Sept. 7, 2006 -- In the midst of criticism from the British public and his own party, Prime Minister Tony Blair said today he would resign within a year.
Saying he would have preferred "to do this in [his] own way," Blair confirmed in a taped statement that he would leave office in 12 months, but he did not give a specific date.
Blair's statement followed several days of increasing controversy in which several politicians from Britain's three major political parties called on Blair to set a date for his departure.
The prime minister has faced increasing criticism in the United Kingdom, much of it stemming from his support of President Bush. The press has mocked him, calling him "America's lapdog." He was also widely criticized for his deference to President Bush after an open microphone at July's G8 summit caught the two speaking informally.
The Labor Party has voiced strong disapproval for Blair, saying he led the country into the Iraq War. Nine members of government, including four ministers from Blair's party, resigned in the run-up to the Iraq War, citing their opposition to Britain's involvement. Robin Cook, who resigned at that time, seemed to speak for many of his colleagues when he said the British public "suspect they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a U.S. administration with an agenda of its own."
Members of Parliament have loudly challenged Blair on the Iraq War during question and answer sessions. A leaked Labor Party memo about strategies for Blair's exit from office called the Iraq War "the elephant in the room," which should be "incorporated into our media plan."
Calls increased for Blair's resignation after 15 members of Parliament, who also held positions in Blair's Cabinet, called for Blair to quit. Of these 15, who expressed their opinion in an open letter to Blair, six have resigned from their Cabinet positions, although they remain members of Parliament.
In his resignation letter, Khalid Mahmood said, "I feel that your remaining in office no longer serves the best interests of the party or the country. It is with the greatest regret that I must leave the government."
Mark Tami, another Cabinet member who quit and called Blair's refusal to set a date "damaging to the government and the party," welcomed today's move. He said in a written statement to ABC News, "It has been vital to end uncertainty in order to ease the path of further progress."
Chancellor Gordon Brown, widely viewed as Blair's successor in the Labor Party, stated that he would "support [Blair] in the decisions he makes."