Minister of the United Kingdom
In office since 2 May 1997
Born 6 May 1953 Edinburgh, Scotland
Spouse Cherie Booth
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is the Prime Minister
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, First Lord
of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Member of Parliament
(MP) for Sedgefield.
been leader of the Labour Party since July 1994, following the death
of John Smith in May 1994. Blair led Labour to power with a landslide
victory in the 1997 general election replacing John Major as Prime Minister
and ending 18 years of Conservative government. He is the Labour Party's
longest-serving Prime Minister, and the only person to have led the
party to three consecutive general election victories. The youngest
person to be appointed Prime Minister since 1812,  he has deployed
British armed forces into four conflicts: in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan
Along with Gordon
Brown and Peter Mandelson, Blair is credited with moving the Labour
Party towards the centre of British politics, using the term "New
Labour" to distinguish his policies of support for the market economy
from the party's older policy of nationalisation. He has referred to
his policy as "modern social democracy" and "the third
way" - a development partly supported by the reform socialist thinktank,
the Fabian Society, of which Blair is a member (in common with the vast
majority of Labour MPs). Supporters on the left feel that Blair places
insufficient emphasis on traditional Labour priorities such as the redistribution
of wealth and investment in public services. Although Blair has tended
not to make any issue of his faith, some have commented on his religious
position as high church Anglo-Catholic; in a 2006 interview he said
he considered himself ultimately accountable to God for his actions,
particularly his decisions to commit UK troops to military action .
Since the 11th September
attacks on New York and Washington, Blair's political agenda has been
dominated by international affairs, especially with the United States-led
"War on Terror". He has controversially supported some aspects
of US President George W. Bush's foreign policy, including sending British
troops to participate in Afghanistan since 2001, and in Iraq since 2003;
Blair's related anti-terrorism legislation has also been controversial.
In October 2004,
Blair declared his intention to seek a third term but not a fourth.
The Labour party won a third term in government at the 2005 general
election for the first time in its history, although its majority in
the House of Commons was reduced to 66. The fall in Labour's share of
the vote renewed speculation as to how long his leadership would continue.
On 14 May 2006, the Independent on Sunday reported that Blair had privately
assured ministers that he would step down in the summer of 2007.
It is widely predicted that he will be succeeded by the Chancellor of
the Exchequer Gordon Brown at some point before the next General Election,
to be held by 3 June 2010.
Blair was born
in Edinburgh, Scotland, the second son of Leo and Hazel Blair (née
Corscadden). Leo Blair was the illegitimate son of two English actors,
Charles Parsons and Mary Augusta Ridgway Bridson, whilst Hazel Corscadden's
family were Protestants from County Donegal, Ireland. He has one elder
brother, William Blair, who is a QC.
Blair spent his
early childhood in Adelaide, Australia, where his father was a lecturer
in the Faculty of Law at the University of Adelaide. The Blairs lived
close to the university in the inner-eastern suburb of Dulwich.
Blair spent the
remainder of his childhood years in Durham, England, his father being
by then a law lecturer at Durham University. After attending Durham's
Chorister School, Blair was educated at Fettes College, a fee-paying
school in Edinburgh (sometimes called the "Eton of Scotland"),
where he met Charlie Falconer, whom he later appointed as Lord Chancellor.
Blair's biographer John Rentoul reported that "All the teachers
I spoke to ... said he was a complete pain in the backside, and they
were very glad to see the back of him." After Fettes, he read law
at St John's College, Oxford. During his college years he also played
guitar and sang for a rock band called Ugly Rumours. After graduating
from Oxford with a second class degree (Oxford did not divide the second
class into 2:1 and 2:2 until later), Blair enrolled as a pupil barrister
and met his future wife, Cherie Booth, at the Chambers of Derry Irvine,
who was to be the first Lord Chancellor appointed by Blair. Biographer
Rentoul also records that according to Blair's lawyer friends, the future
PM voiced much less concern regarding party affiliation than to his
aim of becoming PM.
Blair married Booth,
a practising Roman Catholic (and future Queen's Counsel), on 29 March
1980. They have three sons (Euan, Nicky, and Leo) and one daughter (Kathryn).
Leo (born 20 May 2000) was the first legitimate child born to a serving
Prime Minister in over 150 years, since Francis Russell was born to
Lord John Russell on 11 July 1849. Leo was the centre of a debate over
the MMR vaccine when Blair, citing his family's right to privacy, refused
to say whether or not his son had received the triple MMR vaccine or
single inoculations. As is usual in what Roman Catholics would term
a "mixed marriage", their children are being brought up as
Catholics. Blair has attended Mass with his family every Sunday, and
has been seen attending Mass at Westminster Cathedral alone. In April
2006, it was revealed that Father Michael Seed conducts a private mass
in 10 Downing Street for the whole family. Blair once expressed a
desire to take Roman Catholic communion, but was advised by Basil Cardinal
Hume that the Eucharist is reserved for baptised Catholics. Blair has
the closest ties of any British Prime Minister to the Roman Catholic
Euan and Nicky attended
the London Oratory School in Fulham where they could be educated in
accordance with the Catholic faith of their mother. When this decision
was announced, Blair was criticised for rejecting schools in Islington,
where he then lived. These schools included a Catholic boys' school.
Euan Blair received widespread publicity after police found him "drunk
and incapable" in Leicester Square, London, while out celebrating
the end of his GCSE exams in July 2000, shortly after his father had
proposed on-the-spot fines for drunken and yobbish behaviour. While
the Blairs have stated that they wish to shield their children from
the media, they have not always been able, or willing, to do so. Blair
has twice lodged complaints about press stories concerning his children.
However, the fact that the family have occasionally held photo calls
together has led some (including former leader of the Conservative Party
Iain Duncan Smith) to accuse him of exploitation , and such photographs
have been used on Private Eye covers. After leaving the University
of Bristol, Euan obtained a position as an intern for the U.S. House
Committee on Rules under David Dreier, a Republican Congressman.
Front of Tony Blair's election address for Sedgefield in the 1983 general
electionShortly after graduation in 1975, Blair joined the Labour Party.
During the early 1980s, he was involved in the Labour Party in Hackney
South and Shoreditch, where he aligned himself with the "soft left"
who appeared to be taking control of the party. However, his attempt
to secure selection as a candidate for Hackney Borough Council was unsuccessful.
Through his father-in-law he contacted Tom Pendry, a Labour MP, to ask
for help in how to start his Parliamentary career; Pendry gave him a
tour of the House of Commons and advised him to run for selection in
a by-election due to be held in the safe Conservative seat of Beaconsfield,
following the death of the sitting MP Ronald Bell in 1982, and where
Pendry knew a senior member of the local party. Blair was chosen as
the candidate; he won only 10% of the vote and lost his deposit, and
the seat was retained comfortably by Tim Smith for the Tories, but he
impressed the then Labour Party leader Michael Foot and got his name
noticed within the party. At the time Blair was closely associated with
the soft left current in the party centred on the Labour Co-ordinating
Committee and espoused (for the time) conventional leftist positions.
A July 1982 letter to Foot, eventually published in the New Statesman
(reprinted in The Daily Telegraph) gives an impression of Blair's
outlook at this time.
