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10 roller coaster yrs at 10 Downing

While announcing his resignation, Tony Blair tells Britons disillusioned by the war in Iraq that he has always done what he believed was right, reports Vijay Dutt.
None | By Vijay Dutt, London
UPDATED ON MAY 11, 2007 02:41 AM IST

Tony Blair announced on Thursday he would step down on June 27 after a decade as prime minister and told Britons disillusioned by the war in Iraq that he had always done what he believed was right.Blair’s popularity has suffered since he sent British forces to join the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and a Labour Party rebellion in September forced him to say he would quit within a year.

Earlier in the morning, he briefed the Cabinet on his plans. He acknowledged his government had not always lived up to high expectations but said he had been very lucky to lead “the greatest nation on earth”.

He will stay on in 10 Downing Street until the Labour Party elects a new leader — widely expected to be finance minister Gordon Brown. Blair will then drive down to Buckingham Palace on June 27 to give his resignation to the Queen. An insider told the Hindustan Times that there was some wit and leg-pulling in the cabinet meet which recalled the atmosphere at the first meet in 1997.

In an emotional speech, Blair said he had been prime minister for 10 years which was “long enough” for the country and himself. “Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right,” Blair told Labour Party members in his constituency in northern England.

When Blair was elected in May 1997, instead of driving in a Jaguar, he had walked with his family to the 10 Downing Street. He was immediately hailed as people’s prime minister. He achieved another first by resigning on his own volition. He was not booted out by voters, nor given the boot by his party nor did his doctors tell him to sign off. Thus at 54, an age when most of his predecessors did not even take office, Blair is almost gone.

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