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

Tony Blair was elected Leader of the Labour Party in the leadership election of July 1994, following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. Under his leadership, the party adopted the term "New Labour", abandoned policies it had held for decades, and moved towards the centre ground. Blair led Labour to a landslide victory in the 1997 general election. In the first years of the New Labour government, Blair handed over control of interest rates to the Bank of Englandmarker; introduced the minimum wage; signed the Belfast Agreement; introduced tuition fees; and established the Scottish Parliamentmarker, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly. In his first six years, Blair had British troops ordered into battle five times—more than any other prime minister in history.

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. He was succeeded as Leader of the Labour Party on 24 June 2007 and as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007 by Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer.

In May 2008 Blair launched his Tony Blair Faith Foundation. This was followed in July 2009 by the launching of the Faith and Globalisation Initiative with Yale Universitymarker in the USA, Durham Universitymarker in the UK and National University of Singaporemarker in Asia to deliver a postgraduate programme in partnership with the Foundation.

Background and family life

Blair was born in Edinburghmarker, 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 as a baby by Glasgow shipyard worker James Blair and his wife, Mary. Hazel Corscadden was the daughter of George Corscadden, a butcher and Orangeman who moved to Glasgow in 1916 but returned to (and later died in) Ballyshannonmarker in 1923, where his wife, Sarah Margaret (née 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 Donegalmarker, Ireland, who descended from Scottish settlers who took their family name from Garscadden, now part of Glasgowmarker.

Life as a child

Tony Blair has one elder brother, Sir William Blair, a High Court judge, and a younger sister, Sarah. Tony 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. In the 1950s, his family spent three and a half years living in Adelaidemarker, Australia, where his father was a lecturer in law at the University of Adelaidemarker. The Blairs lived close to the university, in the suburb of Dulwichmarker. 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 Steppsmarker, near Glasgow. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Durhammarker, England, where his father lectured at Durham Universitymarker.

Education

After attending Durham's Chorister Schoolmarker from 1961 to 1966, Blair boarded at Fettes Collegemarker, an 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 having been out late.

After Fettes, Blair spent a year in London, where he attempted to find fame as a rock music promoter before reading jurisprudence at St John's Collegemarker, University of Oxfordmarker. 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. He was influenced by fellow student and Anglican priest Peter Thomson, who awakened within Blair a deep concern for religious faith and left-wing politics. Whilst he was at Oxford, Hazel Blair died of cancer, which greatly affected him. After graduating from Oxford in 1976 with a Second Class Honours BA in Jurisprudence, Blair became a member of Lincoln's Innmarker, 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 appears in a number of reported cases, for example as in Nethermere Ltd v Gardiner where he unsuccessfully represented employers in a dispute over holiday pay for employees at a trouser factory.

Marriage and children

Blair married Booth, a practising Roman Catholic and future Queen's Counsel, on 29 March 1980. They have four children: Euan Anthony, Nicholas John, Kathryn Hazel, and Leo George. Leo 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 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 Schoolmarker—criticised by left-wingers for its selection procedures—instead of a poorly performing Roman Catholic school in Labour-controlled Islingtonmarker, where they then lived, in Richmond Avenue. There was further criticism when it was discovered that Euan received private coaching from staff from Westminster Schoolmarker.All four children have Irish passports, by virtue of Blair's mother Hazel, and his daughter Kathryn uses hers while travelling.

Personal health

Blair suffered from chest pains on Sunday 19 October 2003 and underwent a cardioversion at Hammersmith Hospitalmarker.

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 Shoreditchmarker, where he aligned himself with the "soft left" of the party. He unsuccessfully attempted to secure selection as a candidate for Hackney Borough Councilmarker. Through his father-in-law, 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 a forthcoming by-election in the safe Conservative seat of Beaconsfieldmarker, 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 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 the newly created constituency of Sedgefield, a notionally safe Labour seat near where he had grown up in Durhammarker. The branch had not made a nomination, and Blair visited them. Several sitting MPs displaced by boundary changes were interested in securing selection to fight the seat. With the crucial support of John Burton, Blair won their endorsement; at the last minute, he was added to the short list and won the selection over Les Huckfield. Burton later became Blair's 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 Labour 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.

