Year
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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

The Battle of Manila Bay

At Manila Bay in the Philippines, the U.S. Asiatic Squadron destroys the Spanish Pacific fleet in the first battle of the Spanish-American War. Nearly 400 Spanish sailors were killed and 10 Spanish warships wrecked or captured at the cost of only six Americans wounded. The ...read more

Great Exhibition opens

On May 1, 1851, the Great Exhibition opens to wide acclaim in the Crystal Palace in London. Inside the Crystal Palace, a giant glass-and-iron hall designed by Sir Joseph Paxton, more than 10,000 exhibitors set up eight miles of tables. Technological wonders from around the world ...read more

An American tops Everest

James Whittaker of Redmond, Washington, becomes the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Located in the central Himalayas on the border of China and Nepal, Everest stands 29,028 feet above sea level. Called Chomo-Lungma, or “Mother ...read more

Empire State Building dedicated

On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover officially dedicates New York City’s Empire State Building, pressing a button from the White House that turns on the building’s lights. Hoover’s gesture, of course, was symbolic; while the president remained in Washington, D.C., ...read more

North Vietnamese troops capture Quang Tri

North Vietnamese troops capture Quang Tri City, the first provincial capital taken during their ongoing offensive. The fall of the city effectively gave the communists control of the entire province of Quang Tri. As the North Vietnamese prepared to continue their attack to the ...read more

Rickey Henderson breaks stolen base record

On May 1, 1991, Oakland Athletics outfielder Rickey Henderson steals his 939th base to break Lou Brock’s record for stolen bases in a career. Henderson stole a total of 1,406 bases in his major league career, almost 500 more than the next closest player. Henderson was also the ...read more

Calamity Jane is born

On this day, the adventurer and performer Calamity Jane is born near Princeton, Missouri. The myths and fabrications concerning the life of Calamity Jane are so numerous it is difficult to discover her true story. Legend has it that at various times Jane worked as a dishwasher ...read more

Citizen Kane released

Months before its release, Orson Welles’ landmark film Citizen Kane began generating such controversy that Radio City Music Hall eventually refused to show it. Instead, Citizen Kane, now revered as one of the greatest movies in history, made its debut at the smaller RKO Palace ...read more

Record-breaking tornado wave begins

A record-breaking wave of tornadoes begins across the southern and midwestern United States on this day in 2003. By the time the wave is over, more than 500 tornadoes are recorded for the month, shattering the previous record by more than 100. The amazing spate of twisters ...read more

Former NBA All-Star indicted

On May 1, 2002, former NBA All-Star Jayson Williams was indicted on a series of charges, including aggravated manslaughter, in connection with the shooting death of limousine driver Costas Christofi at Williams’ estate on February 14. Williams enjoyed a successful NBA career with ...read more

Battle of Chancellorsville begins

On this day in 1863, the Battle of Chancellorsville begins in Virginia. Earlier in the year, General Joseph Hooker led the Army of the Potomac into Virginia to confront Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Hooker had recently replaced Ambrose Burnside, who presided over the ...read more

American U-2 spy plane shot down

An American U-2 spy plane is shot down while conducting espionage over the Soviet Union. The incident derailed an important summit meeting between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that was scheduled for later that month. The U-2 spy plane was the ...read more