Tony Blair


Tony Blair
The Right Honourable
Tony Blair
A photograph of a man with greying hair speaking into a microphone and gesturing with his left hand
Blair at the World Economic Forum (2009)
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
2 May 1997 – 27 June 2007
Monarch Elizabeth II
Deputy John Prescott
Preceded by John Major
Succeeded by Gordon Brown
Leader of the Opposition
In office
21 July 1994 – 2 May 1997
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Margaret Beckett
Succeeded by John Major
Leader of the Labour Party
In office
21 July 1994 – 24 June 2007
Deputy John Prescott
Preceded by Margaret Beckett
Succeeded by Gordon Brown
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
24 July 1992 – 24 October 1994
Leader John Smith
Preceded by Roy Hattersley
Succeeded by Jack Straw
Shadow Secretary of State for Employment
In office
2 November 1989 – 24 July 1992
Leader Neil Kinnock
Preceded by Michael Meacher
Succeeded by Frank Dobson
Shadow Secretary of State for Energy
In office
7 June 1988 – 2 November 1989
Leader Neil Kinnock
Preceded by John Prescott
Succeeded by Frank Dobson
Member of Parliament
for Sedgefield
In office
9 June 1983 – 27 June 2007
Preceded by Constituency reestablished
Succeeded by Phil Wilson
Majority 18,449 (44.5%)
Personal details
Born 6 May 1953 (1953-05-06) (age 58)
Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Cherie Booth
(m. 1980–present)
Children Euan
Nicky
Kathryn
Leo
Residence Connaught Square
Alma mater St John's College, Oxford
Inns of Court
Occupation Envoy
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholicism (2007–present)
Website Tony Blair Office

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953)[1] is a former British Labour Party politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2 May 1997 to 27 June 2007. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Sedgefield from 1983 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. He resigned from all of these positions in June 2007.

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"[2] and moved away from its traditional left wing position towards the centre ground.[3][4] Blair subsequently led Labour to a landslide victory in the 1997 general election. At 43 years old, he became the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. In the first years of the New Labour government, Blair's government implemented a number of 1997 manifesto pledges, introducing the minimum wage, Human Rights Act and Freedom of Information Act, and carrying out devolution, establishing the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Blair's role as Prime Minister was particularly visible in foreign and security policy, including in Northern Ireland, where he was involved in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. From the start of the War on Terror in 2001, Blair strongly supported the foreign policy of US President George W. Bush, notably by participating in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. 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.[5] On the day he resigned as Prime Minister, he was appointed the official Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East. In May 2008, Blair launched his Tony Blair Faith Foundation.[6] This was followed in July 2009 by the launching of the Faith and Globalisation Initiative with Yale University in the US, Durham University in the UK and the National University of Singapore in Asia to deliver a postgraduate programme in partnership with the Foundation.[7][8]

Contents

Background and family life

Blair was born in Edinburgh, Scotland[9] on 6 May 1953,[1] the second son of Leo and Hazel Blair (née Corscadden). Leo Blair, the illegitimate[10] 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) Ballyshannon in 1923, where his wife, Sarah Margaret (née Lipsett), gave birth to Blair's mother, Hazel, above her family's grocery shop.[11][12] George Corscadden was from a family of Protestant farmers in County Donegal, Ireland,[13] who descended from Ulster-Scots settlers who took their family name from Garscadden,[citation needed] now part of Glasgow.

Life as a child

Blair has one elder brother, Sir William Blair, a High Court judge, 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.[9] In the 1950s, his family spent three and a half years in Adelaide, Australia, where his father was a lecturer in law at the University of Adelaide.[14] The Blairs lived close to the university, in the suburb of Dulwich. The family returned to the UK 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, where his father lectured at Durham University.[citation needed]

Education

After attending The Chorister School in Durham from 1961 to 1966,[15] Blair boarded at Fettes College, a prestigious independent school in Edinburgh, during which time he met Charlie Falconer (a pupil at the rival Edinburgh Academy), whom he later appointed Lord Chancellor. He reportedly modelled himself on Mick Jagger.[16] 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."[17] Blair was arrested at Fettes, having been mistaken for a burglar as he climbed into his dormitory using a ladder after having been out late.[18]