In his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 6 July 1983, Blair stated, "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 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.

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 Englandmarker'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 Londonmarker. 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 the "closed shop" (i.e., compulsory membership of trade unions). He announced this change in December 1989, outraging the left wing of the Labour Party. The young and telegenic 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. Later, Blair would also work to modernise Labour's image and was responsible for developing the controversial minimum wage policy.Blair became Shadow Home Secretary under John Smith.John Smith died suddenly in 1994 of a heart attack. Blair beat John Prescott and Margaret Beckett in the subsequent leadership election and became Leader of the Opposition. As is customary for the holder of that office, Blair was appointed a Privy Councillor.

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. At a special conference in April 1995, the clause was replaced by a statement that the party is one of democratic socialism.

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, ending 18 years of Conservative Party government, with the heaviest Conservative defeat since 1832.

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 and Leader of the Labour Party. The 43-year old Blair became the youngest person to become Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812, at the age of 42. 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.

Domestic policy

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 that 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.

Northern Ireland

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. Following the Omagh Bombing on 15 August 1998 by dissidents opposed to the peace process (which killed 29 people and wounded hundreds), Blair visited the County Tyrone town and met with victims at Belfastmarker's Royal Victoria Hospital.

War on Terror

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. As a result, he faced criticism 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. Some people, including Nobel prizewinning playwright Harold Pinter and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, have accused Blair of war crimes.For his unwavering support of the United States government's foreign policy, Blair was honoured with the Congressional Gold Medal on 18 July 2003.

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 Tuesdays and Thursdays with a single 30-minute session on Wednesdays. 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 businesslike manner.

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 Commonsmarker. 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.

Events prior to resignation

As the casualties of the Iraq War continued to increase and criticism of the Iraq war and its handling mounted, Blair was accused of misleading Parliament, and his popularity dropped dramatically. The Labour party's overall majority in the 2005 general election was reduced to 66.

As a combined result of the so-called Blair-Brown pact, the Iraq war, and low approval ratings, pressure built up within the Labour party for Blair to resign.

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

On 10 May 2007, during a speech at the Trimdon Labour Club in his Sedgefield constituency, Blair announced his intention to resign as both Labour Party leader and Prime Minister the following June. At a special party conference in Manchestermarker on 24 June 2007, he formally handed over the leadership of the Labour Party to Gordon Brown, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer during all of Blair's ten years in office.

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. As it is impossible to resign from the UK Parliament, this device is used for MPs wishing to step down.

The resulting Sedgefield by-election was won by Labour's candidate, Phil Wilson. Blair decided not to issue a list of Resignation Honours, making him the first Prime Minister of the modern era not to do so.

Post-Prime Ministerial career

Diplomacy

On 27 June 2007, Blair officially resigned as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after ten years in office, and he 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 resigned from the Commons on being confirmed for the Middle East role by taking up an office for profit. 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 2008, Tony Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.

During the first nine days of the 2008–2009 Israel-Gaza conflict, Tony Blair spent Christmas and New Year's with his family and according to the Daily Mail he was spotted at the opening of the Armani store at Knightsbridgemarker. Aides insisted that reports of him being on holiday were 'totally untrue'. He has, they said, been 'working tirelessly' behind the scenes 'since day one'. Since taking on the position of Middle East envoy, he is reported to be spending one week out every month in the Middle East. His spokesman was quoted as stating that, Blair had been 'working the phones' constantly since Israel's ferocious bombardment of the Palastinian coastal enclave began.

Private sector

In January 2008, it was confirmed that Blair would be joining investment bank JPMorgan Chase in a "senior advisory capacity" and that he would advise Zurich Financial Services on climate change. Some sources have claimed that his role at JP Morgan will pay more than $1m (£500,000) a year. This additional salary will contribute to annual earnings of over £7m.

