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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Blair marks decade as Labour head
Tony and Cherie Blair on his leadership election day in 1994
The Blairs have endured the ups and downs of life in No 10
Tony Blair marked his 10th anniversary as Labour leader with a Commons clash over crime.

Michael Howard taunted Mr Blair over his pledge, in his acceptance speech 10 years ago, to be "tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime".

Mr Blair admitted there were "real problems" with violent crime but said overall crime had fallen under Labour.

Labour is taking a low-key approach to Mr Blair's anniversary, saying it had no plans but to carry on as normal.

'Taking action'

Mr Blair, who as shadow home secretary regularly faced Mr Howard across the despatch box in the early 1990s, said police numbers had increased by 12,500 under Labour.

And he said crime had fallen, according to the British Crime Survey.

But Mr Howard said recorded crime had in fact risen since 1998, with violent crime up 64% and, if he was prime minister, he would ensure the Home Office got the resources it needed.

Mr Blair said "there are real problems with violent crime" but said the government was taking action to combat the problem.

'Not quitting'

Mr Blair, elected to the post after John Smith's death, has been prime minister since May 1997.

Close friend and Cabinet colleague Lord Falconer told the BBC Mr Blair showed "absolutely no sign" of being ready to quit Downing Street.

Lord Falconer, was asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme if he thought Mr Blair would remain as leader through to the next general election.

He replied: "Yes... Look at what is happening at the moment - on Monday a long and detailed series of proposals about law and order, last week health, the week before that education.

We have a leader that both the party want and the public can form a view at when the next election comes
Lord Falconer

"This is a Prime Minister and a government developing domestic policy in detail, saying to the electorate this is what we propose for the years to come."

Pressed on whether Mr Blair might "do a disappearing act", Lord Falconer said: "There is absolutely no sign of it. All of the signs are in the opposite direction."

It was put to Lord Falconer that the Government might fare better electorally if the architect of the Iraq affair was out of the way.

He replied: "No. I think the position is clear. We have a leader that both the party want and the public can form a view at when the next election comes.

"Iraq is plainly a part of a series of decisions that the Government have taken, but there is also a strong domestic agenda and there is a strong commitment to making sure that Iraq moves to a settled and secure future."

Foreign policy

There is speculation Mr Blair could announce a government reshuffle before MPs begin their long summer break.

The anniversary comes as Mr Blair faces continued pressure over flaws in the intelligence used to justify the Iraq war.

KEY DATES
12 May 1994: John Smith dies from a heart attack
21 July 1994: Blair wins leadership election
2 May 1997: Becomes youngest prime minister since 1812
7 June 2001: Labour wins historic second term in office

His premiership has seen him send British troops into action not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone.

His foreign policy has led to criticisms from within his own party for being too close to America, and particularly to Republican President George Bush.

But Mr Blair has insisted on the need to build bridges between Europe and America.

And he has pointed to successes on his domestic record, including falling waiting lists in the NHS, rising standards in primary schools and a fall in overall crime statistics.

Labour reforms

The prime minister is also proud of his government's economic record.

A major plank of his reforms of the Labour Party since 1994 has been concentrated on ensuring the party is trusted on the economy.

He promised "fairness not favours" for the Labour's traditional trade union allies.

But the party's relations with the union bosses have become increasingly strained, particularly over Mr Blair's determination to push ahead with his public service reforms such as foundation hospitals.

There has been major backbench unrest too in the last year over plans for university top-up fees.

'Spin'

Mr Blair's time at the helm has seen major constitutional changes, most notably devolution to Scotland and Wales.

He also removed most of the hereditary peers from the House of Lords but has still to complete the reform of the upper House of Parliament or tackle the thorny issue of voting reform.

Opposition parties argue Mr Blair's leadership has been characterised by "spin", with concern for media headlines outweighing genuine action.

They also accuse the government of centralising too much power and failing to deliver on its promises to voters.

The last decade has also left numerous ex-ministers on the back benches, sometimes complaining that Mr Blair relies too much on an inner circle of advisers, such as his former media chief Alastair Campbell and chief of staff Jonathan Powell.

But the criticisms have not prevented Mr Blair from winning two general election landslides in 1997 and 2001.

Blair-Brown rivalry

This month has seen by-election defeat in Leicester South but Labour did hang on to Birmingham Hodge Hill.

Mr Blair beat John Prescott and Margaret Beckett to become leader after Gordon Brown decided not to stand for the job.

That decision has produced numerous reports of a pact between the two men and suggestions that Mr Blair promised to hand over power to his chancellor.

The prime minister continues to insist he is "up for the job" and wants to lead Labour to a third general election triumph.





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