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Blair Facing Labor Critics After Losses

June 12, 2004|From Reuters

LONDON — A humbled Prime Minister Tony Blair returns to Britain today to answer critics in his own party after voter backlash against his support for war in Iraq brought an unprecedented trouncing in local elections.

Blair's aides tried to put the best possible spin on the election defeat while he attended the funeral of former President Reagan in Washington.

More than 460 Labor officials were voted out of local government, and Blair will have to convince party members with seats in Parliament that they will not suffer the same fate in a general election likely next year.

"I'd like to say I'm sorry to the [local] councilors who've lost their seats," Blair told reporters in Washington before heading home. "I think Iraq has been a shadow over our support."

He said that he was as determined as ever to stay on and that he expected Iraq would become less of a liability as news improved with a U.N.-endorsed plan to restore sovereignty.

Blair supported the U.S. drive to invade Iraq despite strong opposition within his party.

For the first time, Blair's Labor Party did not even manage to come in second. It won 26% of the vote, putting the party behind both the main opposition Conservatives and the strongly antiwar Liberal Democrats.

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