Blair also gives lectures and earns up to US$250,000 for a 90-minute speech. Yale Universitymarker announced on 7 March 2008 that Blair will teach a course on issues of faith and globalisation at the Yale Schools of Managementmarker and Divinity as a Howland distinguished fellow during the 2008–09 academic year.

Politics

The media had speculated that Blair was open to the idea of becoming the first President of the European Council, a post created in the Treaty of Lisbon that would come into force in 2009 if successfully ratified.

Gordon Brown, Blair's successor, added his support, but noted that it was premature to discuss candidates before the treaty was approved. A spokesman for Tony Blair did not rule out Blair's accepting the post, saying he was concentrating on his current role in the Middle East. Some believe he is unlikely to take the position, as it comes with few powers. Blair was later invited to speak on European issues at a rally of Sarkozy's party, the Union for a Popular Movement, on 12 January 2008—which fuelled speculation further.

Initially, Blair has been the most common name connected with the post. Touted as far back as 2002, rumours have re-emerged since his resignation. In June 2007, French president Nicolas Sarkozy was the first leader to propose that Blair be the first president, support that was reiterated in October 2007 following an agreement on the Treaty of Lisbon. However, on 29 October 2009 even the French President who was the first European leader to endorse Tony Blair for the job indicated that now he regards other candidates as more viable.

Opposition to Tony Blair's candidature for the job of the President is building very rapidly. In the UK, both Tories and Liberal Democrats have said they would oppose Blair. In Germany, the leader of the Free Democrats, Guido Westerwelle, who is also Germany's new foreign minister, has said that he prefers a candidate from a smaller European country. The chief whip of Germany's Free Democrats which is a part of the ruling coalition in Germany, Joerg van Essen, has cast doubt on the suitability of British former Prime Minister to be the President of the European Council. The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, has emerged as a serious rival to Tony Blair's candidature and has the backing for many of the smaller European member states. Following the EU summit at Brussels on 29 October 2009 where EU leaders also held discussions on who will fill the post of full-time President that the Lisbon Treaty would create, even Downing Street was less upbeat. The BBC reported that Downing Street has signalled that a defeat for Mr Blair's candidacy was now "a clear possibility". Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero failed to endorse Mr Blair. Austrian Chancellor Werner Fayman, who will be one of the three on the panel to decide on a short-list for prospective candidates dealt a serious blow to Blair's candidature by announcing that candidates should have a good relationship with US President Barack Obama and not be equated to a good working relationship with former US President George Bush. Tony Blair's lack of progress in his current job as Middle-East envoy in the Israel-Palestine issue and his past involvement on a wide variety of subjects relating primarily to Iraq and Afghanistan made him deeply unpopular not only in the UK but also in some of the largest EU countries namely Germany, France and Spain.

Charity

On 14 November 2007, Blair launched the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, which aims to "increase childhood participation in sports activities, especially in the North East of England, where a larger proportion of children are socially excluded, and to promote overall health and prevent childhood obesity." On 30 May 2008, Blair launched the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a vehicle for encouraging different faiths to join together in promoting respect and understanding, as well as working to tackle poverty. Reflecting Blair's own faith but not dedicated to any particular religion, the Foundation aims to "show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world". In February 2009, he applied to set up a charity called the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, the application was approved in November 2009.

Honours

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, owing 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.

On 22 May 2008, Blair received an honorary law doctorate from Queen's University Belfastmarker, alongside former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, for distinction in public service and roles in the Northern Ireland peace process.

On 13 January 2009, Blair was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Bush stated that Blair was given the award "in recognition of exemplary achievement and to convey the utmost esteem of the American people" and cited Blair's support for the "War on Terror" and his role in achieving peace in Northern Irelandmarker as two reasons for justifying his being presented with the award.

On 16 February 2009, Blair was awarded the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University for "exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict". He was awarded the prize in May 2009.

Relationship with media

Rupert Murdoch

Tony Blair's close relationship with Rupert Murdoch, and the reciprocated unprecedented support which he received from Murdoch's globally influential News Corporation media empire, has been the subject of much criticism. In 1995, while leader of the Opposition, Blair disclosed in the Commons register of interests that he was a guest of Murdoch when he flew to meet him in Hayman Island.