In 1983, Blair found
that the newly created seat of Sedgefield, near where he had grown up
in Durham, had no Labour candidate. Several sitting MPs displaced by
boundary changes were interested. He found a branch that had not made
a nomination and arranged to visit them; coincidentally, the European
Cup Winners' Cup final involving Aberdeen FC was happening that night
and Blair settled down to watch it with five senior members of the local
party before discussing his potential candidacy. With the crucial support
of John Burton he won their endorsement; at the last minute he was added
to the shortlist and won the selection over displaced sitting MP Les
Huckfield. Burton later became his agent and one of his most trusted
and longest-standing allies.
literature stressed the Labour Party's policies which included opposition
to British membership of the EEC, despite having told the selection
conference that he personally favoured continuing membership. He also,
more enthusiastically, supported unilateral nuclear disarmament, being
a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the time. The seat
was safely Labour despite the party's collapse in the 1983 UK general
election; Blair was helped on the campaign trail by soap actress Pat
Phoenix, the girlfriend of his father-in-law Anthony Booth.
Blair stated in
the House of Commons on 6 July 1983: "I am a socialist not through
reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through
unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, socialism
corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral.
It stands for cooperation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear.
It stands for equality".  . The Labour Party is declared
in its constitution to be a Democratic Socialist party , not a social
democratic party - Blair himself organised this declaration of Labour
to be a socialist party when he dealt with the change to the party's
Clause IV in their constitution.
Once elected, Blair's ascent was rapid, and he received his first shadow
position in 1984 as assistant Treasury spokesman. He demanded an inquiry
into the Bank of England's decision to rescue the collapsed Johnson
Matthey Bank in October 1985 and embarrassed the government by finding
an EEC report critical of British economic policy that had been countersigned
by a member of the Conservative government. Blair was firmly aligned
with the reforming tendencies in the party, headed by leader Neil Kinnock,
and was promoted after the 1987 election to the Trade and Industry team
as spokesman on the City of London. He laid down a marker for the future
by running for the Shadow Cabinet in 1987, obtaining 77 votes. This
was considered a good showing for a newcomer.
As Shadow Employment
Secretary, Blair announces that the Labour Party no longer supports
the 'closed shop' (18 December 1989)The stock market crash of October
1987 raised the prominence of Blair, who inveighed against the 'morally
dubious' City whiz-kids as being incompetent. He signalled his modernising
stance by protesting against the third-class service for small investors
at the London Stock Exchange. Blair entered the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow
Secretary of State for Energy in 1988, and the next year became Shadow
Employment Secretary. In this post he realised that the Labour Party's
support for the emerging European 'Social Charter' policies on employment
law meant dropping the party's traditional support for closed shop arrangements,
whereby employers required all their employees to be members of a trade
union. He announced this change in December 1989, outraging the left-wing
of the Labour Party but making it more difficult for the Conservatives
As a young and telegenic
Shadow Cabinet member, Blair was given prominence by the party's Director
of Communications Peter Mandelson. However his first major platform
speech at the Labour Party conference in October 1990 was a disastrous
embarrassment when he spoke too fast and lost his place in his notes.
He worked to produce a more moderate and electable party in the run-up
to the 1992 general election, in which he had responsibility for developing
the minimum wage policy that was expected to be strongly attacked by
the Conservatives. During the election campaign Blair had a notable
confrontation with the owner of a children's nursery, who was adamant
that the policy would cost jobs.
When Kinnock resigned
after the defeat by John Major in the 1992 UK general election, Blair
became Shadow Home Secretary under new leader John Smith. Blair defined
his policy (in a phrase that had actually been coined by his current
Chancellor Gordon Brown) as "Tough on crime, tough on the causes
of crime". This had been an area in which the Labour Party had
been weak and Blair moved to strengthen its image. He accepted that
the prison population might have to rise, and bemoaned the loss of a
sense of community, which he was prepared to blame (at least partly)
on '1960s liberalism'. However, Blair spoke in support of equalisation
of the age of consent for gay sex and opposed capital punishment.
Smith died suddenly
in 1994 of a heart attack. Both Blair and Gordon Brown had been considered
as possible leadership contenders and had always agreed that they would
not fight each other. Brown had previously been thought the most senior
and understood this to mean that Blair would give way to him; however,
it soon became apparent that Blair now had greater support. A MORI opinion
poll published in the Sunday Times on 15 May found that among the general
public, Blair had the support of 32%, John Prescott, 19%, Margaret Beckett
14%, Gordon Brown 9%, and Robin Cook 5%. At the Granita restaurant in
Islington on 31 May, Brown agreed to give way. There is no conclusive
evidence of the terms of any wider "Granita Pact" but supporters
of Brown maintain that Blair undertook to resign as Prime Minister after
a set period in favour of Brown. The Labour Party Electoral College
elected Blair as party leader on 21 July 1994, the other candidates
being John Prescott and Margaret Beckett. After becoming Leader of the
Opposition in the House of Commons, Blair was, as is customary for the
holder of that office, appointed a member of the Privy Council, which
permitted him to be addressed with the style "The Right Honourable".
Leader of the Labour
Shortly after his election as Leader, Blair announced at the conclusion
of his 1994 conference speech that he intended to propose a new statement
of aims and values for the Labour Party to replace the charter drawn
up in 1918. This involved the complete replacement of Clause IV, which
had committed the party to 'the common ownership of the means of production
and exchange' (widely interpreted as wholesale nationalisation). A special
conference of the party approved the change in March 1995.
The cover of Labour's
1997 general election manifestoWhile in Opposition, Blair also revised
party policy in a manner that enhanced the image of Labour as competent
and modern. He used the term "New Labour" to distinguish the
party under his leadership from what had gone before. Although the transformation
aroused much criticism (its alleged superficiality drawing fire both
from political opponents and traditionalists within the "rank and
file" of his own party), it was nevertheless successful in changing
public perception. At the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair stated
that his three top priorities on coming to office were "education,
education and education".
Aided by disaffection
with the Conservative government (which was dogged by allegations of
corruption, and long-running divisions over Europe), "New Labour"
achieved a landslide victory over John Major in the 1997 UK general
First term 1997
Blair embraces like-minded U.S. President Bill Clinton, a fellow leader
of the "Third Way" in politics.
Independence for the Bank of England
Immediately after taking office, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon
Brown gave the Bank of England the power to set the base rate of interest
autonomously. The traditional tendency of governments to manipulate
interest rates around General Elections for political gain is thought
to have been deleterious to the UK economy and helped reinforce a cyclical
pattern of boom and bust, for which Blair frequently criticised previous
governments. The decision was popular with the City, which the Labour
Party had been courting since the early 1990s. Together with the government's
avowed determination to remain within projected Conservative spending
limits for the first two years of its period of office, it helped to
reassure sceptics of the Labour Party's new-found fiscal "prudence".
Brown, who had his own following within the Labour Party, is a powerful
and independent Chancellor who was given exceptional freedom to act
by Blair, although later reports by Downing Street insiders have said
that Blair grew to regret this as he was cut out of important fiscal
British Prime Minister
Tony Blair in the House of Commons during Prime Minister's Questions.
