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Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (born 6 May 1953) is a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. After his resignation, he was appointed Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, an office which he held until 2015. He currently serves as the executive chairman of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, established in 2016. As Labour Leader, Blair advocated the "Third Way."[a]

Blair was born in Edinburgh; his father, Leo, was a barrister and academic. After attending the independent school Fettes College, he studied law at St John's College, Oxford and became a barrister. He became involved in Labour politics and was elected Member of Parliament for Sedgefield in 1983. He supported moving the party to the centre of British politics in an attempt to help it win power (it had been out of government since 1979). He was appointed to the party's frontbench in 1988 and became Shadow Home Secretary in 1992. He became Leader of the Opposition on his election as Labour Party leader in 1994, following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith. Under Blair, the party used the phrase "New Labour" to distance itself from previous Labour politics and the traditional idea of socialism. Despite opposition from Labour's left wing, he abolished Clause IV, the party's formal commitment to the nationalisation of the economy, weakened trade union influence in the party, and committed to the free market and the European Union. In 1997, the Labour Party won its largest landslide general election victory in its history. Blair became the country's youngest leader since 1812 and remains the party's longest-serving occupant of the office. Labour won two more general elections under his leadership—in 2001, in which it won another landslide victory (albeit with the lowest turnout since 1918), and in 2005, with a greatly reduced majority. He resigned as Prime Minister and Labour Party leader in 2007 and was succeeded by Gordon Brown, who had been his Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1997.

Blair's governments enacted constitutional reforms, removing most hereditary peers from the House of Lords, while also establishing the UK's Supreme Court and reforming the office of Lord Chancellor (thereby separating judicial powers from the legislative and executive branches). His government held referendums in which Scottish and Welsh electorates voted in favour of devolved administration, paving the way for the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly (today parliament) in 1999. He was also involved in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement. His time in office occurred during a period of continued economic growth, but this became increasingly dependent on mounting debt. In 1997, his government gave the Bank of England powers to set interest rates autonomously and he later oversaw a large increase in public spending, especially in healthcare and education. He championed multiculturalism and, between 1997 and 2007, immigration rose considerably, especially after his government welcomed immigration from the new EU member states in 2004. This provided a cheap and flexible labour supply but also fuelled Euroscepticism, especially among some of his party's core voters. His other social policies were generally progressive; he introduced the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and in 2004 allowed gay couples to enter into civil partnerships. However, he declared himself "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" and oversaw increasing incarceration rates and new anti-social behaviour legislation, despite contradictory evidence about the change in crime rates.

Blair oversaw British interventions in Kosovo (1999) and Sierra Leone (2000) which were generally perceived as successful. During the War on Terror, he supported the foreign policy of the George W. Bush administration and ensured that the British Armed Forces participated in the War in Afghanistan from 2001 and, more controversially, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair argued that the Saddam Hussein regime possessed an active weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program, but no stockpiles of WMDs or an active WMD program were ever found in Iraq. The Iraq War became increasingly unpopular among the British public, and he was criticised by opponents and (in 2016) the Iraq Inquiry for waging an unjustified and unnecessary invasion. He was in office when the 7/7 bombings took place (2005) and introduced a range of anti-terror legislation. His legacy remains controversial, not least because of his interventions in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Despite his electoral successes and reforms, he has also been criticised for his relationship with the media, centralisation of executive powers, and aspects of his social and economic policies.

