1994 – First Blair Speech to Conference as Party Leader
Tony Blair’s New Labour Vision – 1994
LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE 1994, BLACKPOOL, ENGLAND
FIRST SPEECH TO CONFERENCE BY RT HON TONY BLAIR MP, LEADER OF THE LABOUR PARTY.
4 OCTOBER 1994
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
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 times 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
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
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
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.
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”.
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
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?
When crime has more than doubled.
When they won an election on lies about us and lies about what
they would do?
When politics is debased by their betrayal.
When three million people are jobless, nearly 6 million on income
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
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
Its the same with a country.
It can be run on privilege and greed for a time; but in the end
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
What I mind is paying them for unemployment, crime and social
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 biliion 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
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
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
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.
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
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 swopping 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
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
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
And if there are Treasury rules or antiquated concepts of public
borrowing that hold us
ack, 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
- 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 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.
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
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
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.
But it’s our children.
Labour’s way is to fund the frontline of the public services.
Its 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.
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
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’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
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
- 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…
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
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
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
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
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
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
It is the legacy of the Tory years – disillusion with politics
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
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.
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
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
- 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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
Caution will not win us the next election.
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
We say “things could be worse” rather then “things should be
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
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.