Contacts with UK media proprietors

A Cabinet Officemarker freedom of information response, released the day after Blair handed over power to Gordon Brown, documents Blair having various official phone calls and meetings with Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation and Richard Desmond of Northern and Shell Media.

The response includes contacts "clearly of an official nature" in the specified period, but excludes contacts "not clearly of an official nature." No details were given of the subjects discussed.In the period between September 2002 and April 2005, Blair and Murdoch are documented speaking 6 times; three times in the 9 days before the Iraq war, including the eve of the 20 March US and UK invasion, and on 29 January, 25 April and 3 October 2004. Between January 2003 and February 2004, Blair had three meetings with Richard Desmond; on 29 January and 3 September 2003 and 23 February 2004.

The information was disclosed after a three and a half year battle by the Lib Dem Lord Avebury. Lord Avebury's initial October 2003 information request was dismissed by then leader of the Lords, Baroness Amos. A following complaint was rejected, with Downing Streetmarker claiming the information compromised free and frank discussions, while Cabinet Officemarker claimed releasing the timing of the PM's contacts with individuals is undesirable, as it might lead to the content of the discussions being disclosed. While awaiting a following appeal from Lord Avebury, the cabinet office announced that it would release the information.Lord Avebury said: "The public can now scrutinise the timing of his (Murdoch's) contacts with the former Prime Minister, to see whether they can be linked to events in the outside world."

Media portrayal

Tony Blair is acknowledged by most to be a highly skilful media performer who comes over as charismatic, informal, and articulate. A few months after becoming Prime Minister he gave a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales on the morning of her death in August 1997, in which he famously described her as "the People's Princess".

After taking office in 1997, Blair gave particular prominence to his press secretary, who became known as the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (the two roles have since been separated). Blair's first PMOS was Alastair Campbell, who served in that role from May 1997 to 8 June 2001, after which he served as the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy until his resignation on 29 August 2003 in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry. Campbell acquired a reputation as a sinister and Machiavellian figure, and both Blair and Campbell have frequently been criticised or satirised for their allegedly excessive use of "spin" and news management techniques (see below under Criticism).

Criticism

Blair was criticised, including by former members of his own cabinet, for his solid stance alongside U.S. President George W. Bush on Middle East policy, in particular over the Iraq War, the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, and the Israel/Palestine issue.

Journalists and veteran's relatives are pressing for Blair's arrest and prosecution for warcrimes and launching a war of aggression against Iraq.

He is accused of having eroded civil liberties with authoriarian legislation: increasing police powers by needlessly adding to the number of arrestable offences, compulsory DNA recording and the use of dispersal orders.

Blair was accused of excessive reliance on spin, labelled by his predecessor John Major "the porn of politics". He is the first British Prime Minister to have been formally questioned by police, though not under caution, while still in office.

Relationship with Gordon Brown

After the death of John Smith in 1994, Blair and his close colleague Gordon Brown (they shared an office at the House of Commonsmarker) were both seen as possible candidates for the party leadership. They agreed not to stand against each other, it is said, as part of a supposed Blair-Brown pact. The latter, who considered himself senior of the two, understood Blair would give way to him: opinion polls soon indicated, however, that Blair appeared to enjoy greater support among voters. Their relationship in power became so turbulent that the deputy prime minister John Prescott often, it was reported, had to act as "marriage guidance counsellor".

Religious faith

On 22 December 2007, it was disclosed that Blair had converted to the Roman Catholic faith, and that it was "a private matter". He had informed Pope Benedict XVI on 23 June 2007 that he wanted to become Roman 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 Cathedralmarker, with his family at Number 10 Downing Streetmarker, and also while on holiday in Italy. During one such visit to that country, on 22 February 2003, when he met with Pope John Paul II, Blair and his wife stayed at the Irish College in Rome. 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".

