This is the text of Opposition Leader Tony Blair’s speech on New Labour, given to the Labour Party conference in Blackpool.
This was Blair’s first party conference since assuming the leadership in July 1994, and his first major speech articulating his vision of New Labour.
Speech by Tony Blair to the Labour Party Conference 1994.
SPEECH TO CONFERENCE BY RT HON TONY BLAIR MP, LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY.
Today I set out my vision for our party and our country: what we are; where we stand; how we will govern.
We meet in a spirit of hope, hope that change can come…. hope that we can rid our country of this Tory Government, their broken promises, their failed policies, their discredited philosophy, and elect in its place, a Labour Government for Britain.
We all remember where we were, and what we were doing, when we heard that John Smith had died.
Together, one nation, all parties united in mourning, and in celebration of his integrity, his honesty and his decency. We were proud to know him and proud to be led by him.
We will honour his memory best, by ensuring the Party he loved becomes, once again, the Government of the country he loved.
We have begun our task. The people have already elected us to control 175 councils.
In May we won over two and half thousand new seats. We have won 4 by-elections this year, and three of our four new MPs are women.
In the European elections we gained record numbers of seats. These were not opinion polls. They were elections. We are winning them.
And we are proud that one of our MEPs, Pauline Green, is the first woman leader of the Socialist Group in Strasbourg.
There is one other representative in Europe to whom we pay tribute…Commissioner Kinnock, a credit to our party here, as he will be to our country in Brussels.
We had our own election too.
One million people took part in a leadership contest that was a tribute to our democracy, and from which we emerged with our unity and strength enhanced.
I would like to thank John Prescott for his magnificent contribution to our party, and on behalf of all of us pay tribute to Margaret Beckett for the credit she brought to our party in picking up the reins of leadership and leading us with such
We celebrate too the record growth in our membership. 14,000 members in August alone. I can announce today that by the end of this month, we will have passed the 300,000 mark.
And I am glad, too, we have an active young Labour section again, three time as many as members as the Young Conservatives.
I am the first leader in a generation who can say with confidence to our youth section: I want to see an increase in your influence.
One other debt of gratitude. Larry Whitty is to leave the post of General Secretary of the Party to take up a new and important job co-ordinating the Party’s links with Europe.
Larry is one of the most genuine and least self-serving people I know and we thank him for all the loyalty and dedication he has shown us.
We are a Party proud of our international solidarity.
I am delighted to welcome representatives here this afternoon from the government of the new Republic of South Africa.
I was 10 years old when Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island. Since then, the words Nelson Mandela have been an inspiration.
But aren’t the words President Mandela even more inspiring?
We welcome too representatives of the Israeli government.
We applaud Yitzhak Rabin’s Labour government and Yasser Arafat’s PLO, for breaking new ground to help the Palestinian people towards self government in the Gaza Strip and Jericho and bring peace to the Middle East.
We also congratulate our sister parties in Sweden, Australia, Denmark and Holland on their recent election successes.
And we wish every success to socialists and social democratic parties in Austria and Germany in their forthcoming elections.
Fifty years ago, the British Labour government helped to form the United Nations.
We will continue to work for it to be stronger, more cohesive and capable of bringing new order to a world no longer dominated by the Cold War.
In particular, in Bosnia, we urge acceptance of the peace plan now on the table to avoid further brutality and bloodshed. We live in a world where a quarter of its population lack drinking water and a fifth starve; where civil war in Rwanda and
elsewhere is rife.
We should not forget those people. I can tell you overseas aid and development will always be a central part of the Labour Party I lead. We should show courage too, over a quite different sphere of international relations: Europe.
Britain’s interests demand that this country is at the forefront of the development of the new Europe.
Of course Europe should change.
Of course we should stand up for British interests, as others stand up for theirs.
Indeed we should be taking on the Common Agricultural Policy costing the average British family 20 pounds a week and about which the Tories do nothing.
But, the Tories are playing politics with Europe and the future of this country. Let them.
Under my leadership, I will never allow this country to be isolated or left behind in Europe.
The tide of ideas in British politics is at last on the turn.
