up on Iraq, he said: "I have made my mind up, but it's not relevant to ask me to put myself as though I was in Tony Blair's position in reading the paper that he read - and which I did not.

"All I can see from the outside is that the exit strategy has been very very problematic and wasn't properly thought through. I don't think anybody can argue about that."

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru has threatened legal action against Labour unless it ends statements alleging Plaid will join a Conservative-led coalition following the assembly elections.

The party's parliamentary leader, Elfyn Llwyd accused Labour of "misrepresentation and spin".

Watch an extract from Tony Blair's speech

Conference cuppa dissent brewing
23 Feb 07 |  Wales politics
Labour keeps it Welsh - and quiet
23 Mar 06 |  Wales politics

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