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Labour Landslide in Britain Boosts Europe Ties, Women

Blair names record five females to his Cabinet; routed Tories in disarray.

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Britain's first Labour Party government in 18 years has begun rewriting the nation's political agenda. Tony Blair, who last Thursday became at 43 the youngest prime minister since 1812, is promising "a radical approach" at home and abroad and "a new era of hope."

Following a landslide election victory May 1, he has appointed a record five women to his cabinet. One of them, Ann Taylor, now is leader of the House of Commons. Margaret Beckett is president of the Board of Trade, charged with promoting British trade and industry. They are among more than 100 women elected to the 659-seat House of Commons, nearly double the number in the last Parliament.

Meanwhile, the badly defeated Conservative Party is facing a bitter leadership battle.

Mr. Blair's huge majority of 179 seats in Parliament, says political analyst Anthony King, "means that he is excellently positioned to govern with real authority. No Labour government has ever won so handsomely, and no Tory party has lost so badly since 1832."

The new prime minister has put four issues at the top of his list of priorities:

"Constructive engagement" with Europe. New Foreign Secretary Robin Cook says the government will defend British interests while embracing the European Union's charter of workers' rights. The Conservative government had rejected the charter.

Restarting peace talks on Northern Ireland. Within hours of her appointment, new Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlem flew to the province and began to explore the possibility of relaunching the stalled peace process.

A "radical overhaul" of the welfare state. Over the weekend, Blair appointed a duo of senior ministers to oversee reforms.


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