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Tony Blair

Related subjects Political People

The Right Honourable
 Tony Blair
Tony Blair

In office
2 May 1997 –  27 June 2007
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy John Prescott
Preceded by John Major
Succeeded by Gordon Brown

Member of Parliament
for Sedgefield
In office
9 June 1983 –  27 June 2007
Preceded by New Constituency
Succeeded by Phil Wilson
Majority 18,449 (44.5%)

Born 6 May 1953 (1953-05-06)
Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Spouse Cherie Booth
Residence Connaught Square
Alma mater St John's College, Oxford
Occupation Envoy
Profession Barrister
Religion Church of England (in office)
Roman Catholic

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007, Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007 and Member of Parliament for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007. On the day he stood down as Prime Minister, he was appointed official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East on behalf of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia, and stepped down as an MP.

Tony Blair was elected Leader of the Labour Party in July 1994 following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. Under Blair's leadership the party abandoned many policies that it had held for decades. Labour won a landslide victory in the 1997 general election, which ended 18 years of rule by the Conservative Party with the heaviest Conservative defeat since 1832.

Blair is the Labour Party's longest-serving Prime Minister, the only person to have led the Labour Party to three consecutive general election victories, and the only Labour Prime Minister to serve consecutive terms more than one of which was at least four years long.

Gordon Brown, Blair's Chancellor of the Exchequer during his entire ten years in office, succeeded him as Leader of the Labour Party on 24 June 2007 and as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007.

Background and family life

Blair was born at the Queen Mary Maternity Home in Edinburgh, Scotland on 6 May 1953, the second son of Leo and Hazel Blair (née Corscadden). Leo Blair, the illegitimate son of two English actors, had been adopted by a Glasgow shipyard worker named James Blair and his wife Mary as a baby. Hazel Corscadden was the daughter of George Corscadden, a butcher and Orangeman who had moved to Glasgow in 1916 but returned to (and died in) Ballyshannon in 1923, where his wife Sarah Margaret neé Lipsett gave birth to Blair's mother Hazel above her family's grocery shop. The Lipsett family in Donegal supposedly originated with a German Jewish immigrant to Ireland prior to the 18th century . George Corscadden was from a family of Protestant farmers in County Donegal, Ireland, who descended from Scottish settlers that took their family name from Garscadden, now part of Glasgow. The Blair family was often taken on holiday to Rossnowlagh, a beach resort near Hazel's hometown of Ballyshannon which is the venue of the main Orange order parade in the Republic of Ireland. Tony Blair has one elder brother, William Blair, who is a barrister and Queen's Counsel (QC), and a younger sister, Sarah. Blair spent the first 19 months of his life at the family home in Paisley Terrace in the Willowbrae area of Edinburgh. During this period his father worked as a junior tax inspector whilst also studying for a law degree from the University of Edinburgh. His family spent three and a half years in the 1950s living in Adelaide, Australia, where his father was a lecturer in law at the University of Adelaide. The Blairs lived close to the university, in the suburb of Dulwich.

The family returned to Britain in the late 1950s, living for a time with Hazel Blair's stepfather William McClay and her mother at their home in Stepps, near Glasgow. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Durham, England, his father being by then a lecturer at Durham University. After attending Durham's Chorister School from 1961 to 1966, Blair boarded at Fettes College, a notable independent school in Edinburgh, where he met Charlie Falconer (a pupil at the rival Edinburgh Academy), whom he later appointed Lord Chancellor. He reportedly modelled himself on Mick Jagger. His teachers were unimpressed with him: his biographer, John Rentoul reported that, "All the teachers I spoke to when researching the book said he was a complete pain in the backside, and they were very glad to see the back of him". Blair was arrested at Fettes, having being mistaken for a burglar as he climbed into his dormitory using a ladder, after being out late.

Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Booth QC
Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Booth QC

After Fettes, Blair spent a year in London, where he attempted to find fame as a rock music promoter, before going up to the University of Oxford to read jurisprudence at St John's College. As a student, he played guitar and sang for a rock band called Ugly Rumours. During this time, he dated future American Psycho director Mary Harron. Whilst at Oxford, Blair's mother Hazel died of cancer which was said to have greatly affected Blair. After graduating from Oxford with a second class degree, Blair became a member of Lincoln's Inn, enrolled as a pupil barrister and met his future wife, Cherie Booth (daughter of the actor Tony Booth) at the Chambers founded by Derry Irvine (who was to be Blair's first Lord Chancellor), 11 King's Bench Walk Chambers. He acted predominantly for employers or wealthier clients, as in Nethermere v. Gardiner where he unsuccessfully defended employers that had refused holiday pay to employees at a trouser factory. Rentoul records that, according to his lawyer friends, Blair was much less concerned about which party he was affiliated with than about his aim of becoming Prime Minister.

Blair married Booth, a practising Roman Catholic and future Queen's Counsel, on 29 March 1980. They have four children ( Euan, Nicky, Kathryn and Leo). 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.

Although the Blairs stated that they had wished to shield their children from the media, their children's education was a cause of political controversy. All three attended the Roman Catholic London Oratory School, criticised by left-wingers for its selection procedures, instead of a poorly-performing Roman Catholic school in Labour-controlled Islington, where they then lived, in Richmond Avenue. There was further criticism when it was revealed that Euan received private coaching from staff from Westminster School.

Early political career

Blair joined the Labour Party shortly after graduating from Oxford in 1975. During the early 1980s, he was involved in Labour politics in Hackney South and Shoreditch, where he aligned himself with the " soft left" of the party. He unsuccessfully attempted to secure selection as a candidate for Hackney Borough Council. Through his father-in-law, the actor Tony Booth, he contacted Labour MP Tom Pendry to ask for help in pursuing a Parliamentary career. Pendry gave him a tour of the House of Commons and advised him to stand for selection as a candidate in the forthcoming by-election in the safe Conservative seat of Beaconsfield, where Pendry knew a senior member of the local party. Blair was chosen as the candidate; at the Beaconsfield by-election he won only 10% of the vote and lost his deposit, but he impressed Labour Party leader Michael Foot and acquired a profile within the party. In contrast to his later centrism, Blair described himself in this period as a Socialist. A letter that he wrote to Foot in July 1982, eventually published in June 2006, gives an indication of his outlook at this time.

In 1983 Blair found that the newly created constituency of Sedgefield, a notionally safe Labour seat near where he had grown up in Durham, had no Labour candidate. Several sitting MPs displaced by boundary changes were interested in securing selection to fight the seat. He found a branch that had not made a nomination and arranged to visit them. 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.

Blair's election literature in the 1983 UK general election endorsed left-wing policies that the Labour Party advocated in the early 1980s. He called for Britain to leave the EEC, though he had told his selection conference that he personally favoured continuing membership. He also supported unilateral nuclear disarmament as a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Blair was helped on the campaign trail by soap actress Pat Phoenix, his father-in-law's girlfriend. Blair was elected as MP for Sedgefield, despite the party's landslide defeat in the general election.

Blair stated in his maiden speech 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, rather than a social democratic party—Blair himself organized this declaration of Labour to be a socialist party when he dealt with the change to the party's Clause IV in their constitution.

In opposition

Once elected, Blair's ascent was rapid and he received his first front bench appointment in 1984 as assistant Treasury spokesman. In May 1985 he appeared on BBC's Question Time arguing that the Conservative Government's Public Order White Paper was a threat to civil liberties. Blair 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 a European Economic Community report critical of British economic policy that had been countersigned by a member of the Conservative government. By this time Blair was aligned with the reforming tendencies in the party, headed by leader Neil Kinnock, and was promoted after the 1987 election to the shadow Trade and Industry team as spokesman on the City of London. In 1987, he stood for election to the Shadow Cabinet receiving 77 votes.

