Blair to announce departure plan today
Tony Blair will on Thursday bring down the curtains on a decade as prime minister of Britain by announcing a departure plan that will see him leave office towards the end of next month.
But for much of his remaining six weeks in power, Blair will be absent from Downing Street, with at least five overseas trips planned for later this month and June.
His farewell tour will literally begin tomorrow with a trip to Paris to see Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president-elect.
As Blair goes to the French capital, Chancellor Gordon Brown will launch his campaign to succeed him and will receive the long-expected formal endorsement from the outgoing leader.
Next week Blair is likely to visit Washington for the last time as prime minister to see President George W Bush, the other half of the partnership that many Labour MPs and activists blame for bringing an earlier than necessary end to his career because of the unpopularity of the Iraq war.
Later this month, Blair heads to Africa for a trip lasting several days as he underlines his commitment to a continent that has been one of his leading priorities.
Blair will wind up his premiership with two crucial international meetings -- the G8 world economic summit in Helligendamm, Germany, for three days from June 6 which is expected to be dominated by a new deal on climate change -- and the European Council summit in Brussels on June 21-22, where Blair and other leaders will try to restrain Germany's ambitions for a treaty reviving the failed European constitution.
He will leave office within days of that meeting and Brown, who will learn over the next few days whether he will face any challenge from the Left, will take over.