With a general election due, Blair had not been selected as a candidate anywhere. He was invited to stand again in Beaconsfield, and was initially inclined to agree

With a general election due, Blair had not been selected as a candidate anywhere. He was invited to stand again in Beaconsfield, and was initially inclined to agree but was advised by his head of chambers Derry Irvine to find somewhere else which might be winnable.[31] The situation was complicated by the fact that Labour was fighting a legal action against planned boundary changes, and had selected candidates on the basis of previous boundaries. When the legal challenge failed, the party had to rerun all selections on the new boundaries; most were based on existing seats, but unusually in County Durham a new Sedgefield constituency had been created out of Labour-voting areas which had no obvious predecessor seat.[32]

The selecti

The selection for Sedgefield did not begin until after the 1983 general election was called. Blair's initial inquiries discovered that the left was trying to arrange the selection for Les Huckfield, sitting MP for Nuneaton who was trying elsewhere; several sitting MPs displaced by boundary changes were also interested in it. When he discovered the Trimdon branch had not yet made a nomination, Blair visited them and won the support of the branch secretary John Burton, and with Burton's help was nominated by the branch. At the last minute, he was added to the shortlist and won the selection over Huckfield. It was the last candidate selection made by Labour before the election, and was made after the Labour Party had issued biographies of all its candidates ("Labour's Election Who's Who").[33]

John Burton became Blair's election agent and one of his most trusted and longest-standing allies.[34] Blair's election literature in the 1983 general election endorsed left-wing policies that Labour advocated in the early 1980s.[citation needed] He called for Britain to leave the EEC[35] as early as the 1970s,[36] though he had told his selection conference that he personally favoured continuing membership[citation needed] and voted "Yes" in the 1975 referendum on the subject. He opposed the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1986 but supported the ERM by 1989.[37] He was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, despite never strongly being in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament.[38] Blair was helped on the campaign trail by soap opera actress Pat Phoenix, his father-in-law's girlfriend. At the age of thirty, he was elected as MP for Sedgefield in 1983; despite the party's landslide defeat at the general election.[citation needed]

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."[39]

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.[40]

Blair demanded an inquiry into the Bank of England's decision to rescue the collapsed Johnson Matthey bank in October 1985. 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.[citation needed]

In 1987, he stood for election to the Shadow Cabinet, receiving 71 votes.[41] When Kinnock resigned after a fourth consecutive Conservative victory in the 1992 general election, Blair became Shadow Home Secretary under John Smith. The old guard argued that trends showed they were regaining strength under Smith's strong leadership. Meanwhile, the breakaway SDP faction had merged with the Liberal Party; the resulting Liberal Democrats seemed to pose a major threat to the Labour base. Blair, the leader of the modernising faction, had an entirely different vision, arguing that the long-term trends had to be reversed. The Labour Party was too locked into a base that was shrinking, since it was based on the working-class, on trade unions, and on residents of subsidised council housing. The rapidly growing middle-class was largely ignored, especially the more ambitious working-class families. They aspired to middle-class status, but accepted the Conservative argument that Labour was holding ambitious people back with its levelling-down policies. They increasingly saw Labour in terms defined by the opposition, regarding higher taxes and higher interest rates. The steps towards what would become New Labour were procedural, but essential. Calling on the slogan, "One member, one vote" John Smith (with limited input from Blair) secured an end to the trade union block vote for Westminster candidate selection at the 1993 conference.[42] But Blair and the modernisers wanted Smith to go further still, and called for radical adjustment of Party goals by repealing "Clause IV," the historic commitment to nationalisation of industry. This would be achieved in 1995.[43]

Leader of the Opposit

John Smith died suddenly in 1994 of a heart attack. Blair defeated John Prescott and Margaret Beckett in the subsequent leadership election and became Leader of the Opposition.[44] As is customary for the holder of that office, Blair was appointed a Privy Councillor.[45]

Clause IV of the party's constitution with a new statement of aims and values.[44] 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.[44][46] At a special conference in April 1995, the clause was replaced by a statement that the party is "democratic socialist",[46][47][48] and Blair also claimed to be a "democratic socialist" himself in the same year.[49] However, the move away from nationalisation in the old Clause IV made many on the left-wing of the Labour Party feel that Labour was moving away from traditional socialist principles of nationalisation set out in 1918, and was seen by them as part of a shift of the party towards "New Labour".[50]

