London: Prime Minister Tony Blair will finally leave office today, bringing down the curtain on a decade in power that began amid euphoria but is ending with mixed emotions in Britain and abroad.
Seven weeks after announcing he would step down, Blair will tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, before handing over the reins of power to his old friend turned longstanding rival for the premiership Gordon Brown.
As he spent his last full day in office on 26 June, reports from Washington say that the US, EU, United Nations and Russia have agreed to name him as an international envoy to the Middle East, in their bid to revive peace prospects after Islamist Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip.
A US official in Washington, who asked not to be named, said Blair’s appointment was in the final stages of consultation. “We would expect that he would be named as early as tomorrow.”
However, a statement from the so-called Quartet mediators was delayed by Russian foot-dragging, diplomats said.
Blair himself refused to confirm reports about his next responsibility during his last press conference in his Downing Street office.
“I think that anybody who cares about greater peace and stability in the world knows that a lasting and enduring resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue is essential,” Blair told reporters.
“And I will do whatever I can to help such a resolution come about,” he added.
Blair is leaving office after a decade marked in the early years by record popularity and enthusiasm. He took power after a long period during which Britain was governed by Conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Under finance minister Brown’s stewardship, the British economy has enjoyed a record sustained boom.
But the 2003 Iraq war soured Blair’s image, and in recent years he has struggled with falling poll ratings and political infighting. Mounting pressure within his party last year forced him to pledge to stand down early.
Brown, who allegedly orchestrated the mini-coup to get his hands on the keys to 10 Downing Street, was finally crowned Blair’s successor as leader of the ruling Labour party on 24 June 2007.
On 27 June, Blair will leave Downing Street for the last time after making his final appearance at midday questions in parliament.
Following tradition, he will be driven to Buckingham Palace to formally tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly afterwards Brown will also visit the queen to ask her if he can form a government.
Brown, regarded by many commentators as a dour Scot who lacks Blair’s media-friendly charisma, is expected to broadly maintain the same policies, but has pledged a different style of government.
He is likely to announce a comprehensive ministerial reshuffle on either 24 June or 25 June.
Speculation about what Blair will do afterwards has ranged from roles in Africa, campaigning for measures to fight climate change, or even becoming president of the European Union.
But the focus turned to a possible Mideast role last week after it emerged that the United States had proposed him as envoy for the quartet.