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Tony Blair

Tony Blair Politician; Former Prime minister of the United Kingdom

Politician; Former Prime minister of the United Kingdom
Tony Blair
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Politician; Former Prime minister of the United Kingdom
A.K.A. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair
Is Politician Diplomat Autobiographer Lawyer
From United Kingdom
Type Law Literature Politics
Gender male
Birth 6 May 1953, Edinburgh
Age: 67 years
Star sign TaurusTaurus
Family
Father: Leo Blair
Siblings: William Blair
Spouse: Cherie Blair
Stats
Height: 1.8288 m
The details

Biography

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, PC (born 6 May 1953), commonly called Tony Blair, is a British politician who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007 and the Leader of the Labour Party from 1994 to 2007. Together with President George W. Bush in 2003, he initiated the Iraq War with the invasion of Iraq, an act which remains highly controversial.
From 1983 to 2007, Blair was the Member of Parliament for Sedgefield. He was elected Labour Party leader in July 1994, following the sudden death of his predecessor, John Smith, who together with his predecessor, Neil Kinnock, had started to move the party closer to the political centre, in order to win power. Under Blair's leadership, the party used the phrase "New Labour", to distance it from previous Labour policies and the traditional conception of socialism. Blair declared support for a new conception that he referred to as "social-ism", involving politics that recognised individuals as socially interdependent, and advocated social justice, cohesion, equal worth of each citizen, and equal opportunity. Critics of Blair denounced him for having the Labour Party abandon genuine socialism and accepting capitalism. Supporters, including the party's public opinion pollster Philip Gould, stated that after four consecutive general election defeats, the Labour Party had to demonstrate that it had made a decisive break from its left-wing past, in order to win an election again.
In May 1997, the Labour Party won a landslide general election victory, the largest in its history, allowing Blair, at 43 years old, to become the youngest Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. In September 1997, Blair attained early personal popularity, receiving a 93% public approval rating, after his public response to the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The Labour Party went on to win two more elections under his leadership: in 2001, in which it won another landslide victory, and in 2005, with a reduced majority. In the first years of the New Labour government, Blair's government introduced the National Minimum Wage Act, Human Rights Act, and Freedom of Information Act. Blair's government also carried out the devolution, the establishing of the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, and the Northern Ireland Assembly, thus fulfilling four of the promises in its 1997 manifesto. In Northern Ireland, Blair was involved in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Blair ardently supported the foreign policy of the Bush administration, and ensured that British Armed Forces participated in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and, more controversially, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair has faced strong criticism for his role in the invasion of Iraq, including calls for having him tried for war crimes and waging a war of aggression. In 2016 the Iraq Inquiry strongly criticised his actions and described the invasion of Iraq as unjustified and unnecessary.
Blair was succeeded as the leader of the Labour Party on 24 June 2007, and as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007 by Gordon Brown. On the day that Blair resigned as Prime Minister, he was appointed the official Special Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, an office which he held until 27 May 2015. He now runs a consultancy business and has set up various foundations in his own name, including the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Early life

Anthony Charles Lynton Blair was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 6 May 1953, the second son of Leo and Hazel (née Corscadden) Blair. Leo Blair, the illegitimate son of two entertainers, had been adopted as a baby by Glasgow shipyard worker James Blair and his wife, Mary. Hazel Corscadden was the daughter of George Corscadden, a butcher and Orangeman who moved to Glasgow in 1916 but returned to (and later died in) Ballyshannon, County Donegal in 1923, where his wife, Sarah Margaret (née Lipsett), gave birth to Blair's mother, Hazel, above the family's grocery shop.

Blair has one elder brother, Sir William Blair, a High Court judge, and a younger sister, Sarah. Blair spent the first 19 months of his life at the family home in Paisley Terrace in the Willowbrae area of Edinburgh. During this period, his father worked as a junior tax inspector whilst also studying for a law degree from the University of Edinburgh.

In the 1950s, his family spent three and a half years in Adelaide, South Australia, where his father was a lecturer in law at the University of Adelaide. The Blairs lived close to the university, in the suburb of Dulwich. The family returned to the UK in the late 1950s, living for a time with Hazel's mother and stepfather (William McClay) at their home in Stepps, near Glasgow. He spent the remainder of his childhood in Durham, England, where his father Leo lectured at Durham University.

Education

After attending the Chorister School in Durham from 1961 to 1966, Blair boarded at Fettes College, a prestigious independent school in Edinburgh, during which time he met Charlie Falconer (a pupil at the rival Edinburgh Academy), whom he later appointed Lord Chancellor. Blair reportedly modelled himself on Mick Jagger. His teachers were unimpressed with him; his biographer, John Rentoul, reported that "All the teachers I spoke to when researching the book said he was a complete pain in the backside and they were very glad to see the back of him."

After Fettes, Blair spent a year in London, where he attempted to find fame as a rock music promoter before reading Jurisprudence at St John's College, at the University of Oxford. As a student, he played guitar and sang in a rock band called Ugly Rumours, and performed some stand-up comedy, including parodying James T. Kirk as a character named Captain Kink.

He was influenced by fellow student and Anglican priest Peter Thomson, who awakened his religious faith and left-wing politics. While Blair was at Oxford, his mother Hazel died of cancer, which greatly affected him. After graduating from Oxford in 1975 with a Second-Class Honours B.A. in Jurisprudence, Blair became a member of Lincoln's Inn, enrolled as a pupil barrister, and met his future wife, Cherie Booth (daughter of the actor Tony Booth) at the law chambers founded by Derry Irvine (who was to be Blair's first Lord Chancellor), 11 King's Bench Walk Chambers.

Early political career

Blair joined the Labour Party shortly after graduating from Oxford in 1975. In the early 1980s, he was involved in Labour politics in Hackney South and Shoreditch, where he aligned himself with the "soft left" of the party. He put himself forward as a candidate for the Hackney council elections of 1982 in Queensbridge ward, a safe Labour area, but was not selected.