He inherited the Labour leadership at a time when the party was ascendant over the Conservatives in the opinion polls, since the Conservative government's reputation for monetary excellence record was left in tatters by the Black Wednesday economic disaster of September 1992. Blair's election as leader saw Labour support surge higher still[51] 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.[51] At the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair stated that his three top priorities on coming to office were "education, education, and education".[52]

Aided by the unpopularity of John Major's Conservative government (itself deeply divided over the European Union),[53] "New Labour" won a landslide victory at the 1997 general election, ending eighteen years of Conservative Party rule, with the heaviest Conservative defeat

He inherited the Labour leadership at a time when the party was ascendant over the Conservatives in the opinion polls, since the Conservative government's reputation for monetary excellence record was left in tatters by the Black Wednesday economic disaster of September 1992. Blair's election as leader saw Labour support surge higher still[51] 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.[51] At the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair stated that his three top priorities on coming to office were "education, education, and education".[52]

Aided by the unpopularity of John Major's Conservative government (itself deeply divided over the European Union),[53] "New Labour" won a landslide victory at the 1997 general election, ending eighteen years of Conservative Party rule, with the heaviest Conservative defeat since 1906.[54]

According to diaries released by Paddy Ashdown, during Smith's leadership of the Labour Party, there were discussions with Ashdown about forming a coalition government if the next general election resulted in a hung parliament. Ashdown also claimed that Blair was a supporter of proportional representation (PR).[55] In addition to Ashdown, Liberal Democrat MPs Menzies Campbell and Alan Beith were earmarked for places in the cabinet if a Labour-Lib Dem coalition was formed.[56] Blair was forced to back down on these proposals because John Prescott and Gordon Brown opposed the PR system, and many members of the Shadow Cabinet were worried about concessions being made towards the Lib Dems.[56] In the event, virtually every opinion poll since late-1992 put Labour ahead with enough support to form an overall majority.[57]

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. Aged 43, Blair became the youngest person to become Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool became Prime Minister aged 42 in 1812.[58] He was also the first Prime Minister born after World War II and the accession of Elizabeth II to the throne. With victories in 1997, 2001, and 2005, Blair was the Labour Party's longest-serving Prime Minister,[59] and the first and only person to date to lead the party to three consecutive general election victories.[60]

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.[61][62] Following the Northern Ireland peace process by helping to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement (after 30 years of conflict) was widely recognised.[61][62] 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.[63]

Military intervention and the War on Terror

In his first six years in office, Blair ordered British troops into combat 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).In his first six years in office, Blair ordered British troops into combat 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).[64]

The Kosovo War, which Blair had advocated on moral grounds, was initially a failure

The Kosovo War, which Blair had advocated on moral grounds, was initially a failure when it relied solely on air strikes; the threat of a ground offensive convinced Serbia's Slobodan Milošević to withdraw. Blair had been a major advocate for a ground offensive, which Bill Clinton was reluctant to do, and ordered that 50,000 soldiers – most of the available British Army – should be made ready for action.[65] The following year, the limited Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone swiftly swung the tide against the rebel forces; before deployment, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone had been on the verge of collapse.[66] Palliser had been intended as an evacuation mission but Brigadier David Richards was able to convince Blair to allow him to expand the role; at the time, Richards' action was not known and Blair was assumed to be behind it.[67]

Blair ordered Operation Barras, a highly successful SAS/Parachute Regiment strike to rescue hostages from a Sierra Leone rebel group.[68] Historian Andrew Marr has argued that the success of ground attacks, real and threatened, over air strikes alone was influential on how Blair planned the Iraq War, and that the success of the first three wars Blair fought "played to his sense of himself as a moral war leader".[69] When asked in 2010 if the success of Palliser may have "embolden[ed] British politicians" to think of military action as a policy option, General Sir David Richards admitted there "might be something in that".[67]

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 own MPs opposed it.[70]

