Tony Blair Speeches
A Selection of Speeches by Tony Blair
plus some statements and interviews
Due to the extent of Tony Blair’s speeches, many of these will link you to external pages.
26 September 2006:Tony Blair’s speech to the Labour Party Conference7 September 2006: The Prime Minister’s full statement regarding his departure
27 September 2005: Tony Blair’s speech to the Labour Party Conference 2005
27 January 2005: The Prime Minister’s speech at Davos: Here is an extract from Tony Blair’s speech at the World Economic Forum. Apologies for the poor quality of the image. The extract is reproduced from the official fax.
15 November 2004 – The Prime Minister’s Mansion House speech:“Remembrance Sunday was made particularly poignant this year by the presence and sacrifice of British troops in Iraq. We can be very proud of their heroism and courage.”The harsh reality is that having been liberated from Saddam, Iraq now has to be freed from terrorism.”Let me repeat that the insurgents and terrorists have been offered an amnesty if they will lay down their weapons; and agree that elections not terror should decide the future of Iraq. No-one has wanted the events of the past 10 days in Falluja. But when negotiations were refused the Iraqi government had no option but to insist that the town could not continue to be run by such people. There will be, quite properly, talk of civilian casualties in the course of the operation by the MNF and Iraqi army. I hope there is some account taken also of the emerging story – as in Najaf and Samarra – of the actions of the insurgents: people tortured and executed, a town held to ransom, hostages taken and killed. As elsewhere, when order is taken back, there is money and help ready to give the ordinary people there a better life.”Iraq has dramatically surfaced differences between Europe and America and Britain’s role in both alliances. The relationship is under question as never before. So now is the time to defend it.”Britain has a lot to be confident about. 2 million more people are in jobs. Only the UK has seen sustained growth each and every quarter for the last 7 years – a record that no other country in the G8 can claim. Its investment in healthcare and education – combined with strong reform – is paying dividends. It is a country which, for all the concern over asylum and immigration, is essentially at peace with its diversity of cultures and faiths, indeed rather proud of it. Britain is working.”But I will tell you the oddest part of being British Prime Minister in the year 2004. A country that has so much reason to be optimistic is so easily persuaded into pessimism.”Nowhere is this clearer than in evaluating Britain’s place in the world. There is only one superpower in the world today and we are its strong ally. The most powerful political grouping that has created the largest economic market in the world is the European Union – and we are a leading member. It’s a great position. We should celebrate it.
“However, one part of opinion wants to cool the American alliance. Another part wants us out or semi-out of Europe. In fact, some parts of opinion are now both anti-America and anti-Europe.
“Yet, the world is more interdependent than ever. Financial markets, issues of terrorism and security, global trade, environmental degradation require more and more international concert and co-operation.
“And Britain, 60 million in population, limited in geographical size, is only going to wield power in this world through alliances. China and India with over a billion people each; Russia with its land mass; not to say emerging Asia and Latin America, let alone the USA itself, mean that if we didn’t have alliances with which to further our national interest, we would have to invent them.
“But we do have them; actually we have the best two you could have, at least for now. So why on earth would any rational country, seeking its own interest, sacrifice or diminish them?
“The reason is because the country is not persuaded that either alliance is in pursuit of the hard-headed British interest, rather than some airy notion of global influence.
“So: why America; why Europe; why the two together; and what’s in it for Britain?
“First, the transatlantic alliance. This alliance with America saw us through to victory in World War II. It then protected us and stood firm against the Soviet Union and ushered in the collapse of what had become a totalitarian monster. A recent survey concluded that “the economic relationship between the US and Europe is by a wide margin the deepest and broadest between any two continents in history and it is accelerating”. Tensions over Iraq did not stop corporate America pumping nearly $87 billion of direct investment into Europe in 2003, whilst corporate France put over $4 billion back into the US. I’m not saying America does not make mistakes; does not in its insularity of thinking sometimes seem obstinate to the concerns of the rest of the world. American political culture, for example on the death penalty, is different from European culture, and in Britain, in this respect at least, our culture is more European.