For the first time in a generation, it is the right-wing that appears lost and disillusioned. No longer believing in their own language, they turn to ours.
Some are trying out “community”. “Partnership”. Even “fairness.”
Some are now talking of Civic Conservatism.
A contradiction in terms.
Most absurd, “full employment” was tried out by desperate David Hunt at the TUC.
His reward – the most humiliating demotion imaginable: one day, counting the unemployed…the next, he’s counting traffic cones.
Today politics is moving to our ground.
Across the nation, across class, across political boundaries, the Labour Party is once again able to represent all the British people.
We are the mainstream voice in politics today.
Back on the side of the vast majority…to speak out for them and against the entrenched interests that hold them back. To parents wanting their children to be taught in classrooms that are not crumbling, to students with qualifications but no university place, let us say, the Tories have failed you, we are on your side, your ambitions are our ambitions.
To men and women who get up in the morning, and find the kitchen door smashed in, again…the video gone, again…to the pensioners who fear to go out of their homes, let us say the Tories have abused your trust, we are on your side – your concerns are our concerns.
To the small businesses, pushed to the wall by greedy banks, employers burdened by government failure, to employees living in fear of the P45…and above all to the men in their 40s, shamefully laid off at Swan Hunter, the thousands others insecure in their jobs in every part of this county… let us say the Tories have forgotten you, but we will not – your anxieties are our anxieties.
To middle and lower income Britain, suffering the biggest tax rises in peacetime history, the Tories have betrayed you,
We are back as the Party of the majority in British politics.
Back to speak up for Britain.
Back as the people’s party.
Look at Britain 15 years after Mrs Thatcher stood on the steps of Downing Street.
Where there was discord, is there harmony?
Where there was error, is there truth?
Where there was doubt, is there faith?
Where there was despair, is there hope?
Harmony? When crime has more than doubled.
Truth? When they won an election on lies about us and lies about what they would do?
Faith? When politics is debased by their betrayal.
Hope? When three million people are jobless, nearly 6 million on income support…. and one in three children grow up in poverty?
They have brought us injustice and division but these have not been the price of economic efficiency. Because tax is also up – 800 pounds a year extra for the average family.
Spending is up and growth over the last 15 years is down.
And look at what they wasted on the way. Billions of pounds gifted by Nature, the God-given blessing of North Sea oil, billions we could have invested in our future.
Billions they squandered.
One hundred and eighteen billion pounds – five thousand pounds for every family in this country – gone, wasted, vanished.
And to hide the truth of the nation’s problems they have sold our nation’s capital assets, built up over many years and used the proceeds not to invest, but to cover current spending. Seventy billion pounds gone forever.
Its time to take these Tories apart for what they have done to our country. Not because they lack compassion, though they do.
But because they are the most feckless, irresponsible group of incompetents ever let loose in the Government of Britain.
Their time is up. Their philosophy is done. Their experiment is over. Their failure
is clear. It is time to go.
And why are they incompetent?
Not just because of the individuals.
It is not this or that Minister that is to blame, it is an entire set of political values that is wrong.
They fail because they fail to understand that a nation, like a community, must work together in order for the individuals within it to succeed.
It is such a simple failing and yet it is fundamental.
Go and look at a company that is succeeding.
It won’t treat its workforce as servants but as partners. They will be motivated and trained and given a common purpose.
Of course sweatshop conditions in the short-term can make do. But in the end they fail. The quality and commitment isn’t there. Its the same with a country.
It can be run on privilege and greed for a time; but in the end it fails.
This is not theory. We have living proof of it.
At the end of 15 years, we are taxing and spending more not to invest in future success but to pay for past failure.
I don’t mind paying taxes for education and health and the police. What I mind is paying them for unemployment, crime and social squalor.
After 15 years we spend more of our national income on unemployment and poverty and less on education.
If the share of national wealth invested in housing was the same as in 1979, we would spend 11 billion more; next year we will spend 11 billion on housing benefit.
Now they want to cut the benefit.
Instead of cutting benefit, why not cut the homeless queue, cut unemployment, and build the houses.