Cherie Blair's friend and "spiritual guru" Carole Caplin is credited with introducing her and her husband to various New Age symbols and beliefs, including "magic pendants" known as "BioElectric Shields". The most controversial of the Blairs' New Age practices occurred when on holiday in Mexico. The couple, wearing only bathing costumes, took part in a rebirthing procedure that involved smearing mud and fruit over each others' bodies while sitting in a steam bath.

Later on, Blair questioned the Pope's attitude towards homosexuality, arguing that religious leaders must start "rethinking" the issue. He was later rebuked by Vincent Nichols, the new archbishop of Westminster, who said that Catholic thinking was 'rather different' from the kind promoted by the former prime minister.

On 14 January 2009 Blair, upon a visit to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.marker, described, in the guest book, his home as being 'Jerusalem'. This was followed shortly after, on the occasion of his addressing of the National Prayer Breakfast, by his discussion of the issue of religion in the world and the Middle East peace process in his address and how he spends so much of his time in the Holy Land and in the Holy City. He reported his Palestianian guide as bemoaning the fate of his nation looking to heaven and saying “Moses, Jesus, Mohammed: why did they all have to come here?” For Blair the Holy City is "a good place to reflect on religion: a source of so much inspiration; an excuse for so much evil."

Policies

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. Curiously though, and perhaps contradictorily, in the new Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution written by Blair personally, the party is defined a "Democratic Socialist" party.

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 (but did not increase income tax for high-earners); introduced a minimum wage and some new employment rights (while keeping Margaret Thatcher's trade union legislation); introduced significant constitutional reforms; 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; sought to reduce certain categories of welfare payments, and introduced tough anti-terrorism and identity card legislation.

Environmental record

Tony Blair has criticised other governments for not doing enough to solve global climate change. In a 1997 visit to the United States, he made a comment on "great industrialised nations" that fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Again in 2003, Blair went before the United States Congress and said that climate change "cannot be ignored", insisting "we need to go beyond even Kyoto." His record at home tends to say something different. Tony Blair and his party have promised a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide but during his term the emissions rose. The Labour Party also claimed that by 2010 10% of the energy would come from renewable resources but in fact only 3% currently does.

In 2000 Blair "flagged up" 100 million euros for green policies and urged environmentalists and businesses to work together.

Foreign policy

Relationship with the United States

Along with enjoying a close relationship with Bill Clinton during the latter's time in office, Blair 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 Departmentmarker, 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 lauded Blair and the UK. In his post-11 September speech, for example, he stated that "America has no truer friend than Great Britain".

The alliance between Bush and Blair seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of many UK citizens. Blair 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. However, a perception of one-sided compromising personal and political closeness led to serious discussion of the term "Poodle-ism" in the UK media, to describe the "Special Relationship" of the UK government and Prime Minister with the US White House and President. A revealing conversation between Bush and Blair, with the former addressing the latter as "Yo, Blair" was recorded when they did not know a microphone was live at the G8 conference in Russia in 2006.

Middle East policy and links with Israel

According to comments in the book, Blair, written by Anthony Seldon, Blair had a deep feeling for Israel, born in part from his faith. Blair has been a long time member of the Pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel

In 1994, Blair met Michael Levy, later Lord Levy, a pop music mogul and fundraiser. 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 raised £12m towards Labour’s landslide victory, Levy was rewarded by Blair with a peerage, and in 2002, just prior to the Iraq War, Blair appointed Levy as his personal envoy to the Middle East. Levy praised Blair for his 'solid and committed support of the State of Israel'. Tam Dalyell, while Father of the House of Commons, suggested in 2003 that Blair's foreign policy decisions were unduly influenced by a cabal of Jewish advisers, including Levy and Peter Mandelson. In response Mandelson said: "Apart from the fact that I am not actually Jewish, I wear my father's parentage with pride."

