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Study Notes

Tony Blair: Key Events of Blair's Premiership

AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 29 Oct 2018

In this study note we highlight some of the key events during Tony Blair's time as Prime Minister.

Tony Blair was a popular prime minister when first elected, with high approval ratings. He had a very eventful period in office:

  • The death of Princess Diana. Tony Blair “spoke for the nation” when he spoke of “the people’s princess”.
  • There was an early scandal after Labour were accused of exempting Formula 1 from a band on tobacco advertising and sponsorship in exchange from a £1 million donation from Bernie Ecclestone. They returned the donation and Blair made a personal TV appearance explaining the matter.
  • Terrorist atrocities by dissident groups in Northern Ireland, such as the Omagh bombing which killed 29 people in 1998.
  • Britain was involved in a number of wars and conflicts in this period, including a bombing campaign against Iraq in 1998, intervention in Kosovo (1999), Sierra Leone (2000), air strikes and invasion of Afghanistan (from 2001), as well as the Iraq War in 2003.
  • Far right terrorist attacks in London in 1999 (a campaign of nail bombs targeted at various minorities in the city).
  • Protests by lorry drivers and farmers over the cost of fuel
  • The foot and mouth crisis
  • Reaction to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York (Blair pledged to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with George W Bush)
  • Huge protests and government resignations against joining the war in Iraq.
  • The death of a weapons expert, Dr. David Kelly (who had briefed the media suggesting the government had “sexed up” intelligence reports about Iraq) leads to a major crisis and inquiry. The inquiry eventually concludes that the BBC were most at fault, and largely cleared the government of wrongdoing.
  • Large backbench rebellions on a range of issues through the period, from lone-parent benefits in 1997, through the Iraq War, tuition fees, foundation hospitals and other issues from 2003 and defeat in the Commons over anti-terror legislation in 2005.
  • The 7/7 London bombings in 2005
  • The “cash for honours” crisis where it was alleged that Tony Blair would hand out honours and peerages to individuals who made large donations to the Labour Party.
  • Jeered and heckled at his final TUC speech.

This eventful period became dominated by the Iraq War in the latter period of Blair’s premiership. Although he won another General Election after the war (2005, which a much-reduced majority) he never regained his popularity. Indeed, in a great departure from the 1997 and 2001 elections, Labour rarely used Blair on any publicity or broadcasts in 2005 and it was made clear that Blair would not contest the next election (and that he was likely to be replaced by Gordon Brown who, at the time, was more popular in the country).

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