“But I know one thing. If we were under direct threat, America would be our ally. I know that its people enjoy, as we have seen, a vibrant competitive democracy; and that in America, Hispanics, blacks, Asians and former Europeans live together, worship in their different ways and can rise from the bottom to the top in a manner we could do well to emulate. I didn’t agree with Michael Moore’s film. But in America he was able to make it and be praised for it. This is called freedom. We are in danger of forgetting these simple truths.
“And when America was attacked on 11 September 2001 – a brutal, unprovoked slaughter of innocent people, planned in the previous administration when Iraq and Afghanistan had not happened, when President Clinton was working flat out to secure peace between Palestinians and Israelis – that was an attack designed for the purpose of forcing American out of its role in the world; to get it to disengage from the Middle East; to remove it as an obstacle to the progress of the new fanatical extremism the terrorists represent.
“If America were to pull up the drawbridge, retreat from its obligations and alliances abroad, the terrorists would attack the rest of us. They are not interested in America as America. They are interested in America as the most powerful actor in pursuit of beliefs they fear as much as we value them.
“And if America did withdraw: if when Kosovo came up, they said no; told us to sort out Al Qaida in Afghanistan ourselves; said we could tackle nuclear proliferation on our own, where would we be? Would China be ready to fill the space? Or Russia? Or India, great though those nations are and strong though our modern partnership with them is?
“We are not fighting with America in Iraq because we are their allies. We are their allies because we believe that their fight against terrorism is our fight too; because if they fail, we fail; because their way of life and ours is lit by the same light of freedom, the same love of democracy, the same fellowship of reason.
“If we in Europe ever need final convincing of this, talk to the recent democracies of central and Eastern Europe; tell them we are indifferent to the American alliance and see in their shiver of apprehension the most significant argument for us maintaining it.
“9/11 was an attack on us all. It showed the full potency of this worldwide movement of terrorism. It meant we had to shift policy fundamentally from managing this terrorist threat to confronting it; and that rogue states such as Iraq, in multiple breach of UN resolutions, should be brought into compliance, to signal a completely different approach to the illegal development of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons in the world. When the consequence of our action is to remove the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam and his sons in Iraq, causes that should surely unite progressives everywhere; it is not a sensible or intelligent response for us in Europe to ridicule American arguments and parody their political leadership.
“What is entirely sensible, however, is for Europe to say terrorism won’t be beaten by toughness alone. Here there is an opportunity for Europe. American policy is evolving. Increasingly both Europe and America are coming to realise that lasting security against fanatics and terrorists cannot be provided by conventional military force; but requires a commitment to democracy, freedom and justice. The only stable Afghanistan will be a democratic Afghanistan. Ultimately it is democracy in Iraq that will defeat the insurgents, which is why they are so desperate to stop it. The only viable Palestinian State will not just be based on territory but on democratic values. Likewise the best help we can give Africa is not just through aid, vital though that is and on opening up trade, but through supporting countries in their desperate and fraught attempts to build the institutions of good governance.
“Democracy is the meeting point for Europe and America. I am not, repeat not, advocating a series of military solutions to achieve it. But I am saying that patiently but plainly Europe and America should be working together to bring the democratic human and political rights we take for granted, to the world denied them. When Kofi Annan reports back to the UN in some weeks time on UN reform one reform we should insist on is a greater role of leadership for the UN on the responsibility of states to protect not injure their own citizens.
“None of this will work, however, unless America too reaches out. Multilateralism that works should be its aim. I have no sympathy for unilateralism for its own sake.
“”We have so much to do together: to promote democracy, justice and development; to fight against terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction; to prevent wars, to strengthen peace, and to act against the root causes of terrorism.”
“Not my words, but those of France’s Foreign Minister reported in the FT today following his letter to the Wall St Journal last week.
“In short, neither Europe nor the US should be arrogant about the other. What we share is, in the end, of oceanic depth compared to the shallow water of any present discord. Not the Balkans, nor the Middle East, nor world trade, Africa or climate change, not the dangers of proliferation, nor the challenge of the emerging economic power of China, will be resolved, at least wisely, without a partnership between the two.
“Which brings me to Britain in Europe. Here is Europe at a crossroads. Its numbers have swelled to 25. Others queue to join. One of them, Turkey, is a harbinger of enormous future change, and would be as a member, an extraordinary symbol of a multi-faith Europe.
“Europe is divided over the scale of economic reform. And Iraq has divided it further into those enthusiastic for the transatlantic alliance and those nervous of it. So it is a crucial, decisive moment in time.
“Here is Britain. We believe passionately that Europe must take the road of reform in its economy and renewal of its alliance with America. We have allies in this argument. We are one of the four largest nations in the EU. A wrong course in Europe and it weakens our economy and our political influence.
“We have just had a debate in Europe about the new rules governing the new union of 25 and more. It is generally heralded everywhere (but Britain) as a triumph of British diplomacy. It is, overtly, an expression of Europe as a union of nation states. It is, implicitly, the rejection of Europe as a federal superstate.
“So Europe matters profoundly. There is an argument raging as to its future direction. The argument can be won. And what am I advised to do? At the very moment of maximum importance, of acute urgency of decision-making, when all is in the balance and to play for, I am told to leave our allies in the lurch, walk away from the argument, retreat into a eurosceptic sulk and call it “standing up for Britain”.
“And why? Because we have confused identity with isolation; the more “alone” we are, the more purely British. What makes it odd, is that its not as if full-hearted participation by Britain in Europe is somehow against the tide of world affairs. The truth is, the world over, nations are moving closer together, pooling risk and opportunity, seeking in this ever more interdependent world, the comfort and necessity of alliance.
“So my contention is simple: Britain should be proud of its alliance with America; clear in its role in Europe; and a tireless advocate of a strong bond between the two. And when people say its difficult: look at the strains, feel the stresses, study the astrology of Venus and Mars, I say: of course it’s difficult, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still right and worth striving for. And what is the alternative? There isn’t any except one whose difficulties would make those between Europe and America fade into moonlike, pale insignificance.
“So its as well, every so often to go back to fundamentals and perceive the difference between what is fashionable and what is true.
“For Britain, for once the word “unique” is fitting. We have a unique role to play. Call it a bridge, a two lane motorway, a pivot or call it a damn high wire, which is how it often feels; our job is to keep our sights firmly on both sides of the Atlantic, use the good old British characteristics of common sense and make the argument. In doing so, we are not subverting our country either into an American poodle or a European municipality, we are advancing the British national interest in a changed world in the early 21st century. And yes, we should be optimistic and confident of an ability to do it.”
3 November 2004 – The Prime Minister, Tony Blair’s statement delivered from 10 Downing Street, congratulating George W. Bush on his re-election:“Good Evening everyone. I have spoken today with President Bush, and just in the last few minutes to Senator Kerry. I congratulated President Bush on his victory, and said to Senator Kerry that I thought he fought an outstanding campaign that would help make the election a true celebration of American democracy, and he should be proud of that.”Such is the strength of the United States, that the election of the President is an event of genuine significance right around the world. It is of particular significance to Britain, not least because America and the United Kingdom have a unique bond through our shared history and traditions, and above all, through our shared belief in the values of freedom and democracy. It is an important part of our own British national interest that the British Prime Minister protects and strengthens the bond between our two countries. I sought to do that first with President Clinton, and then with President Bush, and I look forward to continuing that strong relationship in President Bush’s second term.”President Bush’s re-election comes at a critical time. A world that is fractured, divided and uncertain must be brought together to fight this global terrorism in all its forms, and to recognise that it will not be defeated by military might alone, but also by demonstrating the strength of our common values – by bringing freedom and democracy to Iraq, as we have done to Afghanistan; by pursuing with the same energy peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine; by accepting it is our duty to combat poverty and injustice on the continent of Africa and elsewhere in the world.”In particular I have long argued that the need to revitalise the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today. Therefore we must be relentless in our war against terrorism, and in resolving the conditions and causes on which the terrorists prey.”We should work with President Bush on this agenda. It is one which all nations of goodwill can surely agree. In particular, Europe and America must build anew their alliance. All of us in positions of leadership – not just President Bush – have a responsibility to rise to this challenge. It is urgent that we do so.”Once again I warmly congratulate President Bush on his victory, and thank you.”
