The son of a barrister, Blair graduated from St. John's College, Oxford, in 1975 and was called to the bar the following year. While specializing in employment and commercial law, he became increasingly involved in Labour Party politics and in 1983 was elected to the House of Commons. His entry into politics coincided with a long political ascendancy of the Conservative Party (from 1979) and Labour's loss of four consecutive general elections (from 1979 through 1992).
Entering Labour's shadow cabinet in 1988, Blair became the most outspoken of those party leaders calling for Labour to move to the political centre and deemphasize its traditional advocacy of state control and public ownership of certain sectors of the economy. In 1992 John Smith was elected Labour leader, and he appointed Blair shadow home secretary. After Smith's death in May 1994, Blair was elected the new leader of the Labour Party in July. By mid-1995 he had revamped the Labour Party's platform, obtaining unprecedented commitments to free enterprise, anti-inflationary policies, aggressive crime prevention, and support for Britain's integration into the European economy. Blair summed up his reforms by describing the party as New Labour. Under his leadership, it easily defeated the Conservatives in nationwide municipal elections held in May 1995. Labour achieved a landslide victory over the Conservatives in the general election of May 1997, and Blair became prime minister.
Weeks after entering office, Blair made the historic decision to grant the Bank of England the right to determine interest rates independent of the government. In June 1997 he announced that talks concerning the future of Northern Ireland would resume and that Sinn Féin (the political arm of the Irish Republican Army [IRA], a semimilitary organization that sought to unify the British province of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland) would be allowed to participate if the IRA called a cease-fire. On July 19 the IRA laid down its arms, and in December Blair welcomed two prominent figures of Sinn Féin to the prime minister's Downing Street residence, the first time since 1921 that leaders of the IRA had been received there. In April 1998 Blair oversaw the signing of a peace agreement that led to self-rule in Northern Ireland the following year.
At present, none of Tony Blair's papers are deposited at archive institutions.