And if it needs an initial capital investment, release the money tied up in local authority bank accounts and put it to work to start the house building programme.
The Tory economics is based on a view of the market that is crude, out of date and inefficient. And their view of society is one of indifference, to shrug their shoulders and walk away.
They think we choose between self-interest and the interests of society or the country as a whole.
In reality, self interest demands that we work together to achieve what we cannot do on our own.
More and more, I believe that though, of course, ability plays a great part in life, what most distinguishes those at the top from those at the bottom is their life-chances.
So much talent is wasted. So much potential underdeveloped. I don’t just mean the unemployed. I mean those who just have jobs, when they should have careers with prospects and a hope of advancement.
We can learn from the family. The Tories have posed as the Party of the family for too long.
They are no more the Party of the family than they are the Party of law and order. They have done more to undermine stable family life in this country than any other Government in memory.
The Tory view of the family is the same as its view of the individual: you are on your own. But the essence of family life is that you are not on your own.
You are in it together.
Families work best when the members of it help and sustain each other. The same is true of communities and of nations.
Community is not some piece of nostalgia. It means what we share.
It means working together,
It is about how we treat each other.
So we teach our children to take pride in their school, their town, their country.
We teach them self-respect; and we teach them respect for others too.
We teach them self-support and self-improvement; and we teach them mutual support and mutual improvement too.
The Tories despise such principles.
Their view is simple: let’s just watch as the hospitals spring up, as the schools rise in green and pleasant playing fields.
Let’s just sit tight on this planet of miracles, where the free market builds business, trains employees, controls inflation, preserves demand, ensures everlasting growth.
Let’s congratulate ourselves that thanks to our inspiring inaction the elderly live in comfort. The young play in safety.
All around, people on this planet sing hymns of gratitude to the invisible hand of the market, as it brings equality and prosperity to all, as ‘cascades of wealth’ tumble down from generation to generation.
Welcome to Planet Portillo.
It is the theatre of the politically absurd.
Market forces cannot educate us or equip us for this world of rapid technological and economic change.
We must do it together.
We cannot buy our way to a safe society. We must work for it together.
We cannot purchase an option on whether we grow old. We must plan for it together.
We can’t protect the ordinary against the abuse of power by leaving them to it; we must protect each other.
That is our insight.
A belief in society. Working together. Solidarity. Cooperation. Partnership. These are our words.
This is my socialism. And we should stop apologising for using the word.
It is not the socialism of Marx or state control. It is rooted in a straight forward view of society. In the understanding that the individual does best in a strong and decent community of people with principles and standards and common aims and values.
We are the party of the individual because we are the Party of community.
It is social-ism.
Our task is to apply those values to the modern world. It will change the traditional dividing lines between right and left. And it calls for a new politics.
Without dogma and without swapping our prejudices for theirs.
It is time to break out of the past and break through with a clear and radical and modern vision for Britain.
Today’s politics is about the search for security in a changing world. We must build the strong and active society that can provide it.
That is our project for Britain.
It will be founded on four pillars:-
A society of opportunity must be built around a strong and stable economy in which all of us have a stake.
Mass unemployment is inconsistent with a civilised society.
It is time to state clearly, in the words of the pioneering White Paper of 1944, that it is the duty of government to maintain a high and stable level of employment.
It is a responsibility we share as a society. That commitment – the goal of full employment – I reaffirm today.
It will take time.
The means of doing it will change. But it must be done if this is to become a society of which everyone feels a part.
Above all, we must conquer the weaknesses of our economy that hold our country back. It won’t be done by state control. But it won’t be done by market dogma. It can only be done by a dynamic market economy based on partnership between Government and industry. Between employer and employee and between public and private sector.
Take investment in infrastructure.
Only in Tory Britain could the Government have tried to build the Channel Tunnel without public investment. They even passed a law against it. In desperation they had to ask the taxpayer to fork out more than half the cost.
Now it’s up and running…trains speed through France at 185 miles per hour, through the tunnel at 85 miles per hour, and then go through Kent – at 47 miles per hour.
The French got the high-speed link. We got the slow coach link. But then we’ve got the Tories.
