Blair predicts tough times in 2006
LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair said Saturday that new threats were coming Britain’s way and big decisions on its future had to be made - but people should be thankful to live in such a “great country”.
In his New Year message nearly six months after London was hit by apparent Islamist suicide bombers, Blair vowed he would not “let our resolve slip” in the fight against terrorism. Britain faces challenges that will affect the country’s prosperity and security for the next half-century, Blair warned. He also said there would be no let-up in British efforts to bring peace and democracy to Afghanistan.
Blair has pledged that 2006 will be one of his last years in office, but he faces potential revolts from his own centre-left Labour Party MPs on several key issues which he hopes will form his legacy - rather than his decision to lead Britain into the war in Iraq.
On the day he became Britain’s 10th-longest serving prime minister at eight years, 245 days in power, Blair said Britain would begin the New Year “in a strong position”. “Britain in 2006 will continue to be one of the most successful countries in the world with a strong economy and good public services. We live in a beautiful, prosperous country where most of us work hard and live decent, honest lives.
“In an age of rapid change, new challenges and threats will emerge constantly but we should always be grateful for what a great country Britain is.” He said domestic reform would be matched by the necessary international agenda “as we continue to fight terrorism and bring hope and democracy to Afghanistan and Iraq.
“We will not let our resolve slip to tackle the dangers we face, both at home, as so tragically illustrated on July 7, and abroad.” From controversial reforms on health and education to Britain’s lingering military presence in Iraq, Blair has his work cut out convincing not just the country at large, but his own party in particular. The once-unassailable Blair could face a humiliating defeat early in 2006 on proposed education reforms aimed at giving more power to schools. afp