I Will Miss You Tony - GEORGE W BUSH YESTERDAY; BLAIR HE GOES May 1 1997-June 27 2007

Article excerpt

Byline: By EMILY MILLER

GEORGE Bush led an avalanche of world tributes to the Prime Minister yesterday as he said warmly: "I'll miss Tony Blair."

Mr Bush, his closest international ally, called him "a political leader capable of thinking over the horizon" and hailed his trustworthiness.

He said: "I've found him to be a man who's kept his word, which sometimes is rare in the political circles I run in. W hen Tony Blair tells you something, as we say in Texas, you can take it to the bank."

There were warm words too from Bill Clinton, who praised his record at home and on the world stage.

Mr Clinton, president when the PM entered office in 1997, said: "Blair revitalised his party, modernised his country's economy and its approach to social problems and took the lead on global issues."

He added: "I'm glad he was there and grateful for our friendship."

EC president Jose Manuel Barroso acclaimed Mr Blair's role in giving Britain a stronger voice in Europe.

He said: "Tony Blair has taken Britain from the fringes to the mainstream of the EU." He said the PM "leaves an impressive legacy" thanks to his efforts on issues such as climate change and Third World poverty.

In the Labour movement there was immense gratitude to the man who ended 18 years of Tory rule and became the first party leader to win three successive elections.

Ex-leader Neil Kinnock, who lost twice, said; "The one word that has to be associated with Tony is 'winner'.

"Not just because of the unprecedented succession of three elections won with large majorities, but also because of his utter insistence and endurance in Northern Ireland."

And Mr Blair's former spin chief Alastair Campbell lauded him as an "exceptional leader".

Many recognised his record of improving the lives of millions of ordinary hard-working families.

Commons Labour Party chief Tony Lloyd said: "We have built the strongest economy, seen unemployment effectively disappear and record and effective investment in schools, hospitals and public services."

Scottish Labour leader Jack McConnell called him "one of the most successful political leaders of all time...he changed Britain for the better and forever".

John Dunford, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Credit should be given for leading a Government that placed a high value on the work of state schools."

And Richard Lambert, head of bosses' organisation the CBI, acknowledged: "He moved the party firmly away from the wealth-destroying policies of the past."

Some of the Prime Minister's greatest triumphs have come away from Westminster.

His success in brokering Northern Ireland historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement paved the way for peace in the province and this week's restoration of power-sharing.

Both unionists and nationalists were unstinting in their tributes.

First Minister and Unionist leader Dr Ian Paisley said Mr Blair had devoted more time to the troubled province than any other modern-day British leader. He said: "There's no doubt the Prime Minister's concerted efforts helped in ultimately somesecuring devolution in Northern Ireland." Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams added: "The Good Friday agreement and the restoration of the political institutions would not have been possible without him."

In 1999, the PM led the international effort to stop Serbian genocide against Albanians in Kosovo.

Kosovo government spokeswoman Ulpiana Lama said: "We are grateful and thankful for his extraordinary contribution. He made the Kosovo issue a priority of foreign policy." However, many critics insisted the Iraq War would remain a black mark on his 10-year legacy.

Mr Kinnock called it a "tragedy" his achievements would be "shadowed, probably in the short term obscured" by the conflict. He went on: "It's one of the major areas I find most difficult to understand. …