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 reading jurisprudence at St John's College, Oxford.[19] As a student, he played guitar and sang in a rock band called Ugly Rumours. During this time, he dated future American Psycho director Mary Harron.[20]

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. While Blair was at Oxford, his mother Hazel died of cancer, which greatly affected him. After graduating from Oxford in 1975 with a Second Class Honours BA in Jurisprudence, 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 law 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 (St Neots) Ltd v Gardiner[21] where he represented employers unsuccessfully in an attempt to deny female factory workers holiday pay.[22]

Marriage and children

Blair married Cherie Booth, a Roman Catholic and future Queen's Counsel, on 29 March 1980.[23] They have four children: Euan, Nicholas, Kathryn, and Leo.[24][25] 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.[26] Blair was criticised when it was discovered that one child had received private tuition from staff at Westminster School.[27] All four children have Irish passports, by virtue of Blair's mother Hazel.[28] The family's primary residence is in Connaught Square, and the Blairs own eight other residences.[29]

Personal health

Blair suffered from chest pains on Sunday 19 October 2003 and underwent a cardioversion at Hammersmith Hospital.[30]

Religious faith

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."[31]

A longer exploration of his faith can be found in an interview with Third Way Magazine. There he says 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".[32]

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".[33]

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".[34] 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, which involved smearing mud and fruit over each others' bodies while sitting in a steam bath.[35]

Later on, Blair questioned the Pope's attitude towards homosexuality, arguing that religious leaders must start "rethinking" the issue.[36] 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.[37]

On 22 December 2007, it was disclosed that Blair, who in 1996, had been reprimanded by Cardinal Basil Hume for receiving Holy Communion at Mass despite not being a Catholic, in contravention of canon law,[38] had converted to the Catholic faith, and that it was "a private matter".[39][40] He had informed Pope Benedict XVI on 23 June 2007 that he wanted to become a Catholic. The Pope and his advisors criticised some of Blair's political actions, but followed up with a reportedly unprecedented red-carpet welcome, which included Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who would be responsible for Blair's Catholic instruction.[41]

On 14 January 2009, Blair, upon a visit to the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., described, in the guest book, his home as being 'Jerusalem'.[42] 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 Palestinian 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."[43]

According to Alastair Campbell's diary, Blair often read the Bible before taking any important decisions. He states that Blair had a "wobble" and considered changing his mind on the eve of the bombing of Iraq in 1998.[44]

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. In 1982 Blair was selected as the Labour candidate in the safe Conservative seat of Beaconsfield, where there was a forthcomming by-election. Although Blair lost the Beaconsfield by-election (the only election he lost in his 25-year political career) he gained 10% of the vote and acquired a profile within the party. In contrast to his later centrism, Blair made it clear in a letter he wrote to Labour leader Michael Foot in July 1982, that he had "come to Socialism through Marxism" and considered himself on the left. The letter was eventually published in June 2006.[45]

In 1983, Blair found the newly created constituency of Sedgefield, a notionally safe Labour seat near where he had grown up in Durham. 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 opera 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."[46][47] The Labour Party is declared in its constitution to be a democratic socialist party[48] 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.

Once elected, Blair's political ascent was rapid. 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.[49] 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 EEC report critical of British economic policy that had been countersigned by a member of the Conservative government.[citation needed] 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 71 votes.[50]

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.[51] At a special conference in April 1995, the clause was replaced by a statement that the party is 'democratic socialist'.[51]

He inherited the Labour leadership at a time when the party was ascendant over the Tories in the opinion polls since the Tory government's reputation for monetary excellence was left in tatters by the Black Wednesday economic disaster of September 1992. Blair's election as leader saw Labour support surge higher still[52] in spite of the continuing economic recovery and fall in unemployment that the Conservative government (led by John Major) had overseen since the end of the 1990–92 recession.[53]

At the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair stated that his three top priorities on coming to office were "education, education, and education".[54]

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.[55]

During Smith's leadership of the Labour Party, there were discussions with Paddy Ashdown, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, about forming a coalition government if the next general election resulted in a hung parliament. After Blair became leader, these talks continued – despite virtually every opinion poll since late 1992 having shown Labour with enough support to form a majority. However, the scale of the Labour victory meant that there was ultimately never any need for a coalition.[56]

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.[57] 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.

Northern Ireland

Blair addressing a crowd in Armagh in 1998.

