Tony Blair once admitted he avoided talking about his religious beliefs while Prime Minister for fear of being labelled a “nutter”. But last night Mr Blair talked openly about his belief in “salvation through Jesus Christ” and encouraged other Christians to do the same.

It was important, he said, that people of faith “are prepared to speak up and speak out from the position of faith”.

“In other words, we’re not afraid to say this is why we believe what we believe and not be embarrassed about it or think there is something strange in saying that,” he said.

Taking part in a debate in Westminster about faith in public life, Mr Blair laughed as he recalled the instruction from his then press secretary, Alistair Campbell, not to “do God”.

He also admitted that he had once ordered two reluctant aides to get down on their knees in prayer during a meeting with members of the Salvation Army.

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