( AFP ) - Tony Blair stands down as prime minister after a decade in office Wednesday, making way for Britain's new leader Gordon Brown, amid rampant speculation that Blair will be made an international envoy to the Middle East.
At noon (1100 GMT), Blair will answer MPs' questions in parliament for the final time, before returning to his Downing Street residence and office to say his final farewells.
After that, he will head to Buckingham Palace to officially tender his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II. Brown will then visit with the monarch to officially begin his tenure as prime minister.
Brown, who becomes prime minister by virtue of leading the majority party in parliament, received political and financial boosts in recent days and weeks with news of an opposition lawmaker defecting to the Labour Party, and reports that Labour has received a rush of large financial donations.
Much of the country's attention, however, has been focused on comments and speculation that the so-called Quartet -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- were to make Blair their envoy to the Middle East to push for peace there.The EU's representative at the Quartet's discussions in Jerusalem on Tuesday said, however, that offering the post to Blair was not a done deal, noting that the Russian representative was not yet ready to give the green light.
Blair's resignation was the topic of most newspapers' top editorials with the powerful Sun tabloid describing him as having "transformed the political landscape" while The Times gave him its thumbs-up for the Middle East post.
The Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, however, described him as a politician with enormous potential who never lived up to the hype.
Blair took power in 1997 after 18 years of Conservative government with a substantial majority in parliament and a strong mandate, but his popularity ratings have dropped considerably from those early years thanks mostly to his decision to join the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003.
In the past decade, he has stood side-by-side with the United States in the so-called "war on terror" but has also led efforts to reach international agreement on climate change, and ramp up aid and assistance to Africa.
Mounting pressure within Labour, and increasingly public infighting, however, eventually forced Blair to promise last year he would step down before he served out his third term.
Brown, who has been finance minister throughout the past decade, has stewarded Britain through record economic expansion, and has long had his eyes on the top job.
He is regarded by most commentators as a marked contrast to Blair -- a dour, uncharismatic and deliberate politician set to succeed the man some have characterised the most talented British politician in a generation.
The pair have a long history together -- they both entered parliament in 1983, and were quickly friends as they shared an office and a desire to reform Labour.
Brown has promised a new style of government with more openness and more power in the hands of parliament, and is likely to announce a wide-ranging ministerial reshuffle either on Wednesday or Thursday.