May 1

This Day in History

General Interest

May 1, 1997:

Labour party returns to power in Britain

After 18 years of Conservative rule, British voters give the Labour Party, led by Tony Blair, a landslide victory in British parliamentary elections. In the poorest Conservative Party showing since 1832, Prime Minister John Major was rejected in favor of Scottish-born Blair, who at age 43 became the youngest British prime minister in more than a century.

Blair studied law at Oxford and joined the Labour Party in 1975. In 1983, he was elected to Parliament from Sedgefield and became the party's spokesperson on treasury affairs in 1985, and trade and industry in 1987. In the next year, he joined the shadow cabinet as energy secretary and in 1993 became shadow home secretary. In 1994, he was elected leader of the Labour Party, and during the next three years he orchestrated Labour's ideological shift to the middle, borrowing such popular Conservative policies as free-market reforms. In May 1997, his "new" Labour Party won a resounding victory, and he was sworn in as prime minister. With Blair at its helm, the Labour Party went on to win three consecutive general-election victories. Blair was re-elected in 2001 and 2005, despite his support for U.S. President George W. Bush and the war in Iraq, which was unpopular among many Brits. He has now served longer as prime minister than any other Labour Party member in history.

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