To the right is Chancellor Gordon BrownBlair has encouraged reforms
to Parliamentary procedures. One of his first acts as Prime Minister
was to replace the two weekly 15-minute sessions of Prime Minister's
Questions, held on a Tuesday and Thursday, with a single 30-minute session
on a Wednesday. This reform was said to be more efficient, but critics
point out that it is easier to prepare for one long set of questions
than two shorter interrogations. There has been a perception that Blair
has avoided attending debates and voting in Parliament, although his
vote has seldom been needed given Labour's large majorities in the House
of Commons. (Labour Party objections to aspects of recent anti-terror
and education legislation mean that every vote now matters ). In
another reform, the Blair government introduced rules governing the
sitting time of parliament, ostensibly to make it more businesslike,
though arguably reducing MPs' ability to scrutinise legislation effectively.
Another innovation has been the monthly press conference at which Blair,
less formally or confrontationally than in the Commons, addresses questions
 . He is seen to be an effective Parliamentary performer, often
besting some of the more short-lived recent leaders of other parties.
The Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties have each elected new
leaders in 2006 ; an ability to match Blair or his likely successor
has been a key factor in these selections , though much of the public
perception of Blair has been as a performer on TV, where he has appeared
modern, informal and articulate and, notably, seemed to capture the
mood of the country when Diana, Princess of Wales died. He feels more
embattled since the Iraq war. For a 2006 TV audience, he recalled Labour's
1997 election victory: "People used to like me then," he remarked
include the prominence given to the Prime Minister's Press Secretary,
who became known as the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (though
the current PMOS is not the press secretary). This role was filled by
Alastair Campbell from May 1997 to 8 June 2001. Campbell had been an
important cog in the New Labour election machine for the 1997 general
election, working with Peter Mandelson to co-ordinate Labour's campaign.
In the early years of his first term, Blair relied for his political
advice on a close circle of his own staff, amongst whom Campbell was
seen as particularly influential: he was given the authority to direct
civil servants, who previously had taken instructions only from ministers.
Unlike some of his predecessors, Campbell was a political appointment
and had not come through the Civil Service. Despite his overtly political
role, he was paid from the public purse as a member of the civil service,
in one of Blair's earliest moves feared liable to change the traditional
political neutrality of the civil service. Campbell was replaced by
Godric Smith and Tom Kelly when he moved to become the Prime Minister's
Director of Communications and Strategy immediately after Blair's election
success on 7 June 2001. Campbell resigned on 29 August 2003, following
the Hutton report into the death of Dr David Kelly.
A significant achievement
of Blair's first term was the completion of negotiations of the Belfast
Agreement, commonly called the Good Friday Agreement, in which the British
and Irish Governments and most Northern Irish political parties established
an "exclusively peaceful and democratic" framework for power-sharing
in Northern Ireland. Negotiations had begun under the previous Prime
Minister, John Major but collapsed after the end of the IRA ceasefire.
The agreement was finally signed on 10 April 1998, and on 26 November
1998 Blair became the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to
address the Republic of Ireland's parliament.
Blair's first term
saw an extensive programme of constitutional alteration. A Human Rights
Act was introduced in 1998; a Welsh Assembly and a Scottish Parliament
were both set up; most hereditary peers were removed from the House
of Lords in 1999; the Greater London Authority was established in 2000;
and the Freedom of Information Act was passed later that year, with
its provisions coming into effect over the next decade. This latter
proposal disappointed campaigners whose hopes had been raised by a White
Paper of 1998 which promised a more robust Act. No significant progress
has been made in reforming the House of Lords since 1999: the debate
remains open whether the reformed chamber should be fully elected, fully
appointed, or part elected and part appointed.
In the 2001 UK general
election, Blair campaigned on improvements to public services, including
the National Health Service, based on private finance projects. The
Conservatives largely ignored the issue of public services in favour
of opposing British membership of Economic and Monetary Union of the
European Union, which proved to do little to win over floating voters:
the Labour Party preserved its majority, and Blair became the first
Labour Prime Minister to win a full second term. However the election
was notable for a large fall in voter turnout. The leader of the Conservative
Party, William Hague, resigned the following morning.
Blair has supported
gay rights more then any previous British Prime Minister. Under his
Labour Government, the age of consent was equalized, civil unions for
gay couples were enacted and the ban on gays in the British armed forces
In 1999, Blair designed and presided over the declaration of the Kosovo
War. The Labour Party in opposition had criticised the Conservative
government for weakness over Bosnia, and Blair was one of those urging
a strong line by NATO against Slobodan Miloševic. However, some
Western strategists and journalists, for example Yossef Bodansky and
Justin Raimondo, contend that the Serbian community were fighting legitimate
wars of self-defence against an Islamist-connected government in Bosnia,
and the military wing of the Albanian mafia, the KLA, in Kosovo. Blair
persuaded the US Clinton administration to support the use of ground
troops should aerial bombardment fail to win the war, although in the
event they were not needed. His speech setting out the Blair Doctrine
of the International Community was made one month into the war, in Chicago
on 22 April 1999 (). The same year he was awarded the Charlemagne
Award by the German city of Aachen, for his contributions to the European
idea and to European peace.
Second term 2001
Blair welcomes President George W. Bush to Chequers, the Prime Minister's
countryside retreat.Following the 11 September 2001 attack on the World
Trade Center, Blair was very quick to align the UK with the US, engaging
in a round of shuttle diplomacy to help form and maintain a coalition
prior to their attack on Afghanistan (in which British troops participated).
He maintains this role to this day, showing a willingness to visit countries
on diplomatic missions that other world leaders might consider too dangerous
to visit. In 2003 he became the first Briton since Winston Churchill
to be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal by the United States Congress
for being "a staunch and steadfast ally of the United States of
America"  although media attention has been drawn to the fact
that Blair has yet to attend the ceremony to receive his medal; some
commentators point to the unpopularity of support for the US as explaining
the delay. In 2003, Blair was also awarded an Ellis Island Medal of
Honor for his support of the United States after 9/11 - the first non-American
to be so honoured .
Blair gave strong support to U.S. President George W. Bush's war in
Iraq in 2003. Blair soon became the face of international support for
the war, often clashing with French President Jacques Chirac, who became
the face of international opposition. Regarded by many as a more persuasive
orator than Bush, Blair gave many speeches arguing for the overthrow
of Saddam Hussein in the days leading up to war.
Blair made a case
for war against Saddam based on Iraqi possession of weapons of mass
destruction and breach of UN resolutions, but was wary of making a direct
appeal for regime change as international law does not recognize that
as a legal ground for invasion. A memorandum from a July 2002 meeting
that was leaked in April 2005 to The Sunday Times showed that Blair
believed that the British public would support regime change in the
right political context; however the memo states that legal grounds
for such action were weak. On Tuesday 24 September 2002 Downing Street
published a dossier based on intelligence agencies' assessments of Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction. Among the items in the dossier was a recently
received intelligence report that "the Iraqi military are able
to deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order
to do so". (A briefing paper in February 2003 entitled 'Iraq -
its infrastructure of concealment, deception and intimidation' was also
issued to journalists; this document was discovered to have taken a
large part of its text without attribution from a PhD thesis available
on the World Wide Web. Where the thesis hypothesized about possible
WMD, the Downing Street version presented the ideas as fact and it was
thus subsequently referred to as the 'Dodgy Dossier').
