Blair hails Brown for putting UK 'on path out of woods'

Tony Blair hailed the leadership of Gordon Brown yesterday, praising him for setting the country on the road to recovery after the financial crisis.

In his first intervention into the pre-election fray, the former Prime Minister declared he was "optimistic" about the prospects for the future under his successor.

Speaking to activists in his former constituency in Sedgefield, Co Durham, he hit out at David Cameron, dismissing the Conservative leader's "time for change" slogan as "the most vacuous in politics".

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Mr Blair, who looked suntanned and relaxed, said that while Britain was not yet "out of the woods" following the financial crisis, it was "on the path out" as a result of the actions taken by Mr Brown.

"At the moment of peril the world acted. Britain acted. The decision to act required experience, judgment and boldness. It required leadership. Gordon Brown supplied it."

Mr Blair acknowledged that it would be a "big thing" for Labour to win a fourth successive general election – something it had never achieved before.

However, he said that, as voters began looking more closely at what the Tories were offering, the race was narrowing.

"As I always used to say when some in our ranks urged a mantra of 'time for a change' in 1997, it is the most vacuous slogan in politics.

"'Time for a change' begs the question: change to what exactly? And the reason an election that seemed certain to some in its outcome is now in sharp contention lies precisely in that question."