After the stock market crash of October 1987, Blair raised his profile further when he castigated City traders as "incompetent" and "morally dubious", and criticised poor service for small investors at the London Stock Exchange. In 1988 Blair entered the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and the following year he 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. As a young and telegenic Shadow Cabinet member, Blair was given prominence by the party's Director of Communications, Peter Mandelson. He gave his first major platform speech at the 1990 Labour Party conference.

In the run-up to the 1992 general election, Blair worked to modernise Labour's image and was responsible for developing the controversial minimum wage policy.

When Neil Kinnock resigned as party leader after Labour's fourth successive election defeat, Blair became Shadow Home Secretary under John Smith. The Labour Party at this time was widely perceived as weak on crime and Blair worked to change this, accepting that the prison population might have to rise, and bemoaning the loss of a sense of community, which he was prepared to blame (at least partly) on "1960s liberalism". On the other hand, he spoke in support of equalising the age of consent for gay sex at 16, and opposed capital punishment. He defined his policy, in a phrase coined by Gordon Brown, as " Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime".

In 1993, while still Shadow Home Secretary, Blair attended the annual invitation-only Bilderberg conference.

John Smith died suddenly in 1994 of a heart attack. Blair beat John Prescott and Margaret Beckett in the subsequent leadership election. After becoming Leader of the Opposition, Blair was, as is customary for the holder of that office, appointed a Privy Counsellor, which permitted him to be addressed with the style " The Right Honourable".

Leader of the Labour Party

Blair announced at the end of his speech at the 1994 Labour Party conference that he intended to replace Clause IV of the party's constitution with a new statement of aims and values. This involved the deletion of the party's stated commitment to "the common ownership of the means of production and exchange", which was widely interpreted as referring to wholesale nationalisation. The clause was replaced by a statement that the party is one of democratic socialism. A special conference approved this highly symbolic change in April 1995.

Blair also revised party policy in a manner that enhanced the image of Labour as competent and modern using the term "New Labour" to distinguish the party from its past. 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 the unpopularity of John Major's Conservative government (itself deeply divided over the European Union), "New Labour" won a landslide victory in the 1997 general election with Blair the youngest person—at age 43—to attain the office of Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812—at age 42.

Prime Minister

Blair became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 2 May 1997, serving concurrently as First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service, Leader of the Labour Party, and Member of Parliament for the constituency of Sedgefield in the North East of England and Privy Counsellor. With victories in 1997, 2001, and 2005, Blair was the Labour Party's longest-serving prime minister, the only person to lead the party to three consecutive general election victories.

Blair addressing a crowd in Armagh in 1998
Blair addressing a crowd in Armagh in 1998

Blair is both credited with, and criticised for, moving the Labour Party towards the centre of British politics, using the term " New Labour" to distinguish his pro- market policies from the more collectivist policies which the party had espoused in the past.

In domestic government policy, Blair significantly increased public spending on health and education while also introducing controversial market-based reforms in these areas. Blair's tenure also saw the introduction of a National Minimum Wage, tuition fees for higher education, and constitutional reform such as devolution in Scotland and Wales. The British economy performed well, and Blair kept to Conservative commitments not to increase income tax, although he did introduce a large number of subtle tax increases referred to as stealth taxes by his opponents.

His contribution towards assisting the Northern Ireland Peace Process by helping to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement after 30 years of conflict was widely recognised. From the start of the War on Terror in 2001, Blair strongly supported United States foreign policy, notably by participating in the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. He encountered fierce criticism as a result, over the policy itself and the circumstances in which it was decided upon, especially his claims that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction (which have not been discovered in Iraq). For his unwavering support in the security of the United States, Mr. Blair was honored with the Congressional Gold Medal on July 18th, 2003.

Following pressure from the Labour Party, on 7 September 2006 Blair publicly stated he would step down as party leader by the time of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference which was held from 10 September 2007 – 13 September 2007, having promised to serve a full term during the previous general election campaign.