In 1982, Blair was selected as the Labour candidate in the safe Conservative seat of Beaconsfield, where there was a forthcoming by-election. Although Blair lost the Beaconsfield by-election and Labour's share of the vote fell 10 percentage points, he acquired a profile within the party. In contrast to his later centrism, Blair made it clear in a letter he wrote to Labour leader Michael Foot in July 1982 (published in 2006) that he had "come to Socialism through Marxism" and considered himself on the left. Like Tony Benn, Blair believed that "Labour right" was bankrupt: "Socialism ultimately must appeal to the better minds of the people. You cannot do that if you are tainted overmuch with a pragmatic period in power." Yet, he saw the hard left as no better, saying:

There is an arrogance and self-righteousness about many of the groups on the far left which is deeply unattractive to the ordinary would-be member... There's too much mixing only with people [with] whom they agree.

With a general election due, Blair had not been selected as a candidate anywhere. He was invited to stand again in Beaconsfield, and was initially inclined to agree but was advised by his head of chambers Derry Irvine to find somewhere else which might be winnable. The situation was complicated by the fact that Labour was fighting a legal action against planned boundary changes, and had selected candidates on the basis of previous boundaries. When the legal challenge failed, the party had to rerun all selections on the new boundaries; most were based on existing seats, but unusually in County Durham a new Sedgefield constituency had been created out of Labour-voting areas which had no obvious predecessor seat.

The selection for Sedgefield did not begin until after the 1983 election was called. Blair's initial inquiries discovered that the left was trying to arrange the selection for Les Huckfield, sitting MP for Nuneaton who was trying elsewhere; several sitting MPs displaced by boundary changes were also interested in it. When he discovered the Trimdon branch had not yet made a nomination, Blair visited them and won the support of the branch secretary John Burton, and with Burton's help was nominated by the branch. At the last minute, he was added to the shortlist and won the selection over Huckfield. It was the last candidate selection made by Labour before the election, and was made after the Labour Party had issued biographies of all its candidates ("Labour's Election Who's Who").

John Burton became Blair's election agent and one of his most trusted and longest-standing allies. Blair's election literature in the 1983 UK general election endorsed left-wing policies that Labour advocated in the early 1980s. He called for Britain to leave the EEC as early as the 1970s, though he had told his selection conference that he personally favoured continuing membership and voted "Yes" in the 1975 referendum on the subject. He opposed the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1986 but supported the ERM by 1989. He was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, despite never strongly being in favour of unilateral nuclear disarmament. Blair was helped on the campaign trail by soap opera actress Pat Phoenix, his father-in-law's girlfriend. Blair was elected as MP for Sedgefield despite the party's landslide defeat in the general election.

In his maiden speech in the House of Commons on 6 July 1983, Blair stated, "I am a socialist not through reading a textbook that has caught my intellectual fancy, nor through unthinking tradition, but because I believe that, at its best, socialism corresponds most closely to an existence that is both rational and moral. It stands for cooperation, not confrontation; for fellowship, not fear. It stands for equality."

Once elected, Blair's political ascent was rapid. He received his first front-bench appointment in 1984 as assistant Treasury spokesman. In May 1985, he appeared on BBC's Question Time, arguing that the Conservative Government's Public Order White Paper was a threat to civil liberties.

Blair demanded an inquiry into the Bank of England's decision to rescue the collapsed Johnson Matthey Bank in October 1985. By this time, Blair was aligned with the reforming tendencies in the party (headed by leader Neil Kinnock) and was promoted after the 1987 election to the shadow Trade and Industry team as spokesman on the City of London.

Leadership roles

In 1987, he stood for election to the Shadow Cabinet, receiving 71 votes. When Kinnock resigned after a further Conservative victory in the 1992 election, Blair became Shadow Home Secretary under John Smith. The old guard argued that trends showed they were regaining strength under Smith's strong leadership. Meanwhile, the breakaway SDP faction had merged with the Liberal Party; the resulting Liberal Democrats seemed to pose a major threat to the Labour base. Tony Blair had an entirely different vision. Blair, the leader of the modernising faction, argued that the long-term trends had to be reversed. The Party was too locked into a base that was shrinking, since it was based on the working-class, on trade unions, and on residents of subsidised council housing. The rapidly growing middle class was largely ignored, especially the more ambitious working-class families. They aspired to middle-class status, but accepted the Conservative argument that Labour was holding ambitious people back with its levelling down policies. They increasingly saw Labour in terms defined by the opposition, regarding higher taxes and higher interest rates. In order to present a fresh face and new policies to the elect, New Labour needed more than fresh leaders; it had to jettison outdated policies. The first step was procedural, but essential. Calling on the slogan, "One member, one vote" Blair (with some help from Smith) defeated the union element and ended the block voting by which leaders of labour unions cast hundreds of thousands of votes on behalf of their members, and had an outsize voice in the party. Blair and the modernizers called for radical adjustment of Party goals by repealing "Clause IV," the historic commitment to nationalisation of industry. That was achieved in 1995.

Opposition Leader

John Smith died suddenly in 1994 of a heart attack. Blair beat John Prescott and Margaret Beckett in the subsequent leadership election and became Leader of the Opposition. As is customary for the holder of that office, Blair was appointed a Privy Councillor.

Labour was seen by the The Guardian to be "definitely socialistic" since its first constitution was published in 1918, saying that support for the "common ownership of the means of production and exchange" in Clause IV of the party's constitution, was "decisive" in making Labour a socialist party. Blair announced at the end of his speech at the 1994 Labour Party conference that he intended to replace this clause of the party's constitution with a new statement of aims and values. This involved the deletion of the party's stated commitment to "the common ownership of the means of production and exchange", which was widely interpreted as referring to wholesale nationalisation. At a special conference in April 1995, the clause was replaced by a statement that the party is "democratic socialist", and Blair also claimed to be a "democratic socialist" himself in the same year. However, the move away from nationalisation in the old Clause IV made many on the left of the Labour Party feel that Labour was moving away from traditional socialist principles of nationalisation set out in 1918, and was seen by them as part of a shift of the party towards "New Labour".

