Blair Steps Down, Takes Up Mideast Peace

The reigns of power have been handed over in London. Tony Blair has stepped down as prime minister and leader of the ruling Labour Party — replaced by his former finance minister, Gordon Brown.

Blair already has a new job, however. He has been appointed as representative of the so-called Middle East Quartet — trying to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Gordon Brown Becomes British Prime Minister

Gordon Brown, the new prime minister of Britain, and his wife Sarah wave to the media. i i

hide captionGordon Brown, the new prime minister of Britain, and his wife Sarah wave to the media as he arrives at 10 Downing Street.

Carl de Souza/Getty Images
Gordon Brown, the new prime minister of Britain, and his wife Sarah wave to the media.

Gordon Brown, the new prime minister of Britain, and his wife Sarah wave to the media as he arrives at 10 Downing Street.

Carl de Souza/Getty Images
Blair bids farewell to the media with his family i i

hide captionBlair bids farewell to the media with his children Euan, (left) Kathryn (third from left), Leo, (third from right), Nicky (right) and his wife Cherie on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

Adrian Dennis/Getty Images
Blair bids farewell to the media with his family

Blair bids farewell to the media with his children Euan, (left) Kathryn (third from left), Leo, (third from right), Nicky (right) and his wife Cherie on the steps of 10 Downing Street.

Adrian Dennis/Getty Images

Former Treasury chief Gordon Brown became Britain's new prime minister on Wednesday, promising a new direction after Tony Blair resigned, ending a decade of controversial rule.

The change of watch was made according to British tradition - quietly and behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace. Blair first called on Queen Elizabeth II to submit his resignation, and Brown arrived soon after to be confirmed as the new prime minister.

"This will be a new government with new priorities," Brown told reporters outside his Downing Street office minutes later. "I've been privileged with the great opportunity to serve my country."

Brown, a 56-year-old Scot known for his often stern demeanor, beamed as he was applauded by Treasury staff before heading with his wife, Sarah, to the palace, and he smiled broadly when he emerged.

The incoming leader, who for many lacks Blair's charisma, must woo Britons by shaking off the taint of backing the hugely unpopular Iraq war. With promises of restoring trust in government, he is planning to sweep aside the Blair era after a decade waiting for the country's top job.

Earlier, an emotional Blair received a warm send-off in the House of Commons - from his opponents as well as members of his own Labour party - after one final appearance at the weekly question time session.

"I wish everyone - friend or foe - well. And that is that. The end," he said.

Legislators rose to their feet and applauded as he left for his meeting with the queen. Some, including Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, wiped away tears.

Blair also used the session to say he was sorry for the perils faced by British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he gave no apology for his decisions to back the United States in taking military action.

He opened his final weekly appearance for question time in the body by expressing condolences to the families of the fallen, this week including two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.

"I am truly sorry about the dangers that they face today in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said.

"I know some may think that they face these dangers in vain; I don't and I never will," said the prime minister, whose popularity has been badly damaged by his alliance with President Bush in the war on terror. "I believe they are fighting for the security of this country and the wider world against people who would destroy our way of life."

"Whatever view people take of my decisions, I think there is only way view to take of them: they are the bravest and the best," he said.

Blair is in line to become chief envoy to the Quartet of Mideast peace mediators, consisting of the U-S, European Union, Russia and the U.N.

From The Associated Press

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