Government must take the lead, and a Labour Government would do that. We would get public and private finance working together in transport in housing, in capital projects in health and education.
And if there are Treasury rules or antiquated concepts of public borrowing that hold us back, change them. That is what intelligent Government is for.
In technology, there is an information revolution under way.
– Fifty per cent of employees in Britain now work in information processing.
– In the next century, Seventy per cent of wealth will be created in the information industries.
– And 80 per cent of all the information stored anywhere in the world is in English.
Massive markets. Massive competitive advantage. But massive Tory failure.
We should be investing in the new electronic superhighways – satellite and telecommunications technology that is the nerve centre of a new information economy – doing for the next century what roads and railways have done for this one.
The Government failed to see this revolution coming and because of that, a new market is operating under old rules which work against our companies, large and small.
We will set the framework which encourages the new investment so we coordinate a new national effort so that British companies are at the head of the competition not falling behind.
We have to invest for the long term. In the Tory years, dividends have risen by 12 per cent per year in manufacturing, profits by 6 per cent, and investment by only
two per cent.
We have to invest in economic regeneration. There are areas of the country laid waste by the shedding of old industry. The market won’t rebuild them on its own.
A partnership economy will, and where imaginative Labour authorities have worked with business it is. But we want more of it. That is why we have proposed one stop shop development agencies for our regions to help create the wealth they need.
Small and medium-sized businesses will be the driving force of a new economy. The Tories have done nothing for them.
Labour has put forward recently the most comprehensive programme for small business development seen in this country. Welcomed by small business. Active Government working in partnership.
Now, I hear people, some of them in our own party, falling for the Tory attack that we have no policies. What nonsense.
We have a huge body of policy which we are now developing.
The difference is that we now have policies that win us votes rather than lose them.
Most of all, we need to train and educate our people.
Education will be the passion of my Government.
I know how important the education of my children is to me.
I will not tolerate children going to run-down schools, with bad discipline, low standards, mediocre expectation or poor teachers, and nor should anyone else.
If schools are bad, they should be made to be good.
If teachers can’t teach properly, they shouldn’t be teaching at all.
And if the Government can’t see why education matters – then sack the Government and get one that does.
Nowadays, if you want to earn, you have to learn, throughout life.
The University for Industry, the nineties equivalent of the Open University, will use satellite, cable and the new information highways to give every home and workplace access to information, to skills and to teaching, to achieve our objective of permanent educational opportunity for all.
Switching on your computer to link up with work and education opportunities will one day be as natural as switching on your TV to watch a football match.
And education is just one of the public services we provide together to improve the quality of opportunity for each of us. It cannot be left to the market.
Nor can our health service. Or our armed forces. Or our police.
Neither should the railways or the Post Office.
These are public services – they should be run for the public; and they should stay in public ownership for the people of this country.
And if the Tories say there is no money to fund better public services, then let us tell them the cuts they could make.
They could save 700 million pounds on the costs and fees and city charges of railway privatisation.
700 million could have been used to build a high speed link from London to Manchester and Liverpool, upgrade lines between there and Hull and Middlesborough, and still have enough left over to improve commuter services on Network South East.
While waiting lists are past 1 million, when patients are lying unattended on hospital trolleys, when dentistry has virtually gone out of the NHS, they could save the 1.6 billion they are spending on the NHS changes and spend it on patient care.
Or the 30 million to turn Police Authorities into quangos. Let that money go on putting police on the beat.
And while students scrimp to get through college, a University Vice-Chancellor gets a huge vote of no confidence, and is rewarded with a 500,000 pound pay-off. We could have bought half a million exercise books with that.
It’s their system. Their dogma. Their shambles. But it’s our children.
Labour’s way is to fund the frontline of the public services. It’s time to change.
I want hospital resources released, from the administrative chaos of opting out, so that nurses can nurse again. I want schools released from form filling and red tape, so that teachers can teach again.
And I want our uniformed services, freed from paper pushing. So that we can put police officers on the beat again.
With opportunity must come responsibility.
For the Tories, the language of responsibility is what those at the top preach to the rest, whilst neglecting it themselves. But the left have undervalued the notion of responsibility and duty and it is time we understood how central it is to ourselves.
Parents should have responsibility for their children. Fathers too. Companies to their employees and their community. Ministers to the truth. Citizens to each other.
It is at the heart of our message about crime.
The Labour Party is now the Party of Law and Order in Britain today. And quite right too.
– 1 in 50 crimes ever goes punished.
– Sentencing is haphazard.
– Victims are given short shrift.
Meanwhile, the Home Secretary protests that he has been attacked, week after week, for being too tough.
He’s dreaming. He’d love to be attacked for being tough. He’s attacked because he is long on rhetoric and short on policies that work.
Michael Howard, the man in charge of prison catering. Last year he told the Tory conference he was building six tough new prisons.
Butlins wouldn’t win the contract, he said. He was right. The Savoy got it. We can all get angry because crime hurts, and it hurts most the people who are least able to fight back.
But it is not enough to get angry, to stamp your feet, and shout from the Tory conference platform. That is the soft option.
We need a new approach. One that is tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime. Over the past year we have put forward a range of detailed programmes to fight crime.
Tough on crime:
– Measures to tackle juvenile offending
– to crack down on illegal firearms
– to punish properly crimes of violence, including racial violence
– to give victims the right to be consulted before charges are dropped or changed
Tough on the causes of crime:
– a comprehensive crime prevention programme
– an anti-drugs initiative
– long term measures to break the culture of drugs, family instability, high unemployment, and urban squalor in which some of the worst criminals are brought up.
Responsibility means a recognition that there is no divorce from the outside world. Social responsibility for all.
The unemployed youngster has no right to steal your radio. But let’s get just as serious about catching the people in the city with an eye on your pension. This is where the Tories fall down.
Responsibility is a value shared. If it doesn’t apply to everyone it ends up applying to no-one.
It applies to those who defraud the state of benefits. It applies to those who evade their taxes. And it also applies to those water, gas, electricity company bosses, running monopoly services at our expense, awarding themselves massive salaries, share options, perks and pay-offs.
They have responsibility too.
It applies in the health service. Remember how the reforms were sold in the name of better, quicker patient care – we’d all be able to get the doctor I want, at the time I want, in the hospital I want.
Who have those reforms benefited? Not the patient but the penpusher, getting the carpet I want, the wallpaper I want, and the nice big company car I want…and can
we get the wife on the board too.
It applies in the financial services. The big bang… their pensions claim lost all sense of their role and responsibility to the nation…
A society without responsibility is the enemy of the society built on merit and hard work. It creates an economy in which enterprise is just another word for the quick buck.
The Thatcherites used to boast they were anti-establishment.
But the trouble with them is that they never wanted to bust the establishment, just buy their way into it.
And the new establishment is not a meritocracy, but a power elite of money-shifters, middle men and speculators…people whose self interest will always come before the national or the public interest.
If they are allowed to go on running the country in their interests, is it any wonder that it is not run in ours.
So it is hardly surprising if after 15 years, sleaze in high places has given birth to the yob culture. Tory philosophy is the most effective yob creation scheme ever devised.
We have one further proposal to make here.
There are nearly one million young people in this country who have no work, or training or education. This is not just a waste of talent but the breeding ground for
resentment, crime, and drugs.
The Social Justice Commission has called for a new civilian service. A voluntary national task force of young people given constructive tasks to do. I support that. I think they do as well.
Working for the community that is useful, on environmental projects, or caring for the elderly, something useful to the community and personally fulfilling, to instill a sense of responsibility, self-discipline, self respect, a sense of achievement and value.
Responsibility and opportunity require fairness, justice, the right to be treated equally as a citizen.
That means a strong stand against discrimination on grounds of race, sex, creed, or sexuality.
But, justice is about much more than fighting discrimination.
It is about our lives at work.
The laws we live under, and about the tax we pay.
If you ever want to know whose side the Tories are on, look at the tax system.
Millionaires with the right accountant pay nothing while pensioners pay VAT on fuel.
Offshore trusts get tax relief while homeowners pay VAT on insurance premiums.