Blair, on coming to office, had been 'cool towards the right-wing Netanyahu government'. Yet with the election in 1999 of an Israeli Labour prime minister Ehud Barak, with whom Blair 'forged a close relationship', he became 'much more sympathetic to Israel, guided in part by Manning's enthusiasm for generating momentum in the peace process'. From 2001 Blair also 'worked hard at building a relationship, with some success', with Barak's successor, Ariel Sharon. He also 'responded positively to Arafat, whom he had met thirteen times since becoming prime minister', 'regarding him as essential to future negotiations'. 'By April 2002, Blair believed he was making progress. Bush's statement of 4 April, in which he urged Sharon to withdraw from Palestinian cities recently occupied and halt further incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas, proved the highpoint of Bush's toughness with the Israeli Prime Minister.' 'By the beginning of 2003, Blair redoubled his efforts to shift Bush on the Middle East policy process', which 'finally paid off when, on 14 March, Bush announced that the road map would be published as soon as Abu Mazen, the new Palestinian Prime Minister, was installed. Palestinian independence by 2005, to which Bush secured Sharon's agreement, was the goal.' According to Anthony Seldon: 'None of these proposals would have been finalised, least of all so quickly, without Blair's pressing.'

In 2004, 50 former diplomats, including ambassadors to Baghdadmarker and Tel Avivmarker, 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 Bankmarker 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 criticised for his failure to immediately 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 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. In an interview with the BBC regarding the situation, Blair was quoted as saying, "Let us make sure with urgency we can stop this situation which is killing innocent people. Yet there had to be a long-term solution".

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 Indiesmarker he announced that all the speculation about his leaving must stop. This stirred not only his traditional critics but also traditional party loyalists.

The government under Blair introduced social policies supported by the left of the Labour Party, such as the minimum wage and measures to reduce child poverty, he was seen by some as being to the right of the party on economic and management issues.

Blair forged friendships with several conservative European leaders, including Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Angela Merkel of Germany and more recently Nicolas Sarkozy of France. This earned him criticism from trade union leaders within the Labour Party, most notably over the political alliance with Berlusconi who was engaged in disputes with Italian trade unions.

Portrayals and cameo appearances

Appearances

Blair made an animated cameo appearance as himself in The Simpsons episode, "The Regina Monologues" (2003). He has also appeared himself at the end of the first episode of The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard, a British TV series about an unknown housewife becoming Prime Minister. On 14 March 2007, Blair appeared as a celebrity judge on Masterchef goes Large after contestants had to prepare a three course meal in the Downing Street kitchens for Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern. On 16 March 2007, 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 catchphrase "Am I bovvered?".

Portrayals

Michael Sheen has portrayed Blair twice, in the films The Deal (2003) and The Queen (2006), and shall reprise the role once more in The Special Relationship. Blair was portrayed by Robert Lindsay in the TV programme A Very Social Secretary; he reprised the role in The Trial of Tony Blair. He was also portrayed by James Larkin in The Government Inspector (2005), and by Ioan Gruffudd in W. (2008).

Blair in fiction and satire

The Ghost

When Blair resigned as Prime Minister, Robert Harris, a former Fleet Streetmarker political editor, dropped his other work to write The Ghost. The CIA-influenced British prime minister in the book is said to be a thinly disguised version of Blair.In November 2007 it was announced that Roman Polanski was to direct the film version of the novel, and would be writing the script with Harris. In 2009 the film was still in production and the release date unknown.

In music

The band Chumbawamba released a free single in 1999 which they describe as "an attack" against Tony Blair. The rapper Life, released a track titled "Bush and Blair" which included the lyric "This world it ain't fair, Bush 'n' Blair, they don't care, hope you'll all be aware".

