MARY LOUISE KELLY, Host:
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown got a big vote of support yesterday from his old friend and one-time rival Tony Blair. Their party, the Labour Party, is still neck-and-neck with the opposition Conservatives just weeks ahead of national elections. From London, Vicki Barker reports that the decision to enlist Blair's help can't have been easy for Brown.
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LOUISE KELLY: Thank you. Thanks so much.
VICKI BARKER: It was a handpicked audience in the heart of his former power base, and Tony Blair's message was just as carefully chosen, confined to the global and local recession.
LOUISE KELLY: We're not out of the woods yet, but we are on the path out. And this did not happen by chance. It happened by choice. It required leadership, and Gordon Brown supplied it.
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BARKER: Blair was barely out of the hall when Labour's opponents were declaring his appearance a poisoned chalice for Brown. Danny Alexander speaks for Britain's third party, the Liberal Democrats.
LOUISE KELLY: From the illegal decision to go to war in Iraq to the failure to clean up politics to the calamitous economic mistakes that the government's made over the last few years, Tony Blair's appearance on the campaign trail today is simply going to remind voters that Labour has completely failed to meet the expectations it set when it was elected to government in the first place.
BARKER: Tony Blair is just as polarizing among traditional Labour supporters, but it was Blair and his vision for new Labour who persuaded so many middle- class Britons to vote for Labour three times running, and who are wavering in great numbers now as Labour bids for a fourth term. Anne McElvoy of the Evening Standard.
LOUISE KELLY: Blair has that outreach to middle England, which somehow Mr. Brown seems to find uncomfortable.
BARKER: Historian Anthony Howard hears echoes with then-Vice President Al Gore 10 years ago.
LOUISE KELLY: If he brought Bill Clinton in - and Bill Clinton's a marvelous campaigner - then poor old, wooden Al Gore would have suddenly been the sort of, made to look worse than he is. I think there may be an element to that.
BARKER: For NPR News, I'm Vicki Barker in London.
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LOUISE KELLY: This is NPR News.
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