British troops, one-third of the total strength of the UK army (land
forces), were deployed to assist with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. When
after the war it was established that Iraq possessed no weapons of mass
destruction, Blair's pre-war statements became a major domestic controversy.
Many members of the Labour Party, not only those who were opposed to
the Iraq war, were among those critical; among opponents of the war,
accusations that Blair had deliberately exaggerated the threat were
made. Successive inquiries (including those by the Foreign Affairs Select
Committee of the House of Commons, Lord Hutton, and Lord Butler of Brockwell)
have found that Blair honestly stated what he believed to be true at
the time. These findings have not prevented frequent accusations that
Blair lied, most notably during the 2005 election campaign from Conservative
leader Michael Howard.
Blair shakes hands
with President Bush on 28 June 2004, on the day Iyad Allawi became Interim
Prime Minister of IraqSeveral anti-war pressure groups want to try Blair
for war crimes in Iraq at the International Criminal Court. The Secretary
General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, stated in September 2004
that the invasion was "illegal" but did not state the legal
basis for this accusation. This assertion by Kofi Annan conflicts with
the opinion of the British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith that the
war was legal.
United Kingdom armed
forces were active in southern Iraq to stabilise the country in the
run-up to the elections of January 2005. In October 2004 the UK government
agreed to a request from US forces to send a battalion of the Black
Watch regiment to the American sector to free up US troops for an assault
on Fallujah. At present, British forces remain in Iraq. After the US
election, Blair tried to use his relationship with President Bush to
bring pressure on the US administration on Israel and Palestine. He
has supported the Israeli government's plan to withdraw from the Gaza
On 1 May 2005, The
Sunday Times printed a leaked 'Downing Street memo', which appeared
to be the minutes of a discussion of Iraq held in July 2002. The memo
created a stir particularly among critics of the war by stating "It
seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action
... But the case was thin." In the following weeks, Blair was compelled
to repeatedly reiterate his rationale for taking the UK to war, the
basic tenets of which he has steadfastly maintained to this day.
In an interview
with Michael Parkinson broadcast on ITV1 on 4 March 2006, Blair (the
first serving Prime Minister to appear on the chatshow programme) referred
to the influence of his Christian faith on his decision to go to war
in Iraq, stating that he had prayed about the issue, and saying that
God would judge him for his decision : "I think if you have
faith about these things, you realise that judgement is made by other
people … and if you believe in God, it's made by God as well."
After fighting the 2001 election on the theme of improving public services,
Blair's government continued to raise taxes in 2002 (described by opponents
as "stealth taxes") to increase spending on education and
health. Blair insisted that the increased funding must be matched by
internal reforms. The government introduced the Foundation Hospitals
scheme to allow local NHS hospitals financial freedom, although the
eventual shape of the proposals, after an internal struggle with Gordon
Brown, allowed somewhat less freedom than Blair would have liked. Many
such trusts established under this scheme are now in severe financial
difficulties, having spent large parts of funding increases on pay rises
for staff and expensive drugs. As a result, with supply increasing less
quickly than demand, benefits from the NHS have not increased to the
same degree, and the NHS is in deficit for 2005-6 to the tune of about
The peace process
in Northern Ireland hit a series of problems and on 15 October 2002
the Northern Ireland Assembly was suspended and direct rule returned;
attempts to get the Provisional Irish Republican Army to decommission
its weapons were unsuccessful and in the second set of elections to
the Assembly in November 2003 the Ulster Unionists lost the battle for
largest Unionist party to the Democratic Unionists of Ian Paisley, making
restarting devolution more difficult. At the same time Sinn Féin
became the largest nationalist party.
In its first term,
the government had introduced an annual fixed tuition fee of around
£1,000 for higher education students (rejecting requests from
universities to be allowed to vary the fee), and replaced the remaining
student grant with a loan to be repaid once the student was earning
over a certain threshold. Despite an explicit manifesto pledge in 2001
not to introduce variable (or "top-up") tuition fees in universities,
Blair controversially announced that exactly such a scheme would indeed
eventually be brought in with the maximum fee limited to £3,000
per year, while simultaneously delaying the repayment of student loans
until the graduate's income was much higher and reintroducing some grants
for students from poorer backgrounds.
On 1 August 2003,
Blair became the longest continuously serving Labour Prime Minister
of the United Kingdom, surpassing Harold Wilson's 1964–1970 term.
However, because of the crisis over the suicide of Dr David Kelly, a
government scientist who had spoken to a BBC journalist precipitating
a major public conflict between the BBC and the government, there were
no celebrations. Lord Falconer set up an inquiry under the senior Law
Lord Lord Hutton.
The second reading
vote on the Higher Education Bill bringing in top-up fees was held on
27 January 2004, and saw the government scrape by with a majority of
five, due to a massive backbench Labour rebellion. A first House of
Commons defeat had been possible but averted when a small number of
Gordon Brown's backbench allies switched sides at the last minute. The
next day the Hutton Inquiry reported on the circumstances surrounding
the death of David Kelly. The Inquiry was widely expected to criticise
Blair and his government. In the event, Hutton absolved Blair and his
government of deliberately inserting false intelligence into its dossier,
but criticised the BBC editorial process which had allowed unfounded
allegations to be broadcast. The report did not satisfy opponents of
Blair and of the Iraq war, leading to accusations of a 'whitewash'.
In April 2004, Blair
announced that a referendum would be held on the ratification of the
EU Constitution. This represented a significant change in British politics,
where only one nationwide referendum had been held, in 1975, on whether
the UK should remain in the EEC. It was another dramatic U-turn for
Blair, who had previously dismissed calls for a referendum unless the
constitution fundamentally altered the UK's relationship with the EU;
Michael Howard eagerly seized on the "EU-turn", reminding
Blair of his 2003 conference oration that "I can only go one way.
I haven't got a reverse gear". The referendum was expected to be
held in early 2006; however since the French and Dutch rejections of
the treaty, the Blair government has announced that it is putting plans
for a referendum on hold for the foreseeable future.
During his second
term Blair was increasingly the target for protests. On 19 May 2004,
he was hit by two condoms filled with purple flour in the House of Commons,
thrown by Fathers 4 Justice. His speech to the 2004 Labour Party conference
was interrupted both by a protester against the Iraq war and by a group
that opposed the government's decision to allow the House of Commons
to ban fox hunting.
On 15 September
2004, Blair delivered a speech on the environment and the 'urgent issue'
of climate change. In unusually direct language he concluded that If
what the science tells us about climate change is correct, then unabated
it will result in catastrophic consequences for our world... The science,
almost certainly, is correct. The action he proposed to take appeared
to be based on business and investment rather than any tax or legislative
attempts to reduce CO2 emissions: ...it is possible to combine reducing
emissions with economic growth... investment in science and technology
and in the businesses associated with it... The G8 next year, and the
EU presidency provide a great opportunity to push this debate to a new
and better level that, after the discord over Kyoto, offers the prospect
of agreement and action. .