Middle income taxpayers get stung, whilst perks and privileges at the top roll on unstopped.
And because the Government changed the rules, two million more people now pay the top rate of tax.
We will create a tax system that is fair which is related to ability to pay. Where the abuses end, the perks stop, and where ordinary families are not squeezed to pay for the privileged.
It sticks in my gullet when I see Tory MPs, some of whom earn more for a half day’s consultancy work than some of my constituents earn in a month, denounce our plans for a minimum wage.
And it is also wrong that the tax payer ends up paying more than a billion pounds on benefits to subsidise poverty pay.
A minimum wage exists in every European country, in America too, for the simple reason that it makes social and economic sense.
Of course the minimum wage should be set sensibly. And it will be, but there will be no retreat from its basic principle because it is right.
And we will sign the Social Chapter because it is right for our country.
And we will give the right to people at work to join a trade union, and where they want it, to have that union recognised.
And let one small but significant act be a signal of our commitment to people at work. That is the restoration to the workers of Cheltenham GCHQ of their trade union rights.
We will make work pay. John Smith put it simply when he set up the Commission on Social Justice: ‘People don’t want hand-outs; they want a chance to achieve’.
The Tories always complain that the welfare state costs too much.
The answer is not just increasing benefits, adequate though those benefits should be.
But the people on benefits need and deserve better. Not more benefits, but help in getting off benefits.
Welfare should be about opportunity and security in a changing world. It is about helping people to move on and move up.
Because the world has changed, the welfare state has to change with it. And we are the only people who can be trusted to change it, because we are the people who believe in it. The Tories will cut benefits and make poverty worse. We will put welfare to work.
A nation at work not on benefit. That is our pledge.
But there is one big obstacle in the way of all our plans for change. It is the legacy of the Tory years – disillusion with politics itself.
And if we want to remove it, we must show that our politics is not theirs. Not just that our vision for Britain is different, but also our means of achieving it.
A new politics. A politics of courage, honesty and trust.
It means telling it as it is, not opposing everything every other party does for the sake of it.
If the Government are getting it right, as over Northern Ireland, we give credit.
We welcome without reservation new hope beginning there. We pay tribute to our own government, the Irish government, Unionist and Nationalist opinion in the North for their efforts in the peace process.
And let us pay a special word of tribute to John Hume, leader of our sister party, who we welcome tomorrow to address us, for his unceasing commitment to that cause.
It means speaking the same language to each other as we know we need to speak to the country.
People look to politicians for leadership. And leadership is about having the courage to say no as well as yes.
Even this week I have heard people saying a Labour government must repeal all the Tory trade union laws.
Now there is not a single person in this country who believes that to be realistic, or that we will do it.
No one believes strike ballots should be abandoned. So why do we say it? We shouldn’t, and I won’t.
I am absolutely committed to the goal of full employment. We will develop the plans to achieve it.
But let’s not pretend that we can deliver it overnight. Let’s not seek to fool the unemployed into thinking we will walk into power on Thursday and they will walk into a job on Friday.
Let us be honest. Straight. Realistic.
Those most in need of hope deserve the truth. Hope is not born of false promises; disillusion is.
They are tired of dogma. They are tired of politicians pretending to have a monopoly on the answers. They are tired of glib promises broken as readily in office as they were made on the soap box.
When we make a promise, we must be sure we can keep it. That is page 1, line 1 of a new contract between Government and citizen.
But we should do more. We have to change the rules of government and we will.
We are putting forward the biggest programme of change to democracy ever proposed by a political party.
– Every citizen to be protected by fundamental rights that cannot be taken away by the state or their fellow citizens enshrined in a Bill of Rights.
– Government will be brought closer to the people. We will legislate for a Scottish Parliament, an Assembly for Wales, in the first year of a Labour government. And the Tory quangos will be brought back under proper democratic control.
– We will enact a Freedom of Information Act to attack secrecy wherever it exists, public or private sector.
– We will reform the House of Commons to make its working practices and its powers to investigate more effective, and to achieve through our Party the increase in the number of women MPs that we have talked about for so long.
