- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2007

LONDON — Tony Blair began the day as prime minister and ended it as Mideast envoy — no longer responsible for the well-being of Britons but for peace in the Middle East.

Mr. Blair left office yesterday after a decade in power, taking with him a legacy that includes peace in Northern Ireland, a historic stretch of economic prosperity — and deep divisions over the war in Iraq.

He made way for his longtime treasury chief, Gordon Brown, a dour Scot who is expected to bring a sober new tone to government as he pursues his promise to heal anger about Iraq.

Before entering the prime minister’s official residence at No. 10 Downing Street, Mr. Brown turned to face the cameras and, quoting his old school motto, pledged “to try my utmost.”

“At all times, I will be strong in purpose, steadfast in will, resolute in action in the service of what matters to the British people, meeting the concerns and aspirations of our whole country,” he said.

Mr. Brown, who first vied with Mr. Blair to lead the Labor Party in 1994, smiled broadly as he left a meeting at Buckingham Palace during which Queen Elizabeth II asked him to form a new government, the ceremonial transfer of power.

Having departed the treasury in a modest sedan with his wife, Sarah, Mr. Brown swept back to the prime minister’s residence in a sleek prime ministerial limousine.

“Let the work of change begin,” he told reporters massed outside his new office.

Known for an often-stern demeanor that paled against the bright smile of his personable predecessor, the 56-year-old Mr. Brown has promised to sweep aside the Blair era and restore trust in a government weakened by deep public anger over Iraq.

“I have listened, and I have learned from the British people — and as prime minister I will continue to listen and learn from the British people,” Mr. Brown said in an interview published yesterday in the Daily Mirror.

“This need for change cannot be met by the old politics, so I will reach out,” he added.

Nervous and smiling awkwardly, Mr. Brown tightly grasped his wife’s hand to guide her through the black front door of the prime minister’s residence, where he will begin working on drawing up his legislative agenda and preparing for a parliamentary election that must be held by 2010.

President Bush, who counted Mr. Blair as his most steadfast ally, was the first world leader to offer his congratulations in a phone call soon after Mr. Brown’s appointment, Downing Street said.

Their 10-minute talk was “cordial and constructive,” said Mr. Brown’s official spokesman, Michael Ellam. He declined to specify if the leaders discussed Iraq.

Mr. Brown also held brief telephone conversations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. And he spoke with David Cameron, leader of the resurgent opposition Conservative Party, Mr. Ellam said.

Mr. Blair, who led the Labor Party as it won three successive election victories for the first time in its history, was visibly emotional during a final weekly question session with legislators.

He said he was sorry for the perils faced by British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but gave no apology for siding with the United States in taking military action, saying he thinks it is a necessary fight against forces that seek to destroy the Western way of life.

“I wish everyone — friend or foe — well. And that is that. The end,” he said before departing the House of Commons chamber.

Legislators rose to their feet and gave Mr. Blair rapturous applause as he left to ceremonially offer his resignation to the queen.

Mr. Blair, 54, took the one-mile ride with his wife, Cherie, from 10 Downing Street to the palace in a chauffeur-driven, armor-plated silver limousine known as Pegasus.

He later took a train to northern England, where he told officials in the district he represents in Parliament that he will resign the seat, his staff said. While Mr. Blair was en route, the Quartet of Mideast peace mediators named him as the group’s new envoy in the region. The Quartet is made up of the United States, European Union, Russia and the United Nations.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide