Tony Blair's decade of peace and war

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LONDON -- On a balmy Friday morning a decade ago, Britain's last and youngest prime minister of the 20th century emerged bleary-eyed into the spring sunshine and promised the country a different society: fair, modern, progressive –- less cynical and divisive. The tune from an all-night victory party still resounded: Things can only get better.

On Thursday, 10 years and eight days from that heady May morning, Tony Blair finally resigned as Labour Party leader, setting his departure for June 27. He did so to a muted response.

Much of the promise of 1997 has evaporated in the harsh glare of Iraq, a war that detractors say utterly overshadowed Mr. Blair's domestic program. Not so, say admirers, who tick off transformations they say have left Britain more prosperous, progressive, and democratic than ever before: strong economic growth, peace in Northern Ireland, an antipoverty campaign and modernization of public services like health and education.

"Prime ministers tend to get one sentence in history books and in Blair's case that will probably be Iraq," says John Rentoul, a Blair biographer. "But he has been prime minister for quite a long time, so he might get another sentence on how he made Britain a fairer place."

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