British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday he will step
down as prime minister on June 27, more than 10 years after winning
power in what was hailed as a new dawn for Britain that has since
been darkened by the Iraq war.
"I tell you one thing: hand on heart, I did what I thought was
right," Blair told Labor Party members Thursday. "I may have been
wrong, that's your call. But believe one thing, if nothing else I
did what I thought was right for our country."
Blair's announcement triggers a contest for the leadership of
the ruling Labor Party. Finance minister Gordon Brown is favorite
to win and become prime minister when Blair resigns next month.
Blair, US President George W. Bush's closest ally over Iraq,
leaves office out of favor among voters for sending British forces
to join the Iraq War.
A Labor Party rebellion in September forced him to say he would
quit within a year, after serving 10 years.
"I think that's long enough, not only for me, but also for the
country and sometimes the only way you conquer the pull of power is
to set it down," Blair told party members in Trimdon in his
northern England constituency.
Blair will also be remembered for helping bring peace to
Northern Ireland after decades of violence and winning three
straight elections for Labor for the first time.
An opinion poll published by the Guardian newspaper
Thursday showed 60 percent of voters believed Blair would be
remembered as a force for change.
The ICM poll said 44 percent believed he had been good for
Labor Party Chairman Hazel Blears said Blair's departure was a
bitter-sweet moment: "He's gone at a time of his choosing, in the
way that he wanted to go and that is absolutely right.?"
Blair had long been expected to hand over power before the end
of his third term to let another Labor leader guide the party into
the next national elections due by May 2010.
Blair quits as only the second prime minister in a century to
have served 10 years, tainted by a corruption scandal in which he
became the first serving prime minister to be quizzed by police in
a criminal probe.
Detectives twice questioned Blair as a witness in their
investigation into a political party funding scandal.
Blair and Brown were the twin architects of Labor's rise to
power in 1997 after 18 years in the political wilderness.
Brown's chief challenge will be to revive support for Labor and
overtake the opposition Conservatives in the opinion polls.
Conservative leader David Cameron, 40, has revitalized the party
of Margaret Thatcher - the only prime minister to hold power longer
than Blair in the past century -since he became leader in 2005.
Polls suggest he could win a slim majority in parliament in
(China Daily via agencies May 11, 2007)