Tony Blair

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Tony Blair
Tblair.jpg
73rd Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Term of office
May 2 1997 - June 24 2007
Political party Labour Party
Preceded by John Major
Succeeded by Gordon Brown
Born May 6 1953
Edinburgh
Spouse Cherie Booth
Religion Roman Catholic

Anthony Charles Lynton "Tony" Blair, (born May 6, 1953) is a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The Labour Party's longest-serving Prime Minister, he served from May 2, 1997 to June 27, 2007, succeeding the Conservative Party's John Major and preceding Gordon Brown. Blair is also the only person to have led the Labour Party to three consecutive general election victories, and the only Labour Prime Minister to serve more than one full consecutive term. Over the protest of the Old Left he abandoned most of the leftover leftist ideas in the Labour Party, endorsed the market solutions promulgated by Conservative Party Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, and, as a close ally of the United States under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he strongly endorsed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Contents

Personal

The son of barrister and lecturer Leo Blair and his wife Hazel, Tony Blair was born in Edinburgh, but spent most of his childhood in Durham. Blair has an older brother, Sir William, and a younger sister, Sarah. At the age of 14 he returned to Edinburgh to finish his education at Fettes College. Blair was known as a cheeky, rebellious, and argumentative schoolboy, and at 17 he was threatened with expulsion for persistently breaking school rules.[1]. After leaving Fettes with three A levels he studied law at Oxford University, and went on to become a barrister (Lincoln's Inn) himself, before entering politics. Blair married his wife, Liverpool-born Cherie Booth QC, a barrister and daughter of the actor Tony Booth, in 1980, and they have four children.

Blair is a competent guitar player and at university was a member of a rock band called Ugly Rumours. His favourite music includes The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Free, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Coldplay, The Foo Fighters, and Simply Red.[1]

While Blair rarely discusses his religious faith in public - and had been advised by his spokesman Alistair Campbell that "We don't do God, Mate" [2] - he is a convinced Christian. His wife Cherie is a Catholic and Blair converted to Catholicism in 2007.[3]

Career

He was elected to the Labour Party leadership in 1994 following the unexpected death of his predecessor, John Smith. As well as being leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister, Blair also served as the MP for Sedgefield, a constituency in County Durham in northeast England.

Blair's political career

A combination of the Labour Party's newfound moderation, Blair's personal popularity and the deep unpopularity of the Conservatives under John Major resulted in a landslide victory for Blair and his party in the 1997 general election, ending 18 years of Conservative government. Blair led Labour to easy triumphs in the 2001 and 2005 elections.

While the Labour Party still carries the old tag of a "socialist party", Blair eradicated most elements of socialism and committed his government to capitalism and private ownership. Blair coined the phrases "New Labour" and "The Third Way" to distinguish his own pro-business policies from the more collectivist platform of his leftist predecessors. He was often attacked by left-wing members of the Labour Party for "selling out" to conservative thinking, particularly in his support for privitisation and cooperating closely in the foreign policy of the United States in the Iraq War. On the other hand, some of Blair's policies were liberal by American standards: they have included increases in taxation, increases in government spending (particularly on public schools and Britain's public healthcare system), the introduction and subsequent increases of a minimum wage, and support for equal rights for gay people.

Blair's policies

During Blair's tenure as Prime Minister, the Labour government made the Bank of England independent, allowing them to set the nation's interest rates (which had previously been set by the Chancellor of the Exchequer), and introduced a national minimum wage in 1998, which has gradually been increased over time. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland gained their own legislatures, and limited attempts were been made to devolve power to the regions of England (although outside of London these were not successful). Blair's government also banned fox-hunting, cigarette smoking in public places and public demonstrations within 1 kilometre of Parliament, as well as prepared the way for a national identity card and increased the time suspects can be held in police custody without charge to 28 days. His government was also notable for legislating an equal age of consent for homosexuals, civil partnership laws, and the abolition of Section 28 (a measure introduced by the previous Conservative administration which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools).

The most controversial aspects of Blair's premiership was his unstinting support for the Iraq war, despite strong opposition from the far left. He won the endorsement of majorities of both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party MP's for his policies in Iraq. His foreign policy is often described as neoconservative.

Blair and the media

In the 1990s in particular, Blair was seen as a charismatic leader, with formidable media performing skills. His most famous television appearance was his tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales on the morning after her death in August 1997, in which he described her as "the People's Princess" and "the Queen of Hearts". Blair acquired a reputation for excessive news management, and even for dishonesty, particularly after the Iraq War.

Blair was criticized by more liberal opponents for his close association with conservative News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch, and the positive press they believed he received in return.

He is also the only Prime Minister to provide his own voice in an episode of The Simpsons, in the episode "The Regina Monologues".

