Blair 'to do something more, with real purpose' when he steps down
"Fortunately or unfortunately I will leave office early enough to do something more with my life. So, yes of course, I want to have something that has got a real purpose to it." - TONY BLAIR
Story in full TONY Blair has spoken candidly of his ambition to "do something more with my life" when he leaves Downing Street later this year.
In a frank interview, the Prime Minister yesterday gave the clearest signal yet that he hopes in retirement to follow the example of former US president Bill Clinton, using his international reputation to continue campaigning on some of the issues that have dominated his time in office.
Mr Blair, who is set to step down in June or July, told the BBC that he will continue to press for international measures to tackle global warming even when he is no longer prime minister.
Having promised before the last election to serve a full term in office, Mr Blair is being driven from Downing Street by his own party. Some reports have suggested he is not preparing well for the transition, refusing even to think about what he will do when he is no longer heading the government.
Yesterday, he denied those suggestions, and even appeared to be relishing the opportunities he will have when he retires shortly after his 54th birthday.
"Fortunately or unfortunately I will leave office early enough to do something more with my life." Mr Blair said. "So, yes of course, I want to have something that has got a real purpose to it."
As the Prime Minister's departure draws near, details of his plans are slowly emerging, fuelling speculation he wants to remain a high-profile figure on the international stage. An aide to Mr Blair's wife has quietly registered an internet address for a "Blair Foundation"; Mr Clinton's own foundation acts as a personal think-tank and campaign centre for issues including global poverty and HIV/AIDS.
Asked about global warming, Mr Blair said yesterday that "I'd certainly like to carry on working on it even after leaving office". More and more leading US politicians are accepting the reality of global warming, and Mr Blair said that presents a "real opportunity" to negotiate a meaningful replacement to the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions, which expires in 2012. Speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr, Mr Blair made clear that his post-government work would not be confined to environmental issues.
"Climate change is certainly something that I'm interested in [but] there are many other things, too," he said. The Middle East peace process is also likely to occupy some of Mr Blair's time after Downing Street. Earlier this month, he told a radio interviewer: "I will retain a huge interest in the peace process in Israel and Palestine in the years to come, of course."
Mr Blair's imminent departure means his power over the government is evaporating quickly, but he insisted yesterday that he is working as hard as ever. "We're going flat-out, working all the time, and that's what you should do until you go."
McCONNELL GOES PUBLIC WITH ENDORSEMENT OF BROWN AS NEXT PRIME MINISTER
JACK McConnell yesterday backed Gordon Brown to take over as Prime Minister when Tony Blair steps down.
In doing so, the First Minister gave his public endorsement to the Chancellor for the first time.
In an interview broadcast on Radio Five Live, Mr McConnell was asked if he wanted Mr Brown to take over as Prime Minister.
The First Minister replied simply: "Yes."
He said he believed that he and Mr Brown would work well together if the current Chancellor took over the top job.
Mr McConnell said: "Gordon and I share the same values and we have the same priorities for a successful Scotland and Britain.
"I have no doubt that if he is Prime Minister this summer, and if I am fortunate enough to still be First Minister, then working together we can make a real difference for ordinary families."
Later, in a speech to the Labour Youth Conference in Glasgow, Mr McConnell claimed Labour had taken over from the SNP as the party of choice for Scotland's young people.
He said the SNP had represented young Scots in the 1980s but had lost out to Labour in the battle for the youth vote for the last ten to 15 years.
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