Brown Becomes PM, Blair Middle East Envoy
It’s official: Gordon Brown is the new PM.
Former Treasury chief Gordon Brown became British prime minister Wednesday, promising “a new government with new priorities,” after Tony Blair left office with a legacy of economic prosperity overshadowed by the deeply divisive Iraq war. Power changed hands traditionally and quietly behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace as Blair first called on Queen Elizabeth II to submit his resignation to end a decade in power, and Brown arrived soon after to be confirmed as the new prime minister.
“This will be a new government with new priorities,” Brown told reporters outside his Downing Street office minutes later. “I’ve been privileged with the great opportunity to serve my country.” Brown, a 56-year-old Scot known for his often stern demeanor, beamed as he was applauded by Treasury staff before heading with his wife, Sarah, to the palace, and he smiled broadly when he emerged.
The incoming leader, who for many lacks Blair’s charisma, must woo Britons by shaking off the taint of backing the hugely unpopular Iraq war. With promises of restoring trust in government, he is planning to sweep aside the Blair era after a decade waiting for the country’s top job.
It seems ungrateful to ride into power on the coattails of Tony Blair’s three electoral victory and then immediately seek to distance oneself from his legacy. That’s politics, though. John Major had to do the same thing when he took over for Margaret Thatcher under similar circumstances. Whether he had to our not, George H.W. Bush did much the same when he followed Ronald Reagan.
Tony Blair has already been shunted off to the Middle East.
Tony Blair is to become a Middle East envoy working on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU. The announcement came just hours after he stood down as UK prime minister and shortly before it was announced he was to quit as a member of parliament.
Mr Blair said a “solution” to the problems in the Middle East was possible but that this would require “huge intensity and work”.
During his final prime minister’s questions on Wednesday, Mr Blair was asked about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. He told MPs: “The absolute priority is to try to give effect to what is now the consensus across the international community – that the only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is a two-state solution.”
It’s a thankless job, frankly, and I share Steven Taylor‘s wonderment that Blair didn’t take a breather between assignments.