Tony Blair: when was he prime minister, what does he do now and what has he said about the UK vaccine plan?

He has set up the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change

Tony Blair has urged the UK Government to speed up vaccinations in the country.

The former Labour prime minister said 5 million people a week should be immunised to ensure the virus is brought under control.

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It comes as both Scotland and England were plunged into lockdowns on Monday 4 January to control rising cases thought to be caused by the new, more transmissible strain of the virus.

Tony Blair has said half of the UK’s population could be vaccinated by the end of March (Shutterstock)Tony Blair has said half of the UK’s population could be vaccinated by the end of March (Shutterstock)
Tony Blair has said half of the UK’s population could be vaccinated by the end of March (Shutterstock)

So, what has Tony Blair said about the vaccine rollout, when was he prime minister - and what does he do now?

What has Tony Blair said about vaccinations?

Tony Blair, 67, has said half of the UK’s population could be vaccinated by the end of March if the government speeds up its jab plan.

Speaking to Good Morning Britain on 6 January, Mr Blair said the government needs to change its strategy and “throw absolutely everything at this”.

He warned of a “cat and mouse game” with the new variants of the virus, saying the “quicker” vaccines are rolled out, the better.

Mr Blair said: “What we are learning about this disease – and I’m afraid this is going to be a big big problem for us in the future – is that it is a bit of a cat and mouse game.

“You’ve got the risk the longer you delay this [vaccine rollout] that you get another variation of the disease which is more difficult for us to deal with.

“So you’ve got the one that most people think of as developed here but it was actually just discovered here but you’ve got the one coming out of South Africa which is much more worrying.

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“And you could have further mutations of the disease. So the quicker you do this vaccination programme the better it is – not just to get us back to normal – but also to fight the disease.”

Mr Blair said people may not be able to live normal lives unless they have been vaccinated, predicting that, in the near future, other countries could demand to see proof of vaccination.

He said: “I think you will get to the stage where it’s going very hard for people to do a lot of normal life unless they can prove their vaccination status.

"I think you’ll find a situation where countries say to you ‘you’re not coming in here unless we see whether you’ve either been vaccinated, you’ve had the disease and got antibodies or you’ve had a recent high-quality test’.

“People have got to understand vaccination is going to be in the end your route to liberty.”

The former Labour leader’s non-profit organisation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, recently published its own “plan for vaccine acceleration”.

The paper sets out how ministers could rapidly increase delivery of vaccinations.

It suggested that “vaccination stations”, drive-through vaccine sites, pop-up and mobile units should be set up, as well as utilising GP surgeries and pharmacies to immunise people.

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To reach high vaccination numbers, the former PM said the present vaccine plan should be “altered completely”.

He added: “We reckon you could get up to three million a week by the end of January, four million a week by the end of February, five million a week in March and then you’ve got to use every single available bit of capacity in order to make sure these vaccines are used.

“That means I think altering completely the present plan that we have… we should be thinking about this on a completely different scale now.”

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When was Tony Blair prime minister?

Tony Blair was the youngest Prime Minister in a century when Labour was victorious in the 1997 general election, at 43 years old.

He went on to be the UK’s premier for a full decade, from 1997 to 2007.

Mr Blair moved the Labour Party from the left towards the centre ground of British politics, which many people have said gained him the unprecedented three consecutive terms in power.

In 1994, following the death of Labour leader John Smith, Mr Blair became leader of the party and won a landslide victory for the party three years later.

He was re-elected in 2001 and 2005, and stepped down in 2007 to be succeeded as prime minister by Gordon Brown.

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The former PM is perhaps best known in Scotland for being the prime architect of devolution, allowing the country to hold a referendum in 1997 to establish the Scottish Parliament.

What does Tony Blair do now?

Blair is currently executive chairman of his own non-profit organisation, the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

He has described the organisation as a “new policy platform to refill the wide open space in the middle of politics”, aimed at combating a “frightening authoritarian populism”.

Since leaving office, according to the institute, Tony Blair has been "supporting governments to deliver effectively for their people, working for peace in the Middle East and countering extremism".

He has remained active as a public speaker, but Mr Blair also became re-involved in politics in 2017, saying he was motivated by Brexit.

The former Labour leader fervently campaigned for a second Brexit referendum, calling for the government to offer voters a hard Brexit or the chance to remain in the EU.

Tony Blair was also critical of Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader, saying that the party underwent “profound change” under the former leader’s guidance.

He also said Mr Corbyn had “alienated” both sides of the Brexit debate with his confusing EU stance, claiming the ex-Labour leader was a “closet Eurosceptic”.

He has since hinted that he might start up his own political party.