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Blair: That’s it. The end

Posted by Dresonic on June 28, 2007

LONDON, England (AFP) – “That’s it. The end.” The final words of Tony Blair reflected the restrained manner of his departure yesterday after one of the longest, slowest goodbyes in British political history.

For anti-Iraq war protestors, though, his resignation could not come soon enough.

“I’m hoping that Gordon Brown will be stronger and not let Bush dictate,” said Donna Mahoney, holding up a picture of her dead husband Peter, a soldier who killed himself in 2004 after a tour of duty in Iraq.

The 44-year-old was speaking at his final question-and-answer session with lawmakers before Brown – his finance minister for the last decade – finally took office, seven weeks after Blair announced he was quitting.

In some respects, Blair’s farewell mirrored the scene when he first moved into 10 Downing Street, the office of the British premier, in May 1997.

Then, he posed with wife Cherie and his young children Euan, Nicky and Kathryn, acknowledging the ecstatic applause of supporters hoping he would usher in a new era in the country’s political life.

On Wednesday, Blair, Cherie, their now adult children and seven-year-old son Leo, who was born while his father was in office, again posed for the cameras, waving, kissing and hugging for some two minutes.

But this time, the only members of the public present were a handful of anti-Iraq war protestors. They shouted slogans and popped the cork on a mini bottle of champagne as Blair left for Buckingham Palace formally to tender his resignation.
In one of the day’s few unchoreographed moments, Cherie provided a reminder of the couple’s ambiguous relationship with the press by shouting: “I don’t think I’ll miss you,” to the hundreds of journalists covering the event.

About an hour and a half later, after a longer-than-expected meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, Gordon Brown swept into Downing Street for the first time as premier in a chauffeur-driven Jaguar, an upgraded car marking his promotion.

Brown, accompanied by wife Sarah, looked brisk and business-like, flashing a Cheshire cat grin only a couple of times as photographers shouted “prime minister” to get him to look their way.

By contrast with Blair’s tight-lipped departure, Brown chose to address the assembled press, despite chants from the hundred or so anti-war protestors in the next street and police sirens ringing in his ears.

The new premier did not mention Iraq in his short speech, but pledged to listen to and learn from the British people.
Afterwards, he and Sarah were warmly applauded by Downing Street staff as they stepped hand-in-hand through the famous black door.

Blair’s support for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 cost him much of the massive support that swept him to power in 1997.

Donna Mahoney, one of several women granted permission to protest in Downing Street as the handover took place, said she hoped Blair’s departure would help her make a new start in life after the death of her husband.

“Saddam Hussein has gone, Tony Blair and the last one will be Bush.”

The slogan on a placard held by one protestor standing at the end of Downing Street summed up the views of many who had turned out to see Blair off – it simply read: “Good riddance”.

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