THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

35. Powerful British



Prime Minister Brown (left), and Middle East Envoy Blair (right)

Brown becomes British PM as Blair gets Mideast job

Gordon Brown took over from Tony Blair as British prime minister Wednesday, finally stepping out of his predecessor's shadow after 10 years and vowing to lead the country into a new era of change. He has been Britain's Prime Minister in waiting all this while.

Within hours Blair had announced his resignation as a lawmaker, as the United Nations confirmed his appointment as international envoy to the Middle East.

Brown, who has been Blair's finance minister since 1997, pledged to lead a "new government with new priorities" after being asked to form the next government by Queen Elizabeth II.

"At all times I will be strong in purpose, steadfast in will, resolute in action in the service of what matters to the British people, meeting the concerns and aspirations of the whole country," he said.

Flanked by his wife Sarah outside the prime minister's official residence at number 10 Downing Street, Brown pledged to "listen and learn", to implement changes in areas like health and education and to build trust in government.

With a wave, the former chancellor of the exchequer (finance minister) then disappeared into number 10 for the first time as prime minister, to finalise his senior ministerial appointments.
A major reshuffle is expected, with the main announcements Thursday.

Blair's decision to resign as an MP was confirmed by the Treasury, minutes after the United Nations in New York confirmed his nomination as Middle East envoy.

Brown said on Wednesday that he was "delighted" that Blair had been named to the post, adding that Blair was "exceptionally well placed" to take on the role, in a statement released by his Downing Street office.

He had left little doubt about his plans earlier in the day, refusing to confirm his appointment, but declaring a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an "absolute priority".
"I believe it is possible to do that but it will require a huge intensity of focus and work," he told parliament.

Blair's last appearance as premier before the House of Commons ended with loud applause and a rare standing ovation before he headed to Buckingham Palace to tender his resignation.
"That is that. The end," Blair said, choking back emotion, after listening to a string of tributes to his decade in power that was marked by a booming economy but mired in controversy over the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

On Iraq and Afghanistan, where British troops are still stationed, Blair was defiant to the last, refusing to agree with critics that the troops were fighting in vain."I don't and I never will. I believe they're fighting for the security of this country and wider world against people who would destroy our way of life," he said.

In Northern Ireland's First Minister Ian Paisley, whose recent election was the climax to one of Blair's biggest achievements, wished him well in any Middle East role, although he acknowledged it was a "colossal task".

He drew a parallel with the reconciliation between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland, adding: "I hope that what happened in Northern Ireland will be repeated."

White House spokesman Tony Snow led the international plaudits, describing Blair's relationship with US President George W. Bush as "extraordinary".

Brown took over from Blair as Labour Party leader on Sunday and has until May 2010 at the latest to call a general election, although opposition parties want him to call one immediately.

The man dubbed the "Iron Chancellor" stewarded Britain through record economic expansion. But his serious style is a marked contrast to Blair's eloquent and easy, media-friendly personality - AFP.