Tony Blair's father, Leo, dies at 89

Nov. 17, 2012 at 1:14 AM
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LONDON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Leo Blair, the Conservative politician who sired British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has died. He was 89.

Tony Blair's office said he was with his father when he died Thursday night, The Independent reported.

The elder Blair, a World War II veteran, was a lawyer and law professor at Durham University who also became head of the Durham Conservative Association. He was planning a run for Parliament when he had a severe stroke at the age of 40 and instead spent the next three years learning to talk.

"Raised in a poor part of Glasgow, he worked his way up from nothing, with great ambitions dashed by serious illness on the very brink of their fulfillment," Blair said.

"He lost my mother, whom he adored, when she was still young. Yet despite it all he remained animated by an extraordinary spirit that was in him until the end. I was privileged to have him as a Dad."

Leo Blair's political trajectory took him from the Communist Party to the Conservatives. He joined the Labor Party when his son became the party leader.

Tony Blair said his father's political views helped shape his own, making him understand the Labor Party had to provide for "aspiration." His father, brought up by foster parents, had made his way into the middle class.

When Tony Blair became prime minister in 1997, his father sent a letter of congratulations to 10 Downing St. signed "your loving Pa." Father and son were amused when he received a form letter addressed to "Dear Mr. Pa" advising him to seek help from his member of Parliament or the local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Leo Blair spent his later years in Shropshire with his second wife, Olwyn.

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