British Prime Minister Tony Blair
As he’s done time and again during nearly a decade in office, British Prime Minister Tony Blair commanded the world’s attention during the recent diplomatic tug of war with Iran over the safe return of British sailors and marines captured in contested waterways. With the captives heading home, a tough-talking Blair amended his generally conciliatory tone, telling reporters, “…there are elements, at least, of the Iranian regime that are backing, financing, arming, supporting terrorism in Iraq.” Once again, Blair — international statesman — seized the moment.
May marks the 10th anniversary of Blair’s election as Britain’s prime minister. As he prepares to depart 10 Downing Street on June 27, THE BLAIR DECADE tells the story of a controversial premiership and an extraordinary personal journey of great battles, political rivalries and moral dilemmas. The program, airing Wednesday, May 23, at 8:30 p.m. on KUED-Channel 7, provides the first authoritative television analysis of Blair’s decade in office and the legacy he leaves to his presumptive successor — and longtime rival — Chancellor Gordon Brown.
“On Tony Blair’s 10th anniversary as prime minister, this documentary looks back on a rollercoaster record of political successes and public controversies. While he’s unpopular at home, Blair is hailed for his courage and leadership abroad,” says executive producer Stephen Segaller. “We tell the inside story of how Blair led the most successful Labour Party government in history -- through interviews with some of the leading figures in British and U.S. politics — the people who were in the room as decisions were debated, arguments thrashed out and careers made or broken.”
THE BLAIR DECADE details the prime minister’s relationship with two U.S. presidents — Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — his foreign-policy accomplishments and his most controversial decisions.
In his first year as prime minister, Blair helped secure the historic and long-sought 1998 Good Friday peace accord that largely ended three decades of violence in Northern Ireland. As the 10th year of his premiership ends, the Northern Ireland Assembly will meet, capping the peace process in the province.
A proponent of “humanitarian intervention,” Blair ordered British troops into battle a record number of five times in his first six years at Number 10. Blair committed British troops to Kosovo because it was “the right thing to do” — persuading Clinton along the way. In the face of the largest street demonstrations in his country’s history, he nonetheless supported Bush’s 2003 invasion of Iraq and continues to defend Britain’s costly involvement.
In THE BLAIR DECADE, numerous past and present American and British leaders discuss Blair’s strong personal and political beliefs. According to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, President Bush himself cautioned Blair against sacrificing his premiership to back the Iraq war. “I remember a phone conversation that they had,” Rice says in the film. “And Prime Minister Blair saying, ‘No, I told you that I’m with you, and I’m going to be with you.’”
THE BLAIR DECADE also covers Blair’s formative years, his entrance into politics and the role of his powerful barrister wife, Cherie Booth.
In 1997, the revamped New Labour Party won the general election by a landslide. At 43, Blair — credited with coining the term “New Labour” and completing his party’s shift towards the political center — became the youngest prime minister since Lord Liverpool in 1812. He was in power barely three months when Princess Diana, “the people’s princess,” died in a car accident in Paris. At a time of profound national mourning, Blair secured his reputation for being in tune with the popular mood.
Blair was elected to a second easy victory a few months before 9/11 and the film credits him with understanding the geopolitical significance of the event and of forming a tight bond with Bush, despite their profound differences of political vision.
The film also addresses the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks on London’s public transportation system. Many Britons blamed Blair for the attacks, which they suggested were in retaliation for the country’s involvement in Iraq. The ongoing debate over flawed intelligence on WMDs has contributed to a growing distrust of Blair in his homeland as his political reign draws to an end.THE BLAIR DECADE airs Wednesday, May 23, at 8:30 p.m., on KUED-Channel 7.
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