He inherited the Labour leadership at a time when the party was ascendant over the Tories in the opinion polls since the Tory government's reputation for monetary excellence was left in tatters by the Black Wednesday economic disaster of September 1992. Blair's election as leader saw Labour support surge higher still in spite of the continuing economic recovery and fall in unemployment that the Conservative government (led by John Major) had overseen since the end of the 1990–92 recession. At the 1996 Labour Party conference, Blair stated that his three top priorities on coming to office were "education, education, and education".

Aided by the unpopularity of John Major's Conservative government (itself deeply divided over the European Union), "New Labour" won a landslide victory in the 1997 general election, ending 18 years of Conservative Party government, with the heaviest Conservative defeat since 1906.

According to diaries released by Paddy Ashdown, during Smith's leadership of the Labour Party, there were discussions with Ashdown about forming a coalition government if the next general election resulted in a hung parliament. Ashdown also claimed that Blair was a supporter of proportional representation (PR). In addition to Ashdown, Liberal Democrat MPs Menzies Campbell and Alan Beith were earmarked for places in the cabinet if the coalition was formed. Blair was forced to back down on these proposals because John Prescott and Gordon Brown opposed the PR system, and many members of the shadow cabinet were worried about concessions being made towards the Lib Dems. However, after Blair became leader, these talks continued – despite virtually every opinion poll since late 1992 having shown Labour with enough support to form a majority. However, the scale of the Labour victory meant that there was ultimately never any need for a coalition.

Prime Minister

Blair with US President Bill Clinton, November 1999

Blair became the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 2 May 1997, serving concurrently as First Lord of the Treasury, Minister for the Civil Service and Leader of the Labour Party. The 43-year-old Blair became the youngest person to become Prime Minister since Lord Liverpool became Prime Minister at the age of 42 in 1812. With victories in 1997, 2001, and 2005, Blair was the Labour Party's longest-serving prime minister, the only person to date to lead the party to three consecutive general election victories.

Northern Ireland

Blair addressing a crowd in Armagh in 1998

His contribution towards assisting the Northern Ireland peace process by helping to negotiate the Good Friday Agreement (after 30 years of conflict) was widely recognised. Following the Omagh bombing on 15 August 1998, by members of the Real IRA opposed to the peace process, which killed 29 people and wounded hundreds, Blair visited the County Tyrone town and met with victims at Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast.

Military intervention and the War on Terror

In his first six years in office Blair ordered British troops into battle five times, more than any other prime minister in British history. This included Iraq in both 1998 and 2003, Kosovo (1999), Sierra Leone (2000) and Afghanistan (2001).

The Kosovo War, which Blair had advocated on moral grounds, was initially a failure when it relied solely on air strikes; the threat of a ground offensive convinced Serbia's Slobodan Milošević to withdraw. Blair had been a major advocate for a ground offensive, which Bill Clinton was reluctant to do, and ordered that 50,000 soldiers – most of the available British Army – should be made ready for action. The following year, the limited Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone swiftly swung the tide against the rebel forces; before deployment, the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone had been on the verge of collapse. Palliser had been intended as an evacuation mission but Brigadier David Richards was able to convince Blair to allow him to expand the role; at the time, Richards' action was not known and Blair was assumed to be behind it.

Blair ordered Operation Barras, a highly successful SAS/Parachute Regiment strike to rescue hostages from a Sierra Leone rebel group. Historian Andrew Marr has argued that the success of ground attacks, real and threatened, over air strikes alone was influential on how Blair planned the Iraq War, and that the success of the first three wars Blair fought "played to his sense of himself as a moral war leader". When asked in 2010 if the success of Palliser may have "embolden[ed] British politicians" to think of military action as a policy option, General Sir David Richards admitted there "might be something in that".

Tony Blair and George W. Bush shake hands after their press conference in the East Room of the White House on 12 November 2004.

From the start of the War on Terror in 2001, Blair strongly supported the foreign policy of George W. Bush, participating in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. The invasion of Iraq was particularly controversial, as it attracted widespread public opposition and 139 of Blair's MPs opposed it.

As a result, he faced criticism over the policy itself and the circumstances of the decision. Alastair Campbell described Blair's statement that the intelligence on WMDs was "beyond doubt" as his "assessment of the assessment that was given to him." In 2009, Blair stated that he would have supported removing Saddam Hussein from power even in the face of proof that he had no such weapons. Playwright Harold Pinter and former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad accused Blair of war crimes.

Testifying before the Iraq Inquiry on 29 January 2010, Blair said Saddam was a "monster and I believe he threatened not just the region but the world." Blair said that British and American attitude towards Saddam Hussein had "changed dramatically" after 11 September attacks. Blair denied that he would have supported the invasion of Iraq even if he had thought Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. He said he believed the world was safer as a result of the invasion. He said there was "no real difference between wanting regime change and wanting Iraq to disarm: regime change was US policy because Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations." In an October 2015 CNN interview with Fareed Zakaria, Blair apologised for his "mistakes" over Iraq War and admitted there were "elements of truth" to the view that the invasion helped promote the rise of ISIS. The Chilcot Inquiry report of 2016 gave a damning assessment of Blair's role in the Iraq War, though the former prime minister again refused to apologise for his decision to back the US-led invasion.

Relationship with Parliament

One of his first acts as Prime Minister was to replace the then twice-weekly 15-minute sessions of Prime Minister's Questions held on Tuesdays and Thursdays with a single 30-minute session on Wednesdays. In addition to PMQs, Blair held monthly press conferences at which he fielded questions from journalists and – from 2002 – broke precedent by agreeing to give evidence twice yearly before the most senior Commons select committee, the Liaison Committee. Blair was sometimes perceived as paying insufficient attention both to the views of his own Cabinet colleagues and to those of the House of Commons. His style was sometimes criticised as not that of a prime minister and head of government, which he was, but of a president and head of state – which he was not. Blair was accused of excessive reliance on spin. He is the first British prime minister to have been formally questioned by police, though not under caution, while still in office.

