Blair, Anthony

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Blair, Anthony ( ‘Tony’ Blair) (b. 1953). Prime minister. Educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh and St John's College, Oxford, Tony Blair followed his elder brother William to Lincoln's Inn and qualified as a lawyer. He entered Parliament in 1983 as Labour MP for Sedgfield, Durham, and soon made his mark as an articulate and forceful speaker and an adroit TV performer. He was elected to the shadow cabinet in 1988 and was spokesman on Home Affairs when John Smith died in 1994. Blair won the leadership contest with ease, defeating John Prescott and Margaret Beckett. He pursued Neil Kinnock's policy of working to shed Labour's ‘loony left’ image: ‘New Labour’ 's reward was a massive majority at the general election of May 1997. Insisting that his administration would be radical and reforming, Blair undertook a series of initiatives, not all of which seemed thought out. The consequences of devolution in Scotland, Wales, and London appeared to surprise the government when local people claimed influence and the nationalists did well. Abolition of the hereditary element in the Lords was carried through without, it seemed, much idea of what was to follow. Blair's sympathy for the EEC was inhibited by the poor performance of the euro, and he found some difficulty in wooing the business community without alienating traditional Labour support. Knitting together Old and New Labour proved at times hard. Nevertheless, Blair's personal popularity remained high. He was returned to power at the general elections of 2001 and 2005—one of the most remarkable achievements of modern politics. His second term of office was dominated by the need to combat international terrorism. The continuing difficulties in Iraq brought him severe criticism, yet in the 2005 election he maintained his position, though with a substantially reduced majority. He resigned in 2007 and was succeeded by Gordon Brown.

J. A. Cannon