Relationship with Parliament

Blair changed Parliamentary procedures significantly. One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to replace the then twice-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 have led to greater efficiency, but critics have noted that it is easier to prepare for one long set of questions than for two shorter sessions. In addition to PMQs, Blair held monthly press conferences, at which he fielded questions from journalists.

Other procedural reforms included changing the official times for Parliamentary sessions in order to have Parliament operate in a more business-like manner.

Resignation

On 10 May 2007, Blair announced during a speech at the Trimdon Labour Club in his Sedgefield constituency his intention to resign as both Labour Party leader and Prime Minister the following June. On June 24 he formally handed over the leadership of the Labour Party to Gordon Brown at a special party conference in Manchester. Blair tendered his resignation as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to the Queen on 27 June 2007, his successor Gordon Brown assuming office the same afternoon. He also resigned his seat in the House of Commons in the traditional form of accepting the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds to which he was appointed by Gordon Brown in one of the latter's last acts as Chancellor of the Exchequer. (It is impossible to resign from the UK Parliament, so this device is used for MPs wishing to step down.)

The resulting Sedgefield by-election was won by Labour's candidate, Phil Wilson. Blair has not to date issued a list of Resignation Honours; it has been suggested that the list was delayed because of the Cash for Honours investigation by the police. However, that investigation has now ended and no list has been produced; should Blair choose not to issue one he will be the first Prime Minister of the modern era not to do so.

Post Prime Ministerial career

On 27 June 2007, he officially resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after ten years in office, and Blair was officially confirmed as Middle East envoy for the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia. Blair originally indicated that he would retain his parliamentary seat after his resignation as Prime Minister came into effect; however, he left the Commons on being confirmed for the Middle East role. President George W. Bush had preliminary talks with Blair to ask him to take up the envoy role. White House sources stated that "both Israel and the Palestinians had signed up to the proposal".

In May 2007, before his resignation, it was reported that Blair would be offered a Knighthood in the Order of the Thistle, rather than the Order of the Garter, due to his Scottish connections. No such move has been reported since, and, on St Andrew's Day, the Queen appointed two men to the only openings in the limited Order.

In January 2008 it was confirmed that Blair would be joining investment bank JPMorgan "in a senior advisory capacity".

It has been speculated in numerous media sources that Blair may be interested in becoming the next President of the European Commission, after he gave a speech in French on European issues to a Union for a Popular Movement party meeting in Paris. In January 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said of Blair, "He is intelligent, he is brave and he is a friend. We need him in Europe. How can we govern a continent of 450 million people if the President changes every six months and has to run his own country at the same time? I want a President chosen from the top - not a compromise candidate - who will serve for two-and-a-half years."

Relationship with Gordon Brown

After the death of John Smith in 1994, both Blair and Gordon Brown were viewed as possible candidates for the leadership of the Labour Party. They had agreed that they would not stand against each other. Brown had previously been considered to be the more senior of the two and he understood this to mean that Blair would give way to him. It soon became apparent, however, that Blair had greater public support. This gave rise to the alleged Blair-Brown deal. At certain times, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has reportedly acted as their "marriage guidance counsellor".

Religious faith

On 22 December 2007, it was disclosed that Blair had converted to the Catholic faith, and that it was "a private matter". He had informed Pope Benedict XVI on 23 June 2007 that he wanted to become Catholic. The Pope and his advisors criticised some of Blair's political actions, but followed up with a reportedly unprecedented red-carpet welcome that included Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor, who would be responsible for Blair's Catholic instruction.

Blair had previously rarely discussed his religious faith in public, but had often been identified as an Anglo-Catholic—that is, a member of the high church branch of the Church of England, sympathetic to the beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. His wife Cherie Booth is a practising Roman Catholic, and Blair had attended Catholic Masses at Westminster Cathedral while on holiday in Italy, and with his family at Number 10 Downing Street. In 1996, he was reprimanded by Basil Cardinal Hume for receiving Holy Communion at Mass despite not being a Roman Catholic, a contravention of Catholic Canon Law.

