LONDON – A copy of the remarks made by Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday during his visit to the Quinton Kynaston School in St. John's Wood, London.
"The first thing I would like to do is to apologize, actually, on behalf of the Labour Party for the last week, which with everything that is going on back here and in the world, has not been our finest hour to be frank.
"But I think what is important now is that we understand that it's the interests of the country that come first and we move on.
"Now, as for my timing and date of departure, I would have preferred to do this in my own way, but as has been pretty obvious from what many of my Cabinet colleagues have said earlier in the week, the next party conference in a couple of weeks will be my last party conference as party leader, the TUC (Trades Union Congress) next week will be my last TUC, probably to the relief of both of us.
"But I am not going to set a precise date now. I don't think that's right. I will do that at a future date and I'll do it in the interests of the country and depending on the circumstances of the time.
"Now that doesn't in any way take away from the fact it is my last conference but I think the precise timetable has to be left up to me and got to be done in a proper way.
"I also say one other thing after the last week, I think it is important for the Labour Party to understand, and I think the majority of people in the party do understand, that it's the public that comes first and it's the country that matters and we can't treat the public as irrelevant bystanders in a subject as important as who is their Prime Minister.
"So we should just bear that in mind in the way that we conduct ourselves in the time to come.
"In the meantime I think it is important we get on with the business. I was at a primary school earlier - fantastic new buildings, great new IT suite, school results improving.
"I'm here at this school that just in the last few years has come on by leaps and bounds doing fantastically well.
"We've got the blockade on the Lebanon lifted today. You know there are important things going on in the world.
"And I think I speak for all my Cabinet colleagues when I say that we would prefer to get on with those things because those are the things that really matter and really matter to the country.
"So as I say it has been a somewhat difficult week, but I think it's time now to move on and I think we will."