28 September 2004 – Speech by Tony Blair MP, Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party, Labour Party Annual Conference, Brighton Centre— CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY —So here we are facing the possibility unique in our 100 year history, of governing Britain for a third successive term.Never done it before. Never debated it before. Never imagined it before.Progressive parties, like the Labour Party, rarely fail because of their values.Fairness, justice, solidarity, opportunity for all.These are the impulses of any decent human spirit.No. We almost always fail when we don’t foresee the future in which those values must be applied.
The values require steadfast conviction.
But the future requires restless courage to know and act upon the coming reality however hard the challenge it holds.
And when the two, conviction and courage combine their strength and take on the challenges, they beat them and in time what was a challenge, becomes part of the new consensus.
Reflect on the things once the passionate subject of controversy, people no longer talk about.
Remember the march for jobs.
No-one talks of mass unemployment now. When two weeks ago it fell to its lowest level for 30 years, it passed without notice.
Who did it? The British people, by voting for change.
There are people who a decade ago could tell you of interest rates double what they are today, of homes repossessed, of families who didn’t know from one week to the next where the mortgage payments were going to come from.
But who talks of boom and bust economics today?
Who did it? The British people by voting for change.
And when was the last time you heard of a winter crisis in the health service or the scandal of outside toilets in primary schools, now that this country, Britain, is the only one anywhere in the developed world increasing public spending on health and education every year, year on year, as a proportion of our national income?
And who did it? The British people by voting for change.
When did you last hear of pensioners freezing to death in the cold because they couldn’t afford the heating?
Or how great a debate is there today about the break-up of the United Kingdom, now that Scotland has its Parliament and Wales its Assembly? But twelve years ago an election was fought on it.
A week ago, after the talks at Leeds Castle on Northern Ireland, an eighteen year old asked me: “how come we never hear much about Northern Ireland”?
But we used to wake up every morning to it, didn’t we?
And remember when to be in favour of gay rights was to be a loony leftie, race relations was political correctness, and Red Ken frightened people even as brave as your own leadership?
Now the parties compete for the gay vote, unite against the BNP and Ken has led and won the debate on congestion charging and community policing.
So many things that used to divide our country bitterly, now unite it in healthy consensus.
Who did it? The British people, by voting for change.
Or when the next election comes, will they say Labour can’t run the economy; there’ll be a run on the markets; that Labour can’t defend Britain or won’t support the police?
Labour is working.
Britain is working.
The longest period of economic growth since records began, an economy now bigger than that of Italy and France.
The lowest unemployment and highest employment rate of any of our competitors for the first time since the 1950s.
Living standards up, for everyone, and for the poorest up most.
The biggest reductions in child poverty and biggest increases in investment for decades.
This isn’t a country in decline.
The British people aren’t a people on the way down.
We are winning. They are winning.
And why did they vote for change? Because we had the courage of our convictions and we dared to change.
So why is Government so tough? Because for all the progress, life’s still tough for many hard-working families:
if you’re a young married couple trying to buy a house;
if you’re trying to balance home and family life;
if you’re worried about saving for retirement;
if you’re scared to walk out at night;
if you, the taxpayer, see people who don’t deserve it getting benefits, when you can’t get the help you need and do deserve.
Modern life is being perpetually stressed out.
You can do more, travel more, consume more, live longer.
But nothing stays still. It’s always changing.
And for the politicians, it’s like having a conversation with people in an area where your mobile phone doesn’t work properly. You know what it’s like. You hear scraps of the conversation, most of it distorted and it’s all intensely irritating.
The public think the politicians don’t know or care about their lives; and the politicians feel misunderstood.
But I am an optimist about Britain; and the difference between an optimist and a pessimist is not that the optimist believes the world is wonderful and the pessimist believes it’s beset by challenges; the difference is the pessimist believes we will be defeated by them; the optimist thinks the challenges can be overcome.
And meanwhile think how lucky we are.
Lucky to have been able to change our Party from one of permanent opposition to one that can compete for government on equal terms.
