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CSMS Magazine Staff WritersIn the face of mounting criticism from his Labor party members, Tony Blair announced Saturday that next year’s party conference would be his last. Blair’s popularity plummeted when he sent British troops to Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion of that country three years ago. Blair, who had long resisted calls to publicly set a timetable for his departure from office, caved in under heavy pressure from the British public who regards him as a lackey, a “yes-sir” man to president Bush.    According to the Associated Press, Blair has long contemplated the idea, but “feared such an announcement would make him a lame duck and sap his remaining authority.” However, Blair hated by most average citizens of Western Europe for his “blind” commitment to US foreign policy could not seem to find any other way to end a calamity that is seriously threatening his Labor party’s almost ten years in power. Labor party now trails the Conservative party according to latest opinion polls.    ”I would have preferred to do this in my own way,” Blair said, as he conceded that the party’s annual conference this month would be his last. The conference for next year is set for September 2007. But questioning on a specific date, the British PM declined to comment. “The precise timetable has to be left to me and has to be done in the proper way,” he said before an army of journalists.    According to AP, Blair seemed to have worked out a deal with his well-known, expected successor, Treasury chief Gordon Brown, who announced his support in a “statement minutes before Blair spoke to television cameras at a north London school.” Many observers believe that there are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the Prime Minister’s exit strategy. The quintessential question is whether Blair’s strategy will be explicit enough to avert a revolt within his own party.    In Washington, White House spokesman Tony Snow said Blair and Bush still have plenty of work to do together. “He’s a valued ally,” Snow said. “And at this point, we’re not sitting around writing encomia for Tony Blair. We’re instead busy working with him.”      Tony Blair has long been derided by many as George Bush’s “poodle.” His prestige suffered another major blow at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, last July. An open microphone caught a chat in which he seemed embarrassingly subservient to Bush, who greeted him by shouting “Yo, Blair!”     Blair’s refusal to join other European nations in calling for a quick end to the Israel-Hezbollah fighting in Lebanon last month was the final provocation for many of his once-loyal supporters. That conflict is the root of his political problems, and continued bloodshed in Iraq keeps it in the headlines. The war has severely damaged his credibility and was widely seen as the reason Labor suffered a sharply reduced majority when he led it to a third straight election win last year.Also see war in Iraq: https://www.csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060623I138

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