Tony Blair ceases to be Prime Minister today and his last 24 hours in power have had a decidely American feel to them. He met Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Downing Street yesterday to discuss climate change issues and there is much talk of him spending much of his 'retirement' on the US lecture circuit. He is expected to command a fee of $150,000 per appearance and will probably speak at least once or twice a month in the USA over the next year. He leaves Downing Street heavily in debt and with mortgages for five properties.
The clipping above is from the front page of The Times. The Times also reports that Tony Blair is likely to be The Quartet Powers' Special Envoy to the Middle East.
George W Bush's tribute to Tony Blair appears on the front page of The Sun, Britain's best-selling newspaper. The Sun publishes a sixteen page tribute to the outgoing Prime Minister. Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Bono and Governor Schwarzenegger are amongst the contributors. Here are some key extracts from the President's interview-based article for The Sun:
"We've served together during a time of war, and shared the same determination to succeed. We analysed the enemy the same way, and found each other in the same foxhole. I admire somebody who sees over the horizon. In this job, and in his job, you've got to see beyond the immediate if you intend to lay a foundation for peace. Tony and I have had great and long discussions about the threats the civilised world faces. He fully understands the nature of the enemy. He sees this as an ideological struggle, and he knows that those of us blessed by the ideology of liberty, that has led to great comfort for our respective peoples, must help others realise the benefits of that."
"This is the beginning of a long ideological struggle, where Tony Blair and I are writing the first chapters of the war, probably the dominant war of the 21st Century."
"Tony's great skill, and I wish I had it, is that he's very articulate. I wish I was a better speaker. This guy can really talk!"
“Tony’s had a great run and history will judge him kindly. He’s a very talented man, for whom I’ve got a great deal of respect. I selfishly said to him, ‘I hope you can stay out my term!’ But Tony has been very gracious about Gordon Brown to me. Gordon came here and he wasn’t the image of the dour Scotsman at all! He was relaxed. It was a good meeting.”
Mr Blair may have a friend and admirer in President Bush but the final opinion poll of his era suggests that only 14% of voters want the next generation of British politicians to embrace Blairism.
Related link: What will Brown mean for the special relationship?
1pm update: Fast record of Tony Blair's final PMQs