Lucky to be in a country as great as this serving a people as decent as the British people.
Lucky to have a Cabinet of talented men and women I’m proud to call friends as well as colleagues.
I won’t list them all. You know who they are. They know how much I value what they do.
But I will mention the two who have been with me, in Opposition and in Government in the same jobs every step of the way. Gordon and John, the one a personal friend for twenty years and the best Chancellor this country has ever had and the other the strongest, most loyal deputy any leader could ever wish for.
And we are lucky in our Opposition.
I know people say we should take the Lib Dems seriously. But I can’t.
I like Charles incidentally.
But recently he asked
“The Lib Dems are doing well but we have to answer the question: what do you stand for?”
Charles, my strong advice is: don’t go there.
The great advantage of the Lib Dems is precisely that no-one knows what they stand for.
If they ever find out it’ll be the end of you.
The Lib Dems voted against every single measure for action against ASB;
against withdrawing benefits from failed asylum seekers even when all their appeals were finished;
and they believe you can get an extra 30 billion in tax in one Parliament just from top-rate taxpayers, to pay for spending pledges they can’t possibly afford.
Meanwhile the other part of their Party wants to change our NHS for a system of compulsory private medical insurance.
Believe me, Charles, leave the public in blissful ignorance.
The Tories by contrast, don’t need to ask what they stand for.
They know what they stand for.
Unfortunately for them, so do the British people.
Two recessions, 10 per cent mortgage rates, the poll tax, 3 million unemployed, opposition to the minimum wage and crime doubled.
Michael Howard did well at first because people had forgotten him. Now they’ve remembered.
All you need to know is that when his advisers told him the Tories had to become a Party of the future, he brought back John Redwood.
It is New Labour that now wears the one nation mantle.
And the daftest thing said about New Labour is not the usual “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
Like someone I met at the TUC who said what have you ever done for trade unionists?
I said “what about the right to union recognition?”
“Yeah, but apart from that?”
“The first ever minimum wage”
“Yeah, alright, but .”
“Or the Social Chapter, paid holidays, restoration of union rights at GCHQ, an end to blacklisting, information and consultation rights”.
Then he said: “Yeah, but no-one knows about it”.
I said “Well, try telling them.”
It’s not that.
Someone showed me an article recently about how:
“Tony Blair has marginalised the Tories”.
I thought it’s a change to read something nice. Then I realised it was a criticism.
Like, after years in which people thought the Labour Party was unfit to govern, now they think the Tories are. And I should be really sorry about it.
The trouble is even now, even after the lessons of 18 years of opposition followed by two terms of Government, we still think they’re the Party of Government, they’re the ruling class and we’re not part of it. And we’re not. Neither should we be.
But the point is: Britain doesn’t need a ruling class today.
The rulers are the people.
The reason the Tories are marginalised is they refuse to accept we’re equals.
They still think they don’t need to ask any fundamental questions about today’s Tory Party.
They just hope that we’ll buckle.
Well we won’t.
If we have the heart to hold true to our values; and the head to understand the future in which they have to work.
What have we learnt in Government?
The present is thrown out with scarcely time to become familiar; before a new future emerges to assert itself.
Sure, we’re proud of our record. Record economic stability in the first term.
Record investment in the second.
Record numbers of jobs in both.
A fairer Britain, yes.
Better than Tory Britain, I should hope so.
But not yet a Britain in which as our constitution puts it: power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few.
If you have professional parents you are five times more likely to go to university.
If you live in a smart part of town you are half as likely to be the victim of crime.
Company directors aren’t the ones losing their pension.
There is a glass ceiling on opportunity in this country. We have raised the ceiling. We haven’t broken it.
It’s great we introduced 2 hours free nursery education.
But if your job means working til 5pm what good is that?
The New Deal gave half a million youngsters a job. But what happens when they want a career?
No inner city London borough now gets fewer than 40 per cent of its pupils with good GCSEs, up from as low as 25 per cent in 1997. That’s still 60 per cent not good enough.
It’s wonderful that maximum waiting times have come down from 18 months in 1997 to six months by the end of next year.