Events before resignation

As the casualties of the Iraq War mounted, Blair was accused of misleading Parliament, and his popularity dropped dramatically.

Labour's overall majority in the 2005 general election was reduced to 66. As a combined result of the Blair–Brown pact, Iraq war and low approval ratings, pressure built up within the Labour party for Blair to resign. Over the summer of 2006 many MPs, including usually supportive MPs, criticised Blair for his failure to call for a ceasefire in the 2006 Israel–Lebanon conflict. On 7 September 2006, Blair publicly stated he would step down as party leader by the time of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) conference held 10–13 September 2007, having promised to serve a full term during the previous general election campaign. On 10 May 2007, during a speech at the Trimdon Labour Club, Blair announced his intention to resign as Labour Party leader and Prime Minister.

At a special party conference in Manchester on 24 June 2007, he formally handed over the leadership of the Labour Party to Gordon Brown, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer. Blair tendered his resignation on 27 June 2007 and Brown assumed office the same afternoon. Blair resigned his seat in the House of Commons in the traditional form of accepting the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, to which he was appointed by Gordon Brown in one of the latter's last acts as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The resulting Sedgefield by-election was won by Labour's candidate, Phil Wilson. Blair decided not to issue a list of Resignation Honours, making him the first Prime Minister of the modern era not to do so.

Policies

Social reforms

In 2001, Blair said, "We are a left of centre party, pursuing economic prosperity and social justice as partners and not as opposites".

Blair rarely applies such labels to himself, but he promised before the 1997 election that New Labour would govern "from the radical centre", and according to one lifelong Labour Party member, has always described himself as a social democrat. However, at least one left-wing commentator has said that Blair is to the right of centre. A YouGov opinion poll in 2005 found that a small majority of British voters, including many New Labour supporters, place Blair on the right of the political spectrum. The Financial Times on the other hand has argued that Blair is not conservative, but instead a populist.

Critics and admirers tend to agree that Blair's electoral success was based on his ability to occupy the centre ground and appeal to voters across the political spectrum, to the extent that he has been fundamentally at odds with traditional Labour Party values. Some left-wing critics, such as Mike Marqusee in 2001, argued that Blair oversaw the final stage of a long term shift of the Labour Party to the right.

There is some evidence that Blair's long term dominance of the centre forced his Conservative opponents to shift a long distance to the left to challenge his hegemony there. Leading Conservatives of the post-New Labour era hold Blair in high regard: George Osborne describes him as "the master", Michael Gove thought he was "entitlement to conservative respect" in February 2003, while David Cameron reportedly maintained Blair as an informal adviser.

During his time as prime minister, Blair raised taxes; introduced a National Minimum Wage and some new employment rights (while keeping Margaret Thatcher's trade union reforms); introduced significant constitutional reforms; promoted new rights for gay people in the Civil Partnership Act 2004; and signed treaties integrating Britain more closely with the EU. He introduced substantial market-based reforms in the education and health sectors; introduced student tuition fees; sought to reduce certain categories of welfare payments, and introduced tough anti-terrorism and identity card legislation. Under Blair's government the amount of new legislation increased which attracted criticism.

Blair increased police powers by adding to the number of arrestable offences, compulsory DNA recording and the use of dispersal orders. He did not reverse the privatisation of the railways enacted by his predecessor John Major and instead strengthened regulation (by creating the Office of Rail Regulation) and limited fare rises to inflation +1%.

Environmental record

Blair has criticised other governments for not doing enough to solve global climate change. In a 1997 visit to the United States, he made a comment on "great industrialised nations" that fail to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Again in 2003, Blair went before the United States Congress and said that climate change "cannot be ignored", insisting "we need to go beyond even Kyoto." Blair and his party promised a 20% reduction in carbon dioxide. The Labour Party also claimed that by 2010 10% of the energy would come from renewable resources; however, it only reached 7% by that point.

In 2000, Blair "flagged up" 100 million euros for green policies and urged environmentalists and businesses to work together.

Foreign policy

Jacques Chirac, George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi during the G8 Summit in Évian, June 2003

Blair built his foreign policy on basic principles (close ties with US and EU) and added a new activist philosophy of "interventionism". In 2001 Britain joined the US in the global war on terror.

Blair forged friendships with several European leaders, including Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, Angela Merkel of Germany and later Nicolas Sarkozy of France.

Blair meets with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, March 2005

Along with enjoying a close relationship with Bill Clinton, Blair formed a strong political alliance with George W. Bush, particularly in the area of foreign policy. For his part, Bush lauded Blair and the UK. In his post-9/11 speech, for example, he stated that "America has no truer friend than Great Britain".

The alliance between Bush and Blair seriously damaged Blair's standing in the eyes of Britons angry at American influence. Blair argued it was in Britain's interest to "protect and strengthen the bond" with the United States regardless of who is in the White House.

However, a perception of one-sided compromising personal and political closeness led to discussion of the term "Poodle-ism" in the UK media, to describe the "Special Relationship" of the UK government and Prime Minister with the US White House and President. A revealing conversation between Bush and Blair, with the former addressing the latter as "Yo [or Yeah], Blair" was recorded when they did not know a microphone was live at the G8 summit in Saint Petersburg in 2006.

Middle East policy and Israel links

Blair showed a deep feeling for Israel, born in part from his faith. Blair has been a longtime member of the pro-Israel lobby group Labour Friends of Israel.

In 1994, Blair forged close ties with Michael Levy, a leader of the Jewish Leadership Council. Levy ran the Labour Leader's Office Fund to finance Blair's campaign before the 1997 election and raised £12 million towards Labour's landslide victory, Levy was rewarded with a peerage, and in 2002, Blair appointed Lord Levy as his personal envoy to the Middle East. Levy praised Blair for his "solid and committed support of the State of Israel". Tam Dalyell, while Father of the House of Commons, suggested in 2003 that Blair's foreign policy decisions were unduly influenced by a "cabal" of Jewish advisers, including Levy, Peter Mandelson and Jack Straw (the last two are not Jewish but have some Jewish ancestry).