On 25 August 2004, Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price announced that he would
attempt to impeach Blair . The measure was supported by Plaid Cymru
and the SNP, as well as by RESPECT's George Galloway and Independent
MP Richard Taylor. Ten Tory MPs signed it, as did four SNP MPs and two
Liberals for a total of 23 MPs. The campaign has attracted the support
of writers Iain Banks and Frederick Forsyth, and actor Corin Redgrave.
In January 2006,
General Sir Michael Rose (the former UN commander in Bosnia) joined
calls to make Blair accountable: "To go to war on what turns out
to be false grounds is something that no one should be allowed to walk
away from" .
No impeachment has
been attempted for 150 years, and no impeachment resolution has been
passed since 1806; the last two impeachment trials resulted in acquittals.
Many legal authorities consider impeachment to be obsolete (see, e.g.,
The case for Blair's
impeachment was outlined by Adam Price MP in a report entitled "A
case to answer" .
On 19 October 2003, it emerged that Blair had received treatment for
an irregular heartbeat. Having felt ill the previous day, he went to
hospital  and was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia. Blair
has been recovering well though. This was treated by cardioversion and
he returned home that night. He took the following day (20 October)
a little more gently than usual and returned to a full schedule on 21
October. Downing Street aides later suggested that the palpitations
had been brought on by Blair drinking lots of strong coffee at an EU
summit and then working out vigorously in the gym. However, former Armed
Forces minister Lewis Moonie, a doctor, said that the treatment was
more serious than Number 10 had admitted: "Anaesthetising somebody
and giving their heart electric shocks is not something you just do
in the routine run of medical practice", he claimed.
in the spring of 2004 fuelled speculation that Blair was on the brink
of stepping down. In September 2004 off-the-cuff remarks Lord Bragg
in an interview with ITV news, said that Blair was "under colossal
strain" over "considerations of his family" and that
Blair had thought "things over very carefully." This led to
a surge in speculation that Blair would resign. Although details of
the family problem were known by the press, no paper would report them
because to do so "breaches the bounds of privacy and media responsibility"
as they did not relate to Mr Blair himself .
a catheter ablation to correct his irregular heartbeat on 1 October
2004, having announced the procedure the day before in a series of interviews
in which he also declared that he would seek a third term but not a
fourth. The planned procedure was carried out at London's Hammersmith
hospital. At the same time it was disclosed that the Blairs had purchased
a house at 29 Connaught Square, London, for a reported £3.5 million.
Some have speculated that part of No.29 is to be converted into offices
for a future Blair Foundation. The purchase also fuelled speculation
that Blair was preparing for life after government.
On 19 May 2005 (a
fortnight after polling day in the 2005 general election), Blair was
treated with an anti-inflammatory drug to control a slipped disc, which
had caused him back pain.
Third term 2005
The Labour Party won the 2005 General Election and a third consecutive
term in office. The next day, Blair was invited to form a Government
by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The reduction in the Labour majority
(from 167 to 66) and the low share of the popular vote (35%) led to
some Labour MPs calling for Blair to leave office sooner rather than
later; among them Frank Dobson who had served in Blair's Cabinet during
his first term. However, dissenting voices quickly vanished as Blair
in June 2005 took on European leaders over the future direction of the
G8 and EU presidencies
Tony Blair accepting the presidency of the European Union on 1 JulyThe
rejection by France and the Netherlands of the treaty to establish a
constitution for the European Union presented Blair with an opportunity
to postpone the doubtful UK referendum on the constitution without taking
the blame for failing from the EU. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced
that the Parliamentary Bill to enact a referendum was suspended indefinitely.
It had previously been agreed that ratification would continue unless
the treaty had been rejected by at least five of the 25 European Union
member states who must all ratify it. In an address to the European
Parliament, Blair stated: "I believe in Europe as a political project.
I believe in Europe with a strong and caring social dimension."
Chirac held several
meetings with Schröder and the pair pressed for the UK to give
up its rebate, famously won by Margaret Thatcher in 1984. After verbal
conflict over several weeks, Blair, along with the leaders of all 25
member states, descended on Brussels for the EU Summit of the 18 June
2005 to attempt to finalise the EU budget for 2007-2013. Blair refused
to renegotiate the rebate unless the proposals included a compensating
overhaul of EU spending, particularly on the Common Agricultural Policy
which composes 44% of the EU budget. After intense arguments inside
closed doors, talks broke down late at night and the leaders emerged,
all blaming each other. It is widely accepted that Blair came out on
top, making allies in the Netherlands and Sweden and potentially (and
crucially) several of the Eastern European accession countries.
It fell to Blair
to broker a deal on the EU budget during the UK's Presidency of the
European Union during the latter half of 2005. Early international opinion,
particularly in the French press, suggested that Blair held a very strong
opening position partly on account of the concurrence of British presidencies
of the EU and G8. However, early in the UK's six-month term the 7 July
London bombings distracted political attention from the EU despite some
ambitious early statements about Blair's agenda. Domestically Blair
faced further distractions from European affairs including a resurgent
Conservative Party under its newly-elected leader David Cameron, and
assessments of the British presidency's achievements under Blair have
been lukewarm in spite of some diplomatic success including a last-minute
budget deal. The most controversial result was an agreement to increase
British contributions to the EU development budget for new member countries,
which effectively reduced the UK rebate by 20%.
On 21 July 2005,
a second series of explosions were reported in London, two weeks and
some hours after the 7 July 2005 London bombings. Four controlled explosions,
of devices considerably less advanced than those of the previous attacks,
were carried out at Shepherd's Bush, Warren Street and Oval underground
stations, and on a bus in Shoreditch. Even though the attacks on the
21st were less severe than those on the 7th, Blair was reported to have
said that the bombings in London today were intended "to scare
people and to frighten them, to make them anxious and worried".
He went on to say how the "police have done their very best, and
the security services too, in the situation, and I think we have just
got to react calmly and continue with our business as much as possible
Concerns about terror
attacks led to 10 Downing Street requesting media organizations not
to identify the location of Blair's 2005 summer holiday. After Blair
attended a public function it was acknowledged that the holiday was
in Barbados, as a guest of the singer Cliff Richard with whom Blair
has stayed before.
A Guardian/ICM poll
conducted after the first wave of attacks found that 64% of the British
population believed that Blair's decision to wage war in Iraq had led
indirectly to the terrorist attacks on London.  The public did however
indicate approval of Blair's handling of the attacks, with his approval
rating moving into positive territory for the first time in five years.
. In December 2005, the Prime Minister was presented with the "Statesman
of the Decade" award by the EastWest Institute , a trans-Atlantic
think tank that organizes an annual Security Conference in Brussels
Proposed laws to
cope with the threat of terrorism proved extremely controversial; an
amendment to require that glorifying terrorism be deliberate in order
to be an offence was rejected in the House of Commons by just three
votes (a result initially announced as a one-vote margin, due to a miscount).
