Fresh start on longest day

Steve Boggan on 24 hours in the life of the new Prime Minister
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The Independent Online
It was difficult to know when one day ended and the other began, but somewhere in between saw the dawn of a new era.

It was the beginning of a new type of government, Tony Blair style, and he wasted no time in showing the world what it meant. Within minutes of leaving Buckingham Palace as the Queen's tenth Prime Minister, it was there for all to see on the doorstep of 10 Downing Street.

Gone was the imperiousness of the Thatcher years. Gone too the bland greyness that had bedevilled John Major. Instead, a young family stood in the glare of the world's gaze, the wife hugging the husband as if she still had a schoolgirl crush on him, the children blinking nervously.

Throughout his six-week campaign, the Labour leader stressed his vision for the future, because it was his children's future. And when he stood outside Number 10 with his wife, Cherie, their arms around Euan, 13, Nicholas, 11, and Kathryn, nine, it was easy to see what he meant.

Election day had been more than 24 hours long for Mr Blair. It ended when he arrived home in Islington, north London, at around 6am yesterday after leaving behind ecstatic scenes at Labour's election party in the Royal Festival Hall.

But there was to be little sleep. Mr Blair rose early yesterday and spent the morning making telephone calls. At 13 minutes past noon, he stepped into the sunshine outside his home to be greeted by applause and cheers from neighbours and well-wishers. Cherie joined him for the first time in the green prime ministerial Daimler surrendered earlier by John Major. Accompanied by Alastair Campbell, his press secretary, Special Branch officers and police outriders, he was driven to his audience with the Queen along a route lined with crowds waving Union Flags.

They were greeted at the King's Door by Lt-Commander Toby Williamson, the Queen's equerry. It was 12.31 and Mr Blair was one minute late for his appointment with the Queen in the Audience Room where, 30 minutes earlier, John Major had tendered his resignation.

Twenty-five minutes later, Mr Blair left as Prime Minister and sped to Downing Street, cheered by party workers and their children. Then, after a tour of the Downing Street living quarters, began the business of government, with a meeting with Sir Robin Butler, the Cabinet Secretary, and Alex Allan the Principal Private Secretary.

But before announcing the first members of his Cabinet, Mr Blair the family man got together with his children, his father, Leo, and Cherie's family, and had a spot of lunch.