Clinton gives strong backing to Brown

FORMER US President Bill Clinton took Labour's Manchester conference by storm today, paying tribute to Tony Blair and congratulating the Government on its stunning success in running the country.

By Graham Dines

FORMER US President Bill Clinton took Manchester by storm today, paying tribute to Tony Blair and congratulating the Government on its stunning success in running the country.

At Labour's annual conference, Mr Clinton said it was it was because of Mr Blair that Britain had led the fight against climate change and tackled unemployment under Mr Blair.

In a huge boost to the Chancellor's chances of succeeding the Prime Minister, Mr Clinton did all but endorse Gordon Brown for his “brilliant economic leadership” and his “brilliant vision of the future.”

It was Mr Clinton's second Labour conference speech, having spoken in Blackpool in 2002.

Mr Clinton, who was given a standing ovation, said in 1997 the British people had turned to Mr Blair and New Labour with its unique commitment to progressive ideals.

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It was too easy when times were good to forget the hard work done behind the scenes. But by any standard “your Prime Minister, your Government, your party have been a stunning success.”

Mr Clinton said: “You should be happy and you should be proud. I want to say a special thank you publicly to my friend Tony Blair for his leadership - his preservation of our old Atlantic alliance through quite a lot of storm as well as occasional sunshine.

“I want to thank him for his personal friendship to me - through storm and sunshine.

“I want to thank Cherie and their children for their many kindnesses to Hilary and me and Chelsea and enduring the rigours of public life.”

Mr Clinton said the Labour Party should not be disheartened by calls for change from the electorate. “Make no mistake about it, the question for New Labour and the British people is not whether you will change. It's how you will change and in what direction.”

Unlike four years ago, he did not directly criticise the Conservatives. But in a warning to Labour, he added: “Do not let anyone ever present to your citizens any future choice. - as long as you are debating issues in the Parliament and when the time that comes you must debate issues in the election - as change versus more of the same.

“You are the change agents in this great nation. You have been and you will be.”

Mr Clinton, who has spent the years since leaving the White House campaigning on Third World issues, said: “Fundamentally the fact remains that the modern world is unequal, unstable and unsustainable.”

He pointed to the presence of climate change, terrorism, and the “slaughter of innocents in Darfur.”

“Since we can't kill, jail or occupy all of our enemies. . . we also have to spend some time and money making more and more partners and fewer enemies. “It is so much cheaper to alleviate poverty, put kids in school, fight disease, build government capacity and economic capacity in a poor country than it is to fight a war.

“You should not only stand firm for it but make sure it's a voting issue where you live, because it will affect people in every village in the United Kingdom, I don't care how small.”

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