But I would not want a member of my family to wait in pain, let alone for 6 months.
And we may have a stable economy, but every business I visit tells me however well Britain does now, within a decade hundreds of thousands of UK jobs will go to China and India unless we build a wholly new platform of economic opportunity in knowledge, skills and science.
For the wealthy few, every one of those challenges of the future can be overcome.
The third term mission is to overcome them for the many.
Changing Britain for better. For good.
Not a society where all succeed equally – that is utopia; but an opportunity society where all have an equal chance to succeed; that could and should be 21st century Britain under a Labour Government.
Where nothing in your background, whether you’re black or white, a man or a woman, able-bodied or disabled stands in the way of what your merit and hard work can achieve.
Where hard working families who play by the rules are not going to see their opportunities blighted by those that don’t.
And where if any of our citizens, no matter how poor, is in sickness or need, they get the best care available without any regard to their wealth.
Power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few.
Not our hands.
Fairness in the future will not be built on the state, structures, services and government of times gone by.
Their values remain.
But the reality of life has changed.
The relationship between state and citizen has changed.
People have grown up. They want to make their own life choices. Their expectations, their ambitions, their hopes are all different and higher.
The 20th century traditional welfare state that did so much for so many has to be re-shaped as the opportunity society capable of liberation and advance every bit as substantial as the past but fitting the contours of the future.
And this will be a progressive future as long as we remember that the reason for our struggle against injustice has always been to liberate the individual. The argument is not between those who do and those who do not love freedom. It is between the Conservatives who believe freedom requires only that Government stand back while the fittest and most privileged prosper. And we who understand, that freedom for the individual, for every individual, whatever their starting point in life, is best achieved through a just society and a strong community.
In an opportunity society, as opposed to the old welfare state, government does not dictate; it empowers.
It makes the individual – patient, parent, law-abiding citizen, job-seeker – the driver of the system, not the state.
It sets free the huge talent of our public servants and social entrepreneurs whose ability is often thwarted by outdated rules and government bureaucracy.
It changes how government works, to open up the means of delivery to every resource, public, private and voluntary that can deliver opportunity based on need not wealth.
Sometimes I hear people describe “choice” as a Tory word. It reminds me of when I first used to knock on doors as a canvasser and was told if they owned their own home they were Tories.
Choice a Tory word?
Tell that to 50 per cent of heart patients who have exercised it to get swifter operations and help bring cardiac deaths down 16,000 since we came to power.
Or to the parents who have made the new City Academy Schools so popular in areas of the greatest social disadvantage.
Or the people I met in Teesside a couple of weeks ago who have transformed their neighbourhood, yes with Government money but most of all, by making their decisions, their choices about how it was spent and how their community was run.
Choice is not a Tory word.
Choice dependent on wealth; those are the Tory words.
The right to demand the best and refuse the worst and do so not by virtue of your wealth but your equal status as a citizen, that’s precisely what the modern Labour Party should stand for.
So here are ten things a future Labour third term can do for Britain’s hard-working families.
1. Widen the circle of opportunity by low mortgage rates, rising living standards and more jobs in every region of the UK; special help for first time homebuyers and in a week where the Tories are advocating an inheritance tax cut which gives 2 billion to the richest 5 per cent of estates, Labour’s priority will be tax relief for the millions of hard-working families not tax cuts for the wealthy few.
2. A society where we put the same commitment to quality vocational skills as we do academic education, with new vocational courses at school, every adult given skills free of charge up to level 2 and further support for level 3, and 300,000 Modern Apprenticeships at the workplace.
3. Every parent with the choice of a good specialist school, 200 new City Academies all in areas of deprivation, but with no return to selection at 11; new powers for heads to tackle disruptive pupils; all secondary schools part of the Building Schools for the Future programme, and as each wave of schools is rebuilt, modern sports facilities in every one, with a guaranteed number of hours of sport per week. And let’s work to bring the Olympics to London in 2012 and have a sporting legacy not just for the capital but for the whole country.
4. All patients able to choose their hospital, to book the time and date for treatment. Maximum waiting times down from eighteen months to eighteen weeks. 100 new hospital schemes, 2,700 GP premises improved and modernised already with more to come, life expectancy up, cardiac and cancer deaths down.