Blair, on coming to office, had been "cool towards the right-wing Netanyahu government". During his first visit to Israel, Blair thought the Israelis bugged him in his car. After the election in 1999 of Ehud Barak, with whom Blair forged a close relationship, he became much more sympathetic to Israel. From 2001, Blair built up a relationship with Barak's successor, Ariel Sharon, and responded positively to Arafat, whom he had met thirteen times since becoming prime minister and regarded as essential to future negotiations. In 2004, 50 former diplomats, including ambassadors to Baghdad and Tel Aviv, stated they had "watched with deepening concern" at Britain following the US into war in Iraq in 2003. They criticised Blair's support for the road map for peace which included the retaining of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

In 2006 Blair was criticised for his failure to immediately call for a ceasefire in the 2006 Lebanon War. The Observer newspaper claimed that at a cabinet meeting before Blair left for a summit with Bush on 28 July 2006, a significant number of ministers pressured Blair to publicly criticise Israel over the scale of deaths and destruction in Lebanon. Blair was criticised for his solid stance alongside US President George W. Bush on Middle East policy.

Syria and Libya

A Freedom of Information request by The Sunday Times in 2012 revealed that Blair's government considered knighting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. The documents showed Blair was willing to appear alongside Assad at a joint press conference even though the Syrians would probably have settled for a farewell handshake for the cameras; British officials sought to manipulate the media to portray Assad in a favourable light; and Blair's aides tried to help Assad's "photogenic" wife boost her profile. The newspaper noted:

The Arab leader was granted audiences with the Queen and the Prince of Wales, lunch with Blair at Downing Street, a platform in parliament and many other privileges ... The red carpet treatment he and his entourage received is embarrassing given the bloodbath that has since taken place under his rule in Syria ... The courtship has parallels with Blair's friendly relations with Muammar Gaddafi.

Blair had been on friendly terms with Colonel Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, when sanctions imposed on the country were lifted by the USA and the UK.

Even after the Libyan Civil War in 2011, he said he had no regrets about his close relationship with the late Libyan leader. During Blair's premiership, MI6 rendered Abdelhakim Belhadj to the Gaddafi regime in 2004, though Blair later claimed he had "no recollection" of the incident.

Relationship with media

Rupert Murdoch

Blair was reported by The Guardian in 2006 to have been supported politically by Rupert Murdoch, the founder of the News Corporation organisation. In 2011, Blair became Godfather to one of Rupert Murdoch's children with Wendi Deng, but he and Murdoch later ended their friendship, in 2014, after Murdoch suspected him of having an affair with Deng while they were still married, according to The Economist magazine.

Contacts with UK media proprietors

A Cabinet Office freedom of information response, released the day after Blair handed over power to Gordon Brown, documents Blair having various official phone calls and meetings with Rupert Murdoch of News Corporation and Richard Desmond of Northern and Shell Media.

The response includes contacts "clearly of an official nature" in the specified period, but excludes contacts "not clearly of an official nature." No details were given of the subjects discussed. In the period between September 2002 and April 2005, Blair and Murdoch are documented speaking 6 times; three times in the 9 days before the Iraq War, including the eve of 20 March US and UK invasion, and on 29 January 25 April and 3 October 2004. Between January 2003 and February 2004, Blair had three meetings with Richard Desmond; on 29 January and 3 September 2003 and 23 February 2004.

The information was disclosed after a three and a half-year battle by the Liberal Democrats' Lord Avebury. Lord Avebury's initial October 2003 information request was dismissed by then leader of the Lords, Baroness Amos. A following complaint was rejected, with Downing Street claiming the information compromised free and frank discussions, while Cabinet Office claimed releasing the timing of the PM's contacts with individuals is undesirable, as it might lead to the content of the discussions being disclosed. While awaiting a following appeal from Lord Avebury, the cabinet office announced that it would release the information. Lord Avebury said: "The public can now scrutinise the timing of his (Murdoch's) contacts with the former Prime Minister, to see whether they can be linked to events in the outside world."

Blair appeared before the Leveson Inquiry on Monday 28 May 2012. During his appearance, a protester, later named as David Lawley-Wakelin, got into the court-room and claimed he was guilty of war crimes before being dragged out.

Media portrayal

Blair has been noted as a charismatic, articulate speaker with an informal style. Film and theatre director Richard Eyre opined that "Blair had a very considerable skill as a performer". A few months after becoming Prime Minister Blair gave a tribute to Diana, Princess of Wales, on the morning of her death in August 1997, in which he famously described her as "the People's Princess".

After taking office in 1997, Blair gave particular prominence to his press secretary, who became known as the Prime Minister's Official Spokesman (the two roles have since been separated). Blair's first PMOS was Alastair Campbell, who served in that role from May 1997 to 8 June 2001, after which he served as the Prime Minister's Director of Communications and Strategy until his resignation on 29 August 2003 in the aftermath of the Hutton Inquiry.

Blair had close relationships with the Clinton family. The strong partnership with Bill Clinton was made into the film "The Special Relationship" in 2010.

Relationship with Labour Party

Blair's apparent refusal to set a date for his departure was criticised by the British press and Members of Parliament. It has been reported that a number of cabinet ministers believed that Blair's timely departure from office would be required to be able to win a fourth election. Some ministers viewed Blair's announcement of policy initiatives in September 2006 as an attempt to draw attention away from these issues.

Gordon Brown

Gordon Brown (pictured in 2002) was Chancellor under Blair, with whom he made a pact to succeed as prime minister.

After the death of John Smith in 1994, Blair and his close colleague Gordon Brown (they shared an office at the House of Commons) were both seen as possible candidates for the party leadership. They agreed not to stand against each other, it is said, as part of a supposed Blair–Brown pact. Brown, who considered himself the senior of the two, understood that Blair would give way to him: opinion polls soon indicated, however, that Blair appeared to enjoy greater support among voters. Their relationship in power became so turbulent that (it was reported) the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, often had to act as "marriage guidance counsellor".

