Voters welcome news of Blair exit

By Deborah Haynes

LONDON – News that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will quit within a year received a warm welcome on the streets of London on Thursday where voters said he had served his purpose.

Blair had served his purpose, they said, hoping that

his expected successor — seen most likely as Chancellor Gordon Brown — would not mean more of the same policies.

The prime minister’s departure “is probably best for the Labour Party because they need a change,” said Martin Fry, 48, a public sector worker.

He felt Blair had done a largely good job, likening him to Margaret Thatcher, one of his most illustrious predecessors.

“However, like Thatcher, I think he has come to a point in his political life when he has outlived his usefulness and his purpose,” Fry said. “He was the right person at the right time when he came into power but times have changed.”

After two days of high drama over Blair’s future, the prime minister said in a televised statement that this month’s annual Labour Party conference would be his last as leader.

But he said: “I’m not going to set a precise date now, I don’t think that’s right. I will do that at a future date and I’ll do it in the interests of the country.”

When Blair finally bows out, he will not be remembered fondly by some voters because of his unpopular decision to take the country to war in Iraq and ally himself closely with U.S. President George W. Bush.

“I have not got a very high opinion of Blair, he has made a lot of promises and failed to fulfill them,” said Chrissey Staggs, 29, a medical secretary.

“I am pretty pleased that he is going. The main problems I have with Blair is that he is George Bush’s puppet and he does not listen to the people.”

Rod Taite, a 39-year-old fashion photographer, felt Blair’s nine years in office had been good domestically – with improvement in schools and hospitals, he said.

“But in terms of the war in Iraq, his alliance with the U.S. administration has been divisive rather than corrective and it is just going to cause a lot of problems in the future,” Taite said.

Other people were not so kind about Blair’s domestic legacy, saying that he had failed to make good on promised education and health reforms.

“I think it is time for him to go. But we do not need someone replacing him who carries on exactly the same policy,” said Robin Sivapalan, a learning support worker. — Reuter

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