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.[58][59] Following the Omagh Bombing on 15 August 1998, by members of the Real IRA opposed to the peace process, which killed 29 people and wounded hundreds, Blair visited the County Tyrone town and met with victims at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.[60]

War on Terror

In his first six years in office Blair ordered British troops into battle five times, more than any other prime minister in British history. This included Iraq in both 1998 and 2003; Kosovo (1999); Sierra Leone (2000) and Afghanistan (2001).[61]

From the start of the War on Terror in 2001, Blair strongly supported the foreign policy of George W. Bush, participating in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was particularly controversial, as it attracted widespread public opposition and 139 of Blair's MPs opposed it.[62] As a result, he faced criticism over the policy itself and the circumstances in which it was decided upon. Alastair Campbell described Blair's statement that the intelligence on WMDs was "beyond doubt" as his "assessment of the assessment that was given to him."[63] In 2009, Blair stated that he would have supported removing Saddam Hussein from power even in the face of proof that he had no such weapons.[64] Playwright Harold Pinter and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad accused Blair of war crimes.[65][66] Testifying before the Iraq Inquiry on 29 January 2010, Blair said Saddam was a "monster and I believe he threatened not just the region but the world."[67] Blair said that British and American attitude towards Saddam Hussein had "changed dramatically" after 11 September attacks. Blair denied that he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even if he had thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. He said he believed the world was safer as a result of the invasion.[68] He also said that there was "no real difference between wanting regime change and wanting Iraq to disarm: regime change was US policy because Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations."[69]

Relationship with Parliament

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. In addition to PMQs, Blair held monthly press conferences at which he fielded questions from journalists[70][71] and – from 2002 – broke precedent by agreeing to give evidence twice yearly before the most senior Commons select committee, The Liaison Committee.[72] 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.[73] 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.[74] Blair was accused of excessive reliance on spin.[75] He is the first British Prime Minister to have been formally questioned by police, though not under caution, while still in office.[76]

Events prior to resignation

As the casualties of the Iraq War mounted, Blair was accused of misleading Parliament,[77][78] and his popularity dropped dramatically.[79][80] The Labour party's overall majority in the 2005 general election was reduced to 66. As a combined result of the Blair-Brown pact, Iraq war and low approval ratings, pressure built up within the Labour party for Blair to resign.[81][82] On 7 September 2006, 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,[83] 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, Blair announced his intention to resign as both Labour Party leader and Prime Minister. At a special party conference in Manchester on 24 June 2007, he formally handed over the leadership of the Labour Party to Gordon Brown, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer.[5] Blair tendered his resignation on 27 June 2007 and his successor, Gordon Brown assumed 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.[84] 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.[85]

Policies

In 2001, Blair said, "We are a left of centre party, pursuing economic prosperity and social justice as partners and not as opposites".[86] 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.[87] However, Labour Party backbenchers and other left wing critics typically place Blair to the right of centre.[88] 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.[89][90] The Financial Times on the other hand has argued that Blair is not conservative, but instead a populist.[91] The new Clause IV of the Labour Party's constitution defines the party as "Democratic Socialist".

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.[92] 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.[93][94] 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.[95][96]

Blair has raised taxes (but did not increase income tax for high-earners[citation needed]); introduced a minimum wage and some new employment rights (while keeping Margaret Thatcher's anti-trade union legislation[citation needed]); 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.[citation needed] Under Blair's government the amount of new legislation increased[97] which attracted criticism.[98] Blair increased police powers by adding to the number of arrestable offences, compulsory DNA recording and the use of dispersal orders.[99]

Environmental record

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."[100] His record at home tends to say something different. Blair and his party have promised a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide[101] 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.[102]

In 2000 Blair "flagged up" 100 million euros for green policies and urged environmentalists and businesses to work together.[103]

Foreign policy

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.

Along with enjoying a close relationship with Bill Clinton, 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".[104] Blair has also often openly been referred to as "Bush's poodle".[105] 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 US 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".[106]

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".[107]

The alliance between Bush and Blair seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of many British people.[108] 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.[109] 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.[110] 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.[111]

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.[112] Blair has been a long time member of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel.[113]

In 1994, Blair met Michael Levy, later Lord Levy, a pop music mogul and fundraiser.[114] Blair and Levy became close friends and tennis partners.