In an interview with Michael Parkinson broadcast on ITV1 on 4 March 2006, Blair referred to the role of his Christian faith in 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."

A longer exploration of his faith can be found in an interview with Third Way Magazine. He says there that "I was brought up as [a Christian], but I was not in any real sense a practising one until I went to Oxford. There was an Australian priest at the same college as me who got me interested again. In a sense, it was a rediscovery of religion as something living, that was about the world around me rather than some sort of special one-to-one relationship with a remote Being on high. Suddenly I began to see its social relevance. I began to make sense of the world". The death of Blair's mother Hazel in 1975 is said to have greatly affected him and prompted his renewed spiritual commitment whilst at Oxford.

These comments prompted a number of questions on Blair's faith. At one point Alastair Campbell, Blair's director of strategy and communications, intervened in an interview, preventing the Prime Minister from answering a question about his Christianity, explaining, "We don't do God".

Political overview

The Labour Party is historically a socialist political party. In 2001, Tony Blair said, "We are a left of centre party, pursuing economic prosperity and social justice as partners and not as opposites". Blair has rarely applied such labels to himself, but he promised before the 1997 election that New Labour would govern "from the radical centre", and according to one lifelong Labour Party member, has always described himself as a social democrat. However, Labour Party backbenchers and other left wing critics typically place Blair to the right of centre. A YouGov opinion poll in 2005 also found that a small majority of British voters, including many New Labour supporters, place Blair on the right of the political spectrum. The Financial Times on the other hand has argued that Blair is not conservative, but instead a populist.

Critics and admirers tend to agree that Blair's electoral success was based on his ability to occupy the centre ground and appeal to voters across the political spectrum, to the extent that he has been fundamentally at odds with traditional Labour Party values. Some left wing critics have argued that Blair has overseen the final stage of a long term shift of the Labour Party to the right, and that very little now remains of a Labour Left. There is also evidence that Blair's long term dominance of the centre has forced his Conservative opponents to shift a long distance to the left, in order to challenge his hegemony there.

Blair has raised taxes, implemented redistributive policies, introduced a minimum wage and some new employment rights (while keeping Margaret Thatcher's trade union legislation), introduced significant constitutional reforms (which remain incomplete and controversial), promoted new rights for gay people in the Civil Partnership Act 2004, and signed treaties integrating Britain more closely with the EU. He introduced substantial market-based reforms in the education and health sectors, introduced student tuition fees (also controversial), sought to reduce certain categories of welfare payments, and introduced tough anti-terrorism and identity card legislation.

Criticism

Tony Blair has been criticised for his alliance with U.S. President George W. Bush and his policies in the Middle East, including the Iraq War, the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Blair is also criticised for an alleged tendency to spin important information in a way that can be misleading. Blair is the first ever Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to have been formally questioned by police officers whilst in office, although he was not under caution when interviewed.

Critics also regard Tony Blair as having eroded civil liberties and increased social authoritarianism, by increasing police powers, in the form of more arrestable offences, DNA recording, and the issuing of dispersal orders.

Presidentialism

Blair was sometimes perceived as paying insufficient attention both to the views of his own Cabinet colleagues and to those of the House of Commons. His style was sometimes criticised as not that of a prime minister and head of government, which he was, but of a president and head of state, which he was not.

Relationship with the United States

Tony Blair and George W. Bush shake hands after their press conference in the East Room of the White House on 12 November 2004.
Tony Blair and George W. Bush shake hands after their press conference in the East Room of the White House on 12 November 2004.

Along with enjoying a close relationship with Bill Clinton during the latter's time in office, Blair has formed a strong political alliance with George W. Bush, particularly in the area of foreign policy. At one point, Nelson Mandela described Blair as "the U.S. foreign minister". Blair has also often openly been referred to as "Bush's poodle". Kendall Myers, a senior analyst at the State Department, reportedly said that he felt "a little ashamed" of Bush's treatment of the Prime Minister and that his attempts to influence U.S. government policy were typically ignored: "It was a done deal from the beginning, it was a one-sided relationship that was entered into with open eyes... There was nothing, no payback, no sense of reciprocity".

