Blair: ‘There’s never been a tougher time to be a leader’

By Ian Dunt

The eurocrisis means it's harder now to be a leader than ever before, Tony Blair has said.

In comments which will be interpreted as a further mark of respect for David Cameron, the former prime minister expressed sympathy for anyone trying to navigate the explosive politics of the eurozone.

"There's never been a tougher time to be a leader than right now," Mr Blair told the Andrew Marr programme.

"Right now for the single currency it's essential it's preserved, that the whole weight of Europe, of its institutions stand behind it."

Mr Blair admitted that Gordon Brown had made the right decision by not joining the euro and that the currency was fundamentally weakened by the failure to address the various stages of the economies constituting the eurozone.

"The ten year myth has now evaporated," he said.

"The reason people are bringing in these types of leaders is they just want it sorted. The choices are very difficult and very painful."

He added: "I say this with a lot of humility. This is really, really difficult. We've got to be careful of being in a situation where you're always just behind the curve of decision making.

"This is so big the politicians needed to share that responsibility with the people."

Mr Blair again refused to become embroiled in the current British political debate, issuing a carefully worded summary of Labour and the Conservatives' position.

"We face the same delicate balance that everyone else does," he said.

"You want a credible deficit reduction in place but you can't do that in a way that destroys your growth prospects. The difficult question is how to get that balance right."

The comment will do little to calm jitters among some Labour figures that Mr Blair is more sympathetic to Mr Cameron than he is to Ed Miliband.

In previous interviews, Mr Blair has refused to criticise Mr Cameron's administration and instead stressed his respect for the challenges the prime minister faces.

Some Labour figures want stronger support for the current party leader, but it is unlikely that Mr Blair's seal of approval would do Mr Miliband much good politically, especially after he fought so hard to distance himself from the New Labour brand during the leadership campaign.