Blair to tell party faithful to 'be proud of your country'

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Tony Blair will urge the voters and his own party today to shrug off a mood of national pessimism and instead "be proud of our country" after seven years of Labour Government.

Tony Blair will urge the voters and his own party today to shrug off a mood of national pessimism and instead "be proud of our country" after seven years of Labour Government.

The Prime Minister will use his keynote speech to the Labour spring conference in Manchester to warn delegates not to lose heart in the face of a deliberate Tory tactic to describe Britain as a failing nation despite major achievements such as a healthy economy and better public services.

Mr Blair will highlight the paradox puzzling many party strategists whereby the public tell pollsters that they are personally optimistic about their future but pessimistic about the state of the nation. His pep talk for the country will echo a speech by Gordon Brown yesterday, which made clear that next week's Budget and this summer's spending review will sharpen the divide between the two political parties in the run up to the general election.

In his speech, Mr Blair will say: "Britain's winning. Every day, its prospects are getting better, its hopes better able to be fulfilled. We should be proud of our country, proud of its people, proud of what together we are achieving. Now is not the time to lose heart, to go backwards, to return to the past.

"It's a time of strength, to carry on. We should have confidence in the difference we are making, have belief in the values of fairness, justice and opportunity for all that unite us and the vast majority of the British people. Of course we have not won yet, as old problems go, new ones take their place."

Mr Blair will acknowledge the sombre mood of the conference in the wake of the Madrid bombings, but will insist that Labour is the best means of coping with a new era of insecurity caused by globalisation and terror threats. "Life is a perpetual struggle, that's the fate of humankind, but at this moment in the early 21st century, in an insecure and uncertain world, Britain is well placed not just to survive but to thrive," he will say.

In a speech to the Labour spring conference in Manchester, Mr Brown gave his strongest hint yet that he would keep a firm grip on public spending with a warning that "my budget will confirm that it is the Labour Party this the party of anti-inflation discipline in Britain today". The Chancellor also suggested that he would announce a major upgrade of the New Deal for the unemployed to include an emphasis on skills and fresh powers for councils to get involved in regeneration of their areas.

Signalling a tight Government spending round and a no-gimmicks presentation next Wednesday, said: "We gather here not to pause in our work or to relax our efforts but to raise our sights and reaffirm that our aim is economic stability for the British people not just for a year or two, or even just for the economic cycle, but our aim is to create economic stability for a generation."

He said the Government's aim should be "employment opportunity for all... full employment in every region and nation of our country".

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