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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 May 2007, 07:20 GMT 08:20 UK
Tony Blair: Highs and lows

Labour landslideEcclestone affairFuel crisisFoot and mouth crisisSecond Labour landslideIraq invasionHuttonThird term wonOlympic victory and London bombsFirst Commons defeatAnnounces departureCash for Honours row9/11 attacks

MAY 1997: LABOUR LANDSLIDE

Tony Blair enters Downing Street on a wave of goodwill after a landslide election victory, his Commons majority of 179 ending 18 years of Conservative rule. Even as he walks into Downing Street for the first time as prime minister - to be greeted by Labour supporters waving union jacks - the scale of the victory has yet to sink in. A few hours ago he had been contemplating a coalition with Paddy Ashdown's Liberal Democrats, believing he would never gain a working majority.

NOVEMBER 1997: ECCLESTONE AFFAIR

Mr Blair's popularity soars to unprecedented heights for a British prime minister in the immediate aftermath of his election victory. The Ecclestone affair is the first significant bump in the road - and a foretaste of the spin and party funding crises that would later engulf his premiership. He is accused of granting favours to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone - exempting the sport from a tobacco ad ban - in exchange for a 1m Labour donation. After handing the cash back he insists in a BBC interview: "I am a pretty straight sort of a guy."

SEPTEMBER 2000: FUEL CRISIS

The first national emergency of Mr Blair's premiership and the most serious dip in his popularity to this point. And it comes out of a clear blue sky. Panic buying of petrol and food threatens to bring the country to a halt after tanker drivers blockade oil refineries in protest at soaring diesel prices. Mr Blair returns from Hull - where he has been celebrating the 30th anniversary of John Prescott's entry into politics - to go into talks with oil companies, ministers and the police in a bid to find a solution. William Hague's Conservatives briefly overtake Labour in the polls.

FEBRUARY 2001: FOOT-AND-MOUTH

A dark pall hangs over the final months of Mr Blair's first term in office, as the smoke from burning cattle and sheep carcasses drifts across a land blighted by foot-and-mouth disease. The crisis has taken Blair by surprise and ministers come in for heavy criticism for failing to bring it under control earlier. The general election - planned for May - has to be delayed amid continuing travel restrictions in rural areas.

JUNE 2001: SECOND LANDSLIDE

Despite a foot-and-mouth-delayed election, Mr Blair achieves a second landslide, with a virtually unchanged majority - although his personal popularity is not what it was in 1997. It has been a dull campaign - enlivened only by Mr Blair's deputy John Prescott punching a voter who threw an egg at him. But unlike 1997, there are few celebrations at Labour HQ, as Mr Blair - chastened by media stories about spin and public service failures - vows to "do the things we promised to do".

SEPTEMBER 2001: 9/11 TERROR ATTACKS

Mr Blair is preparing to deliver a speech to the TUC conference in Brighton when the first plane flies into the World Trade Center. Nothing will be the same for him again. His personal poll ratings soar in the immediate aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, as he rushes to US President George W Bush side, offering UK support for reprisal attacks on Afghanistan. It is the first act in a global "war on terror" that will dominate the rest of his time in office.

MARCH 2003: IRAQ INVASION

Another key turning point in the Blair premiership. Mr Blair fails to secure a second UN resolution authorising an invasion of Iraq, but wins Commons backing for military action - despite a rebellion by 139 Labour MPs. Two days later Operation Iraqi Freedom begins with air strikes on Baghdad. Mr Blair insists British ground troops must be fully committed, rather than in the supporting role offered by the US on the eve of war.

SEPTEMBER 2003: HUTTON INQUIRY

The inner workings of Mr Blair's government are laid bare in merciless detail during autumn 2003's Hutton inquiry. The inquiry was sparked by the apparent suicide of government weapons scientist Dr David Kelly, who had been identified as the source of a BBC story claiming the government had "sexed up" a dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. But when Lord Hutton publishes his report it is the BBC, and not Mr Blair, which takes the lion's share of the blame - ending speculation Mr Blair would be forced to resign.

MAY 2005: THIRD TERM WON

An historic third successive election victory for Mr Blair. But his majority is reduced to from 167 in 2001 to 66. He promises to learn lessons from this - and the fact that he has the lowest share of the popular vote of any prime minister in history. He promises to "focus relentlessly" on the key issues affecting the public.

JULY 2005: LONDON BOMBINGS

The most dramatic 24 hours of Blair's premiership. Jubilation over London winning the right to host the 2012 Olympics turns to horror as the city suffers multiple suicide attacks on its transport system. Three explosions occur on the Underground and one on a bus, killing 52 people. In a statement, Mr Blair says: "It is a very sad day for the British people but we will hold true to the British way of life." His popularity climbs as the nation looks to him for leadership.

NOVEMBER 2005: FIRST COMMONS DEFEAT

New anti-terror laws came thick and fast in the wake of the 7 July attacks - but proposals to extend the length of time suspects can be held without charge to 90 days prove too much for many Labour MPs. He suffers his first Commons defeat as prime minister over the plans, with 49 Labour rebels voting against the government. Mr Blair says he hopes they "do not rue the day" they rejected his plans. Tory leader Michael Howard calls for his resignation.

DECEMBER 2006: CASH FOR HONOURS

Mr Blair becomes the first serving prime minister to be interviewed by police as part of a criminal inquiry. Scotland Yard has been probing allegations that peerages were "sold" to wealthy individuals in exchange for party loans since March 2006. The prime minister is interviewed for a second time in January but the inquiry appears to be focusing on four members of his inner circle. No-one has been charged and all deny any wrongdoing. But ministers ruefully acknowledge the damage the affair is doing to the government.

SEPTEMBER 2006: ANNOUNCES DEPARTURE

He did not want it to end this way. Mr Blair made that perfectly plain as he finally bowed to weeks of pressure - culminating in a string of ministerial resignations - to name a departure date. He would be gone within a year, he told reporters on a visit to a London primary school - but in a final act of defiance to those calling for his head he refuses to name a precise date. "I would have preferred to do this in my own way," he admits.






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