Blair hits back at critics

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Tony Blair has hit back at critics by insisting his legacy as prime minister will "stand the test of time".

In a television interview today Mr Blair said his main achievements were slashing NHS waiting times, building more schools and tackling antisocial behaviour.

While his critics say his tenure will be remembered for sending Britain into Iraq, he insisted his legacy would be judged "in the long-term".

"When you ask the question 'Will our changes stand the test of time?', the answer is they will," he told BBC1's Politics Show.

The prime minister, who is expected to announce the date of his departure from office next month, added he had "tried to take decisions that are in the country's long-term interest".

Mr Blair revealed the "final building blocks" of reform are being put in place and key decisions will be made over the next few weeks to "secure the long-term changes for the future".

He also hit back at claims that his announcements on the NHS, education and antisocial behaviour would hamper the agenda of his successor, expected to be chancellor Gordon Brown.

"It's nothing to do with binding the hands of my successor. It's doing what is right," Mr Blair said.

Despite a Royal College of Nursing report claiming that more than 22,000 NHS jobs have been lost in the last 18 months, Mr Blair insisted the health service was improving.

"When we came to power, people used to die on waiting lists waiting for their heart operations. People don't do that any more," he said.

Mr Blair added that the number of schools where 70 per cent of its pupils got five good GCSEs had shot up from 80 to about 600 in the last decade.

"The number of failing schools - cut dramatically, the number of 11-year-olds getting their requisite passes - up dramatically," Mr Blair concluded.

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