The proposal to allow terrorist suspects to be held for questioning
for up to 90 days was defeated on 9 November by a margin of 31 
with 49 Labour MPs voting against the government. Instead, MPs supported
an amendment to allow questioning for 28 days proposed by veteran backbencher
David Winnick. This was Blair's first defeat on the floor of the House
of Commons since he became Prime Minister in 1997, and most commentators
saw this as seriously undermining his authority .
After Labour's 2004 conference, Blair announced via a BBC interview
 that he would not fight a fourth general election, an unusual announcement
in the UK, as there is no limit on the time someone may serve as Prime
Minister. He also announced he would like to serve a "full third
In the months following
the election, there was frequent speculation over the anticipated date
of his departure. The Westminster consensus expected him to go after
the proposed UK referendum on the European Union Constitution, but its
collapse eliminated this juncture. The July 2005 terror attacks also
appear to have strengthened his position. But while bookmakers take
bets on his staying,  Blair's election agent John Burton said 
that he will quit the House of Commons at the next election. The official
line from the Downing Street press office on this was that it was the
"last thing on [Blair's] mind," but there has been no firm
Speculation as to
the likely time of Blair's departure and his likely replacement as leader
of the Labour party by Gordon Brown, increased in May 2006, following
Labour's bad results in UK local council elections. Such speculation
is repeatedly raised in the press and political circles when any mishap
occurs to the government. The case of private loans to the Labour party
apparently known to few people other than Blair himself,
and the number of such benefactors who have been proposed as candidates
to become members of the House of Lords, drew comment on his suitability
to hold the post. He has said he will give'ample time' for his successor
to establish himself before the next general election. His successor
is widely expected to be Gordon Brown the current Chancellor (UK finance
If he remains in
office until 26 November 2008, Blair will break Margaret Thatcher's
record for longest continuous service as Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool,
Blair has said that
after stepping down as Prime Minister, he plans to leave front-line
politics and does not intend to take a seat in the House of Lords, commenting
that it is, "...not my scene". 
There have been
a number of rumours, in the British press, that Blair will run for the
position of United Nations Secretary-General when Kofi Annan steps down
on 31 December 2006. 
While the terms 'spin' and 'Spin Doctor' came into widespread use in
UK politics as early as the late 1980s, it has been an especially prominent
element of criticisms of the Blair government. 'Spin' means to selectively
present news in a way which minimizes the political damage, and emphasises
any positive aspects. A widely-levelled criticism of Blair and his government
is that they make excessive use of spin to such an extent that government
statements, even if entirely true, are now disbelieved; it is also said
that the government has on occasions crossed the line between selective
presentation of information and deliberate misleading.
The most widely-publicised
example concerned Blair's appeal for trust over the danger from Iraq
and weapons of mass destruction, which led to British participation
in the invasion of Iraq. One 'intelligence dossier' later distributed
on behalf of Blair  was substantially plagiarised from an academic
thesis available on the internet , with some phrases altered to
make them sound more threatening. No weapons of mass destruction were
found in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, and
Blair was later forced to concede that they had not existed .
A consequence of the lead-up to the second Gulf War is the belief that
Blair compromised his credibility; however, defenders of Blair point
to the fact that he was publishing to the public what he had been told
in private and honestly believed at the time - even if such a belief
involved the front page speculation of various newspapers that the '45
minutes' claim might refer to ballistic missiles which could reach Cyprus.
It was later revealed that it referred to battlefield munitions which
could only be a threat to an invading force, but the government did
not correct the misapprehension; the lack of action was referred to
as 'spin by omission'.
Blair had made himself a leading candidate for the Labour leadership
by his actions as Shadow Home Secretary in turning around Labour's image
as "soft on crime". Support for the police and increasing
their powers has been characteristic of the Labour Party under his leadership.
While initially these moves attracted a consensus, the government's
legislative reaction to the September 11 attacks has been regarded by
some as authoritarian. Even before the attacks, the Terrorism Act 2000
forced disclosure of information believed to be of assistance in preventing
a terrorist act, or apprehending those involved in such acts .
The 2000 Act gave
the police additional powers against a wide range of activities, with
reported instances of the Act being used against peaceful protestors
(including an 11-year-old girl at a Peace camp outside an RAF base ).
After September 11, the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
was passed, allowing foreign nationals to be detained without charge
for an indefinite period (subject to appeal to a special tribunal) if
they were suspected international terrorists but had committed no offence
under United Kingdom law. This provision was later struck down as incompatible
with the European Convention on Human Rights. At the 2005 Labour Party
conference, the 82-year-old veteran pacifist Walter Wolfgang was forcibly
removed from the conference hall aftershouting "nonsense"
as Foreign Secretary Jack Straw defended Iraq policy. When he attempted
to return without his conference pass, Wolfgang was briefly detained
for questioning under section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
Later in 2005, Blair
gave personal strong backing to proposals to allow terrorism suspects
to be held for questioning for up to 90 days, and dissuaded other Ministers
from offering a compromise which might prove more acceptable; the insistence
resulted in the first defeat of the Blair Government on the floor of
the House of Commons in November 2005.
The flagship anti-crime
policy introduced in Blair's first term, Anti-social behaviour orders
(ASBOs), have been criticised as excessively punitive and as a way of
criminalising non-criminal conduct: an ASBO may be imposed preventing
conduct which is entirely legal, but breach of the ASBO is a criminal
offence. Examples are on record of ASBOs preventing their subjects from
being sarcastic, using the word "grass", or attending a drug
clinic which was treating them for their addiction. Opinion polls however
show that ASBOs remain popular with the public leading some to suggest
that criticism of them comes mainly from thechattering classes who do
not regularly experience anti-social behaviour. It could be argued that
Blair's crime policies are popular with the majority of the public for
their populist, commonsense approach.
The Regulation of
Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has also been criticised for allowing
too great a latitude for law enforcement agencies to intercept communications.
By May 2006 serious
doubts were being raised Blair's "hard on crime" ploy when
it was disclosed that an unspecified number (estimated in the thousands)
of foreign criminals had been set free in Britain instead of being deported,
whilst meanwhile the chaos in the Home Office was such that many law
abiding citizens had been given criminal records.
with the United States of America
George W. Bush and Tony Blair shake hands after their press conference
in the East Room of the White House on November 12, 2004.Due to Blair's
close co-operation with the USA on the war in Iraq, where the UK contributed
by far the greatest degree of military support for the US-led invasion,
he has been called "Bush's poodle". Blair has also been called
"Governor of the 51st state", "Tony in the London office"
and, by Nelson Mandela, "the US foreign minister" . The
alliance between the two men is somewhat upsetting to many supporters
of his party, which traditionally allies itself with the Democrats.
President Bush said "America has no truer friend than Great Britain"
in his post-9/11 speech .
In July 2003, Blair
became the first Briton since Winston Churchill to be awarded the Congressional
Gold Medal, a honour awarded by Congress and considered the highest
expression of appreciation by the American people . This was a controversial
honour in the UK, and as of August 2005, Blair had yet to collect the
actual medal,  though he had already accepted the award .
