On this day in 1997 Tony Blair made a meteoric rise to power as his New Labour were elected in a landslide after 18 years of Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher and John Major crumbled with the loss of 178 seats*; it was the heaviest defeat for the Tories since the Duke of Wellington failed to form a government and William IV was forced to reinstate Earl Grey's Whigs in December 1832 - although for my liking not nearly heavy enough.
In all Blair would lead New Labour to three successive election victories, the most ever for a Labour Prime Minister... Early in his mandate he helped the nation navigate the paroxysm of grief which attended the death of Diana, Princess of Wales; in many ways it would be his finest hour. Unfortunately, it came earlier, rather than later in his tenure, by which time his Presidential style, zeal for 'change for change's sake' dressed up as reform, and friendship with George W. Bush meant he could have really used the good PR.
The Blair Era has been most hilariously chronicled by Sue Townsend in her books Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years and Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction.
*The Tories had 333 seats going into the election, to Labour's 271; when the last ballot was counted the Tories had been reduced to 165, while the ranks of Labour had swollen to an astounding 418, having secured 43.2% of them for themselves. The perennial third party Liberal Democrats benefited as well, adding 30 seats to their previous 16.
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