Brown is 'best chancellor for decades', says Blair

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Tony Blair today gave his strongest indication yet that Gordon Brown would remain Chancellor in a third Labour term.

Tony Blair today gave his strongest indication yet that Gordon Brown would remain Chancellor in a third Labour term.

There have been repeated reports that the Prime Minister could move or even sack Mr Brown if he wins on 5 May.

But Mr Blair said: "His record speaks for itself so you would want that record to continue really."

The Prime Minister has said he will serve a final third term before standing down.

He refused to be drawn on whether Mr Brown might like him to go half way through the next Parliament.

"Whatever speculation there is in the papers we work pretty closely together," he told GMTV.

"He has done a fantastic job managing the economy. He is probably been our best chancellor for this country for several decades."

Mr Blair later said in his GMTV interview that the Iraq war had done more than anything else to erode public trust in him.

"Yes, I would accept that," he said.

But he added: "I think trust is also about the things we promised in 1997, but you are right, Iraq has been a difficult issue for me.

"You learn something in Government and that is sometimes decisions come on your desk and whichever way you go there isn't a fence to sit on.

"With Iraq I had to decide, would the world be better without Saddam or with him. In the end I think it's better he is out but I have never disrespected someone with a different point of view.

"It's up to people to judge and they will have to make a judgment about it.

"In the end, that decision was immensely difficult but I think I opted for the right course.

"Sometimes there are these decisions and which ever way you go it's going to be a nightmare."

Mr Blair was speaking ahead of a joint press conference with the Gordon Brown this afternoon.

The Chancellor will lead Labour's assault on the economic front at an early visit to a Sure Start scheme in south London.

The Chancellor will highlight Government investment in family friendly policies, and claim that Conservative plans to trim £35 billion would endanger further progress.

In the afternoon, he will join Mr Blair at the first Labour press conference since the Prime Minister's announcement yesterday that polling day will be on May 5.

Speaking in London, the two men will argue that on the economy, the electorate faces a choice between stability and investment, and risk and cuts.

That will come after Mr Blair faces Tory leader Michael Howard across the dispatch box for the last time before polling day.

He will go head to head with Mr Howard and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy in what is likely to be a highly–charged Prime Minister's Questions.

The Prime Minister last night warned Labour MPs that the Conservatives will run a "rather nasty right–wing campaign".

Mr Howard will today highlight law and order, in line with the focus he wants to place on the scourge of "yob culture" on a visit to Yorkshire.

Mr Kennedy, meanwhile, plans to centre his campaigning efforts on his party's proposals for helping families.

And in the evening, the Cabinet and Labour's governing National Executive Committee will gather in London for the so–called "Clause 5" meeting which will finalise the party's election manifesto.

Labour sources said that the manifesto would have at its heart plans to further modernise the economy and public services in order to deliver opportunity for all.

Mr Blair will claim that it is "almost beyond belief" that the Tories should be going to the country with an economic plan which, he will argue, promises tax cuts, spending cuts and spending increases as well. He will brand the plans "dangerous and incoherent".

And he will assert: "The Tories used to run on the economy, now they run away from it."