Titles and honours

Styles from 1983 election

  • Mr Anthony Charles Lynton Blair MP (1983–1994)
  • The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair MP (1994–2007)
  • The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (2007–)


Honours



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


See also



Notes

  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/election97/background/parties/harpbla.htm
  2. British Politics: Labour Manifesto (1997)
  3. Blair loyalists insist centre ground is key to election victory | Politics | The Guardian
  4. Blair: The Inside Story BBC 22 February 2007.
  5. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7427809.stm BBC News Blair launches faith foundation
  6. Blair: 'Why adoption is close to my heart', 21 December 2000, The Guardian
  7. Nethermere Ltd v Gardiner [1983] ICR 319
  8. see also, Thomas Marshall Ltd v Guinle [1979] Ch 227; Methven v Cow Industrial Polymers Ltd [1980] ICR 463; Miss World Ltd v James Street Productions Ltd [1981] FSR 309
  9. Blair caught up in private tutor row
  10. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/article6832096.ece
  11. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2003/oct/20/labour.politics
  12. BBC Archive
  13. BBC News Archive, "1998: Northern Ireland peace deal reached"
  14. Philip Stephens, "Blair’s remarkable record", Financial Times, 10 May 2007
  15. Telegraph.co.uk.Omagh, Northern Ireland's worst atrocity.24/12/2007
  16. Malaysian former PM Mahathir accuses Tony Blair as war criminal_English_Xinhua
  17. Pinter demands war crimes trial for Blair | World news | guardian.co.uk
  18. Ian Kershaw, "How will history judge Blair?", BBC News, 10 May 2007.
  19. Timothy Garton Ash, "President Blair: Americans love our leader but may cause his downfall", The Guardian, 24 July 2003
  20. Blair a casualty of U.K. support for Iraq war, The Washington Times, 8 November 2003
  21. Diplomat's suppressed document lays bare the lies behind Iraq war, The Independent, 15 December 2006
  22. PM misled House on Iraq arms, says Cook, Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 2003
  23. Blair Risked Much in Support of U.S.-U.K. Friendship, National Public Radio, 9 May 2007
  24. Talk of war dents Blair's popularity, Daily Telegraph, 17 February 2003
  25. Tony Blair: Highs and lows, BBC News, 10 May 2007
  26. Pressure on Blair Mounts as 8 Aides Resign, New York Times, 7 September 2006
  27. Tony Blair to Resign in a Year, ABC News, 7 September 2006
  28. The End of the Tony Show, Der Spiegel, 10 May 2007
  29. Tony Blair's Last Hurrah, US News & World Report, 10 May 2007
  30. Israel may ease grip in Tony Blair deal to revive West Bank, The Times 14 May 2008
  31. As Gaza is torn apart by war, where is Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair? He's been on HOLIDAY
  32. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7180306.stm
  33. Hencke, David (29 January 2008) Insurance job takes Blair's earnings above £7m, The Guardian
  34. Lectures see Tony Blair earnings jump over £12m - Times Online
  35. People: Tony Blair’s earnings are £12m a year | News | The First Post
  36. AFP (2007). Blair charms France's ruling party amid talk of EU top job. Retrieved 13 January 2008.
  37. cite news | last=Blair | first=Tony | title=German party cool on Blair for EU | date=28 October 2009 | publisher=BBC World Service News | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8329554.stm}}
  38. cite news | last=Blair | first=Tony | title=Downing Street is less optimistic about Blair campaign to become EU President | date=29 October 2009 | publisher=BBC World Service News | url=http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8333192.stm}}
  39. Tony Blair Sports Foundation
  40. "Mission statement", Tony Blair Faith Foundation, 30 May 2008.
  41. Bush gives Blair highest US civilian honour | Politics | guardian.co.uk
  42. For services rendered? George Bush awards 'staunch friend' Tony Blair Presidential Medal Of Freedom | Mail Online
  43. President Bush awards Tony Blair Presidential Medal of Freedom - Times Online
  44. Blair wins Dan David Prize | JTA - Jewish & Israel News
  45. RFI - Blair's peace-broker prize surreal, say anti-war campaigners
  46. Gaby Hinsliff, "The PM, the mogul and the secret agenda", The Observer, 23 July 2006
