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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)

Latest developments:

icon(332K/15 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

T H E    C E L E B R A T I O N
A N D    T H E     C O N C E S S I O N
Blair greets the voters
25 sec. / 1M QuickTime Movie

Blair's victory party
30 sec. / 1.3M QuickTime Movie
Major accepts defeat
32 sec. / 1.1M QuickTime Movie

Leaving 10 Downing Street
19 sec. / 737k QuickTime Movie

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.

Blair's speech at 10 Downing Street
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 Conservatives.


"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 London.

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. icon (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." icon (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 man."

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," Major said.

"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 parliament.

Turnout among the 44 million voters was 71.3 percent -- a record post-war low. In the 1992 election, 77.7 percent of people voted.

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 years.

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 their seats.

Correspondent Christiane Amanpour and Reuters contributed to this report.

Britain Decides: CNN Special Section



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