During his first visit to Israel, Blair thought the Israelis bugged him in his car. He also went on to claim that the Israeli prime minister was merely an "armour-plated bullshitter".[115]

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 with a peerage, and in 2002, 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'.[116][117] 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.[118]

Blair, on coming to office, had been 'cool towards the right-wing Netanyahu government'.[119] After the election in 1999 of Ehud Barak, with whom Blair forged a close relationship, he became much more sympathetic to Israel.[119] From 2001 Blair also built up a relationship with Barak's successor, Ariel Sharon, and responded positively to Arafat, whom he had met thirteen times since becoming prime minister and regarded as essential to future negotiations.[119] In 2004, 50 former diplomats, including ambassadors to Baghdad and Tel Aviv, stated they had 'watched with deepening concern' at Britain following the US into war in Iraq in 2003. They criticised Blair's support for the Road map for peace which included the retaining of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.[120]

In 2006 Blair was criticised for his failure to immediately call for a ceasefire in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict. 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.[121] Blair was criticised for his solid stance alongside US President George W. Bush on Middle East policy.[122]

In March 2010 the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments revealed that 14 months after resigning as Prime Minister, Blair had served as a paid business consultant to an oil firm with interests in Iraq.[123] The news raised concerns that he had profited financially from contacts he made during the Iraq war.[124]


Relationship with media

Rupert Murdoch

Blair was reported to have been supported by Rupert Murdoch the founder of the News Corporation organisation.[125] 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.[126]

Contacts with UK media proprietors

A Cabinet Office 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.[127]

The response includes contacts "clearly of an official nature" in the specified period, but excludes contacts "not clearly of an official nature."[128] 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.[129][130]

The information was disclosed after a three and a half year battle by the Liberal Democrats' Lord Avebury.[127] Lord Avebury's initial October 2003 information request was dismissed by then leader of the Lords, Baroness Amos.[127] A following complaint was rejected, with Downing Street claiming the information compromised free and frank discussions, while Cabinet Office 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.[127] 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."[127]

Media portrayal

Blair is acknowledged by most[who?] to be a highly skilful media performer who comes over as charismatic, informal, and articulate.[citation needed] 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".[131][132]

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.[citation needed]

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.[133] Some ministers viewed Blair's announcement of policy initiatives in September 2006 as an attempt to draw attention away from these issues.[133]

Blair forged friendships with several conservative European leaders, including Silvio Berlusconi of Italy,[134] Angela Merkel of Germany[135] and more recently Nicolas Sarkozy of France.[136]

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 Commons) 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. Brown, who considered himself the senior of the two, understood that Blair would give way to him: opinion polls soon indicated, however, that Blair appeared to enjoy greater support among voters.[137] Their relationship in power became so turbulent that (it was reported) the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, often had to act as "marriage guidance counsellor".[138]

During the 2010 election campaign Blair publicly endorsed Gordon Brown's leadership, praising the way he had handled the financial crisis.[139]

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.[140] Blair originally indicated that he would retain his parliamentary seat after his resignation as Prime Minister came into effect; however, on being confirmed for the Middle East role he resigned from the Commons by taking up an office of profit.[84] 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".[141][142] In May 2008, Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.[143]

During the first nine days of the 2008–2009 Israel-Gaza conflict, Blair was allegedly spotted at the opening of the Armani store at Knightsbridge. Aides said he had been in phone contact with other world leaders since the fighting began.[144]

Private sector

In January 2008, it was confirmed that Blair would be joining investment bank JPMorgan Chase in a "senior advisory capacity"[145] 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 a year.[145] This additional salary will contribute to annual earnings of over £7m.[146]

Blair also gives lectures and earns up to US$250,000 for a 90-minute speech.[147][148] Yale University announced on 7 March 2008 that Blair will teach a course on issues of faith and globalisation at the Yale Schools of Management and Divinity as a Howland distinguished fellow during the 2008–09 academic year.[149]

Blair's links with, and receipt of an undisclosed sum from, UI Energy Corporation, a Korean company with oil interests in northern Iraq, have also been subject to media comment in the UK.[150]