The emphasis on
the so-called special relationship with the USA is hardly unique to
Blair. It has been a lynch-pin of British foreign policy since Churchill
and Roosevelt collaborated closely during World War II. It has been
axiomatic that, since then, British Prime Ministers have whatever limited
impact they can have over US policy by arguing with their American counterparts
only behind closed doors. Although Harold Wilson declined to send even
token forces to Vietnam as President Johnson requested and the 1956
Anglo-French military intervention over the Suez Canal was aborted when
Eisenhower indicated a lack of support for the policy underlying this
adventure by European allies, British-American collaboration in foreign
policy and the exchange of intelligence, bases and weapons has been
argued to lend mutual respect to transatlantic relations. Blair does
not reveal his thoughts about the Bush administration: he has described
Guantanamo only as "an anomaly" and, pressed in a 4 March
2006 interview with Michael Parkinson , would say only that George
Bush is someone whom he can work with because "he does what he
says". In a February 2003 interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight,
Blair stated that he and Bush "don't pray together"  but
vigorously defended his support for the removal of Saddam Hussein, who
posed a "threat to the region". Both interviews revealed that
faith plays a part in Blair's approach to decision-making. This is another
shared feature of their special relationship. Whether it concerns or
reassures voters seems to differ in the two countries. Blair's prompt
appearance in Washington after the September 11, 2001 attacks seems
to have played a part in establishing a mutual respect between the two
leaders. But, ultimately, America went to war with the British government
at its side. Critics argue that this provided the fig-leaf of an international
coalition as well as the military logistics (which US Defense Secretary
Donald Rumsfeld mistakenly claimed barely to need). In any case, much
of the shared "intelligence", especially the so-called "dodgy
dossier", has been shown to be deeply flawed .
A 2005 book by the
former United Kingdom Ambassador to the USA, Sir Christopher Meyer,
concurred with these criticisms implied by the epithets, accusing Blair
of being a hawk and insufficiently cautious about the war  .
Meyer expressed his opinion that Blair could have stopped the war had
he acted at an opportune time in the summer of 2002. This view has been
criticised as naive: Simon Jenkins, for example, described it as a "folly
of diplomatic grandeur" and asserted that Blair has no history
of standing firm on anything. . Citing the investigation by Vanity
Fair magazine, (May 2004 issue), he continued: "Blair was helpless
in the face of neocons. When he set conditions, they ridiculed them.
Had Britain backed out after the failure of the second UN resolution,
the White House would have lost no sleep..."
The Vanity Fair
article (which Paul Wolfowitz claims includes partial and mis-quotes)
reported that Sir Christopher Meyer was present when, a few days after
9/11, Bush asked Blair to support an attack on Hussein. Blair reportedly
replied that he would rather concentrate on ousting the Taliban and
restoring peace in Afghanistan. According to Sir Christopher, Bush replied:
"I agree with you Tony. We must deal with this first. But when
we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq." Mr
Blair, Sir Christopher reports, "said nothing to demur".
The Blairs moved into Downing Street in 1997. Despite wanting to keep
hold of their Islington home at Richmond Crescent, the cost and logistic
difficulty of security measures forced its sale. The house, bought in
1993 for £375,000 , was sold for £615,000, significantly
below the expected price of £800,000 for similar houses on the
street; the subsequent London property boom meant that the property
had more than doubled in value seven years later when it was resold
for £1.3m, and it was valued at £1.75m in April 2006 .
In 2002, Cherie
Blair masterminded the purchase of two new flats in Bristol, where Euan
Blair was at university; one of them was for his use, and the other
was a rental investment. The flats proved difficult to rent out and
attracted some unwelcome publicity and political damage  when it
was revealed that Cherie had engaged Peter Foster, a convicted fraudster,
to negotiate the purchase price.
The Blairs paid
a reported £3.6m in late 2004 for a house in Connaught Square,
near Marble Arch. Finding a tenant for this also took a long time and
they had to reduce the rent sought .
Criticisms by the
While the Blair government has introduced some social policies seen
by the left of the Labour Party as progressive, especially the minimum
wage, on economic and management issues he is seen as being to the right
of the party. The 2005 announcement of more independent Trust Schools
, was likened to the Major government's Grant Maintained Schools
policy which Labour criticised while in opposition, and was criticised
by teachers' unions as well as by members of his own party.
The use of private
finance to fund public projects has also been criticised by Labour left-wingers
as both an economic bad deal and as privatising public service .
The Private Finance Initiative, under which public services are built
by private companies and then leased back to the state, began under
the Major government and was expanded significantly under Blair. Some
critics describe Blair as a reconstructed Conservative or Thatcherite.
Shortly before the general election of 2001 The Economist gave a front
cover the headline, "Vote conservative" (note lower-case "c")
- with a picture of Blair.
Private Eye cover
speculating on a Gordon Brown leadership challenge
Blair has avoided the traditional pigeonholes of British political leaders.
He has often (particularly after the invasion of Iraq) been labelled
as insincere ("King of Spin", "Phoney Tony"), and
has been accused of cronyism due to his perceived penchant for promoting
his friends to top jobs. In his early years, Blair was often criticised
as an unscrupulous opportunist who was solely interested in doing anything
that would get him elected, that was a focus group politician. More
recently, his unpopular policy supporting the US over Iraq has demonstrated
a politician with more commitment to his own policies despite public
opposition. His name has been deliberately mis-spelt 'Tony Bliar' (sometimes
'B. Liar') or 'Tory Blur' by critics of his actions and his policies
(particularly his stance on Iraq). The Economist on 5 June 2003 devoted
its front cover to a photograph of Blair and the headline, "Bliar?".
Since Blair became
Prime Minister, Private Eye has run a regular feature called the St
Albion Parish News based on the Blair government. In this series, the
parish incumbent ('Rev. A.R.P. Blair MA (Oxon)') combines a relentless
trendiness with a tendency to moralise and to exclude all those who
criticise him. The series highlights Blair's perceived penchant for
spin and his zealous enthusiasms in relation to recent political events.
In his first term
of office, Blair was the subject of a satirical comic strip Dan Blair
in The Times. This strip spoofed the comic book hero Dan Dare and his
nemesis, the Mekon, who represented William Hague in the strip, portrayed
with a very large forehead. He has also been parodied in the comic 2000
AD in the series B.L.A.I.R. 1 (a spoof of the old-fashioned strip M.A.C.H.1
written by David Bishop) where he acts as a futuristic crime fighter
controlled by an artificial intelligence known as "Doctor Spin".
In opposition under
John Smith, the ITV satirical puppet show Spitting Image depicted Blair
within the Shadow Cabinet as a schoolboy with a high-pitched voice and
bottle-green uniform, complete with cap. The first show after Smith's
death featured Blair singing "I'm going to be the leader! I'm going
to be the leader!" over and over. Once settled in as leader, the
programme, which was in its last years, changed its caricature of Blair
to have a small face with an outsized toothy grin. The show ended before
Labour gained power.
Jamie Foxx portrayed
a black Blair in a skit from Chappelle's Show. Foxx used a fake English
accent and performed actions considered stereotypically English in America,
such as drinking tea, although not especially associated with Blair.
Tony Blair traces
his political birth to the year 1963 when the political hopes of his
father died. Leo Blair suffered a stroke while running for Parliament
for the Conservatives. Tony was just 10.