During the 2010 election campaign Blair publicly endorsed Gordon Brown's leadership, praising the way he had handled the financial crisis.

Post-premiership (since 2007)

Diplomacy

On 27 June 2007, Blair officially resigned as Prime Minister after ten years in office, and he was officially confirmed as Middle East envoy for the United Nations, European Union, United States, and Russia. Blair originally indicated that he would retain his parliamentary seat after his resignation as Prime Minister came into effect; however, on being confirmed for the Middle East role he resigned from the Commons by taking up an office of profit. President George W. Bush had preliminary talks with Blair to ask him to take up the envoy role. White House sources stated that "both Israel and the Palestinians had signed up to the proposal". On 27 May 2015, Tony Blair wrote to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon to confirm his resignation as Middle East envoy.

In May 2008, Blair announced a new plan for peace and for Palestinian rights, based heavily on the ideas of the Peace Valley plan.

Private sector

In January 2008, it was confirmed that Blair would be joining investment bank JPMorgan Chase in a "senior advisory capacity" and that he would advise Zurich Financial Services on climate change. His salary for this work is unknown, although it has been claimed it may be in excess of £500,000 per year. Blair also gives lectures, earning up to US$250,000 for a 90-minute speech, and in 2008 he was said to be the highest paid speaker in the world.

Yale University announced on 7 March 2008 that Blair will teach a course on issues of faith and globalisation at the Yale Schools of Management and Divinity as a Howland distinguished fellow during the 2008–09 academic year. In July 2009, this accomplishment was followed by the launching of the Faith and Globalisation Initiative with Yale University in the US, Durham University in the UK, and the National University of Singapore in Asia, to deliver a postgraduate programme in partnership with the Foundation.

Blair's links with, and receipt of an undisclosed sum from, UI Energy Corporation, have also been subject to media comment in the UK.

In July 2010 it was reported that his personal security guards claimed £250,000 a year in expenses from the tax payer, Foreign Secretary William Hague said; "we have to make sure that [Blair's security] is as cost-effective as possible, that it doesn't cost any more to the taxpayer than is absolutely necessary".

Tony Blair Associates

Former rebel leader Hashim Thaçi and Tony Blair with Declaration of Independence of Kosovo

Blair has established Tony Blair Associates to "allow him to provide, in partnership with others, strategic advice on a commercial and pro bono basis, on political and economic trends and governmental reform". The profits from the firm go towards supporting Blair's "work on faith, Africa and climate change".

Blair has been subject to criticism for potential conflicts of interest between his diplomatic role as a Middle East envoy, and his work with Tony Blair Associates, and a number of prominent critics have even called for him to be sacked. Blair has used his Quartet Tony Blair Associates works with the Khazakstan government, advising the regime on judicial, economic and political reforms, but has been subject to criticism after accusations of "whitewashing" the image and human rights record of the regime.

Blair responded to such criticism by saying his choice to advise the country is an example of how he can "nudge controversial figures on a progressive path of reform", and has stated that he receives no personal profit from this advisory role. The Kazakhstan foreign minister said that the country was "honoured and privileged" to be receiving advice from Blair. A letter obtained by The Daily Telegraph in August 2014 revealed Blair had given damage-limitation advice to Nazarbayev after the December 2011 Zhanaozen massacre. Blair was reported to have accepted a business advisory role with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, a situation deemed incompatible with his role as Middle East envoy. Blair described the report as "nonsense".

European Council president speculation

In October 2007, there was speculation in the media that Blair was open to the idea of becoming the first President of the European Council, a post created in the Treaty of Lisbon that would come into force in 2009, if successfully ratified. Gordon Brown added his support, but noted that it was premature to discuss candidates before the treaty was approved. A spokesman for Blair did not rule out him accepting the post, but said that he was concentrating on his current role in the Middle East. Blair was later invited to speak on European issues at a rally of President Sarkozy's party, the Union for a Popular Movement, on 12 January 2008, which fuelled speculation further.

There was opposition to Blair's potential candidacy for the job. In the UK, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats both said they would oppose Blair. In Germany, the leader of the Free Democrats, Guido Westerwelle, said that he preferred a candidate from a smaller European country.

In November 2009, Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy was named President of the European Council.

Charity

On 14 November 2007, Blair launched the Tony Blair Sports Foundation, which aims to "increase childhood participation in sports activities, especially in the North East of England, where a larger proportion of children are socially excluded, and to promote overall health and prevent childhood obesity." On 30 May 2008, Blair launched the Tony Blair Faith Foundation as a vehicle for encouraging different faiths to join together in promoting respect and understanding, as well as working to tackle poverty. Reflecting Blair's own faith but not dedicated to any particular religion, the Foundation aims to "show how faith is a powerful force for good in the modern world". "The Foundation will use its profile and resources to encourage people of faith to work together more closely to tackle global poverty and conflict," says its mission statement.

In February 2009, he applied to set up a charity called the Tony Blair Africa Governance Initiative: the application was approved in November 2009. In October 2012 Blair's foundation hit controversy when it emerged they were taking on unpaid interns.

Memoirs

In March 2010, it was reported that Blair's memoirs, titled The Journey, would be published in September 2010. In July 2010 it was announced the memoirs would be retitled A Journey. The memoirs were seen by many as controversial and a further attempt to profit from his office and from acts related to overseas wars that were widely seen as wrong, leading to anger and suspicion prior to launch.

On 16 August 2010 it was announced that Blair would give the £4.6 million advance and all royalties from his memoirs to a sports centre for badly injured soldiers – the charity's largest ever single donation.

Media analysis of the sudden announcement was wide-ranging, describing it as an act of "desperation" to obtain a better launch reception of a humiliating "publishing flop" that had languished in the ratings, "blood money" for the lives lost in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, an act with a "hidden motive" or an expression of "guilt", a "genius move" to address the problem that "Tony Blair ha[d] one of the most toxic brands around" from a PR perspective, and a "cynical stunt to wipe the slate", but also as an attempt to make amends. Friends had said that the act was partly motivated by the wish to "repair his reputation".

