British PM Tony Blair to Step Down After a Decade in Power

British Prime Minister Tony Blair today announced he’ll be stepping down as of June 27th. Blair made the announcement at the Trimdon Labour Club in his constituency of Sedgefield in northern England. In his farewell speech, Blair made note, among other things, of his achievements in gay rights.

Tony_blairWhile Tony Blair’s statement that “people are today open-minded about race and sexuality” is a stretch in most quarters, there’s no doubt that Britain has made greater strides in that arena than we have in the United States in the past decade.

Said Blair: “Think about the culture of Britain in 2007. I don’t just mean our arts that are thriving. I mean our values – the minimum wage, paid holidays as a right, amongst the best maternity pay and leave in Europe, equality for gay people.”

We’ll look forward to the day that comes out of the mouth of an American leader.

British gay activist Peter Tatchell praised Blair’s record, according to UK Gay News: “During Tony Blair’s Prime Ministership, anti-gay laws that had existed for decades, or even centuries, were repealed. Nearly all homophobic legislation was removed from the statute books in less than a decade – a truly breath-taking pace of reform that has greatly improved the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Congratulations and thanks to the Labour government – and to MPs from all parties who backed gay law reform.”

Tatchell also noted that Blair “squandered many opportunities” and reminded that many of Blair’s ‘achievements’ (age of consent laws, gays in the military, end to workplace discrimination) came only after pressure from the European Court of Human Rights and European Union directives.

Certain current Labour Party policies still need to be tackled, said Tatchell: “[Labour] support the ban on same-sex marriage, deport gay asylum seekers, and refuse to prohibit incitement to homophobic hatred. The battle for queer equality isn’t finished yet. We still have a way to go.”

Tony Blair’s resignation speech, in two parts.

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  1. anon says

    One could also toss in that the various gay sex scandals that rocked the UK govt over the years contributed to the repeal of the old laws as well. Tony is also responsible for Big Brother style law enforcement too in Britain, which has really reduced the rights of suspects and the accused. Even the Conservatives could not stomach any more of his anti-crime “measures” in the past several months.

  2. Stewart says

    After 10 years as a British citizen trying to gain permanent residency in the US with my American partner, we both returned to the UK last year. What I was unable to achieve in 10 years, my partner was able to achieve in one afternoon after a visit to the UK embassy in LA. Our relationship is recognized by Britain and he has residency rights as a result. I can honestly say I felt between down by the right wing forces in America, deprived of my basic humanity to live a life and love another person of my choosing with the same rights and privelges as the rest of the population. It’s a sad reflection on America that a country that was once the bastion of free speach, civil rights and equality is now far behind the social agendas of Europe and the UK in particular. Thank God for Tony Blair and thank god for the UK. I wish him all the best as he moves on with his life.

  3. Lead says

    Hear hear Stewart. I too will miss Tony, he’s been the PM for as many years that I’ve lived on this side of the pond and the positive changes under his reign out weigh the bad. Yes, he latched onto Bush’s shirt tail over Iraq but at least he’s capable of admitting it and addressing it in a farewell speech that he himself authored. Imagine George W Bush attempting to do the same on the 20th January 2008. We think not. Cheers Tony!

  4. Leo says

    Blair was a charismatic leader who made the Labour Party electable and won three General Elections.

    Blair had his faults, particularly his obsession for trying to grab headlines with short-sighted and unworkable initiatives to deal with whatever was the hot topic of the day.

    But if there’s one thing that has blighted his legacy more than anything else, it’s Iraq.

  5. Brian says

    It’s unfortunate that such a charismatic and effective leader will forever be so closely associated with the disastrous lie that is the Iraq war.

  6. Dean says

    To agree with Rosie O’Donnell… Bush NEXT!

    While I disagreed with much of Blair’s politics- specifically his position as Dubya’s lapdog- I will grant him this… He’s an excellent speaker. During 9/11 the contrast between his speeches and the Shrub’s made me embarrassed to have such a de-evolved chimp as leader of our country.

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