– We will make history by ending the ancient and indefensible privilege of hereditary peers voting on the law of the land.
– We will tighten the rules of financing of political parties.
And since trade unions are balloted on their political contribution, it is only fair that in this free country shareholders are balloted on theirs.
The people of this country are not looking to us for a revolution. They want us to make a start.
I want you with me in that task. I want you with me. Head and heart.
Because this can only be done together.
Leaders lead, but in the end the people govern. Some of you will think we are too modest in our aims, too cautious.
Some of you support me because you think I can win. But it is not enough.
We are not going to win despite our beliefs.
We will only win because of our beliefs.
I want to win not because the Tories are despised, but because we are understood, supported, trusted.
There is no choice between being principled and unelectable; and electable and unprincipled. We have tortured ourselves with this foolishness for too long.
We should win because of what we believe.
The task of renewing our nation is not one for the faint hearted, or the world weary, or cynical. It is not a task for those afraid of hard choices, for those with complacent views, or those seeking a comfortable life.
At the next election, the voters will have had this Tory government for 17 or 18 years. They may hate them, but they know them. I want them now to know us. Our identity. Our character as a party.
And change is an important part of that.
We have changed. We were right to change. Parties that do not change die, and this party is a living movement not an historical monument.
If the world changes, and we don’t, then we become of no use to the world. Our principles cease being principles and just ossify into dogma.
We haven’t changed to forget our principles, but to fulfil them.
Not to lose our identity but to keep our relevance.
Change is an important part of gaining the nation’s trust. We were right to introduce one member one vote last year and that change is done.
And look at how the Regeneration Project being run from Party HQ has begun the task of taking the party closer to those communities.
Are we not right to reach out and touch the people in this way, to show them that politics is not some byzantine game played out over screeds of paper in wintry meeting rooms but a real and meaningful part of their lives.
This week we reach out further. On Friday John Prescott will announce the biggest programme of political education undertaken by any party in Britain for a generation.
John’s efforts will be central not just to building our membership but in engaging those members – new and old – to help shape this party’s future.
Let us have the confidence once again that we can debate new ideas, new thinking, without forever fearing the taunt of betrayal.
Let us say what we mean and mean what we say.
Not just what we are against. But what we are for.
No more ditching. No more dumping.
Stop saying what we don’t mean. And start saying what we do mean, what we stand by, what we stand for.
Caution will not win us the next election. Courage will.
It is time we had a clear, up-to-date statement of the objects and objectives of our party. John Prescott and I, as leader and deputy leader of our party, will propose such a statement to the NEC.
Let it then be open to debate in the coming months. I want the whole party involved, and I know this party will welcome this debate.
And if that statement is accepted, then let it become the objects of our party for the next election and take its place in our constitution for the next century.
This is a modern party living in an age of change. It requires a modern constitution that says what we are in terms the public cannot misunderstand and the Tories cannot
We are proud of our beliefs. So let’s state them. And in terms that people will identify with in every workplace, every home, every family, every community in our country.
And let this party’s determination to change be the symbol of the trust they can place in us to change the country.
The British people are a great people.
– We have proud democratic traditions.
– We are a nation of tolerance, innovation and creativity.
– We have an innate sense of fair play.
– We have a great history and culture.
– And when great challenges face us, as they have twice this century, we rise to them.
But if we have a fault, it is that unless roused, we tend to let things be.
We say “things could be worse” rather then “things should be better”. And the Tories encourage this fault. They thrive on complacency.
I say it is time we were roused.
Let us be blunt.
– Our system of Government has become outdated.
– Our economy has been weakened
– Our people have been under-educated
– Our welfare state and public services have been run down
– and our society has been made more divided than at any time for 100 years,
But our politics need not be like this. Our country need not be like this.
Ours is a project of national renewal, renewing our commitment as a nation, as a community of people in order to prepare and provide for ourselves in the new world we face.
We must build a nation with pride in itself. A thriving community, rich in economic prosperity, secure in social justice, confident in political change. A land in which our children can bring up their children with a future to look forward to.
That is our hope.
Not just to promise change – but to achieve it.