The book was published on 1 September and within hours of its launch had become the fastest-selling autobiography of all time. On 3 September Blair gave his first live interview since publication on The Late Late Show in Ireland, with protesters lying in wait there for him. On 4 September Blair was confronted by 200 anti-war and hardline Irish nationalist demonstrators before the first book signing of his memoirs at Eason's bookstore on O'Connell Street in Dublin, with angry activists chanting "war criminal" and that he had "blood on his hands", and clashing with Irish Police (Garda Síochána) as they tried to break through a security cordon outside the Eason's store. Blair was pelted with eggs and shoes, and encountered an attempted citizen's arrest for war crimes.

Accusations of war crimes

Since the Iraq War, Blair has been the subject of war crimes accusations. Critics of his actions, including Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harold Pinter and Arundhati Roy have called for his trial at the International Criminal Court.

In November 2011, a mock war-crimes tribunal created by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission reached a unanimous conclusion that Blair and George W. Bush are guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the 2003 Iraq War. The mock trial, which lasted four days, consisting of five judges of judicial and academic backgrounds, a court-appointed defence team in lieu of the defendants or representatives, and a prosecution team including international law professor Francis Boyle. The mock tribunal's finding received mixed responses, being labelled a "circus" by former UN Special Rapporteur Param Cumaraswamy.

In September 2012, Desmond Tutu suggested that Blair should follow the path of former African leaders who had been brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, interviewed on BBC radio, concurred with Tutu's suggestion that there should be a war crimes trial. In a statement made in response to Tutu's comments, Blair defended his actions. He was supported by Lord Falconer, who stated that the war had been authorised by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441.

Response to the Iraq Inquiry

The Chilcot report after the conclusion of the Iraq Inquiry was issued on 6 July 2016 and it criticized Blair for joining the US in the war in Iraq in 2003. Afterwards, Blair issued a statement and held a two-hour press conference to apologize and to justify the decisions he had made in 2003 "in good faith" and denying allegations that the war had led to a significant increase in terrorism. He acknowledged that the report made "real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States" but cited sections of the report that he said "should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit". He stated: "whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country. ... I will take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse. I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world".

Brexit

Since June 2016, Blair has called for a second referendum, a decision through parliament or a general election to decide finally if Britain should leave the EU. Blair stated:

I'm convinced that it's going to be very, very tough. We have to understand we are not going to be conducting these negotiations with a group of European businessmen who might well decide that they want maximum access to the UK ... The people we are going to be conducting these negotiations with are the political leaders of the European Union and their parliaments ... I'm arguing we should keep our options open.

— 28 October 2016

Blair is concerned the 16 million voters who wanted to remain merit attention. If the deal with the EU that is worked out means leaving is not worth while or leaving has serious costs there should be a way of avoiding Brexit. Blair argues remain voters believe in the 21st century leaving the largest political union and commercial market very close to us is seriously mistaken. Blair maintains access to the single market would involve obligations over free movement of people and less freedom, while leaving the single market totally would involve pain and economic consequences. Blair believes once the implications of Brexit are understood public opinion may change. Blair also wrote: "Right now there is one point and one point only to win: we should keep every option open, that this should even be contentious speaks loudly about how much those of us, and after all we were 16 million people, who believe Britain's future lies within the European partnership, have been shoved on to the defensive.

Blair said Remain supporters are "the insurgents now", stating "we have to build the capability to mobilise and to organise. We have to prise apart the alliance which gave us Brexit".

Personal life

Family

Blair with wife, Cherie Booth, touring the Amber Room during a visit to Russia, 2003.

Blair married Cherie Booth, a Roman Catholic, who would later be named Queen's Counsel, on 29 March 1980. They have four children: Euan, Nicholas, Kathryn, and Leo. Leo, delivered by the Royal Surgeon/Gynaecologist Marcus Setchell, was the first legitimate child born to a serving Prime Minister in over 150 years – since Francis Russell was born to Lord John Russell on 11 July 1849. Blair was criticised when it was discovered that one child had received private tuition from staff at Westminster School. All four children have Irish passports, by virtue of Blair's mother, Hazel Elizabeth Rosaleen Corscaden (1923–1975). The family's primary residence is in Connaught Square; the Blairs own eight residences in total.

His first grandchild (a girl) was born in October 2016.

Wealth

Blair's financial assets are structured in a complicated manner, and as such estimates of their extent vary widely. These include figures of up to £100 million; Blair has stated he is worth less than a "fifth of that". A 2015 assertion, by Francis Beckett, David Hencke and Nick Kochan, concluded that Blair had acquired $90 million and a property portfolio worth $37.5 million in the eight years since he had left office.

Religious faith

In an interview with Michael Parkinson broadcast on ITV1 on 4 March 2006, Blair referred to the role of his Christian faith in his decision to go to war in Iraq, stating that he had prayed about the issue, and saying that God would judge him for his decision: "I think if you have faith about these things, you realise that judgement is made by other people ... and if you believe in God, it's made by God as well."

According to Alastair Campbell's diary, Blair often read the Bible before taking any important decisions. He states that Blair had a "wobble" and considered changing his mind on the eve of the bombing of Iraq in 1998.

A longer exploration of his faith can be found in an interview with Third Way Magazine. There he says that "I was brought up as [a Christian], but I was not in any real sense a practising one until I went to Oxford. There was an Australian priest at the same college as me who got me interested again. In a sense, it was a rediscovery of religion as something living, that was about the world around me rather than some sort of special one-to-one relationship with a remote Being on high. Suddenly I began to see its social relevance. I began to make sense of the world".

At one point Alastair Campbell intervened in an interview, preventing the Prime Minister from answering a question about his Christianity, explaining, "We don't do God." Campbell later explained that he had intervened only to end the interview because the journalist had been taking an excessive time, and that the comment had just been a throwaway line.