  47. Michael White, "Blair risks 'poodle' jibes to join Murdoch's jamboree", The Guardian, 29 July 2006
  48. Peter Watt, "The 'Complex' Issue of 'Humanitarian' Intervention", ZNet, 6 August 2006
  49. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/26/making-blair-eu-president-crazy "one of the two greatest living mass murderers on earth"
  50. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/iraq/article6873691.ece "Blair is a war criminal, bereaved parents tell inquiry"
  51. Jon Silverman, Legal affairs analyst, "Blair's new look civil liberties", BBC News, 14 May 2007
  52. "Blair's spin is the porn of politics, says Major", The Telegraph, 24 October 2003
  53. "Blair questioned in honours probe", BBC News, 14 December 2006
  54. A MORI opinion poll published in the 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%.
  55. Electric Review 23 February 2003
  56. "Ev'rybody must get stones", The Observer, 8 December 2002
  57. How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World, Francis Wheen, Harper Perennial 2004, ISBN 0-00-714097-5
  58. Blair questions Papal gay policy
  59. Catholic leader's rebuke for Blair
  60. http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/8558 Tony Blair addresses Obama's first annual National Prayer Breakfast
  61. Polly Toynbee, Michael White and Patrick Wintour "We're a left-of-centre party pursuing prosperity and social justice", The Guardian, 11 September 2001
  62. "The Death of Socialism", 17 May 2007
  63. Neal Lawson, "A decade of Blair has left the Labour party on its knees", The Guardian, 19 April 2007
  64. YouGov UK Polling Report, Left vs Right, 23 September 2005
  65. Peter Kellner, "What's left of the Labour leader?", New Stateman, 28 October 2002
  66. "Why Blair was no conservative", Financial Times, 18 May 2007
  67. Steve Richards, "Blair the politician: A conjuror who lost touch with his party", The Belfast Telegraph, 11 May 2007
  68. Mike Marquesee, "Labour's long march to the right", International Socialism, Issue 91, Summer 2001
  69. Charlie Kimber, "Can the left reclaim the Labour Party?", Socialist Worker, 2 August 2002
  70. Mark Rice-Oxley, "Tony Blair's decade of peace and war", The Christian Science Monitor, 11 May 2007
  71. Alan Cowell, "Tory leader urges British opposition to stake out 'center ground'", International Herald Tribune, 1 October 2006
  72. This government has been the most rightwing since the second world war
  73. Brookings 18 Nov 2003 retrieved 16 April 2008 http://www.brookings.edu/opinions/2003/1118energy_sandalow.aspx
  74. farsham house group 11 Feb 2005 retrieved 16 April 2008 http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?id=9530
  75. BBC News Oct, 24, 2000 retrieved 17 April 2008 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/988089.stm
  76. Hugo Young: Blair has not been a poodle, but poodleism still beckons | World news | The Guardian
  77. BBC News
  78. Anthony Seldon, Blair, (London: Free Press, 2005), p. 506.
  79. Assaf Uni, Finance scandal has local community worried, Haaretz, 10 December 2007.
  80. Ned Temko, Behind-the-scenes group's unerring knack of backing the right man, The Guardian, 2 December 2007.
  81. Jewish Care, Fundraising Dinner 2006.
  82. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dalyell-attacks-jewish-cabal-538006.html
  83. Seldon, Blair, p. 506.
  84. Seldon, Blair, p. 618.
  85. Seldon, Blair, p. 620.
  86. Diplomats attack Blair's Israel policy, Guardian Unlimited, Matthew Tempest, 26 April 2004
  87. Cabinet in open revolt over Blair's Israel policy, The Observer, 30 July 2006
  88. BBC News, "Blair attacked over right-wing EU links", 15 March 2002
  89. Ed Vulliamy, "By their friends shall we know the Sultans of Bling : Blair's relationships with Berlusconi, Bush and Murdoch have defined his premiership. Now Merkel is to join the trio", The Guardian, 27 October 2005
  90. Martin Kettle, "Why Ségo and Sarko have transfixed the British left", The Guardian, 28 April 2007
  91. Masterchef Addict's blog, The Stage, 15/03/2007
  92. Review in The Guardian
  93. [1]
  94. BBC NEWS | Politics | Blair to get US Medal of Freedom


Further reading



Miscellany



External links
























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