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Tony Blair

(b. 1953) British Labour statesman, Prime Minister 1997–2007


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(1953– )

British Labour politician, Prime Minister 1997–2007. Blair, a lawyer before entering politics, was elected as a Labour Member of Parliament in 1983 and became a member of the shadow cabinet in 1984. A ‘modernizer’, he took part in negotiations to end the ‘closed shop’ trade union monopoly over certain jobs, and insisted that the Labour Party should support private enterprise. As shadow spokesman for Home Affairs (1992–94) he emphasized the need to tackle the underlying social causes of crime. He became Leader of the Opposition following the death of John Smith in 1994 and led ‘New Labour’ to an overwhelming victory in the general election of 1997. In government he promoted major constitutional changes, including devolution in Scotland and Wales and a new settlement in Northern Ireland. A sweeping victory in the general election of 2001 gave him a second term. Following the events of September 11, 2001, Blair pledged the UK's full support for President Bush's war on terrorism and committed British troops to the conflict. In 2003 Blair involved British troops in the Iraq War, on the grounds that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction posed an imminent threat. When no such weapons were found, Blair faced mounting criticism but continued to justify the UK's participation. Domestically, after 2001 he concentrated on reform of the public services, especially health and education. He was returned for a third term in 2005, albeit with a much reduced parliamentary majority. He resigned in 2007 and was succeeded by Gordon Brown.

Subjects: world history — contemporary history (post 1945).


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