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     Cabinet gives Blair 'affectionate' farewell  <<back  next>>

Ministers have paid tribute to Tony Blair at his last cabinet meeting before he stands down as prime minister.

Blair was given a standing ovation by colleagues after a "very affectionate" meeting, the prime minister's official spokesman said on Thursday.

Chancellor and prime minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown said "whatever we achieve in the future will be because we are standing on your shoulders", and added he was proud to have served with Blair and deputy prime minister John Prescott, who also stands down next week.

Blair said Brown had the qualities to make a great prime minister, that he would have his unswerving support and added it was "the right time to go", his spokesman said.

The cabinet gave Blair a painting of Chequers, the prime minister's house in Buckinghamshire, while Prescott was given a picture of Admiralty House, the central London building where he has a grace-and-favour flat.

Commons leader Jack Straw paid tribute to Prescott, saying he had helped transform the infrastructure of the country, and singling out the channel tunnel rail link as an achievement that would not have been possible without his leadership.

Straw "praised him for his courage", the spokesman said, and went on to say that history would judge Blair as "one of the most successful prime ministers ever".

He said Blair had faced up to the difficult decisions that needed to be taken for the country, and as a result had made the country a better place.

Asked if Iraq had been mentioned, the spokesman said it had, as one of those difficult decisions.

Straw said Blair left the country a more tolerant place, and environment secretary David Miliband went on to single out Northern Ireland as one of his major achievements.

Brown then said that people would look back in 100 years and see the achievements of the prime minister which have changed the country for good.

He said those achievements were historic and would prove to be enduring, listing Northern Ireland, the prime minister's response to the 7 July bombings and the threat of terrorism, the Olympics, the minimum wage, the "fairness agenda" including the introduction of civil partnerships, the reform of public services and Blair's leadership on the world stage, in particular over the issues of poverty and climate change at the G8.

The spokesman said Blair paid tribute to Prescott's intelligence and his shrewdness, and said history would see how significant a part he played in his premiership.

21 June 2007

 Last updated: 22/06/2007 10:53:00

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