For his part, Bush has lauded Blair and the UK. In his post-September 11 speech, for example, he stated that "America has no truer friend than Great Britain".

The alliance between Bush and Blair has seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of many Britons. Blair has argued it is in Britain's interest to "protect and strengthen the bond" with the United States regardless of who is in the White House.

Relationship with other European nations

Blair played a key role in extending the membership of the European Union from 15 to 27 states, and worked to ensure that free-market values were adopted.

Blair also forged allegiances with several conservative European leaders, including Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Angela Merkel of Germany and more recently Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

Middle East policy and links with Israel

One of Blair's first actions in joining the Labour Party was to join Labour Friends of Israel. In 1994, a friend and former colleague of Blair at 11 King's Bench Walk Chambers, Eldred Tabachnik, Q.C. (one time president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews) introduced Blair to Michael Levy, later Lord Levy, a pop music mogul and major fundraiser for Jewish and Israeli causes, at a dinner party hosted by the Israeli diplomat Gideon Meir. Blair and Levy soon became close friends and tennis partners. Levy ran the Labour Leader's Office Fund to finance Blair's campaign before the 1997 General Election and received substantial contributions from such figures as Alex Bernstein and Robert Gavron, both of whom were ennobled by Blair after he came to power. Levy was created a life peer by Blair in 1997, and in 2002, just prior to the Iraq War, Blair appointed Levy as his personal envoy to the Middle East. Levy has praised Blair for his "solid and committed support of the State of Israel" and has been described himself as "a leading international Zionist". In 2004, Blair was heavily criticised by 50 former diplomats, including ambassadors to Baghdad and Tel Aviv for his policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Iraq War. They stated they had "watched with deepening concern" at Britain following the U.S. into war in Iraq in 2003 also stating, "We feel the time has come to make our anxieties public, in the hope that they will be addressed in parliament and will lead to a fundamental reassessment," and asked Blair to exert "real influence as a loyal ally". The ambassadors also accused the allies of having "no effective plan" for the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq and the apparent disregard for the lives of Iraqi civilians. The diplomats also criticised Blair for his support for the road map which included the retaining of settlements on the West Bank stating, "Our dismay at this backward step is heightened by the fact that you yourself seem to have endorsed it, abandoning the principles which for nearly four decades have guided international efforts to restore peace in the Holy Land".

In 2006, Blair was heavily criticised for his failure to call for a ceasefire in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, with members of his cabinet openly criticising Israel. Jack Straw, the Leader of the House of Commons and former Foreign Secretary stated that Israel's actions risked destabilising all of Lebanon. Kim Howells, a minister in the Foreign Office, stated that it was "very difficult to understand the kind of military tactics used by Israel", "These are not surgical strikes but have instead caused death and misery amongst innocent civilians.". The Observer newspaper claimed that at a cabinet meeting before Blair left for a summit with President George Bush on 28 July 2006, a significant number of ministers pressured Blair to publicly criticise Israel over the scale of deaths and destruction in Lebanon.

Relationship with Labour Party

Blair's apparent refusal to set a date for his departure was criticised by the British press and Members of Parliament. It has been reported that a number of cabinet ministers believed that Blair's timely departure from office would be required to be able to win a fourth election. Some ministers viewed Blair's announcement of policy initiatives in September 2006 as an attempt to draw attention away from these issues. Upon his return from his holiday in the West Indies he announced that all the speculation about his leaving must stop. This stirred not only his traditional critics but also traditional party loyalists.

While the Blair government has introduced social policies supported by the left of the Labour Party, such as the minimum wage and measures to reduce child poverty, Blair is seen on economic and management issues as being to the right of much of the party. A possible comparison may be made with American Democrats such as Joe Lieberman, who have been accused by their party's "base" of adopting their opponents' political stances. Some critics describe Blair as a reconstructed neoconservative or Thatcherite. He is occasionally described as "Son of Thatcher", though Lady Thatcher herself rejected this identification in an interview with ITV1 on the night of the 2005 election, saying that in her opinion the resemblances were superficial. Blair himself has often expressed admiration for Thatcher.