The NHS safe in the patient’s hands.
5. Life made easier for families. More choice for mums at home and at work. Universal, affordable and flexible childcare for the parents of all 3-14 year-olds who want it from 8am in the morning to 6 at night and a Sure Start Children’s Centre in every community of Britain.
6. Security and dignity for everyone in retirement. Year by year we will work to increase the numbers who can move off benefit and into work, whether from Job Seekers Allowance, Incapacity Benefit or any other benefit, and with the money saved, design a pension system that has the basic state pension at its core; gives special help to the poorest and provides incentives to save for hard-working families whatever their wealth or income.
7. Our country and its people prospering in the knowledge economy. Increasing by 1 billion the investment in science, boosting support to small businesses and ending the digital divide by bringing broadband technology to every home in Britain that wants it by 2008.
8. On the back of the success of the ASB legislation and record numbers of police, we will take a new approach to the whole of law and order.
By the end of the next Parliament, all communities with their own dedicated policing team ; and the local community as well as the police have a say how it is policed.
There will be a radical extension of compulsory drug testing for offenders; a doubling of investment in drug treatment; summary powers to deal with drug dealers and with the violence from binge-drinking; and those believed to be part of organised crime will have their assets confiscated, their bank accounts opened up and if they intimidate juries, face trial without a jury.
9. We will introduce identity cards and electronic registration of all who cross our borders. We have cut radically the numbers of failed asylum seekers. By the end of 2005, and for the first time in Britain, we will remove more each month than apply and so restore faith in a system that we know has been abused.
But we will welcome lawful migrants to this country; we will praise not apologise for our multi-cultural society and we will never play politics with the issue of race.
10. A fair deal for all at work. An opportunity society is one in which we stop ignoring the lives of the millions of hard working low paid families who do the jobs that we all rely on. The jobs that get overlooked, the workers who we too often see right through, walk straight past, take for granted. The office cleaners who do the early morning shift, clearing away the mess before the office is filled. The security guards staying vigilant through the night. The dinner ladies, who cook meals for hundreds of kids in the school canteen five days a week. The hospital porters who often do as much for patient care as the nurse. For them, we offer not just the respect they deserve, but the guarantee of a decent income, a rising minimum wage, equal pay between men and women, four weeks paid holidays from now on plus bank holidays.
There they are: ten pointers to what a third term Labour government would do for Britain’s hard-working families.
Don’t tell me that’s not worth fighting for.
A stronger, fairer, more prosperous nation.
And now we have to go out and win the trust of the people to do it.
When people talk of trust, I say this:
I know manifestos rarely make best sellers.
But any party activist
who wants an answer to the question about trust go and read what we said we would do in 1997 and 2001.
It’s a happy ending because rarely has a political party been able to deliver so much of what it promised.
And if you can’t be bothered with the whole manifesto, get out those pledge cards.
1997 five pledges.
Except its not now 100,000 off the waiting lists, its 300,000 and it’s not 250,000 young people off the dole but 500,000.
2001, five pledges.
Except it isn’t 10,000 teachers, it’s almost 20,000 and not 20,000 nurses but 60,000. And the minimum wage is not 4.50 but now 4.85 and set to rise still further. So a new manifesto is being written.
A new pledge card is being prepared for insertion into John Prescott’s wallet.
And then into the hands of everyone of us as we knock on doors, visit the factories, tour the shops, get out and campaign with some fire in our bellies, with some pride in what we have done.
And of course, every change will be hard – change always is; every time we act on the reality of the future, people will accuse us of reneging on the values of the past.
But on the issues we have just discussed – the normal run of politics, you feel, the country feels reasonably confident.
The problem of trust isn’t primarily that, is it?
It is over the decisions I have taken, the judgements about our future security I have made since I stood here in this hall, about to address the TUC on September 11th three years ago.
And since then, as with every other country and its leaders the world over, those with America, those against it, political life has been dominated in a way we never foresaw.
There was talk before this Conference that I wanted to put aside discussion of Iraq. That was never my intention.