As a result, he faced criticism over the policy itself and the circumstances of the decision. 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."[71] 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.[72] Playwright Harold Pinter and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused Blair of war crimes.[73][74]As a result, he faced criticism over the policy itself and the circumstances of the decision. 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."[71] 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.[72] Playwright Harold Pinter and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused Blair of war crimes.[73][74]

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."[75] Blair said that British and American attitude towards Saddam Hussein had "changed dramatically" after the 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.[76] He said 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."[77] In an October 2015 CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria, Blair apologised for his "mistakes" over Iraq War and admitted there were "elements of truth" to the view that the invasion helped promote the rise of ISIS.[78] The Chilcot Inquiry report of 2016 gave a damning assessment of Blair's role in the Iraq War, though the former prime minister again refused to apologise for his decision to back the US-led invasion.[79]

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[80] and – from 2002 – broke precedent by agreeing to give evidence twice yearly before the most senior Commons select committee, the Liaison Committee.[81] 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.[82][83] 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.[84] Blair was accused of excessive reliance on spin.[85][86] He was the first UK prime minister to have been formally questioned by police, though not under caution, while still in office.[87]

Events before resignation

As the casualties of the Iraq War mounted, Blair was accused of misleading Parliament,[88][89] and his popularity dropped dramatically.[90][91]

Labour's overall majority at the 2005 general election was reduced from 167 to 66 seats. 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.[92][93] Over the summer of 2006 many MPs, including usually supportive MPs, criticised Blair for not calling for a ceasefire in the 2006 Israel–Lebanon conflict.[94] 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 2007,2005 general election was reduced from 167 to 66 seats. 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.[92][93] Over the summer of 2006 many MPs, including usually supportive MPs, criticised Blair for not calling for a ceasefire in the 2006 Israel–Lebanon conflict.[94] 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,[95] 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.[citation needed]

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 under Blair's three ministries.[96] Blair tendered his resignation on 27 June 2007 and Brown assumed office during the same afternoon. Blair resigned from his Sedgfield 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.[97] 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.[98]

In 2001, Blair said, "We are a left of centre party, pursuing economic prosperity and social justice as partners and not as opposites".[99] Blair rarely applies 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.[100] However, in a 2007 opinion piece in the Guardian, left-wing commentator Neil Lawson described Blair as to the right of centre.[101] A YouGov opinion poll in 2005 found that a small majority of British voters, including many New Labour supporters, placed Blair on the right of the political spectrum.[102] The Financial Times on the other hand has argued that Blair is not conservative, but instead a populist.[103]

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 crit

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, such as Mike Marqusee in 2001, argued that Blair oversaw the final stage of a long term shift of the Labour Party to the right.[104]

There is some evidence that Blair's long term dominance of the centre forced his Conservative opponents to shift a long distance to the left to challenge his hegemony there.[105] Leading Conservatives of the post-New Labour era hold Blair in high regard: George Osborne describes him as "the master", Michael Gove thought he had an "entitlement to conservative respect" in February 2003, while David Cameron reportedly maintained Blair as an informal adviser.[106][107][108]

Blair increased police powers by adding to the number of arrestable offences, compulsory DNA recording and the use of dispersal orders.[109] Under Blair's government the amount of new legislation increased[110] which attracted criticism.[111] He also introduced tough anti-terrorism and identity card legislation.

During his time as prime minister, Blair raised taxes; introduced a National Minimum Wage and some new employment rights (while keeping Margaret Thatcher's trade union reforms[112]); 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 and sought to reduce certain categories of welfare payments. He did not reverse the privatisation of the railways enacted by his predecessor John Major and instead strengthened regulation (by creating the Office of Rail Regulation) and limited fare rises to inflation +1%.[113][114][115]

NHS spending 1948/49 to 2014/15[116]

Blair and Brown raised spending on the NHS and other public services, increasing spending from 39.9% of GDP to 48.1% in 2010–11.[117][117][118] They pledged in 2001 to bring NHS spending to the levels of other European countries, and doubled spending in real terms to over £100 billion in England alone.[119]