Cherie Blair's friend and "spiritual guru" Carole Caplin is credited with introducing her and her husband to various New Age symbols and beliefs, including "magic pendants" known as "BioElectric Shields". The most controversial of the Blairs' New Age practices occurred when on holiday in Mexico. The couple, wearing only bathing costumes, took part in a rebirthing procedure, which involved smearing mud and fruit over each other's bodies while sitting in a steam bath.

Later on, Blair questioned the Pope's attitude towards homosexuality, arguing that religious leaders must start "rethinking" the issue. Blair was reprimanded by Cardinal Basil Hume in 1996 for receiving Holy Communion at Mass, while still an Anglican, in contravention of canon law. On 22 December 2007, it was disclosed that Blair had joined the Roman Catholic Church. The move was described as "a private matter". He had informed Pope Benedict XVI on 23 June 2007 that he wanted to become a Catholic. The Pope and his advisors criticised some of Blair's political actions, but followed up with a reportedly unprecedented red-carpet welcome, which included the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who would be responsible for Blair's Catholic instruction. In 2010, The Tablet named him as one of Britain's most influential Roman Catholics.

Extramarital affair allegations

In 2014, Vanity Fair and The Economist published allegations that Blair had had an extramarital affair with Wendi Deng, who was then married to Rupert Murdoch. Blair categorically denied the allegations.

Portrayals and cameo appearances

Appearances

Blair made an animated cameo appearance as himself in The Simpsons episode, "The Regina Monologues" (2003). He has also appeared as himself at the end of the first episode of The Amazing Mrs Pritchard, a British television series about an unknown housewife becoming Prime Minister. On 14 March 2007, Blair appeared as a celebrity judge on Masterchef Goes Large after contestants had to prepare a three-course meal in the Downing Street kitchens for Blair and Bertie Ahern. On 16 March 2007, Blair featured in a comedy sketch with Catherine Tate, who appeared in the guise of her character Lauren Cooper from The Catherine Tate Show. The sketch was made for the BBC Red Nose Day fundraising programme of 2007. During the sketch, Blair used Lauren's catchphrase "Am I bovvered?"

Portrayals

Michael Sheen has portrayed Blair three times, in the films The Deal (2003), The Queen (2006), and The Special Relationship (2009). Robert Lindsay portrayed Blair in the TV programme A Very Social Secretary (2005), and reprised the role in The Trial of Tony Blair (2007). He was also portrayed by James Larkin in The Government Inspector (2005), and by Ioan Gruffudd in W. (2008). In the 2006 Channel 4 comedy drama documentary, Tony Blair: Rock Star, he was portrayed by Christian Brassington.

Blair in fiction and satire

When Blair resigned as Prime Minister, Robert Harris, a former Fleet Street political editor, dropped his other work to write The Ghost. The CIA-influenced British prime minister in the book is said to be a thinly disguised version of Blair. The novel was filmed as The Ghost Writer with Pierce Brosnan portraying the Blair character, Adam Lang. Stephen Mangan portrays Blair in The Hunt for Tony Blair (2011), a one-off The Comic Strip Presents... satire presented in the style of a 1950s film noir. In the film, he is wrongly implicated in the deaths of Robin Cook and John Smith and on the run from Inspector Hutton. In 2007, the scenario of a possible war crimes trial for the former British prime minister was satirised by the British broadcaster Channel 4, in a "mockumentary", The Trial of Tony Blair, with concluded with the fictional Blair being dispatched to the Hague.

Titles and honours

Styles since the 1983 election

  • Mr Anthony Charles Lynton Blair MP (1983–1994)
  • The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair MP (1994–2007)
  • The Rt Hon Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (2007–)

Appointments

  • Privy Councillor (1994)

Honours

Blair is presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then US President George W. Bush.
Blair in Kosovo meeting children named after him.
  • Congressional Gold Medal (2003)
  • Honorary Doctor of Law (LL.D.) from Queen's University Belfast (2008)
  • Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009)
  • Dan David Prize (2009)
  • Liberty Medal (2010)

In May 2007, before his resignation, it was speculated that Blair would be offered a knighthood in the Order of the Thistle, owing to his Scottish connections (rather than the Order of the Garter, which is usually offered to former Prime Ministers). Blair reportedly indicated that he does not want the traditional knighthood or peerage bestowed on former prime ministers.

On 22 May 2008, Blair received an honorary law doctorate from Queen's University Belfast, alongside former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, for distinction in public service and roles in the Northern Ireland peace process.

On 13 January 2009, Blair was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. Bush stated that Blair was given the award "in recognition of exemplary achievement and to convey the utmost esteem of the American people" and cited Blair's support for the War on Terror and his role in achieving peace in Northern Ireland as two reasons for justifying his being presented with the award.

On 16 February 2009, Blair was awarded the Dan David Prize by Tel Aviv University for "exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict". He was awarded the prize in May 2009.

On 13 September 2010, Blair was awarded the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was presented by former President Bill Clinton, and is awarded annually to men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe.

On 8 July 2010, Blair was awarded the Order of Freedom by the President of Kosovo, Fatmir Limaj. As Blair is credited as being instrumental in ending the conflict in Kosovo, some boys born in that country following the war have been given the name Toni or Tonibler.

Works

  • Blair, Tony (2010). A Journey. Random House; ISBN 0-09-192555-X OCLC Number 657172683 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (2002). The Courage of Our Convictions. Fabian Society; ISBN 0-7163-0603-4 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (2000). Superpower: Not Superstate? (Federal Trust European Essays). Federal Trust for Education & Research; ISBN 1-903403-25-1 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (1998). The Third Way: New Politics for the New Century. Fabian Society; ISBN 0-7163-0588-7 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (1998). Leading the Way: New Vision for Local Government. Institute for Public Policy Research; ISBN 1-86030-075-8 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (1997). New Britain: My Vision of a Young Country. Basic Books, ISBN 0-8133-3338-5 (New York)
  • Blair, Tony (1995). Let Us Face the Future. Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0571-2 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (1994). What Price a Safe Society?. Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0562-3 (London, UK)
  • Blair, Tony (1994). Socialism. Fabian Society, ISBN 0-7163-0565-8 (London, UK)

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