Presidential Medal of Freedom

President George Bush applauds former Prime Minister Tony Blair at the ceremony honoring Mr. Blair as recipient of the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On January 13, 2009, Blair received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony from United States President George W. Bush. The medal is America's highest civil award. It is given in recognition of exemplary achievement, and to convey the utmost esteem of the people and the President of the United States of America. The citation read:

Tony Blair has been a powerful force for freedom and for building understanding among nations. As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, he was instrumental in helping millions of people secure their freedom in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Sierra Leone; forging a new era of peace in Northern Ireland; providing humanitarian assistance around the globe, especially in Africa; and strengthening the special relationship between our two nations. Throughout his career, and in his role as Quartet Representative to the Middle East, he has worked to provide people with opportunities to better their lives. The United States honors Tony Blair for his lifelong dedication to building a more just and peaceful world.

See Also

Bibliography

Biographies

  • Abse, Leo. Tony Blair: The Man Behind the Smile. (2001); nasty attack from the Old Left.
  • Beckett F, Hencke D. The Survivor: Tony Blair in Peace and War . (2006) prize winning book by investigative journalists
  • Naughtie, James. The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency. (2001); Interview in The Washington Post.]
  • Riddell, Peter. The Unfulfilled Prime Minister: Tony Blair and the End of Optimism. (2004)
  • Seldon, Anthony. Blair. (2004) "Tony Blair in History"
  • Stephens, Philip. Tony Blair: The Making of a World Leader. (2004) by a senior editor of The Financial Times. Review [http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb5037/is_200402/ai_n18261022 Argues that for Blair, "ending the tyranny in Iraq was a moral cause fully in accord with the teachings on just wars of Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas."
  • Temple, Michael. Blair (British Prime Ministers of the 20th Century) (2006) excerpt online

Scholarly studies

  • Bevir, Mark and Rhodes, R. A. W. (2006) "Prime Ministers, Presidentialism and Westminster Smokescreens." Political Studies 54:671-90. Issn 0032-3217 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Bartle, John, and Anthony King. Britain at the Polls, 2005 (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Fielding, Steven. The Labour Party: Continuity and Change in the Making of New Labour. (2003) argues the Labour Party under Blair has been faithful to its past, and represents "traditional values in a modern setting."
  • Foley, Michael. John Major, Tony Blair and a Conflict of Leadership: Collision Course. Manchester University Press, 212 pp. (2003)
  • Foley, Michael. The British Presidency: Tony Blair and the Politics of Public Leadership (2001)
  • Gardner, Lloyd C. "'Damned High Wire,' on the Special Relationship That Unites Bush and Blair in Iraq." Journal of Transatlantic Studies (2005) 3(1 Supplement):43-62. Issn: 1479-4012 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Giddens, Anthony. The Third Way: The Renewal of Social Democracy (1998) excerpt and text search, by influential advisor to Blair
  • Hill, Paul T. "Lessons from Blair's School Reforms." Policy Review, No. 131, 2005. online edition
  • Jones, Nicholas. Sultans of Spin: The Media and the New Labour Government. (2000)
  • King, Anthony, ed. New Labour Triumphs: Britain at the Polls. (1998) , 259pp. political science online edition
  • King, Anthony, ed. Britain at the Polls: 2001 (2001)
  • Needham, Catherine. "Brand Leaders: Clinton, Blair and the Limitations of the Permanent Campaign." Political Studies (2005) 53:343-61. Issn: 0032-3217 Fulltext: Ebsco
  • Norton, Bruce F. Politics in Britain (2007) textbook excerpt and text search
  • Reitan, Earl A. The Thatcher Revolution: Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and Tony Blair, and the Transformation of Modern Britain, 1979-2001. (2003) 260 pp.
  • Rubinstein, David. The Labour Party and British Society: 1880-2005. (2005) 228 pp.
  • Williams, Paul. British Foreign Policy under New Labour (2006) 288pp
  • Wilson, Graham K. "A Blair Era? The Political Order of Modern Britain," The Forum (2007) Vol. 5#3, Article 2. online edition
  • Wither, James K. "British Bulldog or Bush's Poodle? Anglo-American Relations and the Iraq War," Parameters, Vol. 33, 2003 online edition

Primary sources

  • King, Anthony, ed. British Political Opinion 1937-2000: The Gallup Polls (2001)

Memoirs

  • Campbell, Alastair (2007) The Blair Years: The Alastair Campbell Diaries. Knopf, ISBN 0307268314. By the controversial Press Secretary to Tony Blair.
  • Gould, Philip (1999) The Unfinished Revolution: How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party. Abacus, ISBN 0-349-11177-4.

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 The Tony Blair Story BBC News 10 May 2007
  2. A Question of Faith Daily Telegraph 5 May 2003
  3. Tony Blair joins Catholic Church BBC News 22 December 2007
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