Immigration

Non-European immigration rose significantly during the period from 1997, not least because of the government's abolition of the primary purpose rule in June 1997.[120] This change made it easier for UK residents to bring foreign spouses into the country. The former government advisor Andrew Neather in the Evening Standard stated that the deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until early 2008 was to open up the UK to mass migration.[121]government's abolition of the primary purpose rule in June 1997.[120] This change made it easier for UK residents to bring foreign spouses into the country. The former government advisor Andrew Neather in the Evening Standard stated that the deliberate policy of ministers from late 2000 until early 2008 was to open up the UK to mass migration.[121][122] Neather later stated that his words had been twisted, saying: "The main goal was to allow in more migrant workers at a point when – hard as it is to imagine now – the booming economy was running up against skills shortages.... Somehow this has become distorted by excitable Right-wing newspaper columnists into being a "plot" to make Britain multicultural. There was no plot."[123]

Environmental r

Blair 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."[124] Blair and his party promised a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide.[125] The Labour Party also claimed that by 2010 10% of the energy would come from renewable resources; however, it only reached 7% by that point.[126]

In 2000, Blair "flagged up" 100 million euros for green policies and urged environ

In 2000, Blair "flagged up" 100 million euros for green policies and urged environmentalists and businesses to work together.[127]

Blair built his foreign policy on basic principles (close ties with U.S. and E.U.) and added a new activist philosophy of "interventionism". In 2001 Britain joined the U.S. in the global war on terror.[128]

Blair forged friendships with several European leaders, including Silvio Berlusconi of Italy,[129] Angela Merkel of Germany[130] and later Nicolas Sarkozy of France.[131]

Blair forged friendships with several European leaders, including Silvio Berlusconi of Italy,[129] Angela Merkel of Germany[130] and later Nicolas Sarkozy of France.[131]

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. For his part, Bush lauded Blair and the UK. In his post-9/11 speech, for example, he stated that "America has no truer friend than Great Britain".[132]

The alliance between Bush and Blair seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of Britons angry at American influence.[133] Blair argued it was in Britain's interest to "protect and strengthen the bond" with the United States regardless of who is in the White House.[134]

However, a perception of one-sided compromising personal and political closeness led to 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.[135] A revealing conversation between Bush and Blair, with the

The alliance between Bush and Blair seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of Britons angry at American influence.[133] Blair argued it was in Britain's interest to "protect and strengthen the bond" with the United States regardless of who is in the White House.[134]

However, a perception of one-sided compromising personal and political closeness led to 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.[135] A revealing conversation between Bush and Blair, with the former addressing the latter as "Yo [or Yeah], Blair" was recorded when they did not know a microphone was live at the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg in 2006.[136] In September 2019, during a panel discussion on the annual Yalta European Strategy forum, Blair said that the Western Countries should not neglect Ukraine in relations to the Russian Federation.[137]

On 30 January 2003, Blair signed The letter of the eight supporting U.S. policy on Iraq.[138]

Blair showed a deep feeling for Israel, b

Blair showed a deep feeling for Israel, born in part from his faith.[139] Blair has been a longtime member of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel.[140]

In 1994, Blair forged close ties with Michael Levy, a leader of the Jewish Leadership Council.[141] Levy ran the Labour Leader's Office Fund to finance Blair's campaign before the 1997 election and raised £12 million towards Labour's landslide victory, Levy was rewarded with a peerage, and in 2002, Blair appointed Lord Levy as his personal envoy to the Middle East. Levy praised Blair for his "solid and committed support of the State of Israel".[142] 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, Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw (the last two are not Jewish but have some Jewish ancestry).[143]

Blair, on coming to office, had been "cool towards the right-wing Netanyahu government".[144] During his first visit to Israel, Blair thought the Israelis bugged him in his car.[145] After the election in 1999 of Ehud Barak, with whom Blair forged a close relationship, he became much more sympathetic to Israel.[144] From 2001, Blair built up a relationship[clarification needed] 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.[144] 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.[146]

