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 Blair, more commonly known as 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.

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 north-east England.

While the Labour Party is a self-described "democratic, socialist party"[1], Blair coined the phrases "New Labour" and "The Third Way" to distinguish his own pro-business policies from the more collectivist platform of his predecessors. He was criticized by some more left-wing members of the Labour Party for "selling out" to conservative thinking, particularly in his support for the United States in the Iraq War. On the other hand, Blair's policies were decidedly 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.

Personal

The son of a barrister and lecturer Leo Blair, 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. Blair was known as a cheeky, rebellious, and argumentative schoolboy, and at 17 he was threatened with expulsion for persistently breaking school rules.[2]. 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.[2]

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" [3] - he is a convinced Christian. His wife Cherie is a Catholic and Blair converted to Catholicism in 2007.[4]

Blair's political career

A combination of the Labour Party's new-found 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. Labour easily won re-election in 2001 and in 2005, although with losses.

In December 2006, Blair became the first active Prime Minister to be interviewed in a police investigation, [5] and again in January 2007[6], over allegations he had illegally nominated donors to the Labour Party for peerages - the so called "Cash for Honours" scandal. The government stressed that he was being interviewed only as a witness however, and the nominations of the money lenders were rejected by the independent appointments' commission.[2] However the allegations were a popular story in the media, and dogged his final months in office. Tony Blair was superseded by Gordon Brown as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in June 2007.

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 has introduced a national minimum wage, in 1998, which has gradually been increased over time. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have gained their own legislatures, and limited attempts have been made to devolve power to the regions of England (although outside of London these have not been successful). Blair's government has also banned fox-hunting, cigarette smoking in public places and public demonstrations within 1 kilometre of Parliament, as well as preparing the way for a national identity card and increased the time that suspects can be held in police custody without charge to 28 days.

One of the most controversial aspects of Blair's premiership was been his commitment to and support of the Iraq war, which strongly divided opinion, both in Parliament and among the British people. His strong support of America and President George W. Bush in particular have set him apart from most European leaders, especially with the parties of the left (including his own Labour Party). This came at considerable political cost with his own popularity suffering greatly, and the Government lost considerable support in the 2005 general election as a result.

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 has, however, acquired a reputation for excessive news management, and even for dishonesty, particularly after the Iraq War.

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

See also

References

  1. Labour: How we work
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The Tony Blair Story BBC News 10 May 2007
  3. A Question of Faith Daily Telegraph 5 May 2003
  4. Tony Blair joins Catholic Church BBC News 22 December 2007
  5. Honours police quizzed McConnell BBC News 23 January 2007
  6. Blair interviewed again by police BBC News 1 February 2007