Tony Blair secures a huge majority with a moderate programme and a fresh party name- New Labour. The economy continues to strengthen enabling Gordon Brown to fund social changes whilst Blair concentrates on constitutional issues, especially the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland. He involves Britain in an unpopular war in Iraq and is replaced by Brown, who becomes involved in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Tony Blair became prime minster with a huge majority of 179. He had built on the Labour party reforms put in place by Neil Kinnock and came to power promising a fresh new dawn, heralded by the New Labour party he had created. 101 of New Labour’s 418 MPs were women. Throughout the election campaign, the Tories were dogged by ’sleaze’ allegations and they suffered their worst defeat since 1906, with no representation at all in Scotland and Wales. The Liberal Democrats also benefited from the Tory collapse and won 46 seats. Sinn Fein candidates Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness won election in N. Ireland but, in accordance with Sinn Fein policy, did not take their seats in the Commons. John Major resigned the Conservative party leadership and was succeeded by the young Yorkshire man William Hague.
Blair was looking forward to a victorious party conference in October, when the nation was shocked by the death of the recently divorced Princess of Wales and her companion Dodi Fayed in a car accident in Paris in the early hours of 31st August.
1997 Tony Blair wins a crushing election victory and forms a New Labour government.
~ The Referendum party wins 2.6% of the national vote and is dissolved soon after James Goldsmith’s death a few weeks later.
~ William Hague (born 1961) is elected leader of the Conservative party.
~ Diana Princess of Wales dies in a Paris car crash.
~ Hong Kong returns to Chinese rule. Effectively the end of the British Empire.
~ Five economic tests are devised by Gordon Brown to judge whether the UK is fully equipped to join the proposed single European currency (the Euro).
~ Proposed devolution of government powers receives referendum majorities in Scotland and Wales.
~ The government allows the Bank of England to assume responsibility for UK monetary policy.
~ The British Library moves to its new home at Euston Road London.
~ The Royal yacht Britannia is decommissioned after travelling more than 1million nautical miles on royal duties and national business.
~ A modern reconstruction of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, inspired by American actor Sam Wanamaker (1919-93), opens on the Thames South Bank with a performance of Henry V.
~ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is published, the first Harry Potter book by J. K. Rowling (born 1965).
~ Laurie Lee (born 1903), poet and novelist, author of Cider with Rosie, dies.