Speculation places his personal wealth at £60 million, mostly earned since his tenure as Prime Minister, and owns nine properties around the world.[151] In July 2010 it was reported that his personal security guards claimed £250,000 a year in expenses from the tax payer, Foreign Secretary William Hague said; "we have to make sure that [Blair's security] is as cost-effective as possible, that it doesn't cost any more to the taxpayer than is absolutely necessary".[152]

Tony Blair Associates

Blair has established Tony Blair Associates. This firm will "allow him to provide, in partnership with others, strategic advice on a commercial and pro bono [free] basis, on political and economic trends and governmental reform."[153] However, Blair has been the subject of criticism for apparent conflicts of interest that allow the former prime minister, now a Middle East peace envoy, to earn large sums of money, both directly and through Tony Blair Associates.[154][155]

In the Quartet

Nabil Shaath, a senior Abbas associate, said that Blair was acting as Israel's "defence attorney" in face of Abbas' application for a Palestinian state to be admitted as a full member of the United Nations. According to a recent episode of the investigative documentary series Dispatches, on the UK's Channel 4,[156] Blair has used his Quartet role to gain introductions and proximity to Arab leaders, with whom he then signed private consulting contracts for Tony Blair Associates. He obtained one such contract, worth $40m from the Emir of Kuwait, to advise on reforms, and another from the rulers of the United Arab Emirates. Blair was instrumental in lobbying Israel to release frequencies in November 2009 for mobile phone company Wataniya to operate in the occupied West Bank. Wataniya is owned by the Qatari telecoms giant Q-Tel which bought Wataniya in 2007 with a $2 billions, loan arranged by the bank JP Morgan, according to Dispatches. Blair also works for JP Morgan, which pays him over $2m a year for providing "strategic" advice. JP Morgan stood to make "substantial profits" if the deal went through, the British documentary said. Israel had tied approval of Wataniya's frequencies to the PA dropping efforts to pursue the Goldstone report on Israeli war crimes in Gaza, through the UN. Blair also brokered another major deal with Israel for British Gas to secure contracts to exploit natural gas fields worth up to $6 billions, in the territorial waters of the Gaza Strip. Blair negotiated the deal directly with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No Palestinians in Gaza were ever consulted. Apparently Blair is not bound by any of the conflict of interest and disclosure regulations governing UN employees, or British officials even though government funds support his Jerusalem office. In 2007, the United Nations Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People spent over $400,000 on three armoured cars for Blair. [157]

European Council president speculation

In 2009, there was speculation in the media 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 added his support, but noted that it was premature to discuss candidates before the treaty was approved. A spokesman for Blair did not rule out him accepting the post, but said that he was concentrating on his current role in the Middle East.[158] Blair was later invited to speak on European issues at a rally of President Sarkozy's party, the Union for a Popular Movement, on 12 January 2008, which fuelled speculation further.[159][160]

There was opposition to Blair's candidacy for the job. In the UK, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats both said they would oppose Blair. In Germany, the leader of the Free Democrats, Guido Westerwelle, said that he preferred a candidate from a smaller European country.[161] The Prime Minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker emerged as a rival to Blair's candidacy and had the backing for many of the smaller European member states. In November 2009, the Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy was named President of the European Council.[162][163]

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."[164] 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".[165] "The Foundation will use its profile and resources to encourage people of faith to work together more closely to tackle global poverty and conflict," says its mission statement.[166]

In February 2009, he applied to set up a charity called the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative, the application was approved in November 2009.[167]

Memoirs

In March 2010, it was reported that Blair's memoirs, titled The Journey, would be published in September 2010.[168] In July 2010 it was announced the memoirs would be retitled A Journey.[169] It was announced on 16 August 2010 that Blair would give the £4.6 million advance and all royalties from his memoirs to a sports centre for badly injured soldiers.[170] The book was published on 1 September and within hours of its launch had become the fastest-selling autobiography of all time.[171] On 3 September Blair gave his first live interview since publication on The Late Late Show in Ireland, with protesters lying in wait there for him.[172][173] On 4 September Blair was confronted by 200 anti-war and hardline Irish nationalist demonstrators before the first book signing of his memoirs at Eason's bookstore on O'Connell Street in Dublin, with angry activists chanting "war criminal" and that he had "blood on his hands", and clashing with Irish Police (Garda Síochána) as they tried to break through a security cordon outside the Eason's store. Blair was pelted with eggs and shoes, and encountered an attempted citizen's arrest for war crimes.[174] Social networking media have been used to protest Blair's policies and legacy of unjustified and criminal war on Iraq[175]

