Blair begins the long goodbye

SHAUN LOWTHORPE Tony Blair began his 'long-goodbye' from office at noon by announcing he would step down as Prime Minister on June 27.Speaking at his Sedgefield constituency, Mr Blair confirmed that he had tendered his resignation as leader of the Labour Party and would tender his resignation to the Queen next month.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

Tony Blair began his 'long-goodbye' from office at noon by announcing he would step down as Prime Minister on June 27.

Speaking at his Sedgefield constituency, Mr Blair confirmed that he had tendered his resignation as leader of the Labour Party and would tender his resignation to the Queen next month.

The Prime Minister was given a standing ovation before a 20-minute speech in which he outlined the changes in British politics since he came to power.

Speaking on Iraq and the war on terror he said that 'hand on heart' he did what he thought was the right thing and felt it was right that Britain stood 'shoulder to shoulder' with its oldest ally.

But he said the 'blowback' since had been fierce and costly, but warned that terrorists would not give up of we did.

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“I've come back here to Sedgefield - to my constituency - where my political journey began and where it's fitting that it should end,” he said.

“I have been Prime Minister of this country for just over 10 years. In this job, in the world today, I think that is long enough for me, but more especially for the country.

“Sometimes the only way you conquer the pull of power is to set it down.”

The Prime Minister told the audience: “There is obviously judgments to be made on my premiership and in the end that is for you the people to make.”

He described how his political outlook was shaped in the aftermath of the ending of the Cold War.

“I looked at my own country, a great country, wonderful history, magnificent traditions and proud of its past, but strangely uncertain of its future, uncertain about the future, almost old-fashioned.

“And all that was curiously symbolised in the politics of the time,” he said.

He urged people to “really think back” to 1997, when Labour won its landslide election victory.

“Expectations were so high. Too high probably,” said Mr Blair but he insisted Britain was now a better place, with more jobs ,better employment, better health and education services and lower crime.

“Think about your own living standards then in 1997 and now. Visit the local schools, any of them round here or anywhere in modern Britain. Ask when you last had to wait a year or more on a hospital waiting list or heard of pensioners freezing to death in the winter unable to heat their homes.”

To massive applause, he boasted: “There is only one government since 1945 that can say all of the following: more jobs; fewer unemployed; better health and education results; lower crime; and economic growth in every quarter.

“Only one government - this one,” he insisted: “Britain is not a follower today. Britain is a leader. It is a country comfortable in the 21st century, at home in its own skin, able not just to be proud of its past but also confident in its future.”

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