Tony Blair said today that the rows over John Prescott and Charles Clarke must not overshadow Labour's achievements.
The Prime Minister acknowledged Labour had faced a "difficult" time. But in a speech to union members he said: "Nine days' headlines should not obscure nine years of achievement."
Just two days before crucial local elections, Mr Blair said the economy was stronger under Labour.
He said despite "challenges" in the NHS, waiting lists were the lowest on record. He also pointed to huge investment in schools.
Mr Blair also urged Labour supporters to stick with the party.
He said when times had been tough, unions had stood by Labour. He said that was the right way for "colleagues and partners" to behave.
Mr Blair said: "The whole point about government is that there are challenges. No government ever fails to make mistakes. No government ever fails to encounter difficulties.
"But the question is, when you step back and you look at the big picture, not each and every detail of it, is there improvement happening?"
The Prime Minister said: "Yes, it's difficult in government, especially as you go on, and when you are into the third term of a government it is especially difficult.
"The third term of government is better than the fourth term of opposition."
He conceded: "Sometimes you make mistakes and get things wrong."
But if you were stood firm and saw through the decisions, you reaped the benefit, Mr Blair said.