In 2006 Blair was criticised for his failure to immediately call for a ceasefire in the 2006 Lebanon War. 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.[147] Blair was criticised for his solid stance alongside US President George W. Bush on Middle East policy.[148]

A Freedom of Information request by The Sunday Times in 2012 revealed that Blair's government considered knighting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. The documents showed Blair was willing to appear alongside Assad at a joint press conference even though the Syrians would probably have settled for a farewell handshake for the cameras; British officials sought to manipulate the media to portray Assad in a favourable light; and Blair's aides tried to help Assad's "photogenic" wife boost her profile. The newspaper noted:

bloodbath that has since taken place under his rule in Syria ... The courtship has parallels with Blair's friendly relations with Muammar Gaddafi.[149]

Blair had been on friendly terms with Colonel Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, when sanctions imposed on

Blair had been on friendly terms with Colonel Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, when sanctions imposed on the country were lifted by the US and the UK.[150][151]

Even after

Even after the Libyan Civil War in 2011, he said he had no regrets about his close relationship with the late Libyan leader.[152] During Blair's premiership, MI6 rendered Abdelhakim Belhadj to the Gaddafi regime in 2004, though Blair later claimed he had "no recollection" of the incident.[153]

Blair had an antagonistic relationship with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and allegedly planned regime change against Mugabe in the early 2000s.[154] Zimbabwe had embarked on a program of uncompensated land redistribution from the country's white commercial farmers to the black population, a policy that disrupted agricultural production and threw Zimbabwe's economy into chaos. General Charles Guthrie, the Chief of the Defence Staff, revealed in 2007 that he and Blair had discussed the invasion of Zimbabwe.[155] Guthrie advised against military action: "Hold hard, you'll make it worse."[155] In 2013, South African President Thabo Mbeki said that Blair had pressured South Africa to join in a "regime change scheme, even to the point of using military force" in Zimbabwe.[154] Mbeki refused because he felt that "Mugabe is part of the solution to this problem."[154] However, a spokesman for Blair said that "he never asked anyone to plan or take part in any such military intervention."[154]

Relati

Blair was reported by The Guardian in 2006 to have been supported politically by Rupert Murdoch, the founder of the News Corporation organisation.[156] In 2011, Blair became Godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch's children with Wendi Deng,[157] but he and Murdoch later ended their friendship, in 2014, after Murdoch suspected him of having an affair with Deng while they were still married, according to The Economist magazine.[158][159][160][better source needed]

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.[161]

The response includes contacts "clearly of an official nature" in the specified period, but excludes contacts "not

The response includes contacts "clearly of an official nature" in the specified period, but excludes contacts "not clearly of an official nature."[162] 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 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.[163]

The information was disclosed after a ​3 12-year battle by the Liberal Democrats' Lord Avebury.[161] Lord Avebury's initial October 2003 information request was dismissed by then leader of the Lords, Baroness Amos.[161] 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.[161] 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."[161]

Blair appeared before the Leveson Inquiry on Monday 28 May 2012.[164] During his appearance, a protester, later named as David Lawley-Wakelin, got into the court-room and claimed he was guilty of war crimes before being dragged out.[165]

Blair has been noted as a charismatic, articulate speaker with an informal style.[44] Film and theatre director Richard Eyre opined that "Blair had a very considerable skill as a performer".[166] A few months after becoming Prime Minister Blair 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".[167][168]

After taking office in 1997, Blair gave particular prominence to his press se

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.[169]

Blair had close relationships with the Clinton family. The strong partnership with Bill Clinton was made into the film "The Special Relationship" in 2010.[170]

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.[171] Some ministers viewed Blair's announcement of policy initiatives in September 2006 as an attempt to draw attention away from these issues.[171]

Gordon Brown