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Tony Blair

The Right Hon. Tony Blair
Appointed PM:May 2, 1997
PM Predecessor:John Major
Date of Birth:May 6, 1953
Place of Birth:Edinburgh, Scotland
Political Party:Labour

The Rt. Hon Anthony Charles Lynton "Tony" Blair (born May 6, 1953) became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in 1997.

Born in 1953 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Mr Blair is the son of a barrister and a lecturer. He spent most of his childhood years in Durham. Mr Blair was educated at Fettes in Edinburgh, known as the "Eton of Scotland". He read law at St. John's College, Oxford where he obtained a degree. During his college years he also played guitar and sang for a rock band called Ugly Rumours. Shortly after graduation in 1975 he joined the Labour Party, running unsuccessfully for parliament in 1982 in the safe Tory seat of Beaconsfield. During the early 1980s he was involved in the Hackney Labour Party, where he aligned himself with the "soft left" who looked to be taking control of the party.

During the 1983 UK general election he was elected as the MP for Sedgefield, a constituency that he has held until the present day. Following two general election defeats by Margaret Thatcher in 1983 and 1987, Blair aligned himself firmly with the reforming tendencies in the party, headed by leader Neil Kinnock who gave Blair his first shadow cabinet post, and worked to produce a more moderate and electable party. When Kinnock resigned after defeat by John Major in the 1992 UK general election, Blair became Shadow Home Secretary under John Smith.

In 1994 Smith died of a heart attack. Blair and fellow shadow cabinet member Gordon Brown struck a deal at the Granita restaurant in Islington that would see Blair stand for the leadership, with Brown becoming Chancellor in the event of victory. Elected using the reformed election rules he had helped to bring in, Blair and Brown set about changing the Labour Party, modifying its constitution away from commitments to public ownership, focusing on presenting itself as fiscally competent (after the failures of the Conservative government of that time) and "rebranding" itself as New Labour.

Although it attracted much criticism for its alleged superficiality from both political opponents and traditionalists within the party, the transformation was nevertheless successful. Aided by a Conservative government split over policy toward the European Union and tainted by allegations of corruption, "New Labour" achieved a landslide victory over John Major in the 1997 UK general election.

Blair presided over the British involvement in the Kosovo War, and was the only Prime Minister of the 20th century to father a child while in office. Tony Blair on November 26, 1998 became the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to address the Republic of Ireland's parliament.

In the 2001 UK general election, the Labour Party preserved its majority at an unprecedented level, even in the face of a reduced turnout, and Blair became the first Labour Prime Minister to win a full second term. The leader of the Conservative Party, William Hague resigned and became the first Conservative Party leader since Austen Chamberlain in the 1920s not to have served as Prime Minister.

Following the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center, Blair was quick to align the UK with the US, engaging in a round of shuttle diplomacy to help form and maintain the allied coalition prior to their attack on Afghanistan (in which British troops participated). He continues in this role to this day, showing a willingness to visit countries on diplomatic missions that other world leaders might consider too dangerous to visit.

Blair was a strong supporter of US President George W. Bush's controversial plan to invade Iraq and overthrow dictator Saddam Hussein. Blair soon became the face of international support for the war, often clashing with French President Jacques Chirac, who became the face of international opposition. Regarded as somewhat more articulate than Bush, Blair gave many speeches arguing for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the days leading up to war.

Though the main case against Saddam centered around the Iraqi strongman's alleged possession of illegal weapons of mass destruction, Blair also focused on the Iraqi government's brutal record of human rights abuses as justification for regime change. British troops were deployed in 2003 to assist with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The fact that since Saddam's overthrow no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq continues to be a source of great domestic controversy for the Prime Minister, especially among members of his own party, many of whom strongly dislike George W. Bush and were opposed to the Iraq war.

As is usually the fate with British Prime Ministers, he has become the central focal point of satire in the magazine Private Eye. A regular feature is the St Albion Parish News (incumbent: Rev. A.R.P. Blair MA (Oxon)), in which recent political events and Blair's penchant for spin and his zealous enthusiasms are relentlessly pilloried.

On August 1, 2003 he became the longest sitting Labour Prime Minister, surpassing Harold Wilson's 1964 - 1970 term. However, because of the crisis around the death of David Kelly, there was no celebration.

Private life

Blair is married to noted barrister Cherie Booth whom he met in 1976 whilst both were studying law. They have three sons (Euan, Nicky and Leo) and one daughter (Kathryn). His youngest son, Leo, born 20 May 2000, was the first child to be born to a serving Prime Minister since the 19th century. Whilst the Blairs have been keen to shield their children from the media spotlight, this has not always been possible. Leo became a focal point for a debate over the MMR vaccine. Tony Blair refused to confirm whether Leo has received the vaccine. Euan Blair hit the headlines after being found by police 'drunk and incapable' ([1]) in Leicester Square, London whilst out celebrating the end of his GCSE exam results in July 2000, just days after his father had proposed on-the-spot fines for drunken and yobbish behaviour. The Blairs have also been criticised for "exploiting" their children in public for photocalls when it suits them yet bemoaning the media for naturally following this through.

His wife and children are Roman Catholics, and he has increasingly been seen attending Mass with them.

On October 19, 2003 it became known that Blair received treatment for an irregular heartbeat. He felt ill the previous day and went to hospital where he was diagnosed with supra ventricular tachycardia. He was given a small electric shock to correct the heartbeat and returned home that night. He took October 20 a little slower than usual and returned to a full schedule on October 21. It was later suggested that the palpitations had been brought on by Blair drinking lots of strong coffee at an EU summit and then working out vigourously in the gym ([1]).


See also:
Preceded by:
John Major
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Followed by:
(still in office)