Tony Blair stands with his family, from left, son Nicholas, daughter
Kathryn, son Leo, wife Cherie and son Euan, on the doorsteps of 10 Downing
Street, London, June 8, 2001, following his election victory. (AP Photo/PA,
"After his illness, my father transferred his ambitions onto his
kids," Blair said in a 1994 interview with the Sunday Times Magazine.
Lynton Blair was born May 6, 1953, in Edinburgh, Scotland, to Leo and
Hazel Blair. His father was a law lecturer and Tony had a comfortable
upbringing. He was educated at the elite Fettes College in Edinburgh
before heading to Oxford for law school in 1972. At Oxford, Blair was
known as an outgoing person who played bass guitar and sang for a rock
band called Ugly Rumours.
In a 2003 newspaper
interview, band mate Mark Ellen reveals that Blair is a fan of the Rolling
Stones' Mick Jagger.
"He was fantastically
confident without any arrogance or swagger," said Ellen about Blair's
performances, in an April 2003 piece in the Observer.
But Blair had another
purpose in life. He graduated in 1975 and was called to the bar the
following year, specializing in employment and commercial law. At the
same time, he became involved with the Labour Party and met his future
wife Cherie, a fellow lawyer. They married in 1980. They have four children:
Euan, Nicky, Kathryn and Leo, who was born May 20, 2000.
Blair entered politics
in 1983, winning a seat for Labour at the age of 30. Within two years,
he was beginning to attract attention within the party. He was moving
up the ranks from the backbenches to become a major treasury critic.
By 1988, he was in the shadow cabinet – appointed shadow secretary
of state for energy.
By 1992, Labour
had lost four successive elections and was badly adrift. The Conservatives
won each of those elections with a majority. Labour was in need of a
Neil Kinnock resigned
the party's leadership after the 1992 drubbing and was replaced by John
Smith. He made Tony Blair the party's shadow home secretary.
For the first time
in years, the Conservatives under John Major seemed to be vulnerable.
Smith had worked to unify Labour's left and right wings and was widely
seen as having a good chance to lead the party to victory in the next
But Smith died of
a heart attack in 1994 and Labour had to choose a new leader. It was
Tony Blair. In a landslide.
Blair moved quickly
to distance Labour from what many viewed as control by trade unions
and left-wing factions. He declared that he got into politics not to
be part of a protest movement but to govern. Labour shifted to the centre.
Blair's new Labour
caught on with the voters, and in 1997 he led the party to its biggest
electoral victory ever. John Major's Conservatives were humbled at the
polls. Four years later, another Labour victory. It was the first time
Labour had won back-to-back majority governments.
in claiming the middle ground for Labour. But in 2001, voter turnout
suffered a setback in the years following the election. In September
2002, he unveiled intelligence reports that claimed Iraq could deploy
weapons of mass destruction on 45 minutes' notice. He used them to argue
for the overthrow of Iraq's president, Saddam Hussein.
Many in Britain
resented his unflagging support of the United States in its decision
to invade Iraq. Three cabinet ministers quit over Blair's Iraq policy.
Britain sent 45,000 troops to support the American-led invasion.
As in the United
States, the Blair government became embroiled in a controversy over
whether it had deliberately exaggerated the danger posed by Iraq to
boost public support for the war. That was the thrust of a BBC report
that an inquiry later ruled unfounded.
But criticism of
Britain's Iraq role continued. Blair named a panel to look into the
state of the country's pre-war intelligence. In July 2004, the panel
cleared Blair and his government of deliberate manipulation of the intelligence.
But it found serious flaws in MI-6's intelligence. Blair said he took
full responsibility for the mistakes.
Blair called an
election in the spring of 2005 and won an unprecedented third majority
(albeit with a reduced number of seats). His party won just 36 per cent
of the popular vote – a record low for a winning party. Blair
had said before the election that he would not lead Labour into a fourth
election, but signalled that he wanted to stay around for a full third
to the July 2005 extremist attacks on London's transit system bolstered
public support for his leadership at the time. But several of Blair's
attempts to bring in tough anti-terrorist laws were later defeated when
many of his own MPs voted against them.
In March 2006, Blair
was hit by what became to be known as the "loans for peerages"
scandal. It turned out that some rich businesspeople who'd made large,
secret loans to the Labour Party ended up in the House of Lords or were
given knighthoods or other titles. Scotland Yard was called in to investigate
whether illegal inducements had been offered. There were renewed calls
for Blair to step down.
Blair denied wrongdoing
but the affair damaged him badly. Some observers said it would be difficult
for him to hang on to the leadership for long.
The Prime Minister
Tony Charles Lynton Blair
Born: 6 May 1953
The son of a barrister
and lecturer, Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh, but spent most of his
childhood in Durham. At the age of 14 he returned to Edinburgh to finish
his education at Fettes College. He studied law at Oxford, and went
on to become a barrister himself.
After standing unsuccessfully
for the Labour Party in a by-election, Mr Blair went on to win the seat
of Sedgefield in the 1983 General Election, aged 30.
Tony Blair made
a speedy rise through the ranks, being promoted first to the shadow
Treasury front bench in 1984. He subsequently served as a trade and
industry spokesman, before being elected to the Shadow Cabinet in 1988
where he was made Shadow Secretary of State for Energy. In 1989 he moved
to the employment brief.
After the 1992 election
Labour's new leader, John Smith, promoted Blair to Shadow Home Secretary.
It was in this post that Mr Blair made famous his pledge that Labour
would be tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.
John Smith died
suddenly and unexpectedly in 1994, and in the subsequent leadership
contest Tony Blair won a large majority of his party's support.
launched his campaign for the modernisation of the Labour Party, determined
to complete the shift further towards the political centre which he
saw as essential for victory. The debate over Clause 4 of the party's
constitution was considered the crucial test of whether its members
would commit to Mr Blair's project. He removed the commitment to public
ownership, and at this time coined the term New Labour.
The Labour Party
won the 1997 General Election by a landslide, after 18 years in Opposition.
At the age of 43 , Tony Blair became the youngest Prime Minister since
Lord Liverpool in 1812.
The government began
to implement a far-reaching programme of constitutional change, putting
the question of devolution to referendums in Scotland and Wales.
An elected post
of Mayor of London was established at the head of a new capital-wide
authority, and all but 92 hereditary peers were removed from the House
of Lords in the first stage of its reform. The government has also implemented
an investment programme of £42 billion in its priority areas of
health and education.
Tony Blair was re-elected
with another landslide majority in the 2001 General Election.
His second term
was dominated by foreign policy issues - notably the 'war on terror'
which followed the September 11 attacks in New York, and the war in
The Labour Party
went on to win a third term for Mr Blair in May 2005, albeit with a
Outside Number 10
on the day after his victory, the PM said that 'respect' would play
a big part in his third term agenda.
He said he wanted
to bring back:
"A proper sense
of respect in our schools, in our communities, in our towns and our
Mr Blair is married
to the barrister Cherie Booth QC, and they have four children. Their
youngest, Leo, was the first child born to a serving Prime Minister
in over 150 years.