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A new era for Britain
Blair arrives at Downing St.;
Major quits as party leader
May 2, 1997
Web posted at: 10:09 a.m. EDT (1409 GMT)
(332K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
LONDON (CNN) -- Great Britain's political leadership changed
hands on Friday, with new Prime Minister Tony Blair
promising to "restore trust in politics." The transfer of
power took place one day after Blair's Labour Party
devastated the Conservative Party in parliamentary elections.
A L S O
Blair's speech at 10 Downing
Europe, world react to Blair victory
Blair faces great expectations -- from both sides
Earlier, the defeated John Major, who had served six and a
half years as prime minister, resigned as leader of the
"When the curtain falls, it is time to get off the stage,"
Major said before going to Buckingham Palace to hand his
letter of resignation to Queen Elizabeth II.
Afterward, Blair met with the queen and accepted her offer to form
a new government, making him, at 43, Britain's youngest prime
minister this century.
Then, Blair and his wife Cherie traveled to their new home at
10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence in
Before going inside with their three children -- Euan, 13,
Nicky, 11, and Kathryn, 9 -- the Blairs shook hands with
enthusiastic, flag-waving supporters lining the street.
Blair outlines his goals
The election "was a mandate to get those things done in our
country which desperately need doing for the future of
Britain," Blair said. (315K/13 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"We have set objectives for the new Labour government. A
world class education system in which education is not the
privilege of the few, but the right of the many in our
country," he said to applause from the large crowd.
The new prime minister promised Labour "will work in
partnership with business to create the dynamic, competitive
economy of the future."
"It will be a government that seeks to restore trust in
politics ... (A government that) gives people hope, once
again, that politics is ... about the service of the public."
(374K/18 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
He also paid tribute to Major, praising his "dignity and his
courage over these last few days and ... the manner of his
leaving, the essential decency of which is the manner of the
Major bows out
Major, speaking outside 10 Downing Street before seeing the
queen, said he would stay on as party chief for a brief
period to allow the choice of a successor.
He offered "warm congratulations" to Blair. "I believe he
will inherit the most benevolent set of economic statistics
since any incoming government since the first world war,"
"The country is in far better shape than when I entered
Downing Street," he said, expressing hope that Labour would
maintain the country's strong economy.
Low voter turnout for landslide
Labour clinched its biggest-ever victory shortly after 3 a.m.
(0200 GMT) when it won its 330th seat in the 659-seat
Turnout among the 44 million voters was 71.3 percent -- a
record post-war low. In the 1992 election, 77.7 percent of
With all but 29 seats counted, Labour was on course for a
landslide majority of almost 180 seats, allowing Blair to
govern without looking over his shoulder for the next five
Conservative losses included Finchley, the north London
district that Margaret Thatcher, Major's predecessor,
represented for 32 years until 1992.
Thatcher's office said she was "hugely disappointed" at the election defeat that ended
her party's 18 years of power.
The defeat was on a scale unseen for 165 years with six
cabinet ministers, including Foreign Secretary Malcolm
Rifkind and Defense Secretary Michael Portillo, losing
Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and
Reuters contributed to this report.
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