Approval rating

In May 2006, The Daily Telegraph reported that Blair's personal approval rating had dipped to 26%, lower than Harold Wilson's rating after devaluation of the pound and James Callaghan's during the Winter of Discontent, meaning that Blair had become the most unpopular post-war Labour Prime Minister. Of all post-war British Prime Ministers of both parties, only Margaret Thatcher and John Major have recorded lower approval (the former in the aftermath of the Poll Tax Riots). Previously Blair had achieved the highest approval ratings of any British Prime Minister or party leader of either party in the months following his election in 1997. Two months later, in July 2006, Blair's approval rating hit a further low of 23%, the lowest rating he ever received. Blair is not however the most unpopular post-war Labour Party leader, with Michael Foot recording 13% approval in August 1982, although Foot was merely Leader of the Opposition at the time, rather than Prime Minister. No Labour leader other than Foot, whether in office or opposition, has recorded lower approval than Blair. Blair's approval rating during the final month of his premiership was 35%. Hence, he left office having experienced the extremes of being both the most popular and least popular Labour Prime Minister since the Second World War.

Titles and honours

Styles from birth

  • Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, (1953–1983)
  • Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, Esq, MP (1983–1994)
  • The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, MP (1994–2007)
  • The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (2007–)

Honours

Portrayals

  • Michael Sheen has portrayed Blair twice in the films The Deal (2003) and The Queen (2006).
  • Tony Blair made a cameo appearance as himself in The Simpsons episode, " The Regina Monologues" (2003).
  • Blair was portrayed by Robert Lindsay in A Very Social Secretary and Lindsay reprised his role in The Trial of Tony Blair.
  • Blair is recognisable as the Bible-reading Prime Minister, receiving inspiration directly from God, in A. N. Wilson's satirical novel, My Name is Legion.
  • During Blair's tenure as Prime Minister, the St. Albion Parish News was a regular feature in the magazine Private Eye, containing the messages of the incumbent "Rev. A. R. P. Blair MA (Oxon)", and his diatribes against (amongst others) the parish treasurer, Mr. Brown.
  • The climax of Alistair Beaton's satirical play on political spin, 'Feelgood' , is a Blair-like speech given by a Blair lookalike, using typical Blair gestures.
  • On March 16, 2007, Blair made a cameo appearance as himself in a comedy sketch with Catherine Tate who appeared in the guise of her character Lauren Cooper from The Catherine Tate Show. The sketch was made for the BBC Red Nose Day fundraising programme of 2007. During the sketch, Blair used Lauren's most famous catchphrase "Am I bovvered?".
  • Tony Blair made a cameo appearance as himself at the end of the first episode of The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard.
  • His appearance in fiction has been discussed in The Guardian.

Works

  • Blair, Tony (2002). The Courage of Our Convictions Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0603-4
  • Blair, Tony (2000). Superpower: Not Superstate? (Federal Trust European Essays) Federal Trust for Education & Research, ISBN 1-903403-25-1
  • Blair, Tony (1998). The Third Way: New Politics for the New Century Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0588-7
  • Blair, Tony (1998). Leading the Way: New Vision for Local Government Institute for Public Policy Research, ISBN 1-86030-075-8
  • Blair, Tony (1997). New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country Basic Books, ISBN 0-8133-3338-5
  • Blair, Tony (1995). Let Us Face the Future Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0571-2
  • Blair, Tony (1994). What Price Safe Society? Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0562-3
  • Blair, Tony (1994). Socialism Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0565-8

Miscellany

  • Blair, T. (2004). "Blair, The Right Hon. A. C. L." from Who's Who, 156th ed., London: A & C Black.
  • Halsbury's Laws of England (2004), reference to impeachment in volume on Constitutional Law and Human Rights, paragraph 416
  • The Queen (2006 film)

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