Thursday, June 28, 2007

The quiet changing of power in Britain

Former Treasury chief Gordon Brown became British prime minister Wednesday, promising "a new government with new priorities," after Tony Blair left office with a legacy of economic prosperity overshadowed by the deeply divisive Iraq war.

Yesterday was a historical day when power changed hands traditionally and quietly behind closed doors in Buckingham Palace. The constitutional monarch discharged one the most important responsibility of the traditions of the parliamentary form of government.

First Tony Blair first called on Queen Elizabeth II to submit his resignation to end a decade in power, and Gordon Brown arrived soon after to be invited to form the next government as the new prime minister.

Tony Blair's last day as the prime minister of the United Kingdom was an emotional one. In his last sitting in the revered chamber as prime minister, Tony Blair was cheered out of the Commons with a standing ovation that broke all the rules.

Earlier, his double bed, running machine and exercise bike were removed from the front door of No 10 in the full glare of the television cameras.

When Gordon Brown returned to Downing Street confirmed as prime minister, his greeting was a low-key affair, a deliberate contrast with the flag-waving crowds of "ordinary people" who lined Downing Street when Mr Blair took office 10 years ago. (It turned out that most were hand-picked Labour Party members - a metaphor for the PR of the Blair era.)

Brown set to work immediately, addressing the troops. "I don't want to be called anything other than Gordon," Britain's new Prime Minister said, going further than his predecessor's "call me Tony" edict to his Cabinet in 1997, which did not apply to staff.

Blair and Brown are friends-turned-rivals and on this day their paths took a diversion when Blair carried his own overnight bag at King's Cross as he boarded a train for Darlington.

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