Clinton, the original Comeback Kid, hails Blair - and Brown

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Indy Politics

Bill Clinton paid a glowing tribute to Tony Blair's leadership yesterday but warned the Labour Party to be on its guard against having its achievements taken for granted.

The former US president hailed Labour's "stunning" achievement in driving down unemployment and redistributing wealth in the UK. He said that the Blair government had provided world leadership by demonstrating that taking measures to reduce global warming could be good for a country's economy, as well as being morally right.

The Bush White House had refused to sign the Kyoto agreement on climate change on the ground that it might damage the US economy. But, far from damaging Britain's economy, the development of green technologies had created a raft of new jobs, Mr Clinton said.

But he warned delegates to Labour's Manchester conference that their success could be their undoing unless they convinced voters that it had not all happened by accident. "You have produced prosperity and social progress for so long it is easy for people to believe that it is just part of the landscape - that it's either going to happen anyway or if you get a set of new faces in the driver's seat surely they wouldn't change what's working," he said.

Later, Mr Blair took part by video link in a ceremony to mark a decision by the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to ignore the federal government in Washington and commit California to capping its carbon emissions. He formally signed into the law the Global Warming Solutions Act yesterday.

The unusual decision to invite a British politician to take a lead role in the ceremony arises from Mr Blair's summer visit to the US, when he and Governor Schwarzenegger launched the UK-California collaboration on climate change.

But the Environment Secretary, David Miliband, warned the conference that Britain had not done nearly enough to cut carbon emissions. He claimed that: "At the moment we are living, Britons in the 21st century, as if there are three planets to support us when in fact we have only got one. He added: "I propose we adopt a new goal as a country: to aim to live as a nation within the limits that the environment can tolerate - one planet living."

Mr Miliband announced £10m funding for a two-year scheme run by the Carbon Trust to attract investment in renewable energy sources such as wind power on land owned by local councils and the NHS. The scheme is expected to deliver "clean" energy to 250,000 homes and businesses.

Douglas Alexander, the Transport Secretary, also signalled that local authorities were to be given more power to ensure that there are adequate bus services in their region, as a move to reduce the number of car journeys. A law introduced by the Conservatives in 1985 deregulated bus services, allowing private operators to compete and set fares but giving transport authorities the power to subsidise some vital bus routes. The outcome was that bus services improved in some areas, but disappeared in others. Mr Alexander said that bus services were a "lifeline" for many communities.

Yesterday morning's session also covered Africa and Third World aid, with a guest panel that included Bob Geldof. Geldof surprised delegates by praising an initiative launched by George Bush to encourage African to abstain from unsafe sex, to prevent the spread of Aids. He also angrily criticised China for supplying arms to the government of Sudan, which has incurred worldwide criticism because of the violence in Darfur province.

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