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Blair prepares to step down, outlines legacy

world Updated: Apr 27, 2007 15:27 IST
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The countdown has begun for Tony Blair stepping down as Britain's prime minister, with the man outlining the legacy of his last 10 years in office in a 22-page dossier to Labour MPs.

Blair announced last year that he would step down in 2007. It is widely believed that he will announce his departure after the results of the May 3 local elections in England, Wales and Scotland are announced.

Next Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the election victory that brought Labour to power in 1997. Chancellor Gordon Brown is expected to take over from Blair as Britain's next prime minister.

In the dossier, Blair claimed that his 10 years in power have transformed the British political landscape and that this has drawn other parties on to Labour's ground.

He admitted that he would leave office this summer with unfinished business on climate change, pensions and skills, and conceded that public opposition to the Iraq war had not cooled four years after the invasion.

But he argued in the covering letter that New Labour's central theme - offering both economic prosperity and social justice - had "stood the test of time". It was now "the governing idea of British politics" and every contender for power had to "profess to believe in it".

Blair wrote: "This is why the achievements we have to our credit are durable - because the ground of politics has shifted. We have dealt, once and for all, with the suspicion that Labour is not the party of aspiration. And we have forced a serious identity crisis, by no means resolved, on our opponents."

Without terming it the 'anti-incumbency factor', Blair admitted that the party faced "difficulties and troubles" at this stage of the political cycle. He also acknowledged that Labour's critics would try to argue that "nothing much has changed" in the past decade.

He wrote: "Politics is never complete. As one issue is dealt with another emerges. Today, we still have work to do - on climate change, pensions, skills, to name but three. But we should still be confident that we remain the only political party with serious answers to these questions."

On Iraq, Blair said "history will make its own judgement on our policy", and added that the "strong views which the war in Iraq generated are still felt today". He linked the decision to topple Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US.

He wrote: "9/11 fundamentally changed the world... We are still dealing with its impact, most obviously, in both Afghanistan and Iraq." He listed regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq as the key moments in foreign affairs during his time in office.

In international affairs, Britain had not found a role for itself in 1997, the dossier said, but now "our influence and access across the globe has increased with Britain helping to set the agenda rather than follow it".

The dossier highlighted Labour's record three successive election victories: "In 1992, serious commentators suggested that Labour could never win another general election... Fifteen years on, the party has won three in a row - and will continue in power if it sticks to its principles."

It concluded: "Labour in office has combined objectives which had once been considered competing opposites: a strong economy and investment in services; being tough on criminals while helping offenders turn their back on crime; improving public services and supporting the workforce."

"In doing so, the essence of Third Way politics is now the guiding principle for all mainstream British political parties."

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