Portrayals and cameo appearances

Appearances

Blair made an animated cameo appearance as himself in The Simpsons episode, "The Regina Monologues" (2003)[176] 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 Blair and Bertie Ahern.[177] On 16 March 2007, Blair featured 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?".[178]

Portrayals

Michael Sheen has portrayed Blair three times, in the films The Deal (2003), The Queen (2006), and The Special Relationship (2009). Blair was portrayed by Robert Lindsay in the TV programme A Very Social Secretary (2005), and reprised the role in The Trial of Tony Blair (2007). He was also portrayed by James Larkin in The Government Inspector (2005), and by Ioan Gruffudd in W. (2008).[citation needed]

Blair in fiction and satire

When Blair resigned as Prime Minister, Robert Harris, a former Fleet Street 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.[179] 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. The film was released in February 2010 in the US.[180] Polanski's film saw Pierce Brosnan portray former-Prime Minister Adam Lang, and dramatises Blair's relationship with the United States, as well as the possibility of war crime charges.[181]

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

Blair is presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

In May 2007, before his resignation, it was reported that Blair would be offered a knighthood in the Order of the Thistle, owing to his Scottish connections (rather than the Order of the Garter, which is usually offered to former Prime Ministers).[183] No such move has been made since, and Blair has reportedly indicated that he does not want the traditional knighthood or peerage bestowed on former prime ministers.[184]

On 22 May 2008, Blair received an honorary law doctorate from Queen's University Belfast, alongside former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, for distinction in public service and roles in the Northern Ireland peace process.[185]

On 13 January 2009, Blair was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.[186] Bush stated that Blair was given the award "in recognition of exemplary achievement and to convey the utmost esteem of the American people"[187] and cited Blair's support for the War on Terror and his role in achieving peace in Northern Ireland as two reasons for justifying his being presented with the award.[188][189]

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.[190][191]

On 13 September 2010, Blair was awarded the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was presented by former President Bill Clinton, and is awarded annually to men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.

Works

See also

Notes

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Further reading

  • Abse, Leo (2001). Tony Blair: The Man Behind the Smile. Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-364-9. 
  • Beckett, F. & Hencke, D. (2004). The Blairs and Their Court. Aurum Press. ISBN 1-84513-024-3. 
  • Tony Blair: The Man Who Lost His Smile. Robson Books. 2003. ISBN 1-86105-698-2. 
  • Blair, Tony (1998). (ed.) Iain Dale. ed. The Blair Necessities: Tony Blair Book of Quotations. Robson Books. ISBN 1-86105-139-5. 
  • (ed.) Paul Richards, ed (2004). Tony Blair: In His Own Words. Politico's Publishing. ISBN 1-84275-089-5. 
  • Gould, Philip (1999). The Unfinished Revolution: How the Modernisers Saved the Labour Party. Abacus. ISBN 0-349-11177-4. 
  • Naughtie, James (2001). The Rivals: The Intimate Story of a Political Marriage. Fourth Estate. ISBN 1-84115-473-3. 
  • The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency. Macmillan. 2004. ISBN 1-4050-5001-2. 
  • Rawnsley, Andrew (2000). Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour. Hamish Hamilton. ISBN 0-241-14029-3. 
  • Servants of the People: The Inside Story of New Labour (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. 2001. ISBN 0-14-027850-8. 
  • Rentoul, John (2001). Tony Blair: Prime Minister. Little Brown. ISBN 0-316-85496-4. 
  • Riddell, Peter (2004). The Unfulfilled Prime Minister: Tony Blair and the End of Optimism. Politico's Publishing. ISBN 1-84275-113-1. 
  • Seldon, Anthony (2004). Blair. Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-3211-9. 
  • Short, Clare (2004). An Honourable Deception? New Labour, Iraq, and the Misuse of Power. Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-6392-8. 
  • Stephens, Philip (2004). Tony Blair: The Making of a World Leader. Viking Books. ISBN 0-670-03300-6. 
  • Wheatcroft, Geoffrey (2007). Yo, Blair!. Methuen. ISBN 9781842732067. 

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