Tony Blair announces resignation
The 27th of June 2007 AD
On June 27 2007 Anthony Charles Lynton Blair ended 10 years as Prime Minister and 13 as Labour Party leader when he shortly after 1pm he met the Queen at Buckingham Palace and tendered his resignation. Earlier he had taken his last Prime Minister’s Questions, but his intentions had been signalled much earlier, in a speech at Trimdon Labour club in his Sedgefield constituency on May 10.
It takes years before the real impact made by a Prime Minister can be properly evaluated, but Tony Blair will obviously be remembered for some of the major moments and policies of his tenure.
In concert with other like-minded figures in the party, even before he came to power he changed British politics by continuing the remodelling of the Labour Party begun by Neil Kinnock and John Smith . After years in the political swamps New Labour emerged with a surprisingly polished public face, a dynamic party more in tune with the populace. And all-importantly, they were electable for the first time in a generation.
Having swept the Major government away in the 1997 general election , Blair was able to bring in changes which will undoubtedly have long term significance. The minimum wage was introduced, and in spite of end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it calls by employers and political opponents, it has worked, bringing a degree of social justice without economic harm. Although a centrist, Blair also oversaw the long overdue reforms of the Lords, consigning hereditary peers to the monogrammed antique-oak dustbin of history. By largely removing interest rate moves from political control (although it is foolish to think zero control is exercised) the economy enjoyed a long period of stability.
Perhaps partly because of the temptation to move interest rates for political ends being removed New Labour under Blair went on to retain power at two further elections – stability paid off, and the public had long before become aware of pre-election booms and post-election falls.
But perhaps Blair’s legacy will be above all the impossible situation in Iraq, claiming lives of British service personnel monthly, and costing billions of pounds yearly, with few tangible results. Whether the war was justified or not is hotly debated; that the aftermath has been managed extremely badly is not.
Britain today possibly enjoys greater respect in the USA, where Blair and George W. Bush became close allies and seemingly friends. Elsewhere British influence may have suffered. And in spite of his influence over Bush, official American reluctance to accept the dangers of climate change was a constant thorn in the side of the rest of the world during most of his premiership.
Tony Blair left office with great dignity, amid the usual plaudits from opponents and friends alike, but most who dealt closely with him seemed genuinely to hold him in high regard. Resigning his seat (by the wonderfully arcane device of accepting Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, rather ironically a post in the realm of his long term ally and rival for the premiership Chancellor Gordon Brown) the same day as his leadership Blair left with new goals: immediate appointment as a Middle East envoy followed, and there is much talk (but perhaps little behind it) of wishing to be the first President of Europe proper.
Less than a quarter of an hour after Tony Blair left Buckingham Palace, Gordon Brown was with the Queen being asked to form a new government. Ten years of one leader had ended. How long his successor would be able to hold power was debated within a very short time of his entering 10 Downing Street.
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