I want to deal with it head on.
The evidence about Saddam having actual biological and chemical weapons, as opposed to the capability to develop them, has turned out to be wrong.
I acknowledge that and accept it.
I simply point out, such evidence was agreed by the whole international community, not least because Saddam had used such weapons against his own people and neighbouring countries.
And the problem is I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can’t, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam. The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.
But at the heart of this, is a belief that the basic judgment I have made since September 11th, including on Iraq, is wrong, that by our actions we have made matters worse not better.
I know this issue has divided the country. I entirely understand why many disagree.
I know, too, that as people see me struggling with it, they think he’s stopped caring about us; or worse he’s just pandering to George Bush and what’s more in a cause that’s irrelevant to us.
It’s been hard for you. Like the delegate who told me: “I’ve defended you so well to everyone I’ve almost convinced myself.”
Do I know I’m right?
Judgements aren’t the same as facts. Instinct is not science. I’m like any other human being as fallible and as capable of being wrong.
I only know what I believe.
There are two views of what is happening in the world today.
One view is that there are isolated individuals, extremists, engaged in essentially isolated acts of terrorism. That what is happening is not qualitatively different from the terrorism we have always lived with.
If you believe this, we carry on the same path as before 11 September. We try not to provoke them and hope in time they will wither.
The other view is that this is a wholly new phenomenon, worldwide global terrorism based on a perversion of the true, peaceful and honourable faith of Islam; that’s its roots are not superficial but deep, in the madrassehs of Pakistan, in the extreme forms of Wahabi doctrine in Saudi Arabia, in the former training camps of Al Qaida in Afghanistan; in the cauldron of Chechnya; in parts of the politics of most countries of the Middle East and many in Asia; in the extremist minority that now in every European city preach hatred of the West and our way of life.
If you take this view, you believe September 11th changed the world; that Bali, Beslan, Madrid and scores of other atrocities that never make the news are part of the same threat and the only path to take is to confront this terrorism, remove it root and branch and at all costs stop them acquiring the weapons to kill on a massive scale because these terrorists would not hesitate to use them.
Likewise take the first view, then when you see the terror brought to Iraq you say:
there, we told you; look what you have stirred up; now stop provoking them.
But if you take the second view, you don’t believe the terrorists are in Iraq to liberate it.
They’re not protesting about the rights of women – what, the same people who stopped Afghan girls going to school, made women wear the Burka and beat them in the streets of Kabul, who now assassinate women just for daring to register to vote in Afghanistan’s first ever democratic ballot, though 4m have done so?
They are not provoked by our actions; but by our existence.
They are in Iraq for the very reason we should be.
They have chosen this battleground because they know success for us in Iraq is not success for America or Britain or even Iraq itself but for the values and way of life that democracy represents.
They know that.
That’s why they are there.
That is why we should be there and whatever disagreements we have had, should unite in our determination to stand by the Iraqi people until the job is done.
And, of course, at first the consequence is more fighting.
But Iraq was not a safe country before March 2003.
Few had heard of the Taleban before September 11th 2001.
Afghanistan was not a nation at peace.
So it’s not that I care more about foreign affairs than the state of our economy, NHS, schools or crime.
It’s simply that I believe democracy there means security here; and that if I don’t care and act on this terrorist threat, then the day will come when all our good work on the issues that decide people’s lives will be undone because the stability on which our economy, in an era of globalisation, depends, will vanish.
I never expected this to happen on that bright dawn of 1 May 1997. I never anticipated spending time on working out how terrorists trained in a remote part of the Hindu Kush could end up present on British streets threatening our way of life.
And the irony for me is that I, as a progressive politician, know that despite the opposition of so much of progressive politics to what I’ve done, the only lasting way to defeat this terrorism is through progressive politics.
Salvation will not come solely from a gunship.
Military action will be futile unless we address the conditions in which this terrorism breeds and the causes it preys upon.
That is why it is worth staying the course to bring democracy Iraq and Afghanistan, because then people the world over will see that this is not and has never been some new war of religion; but the oldest struggle humankind knows, between liberty or oppression, tolerance or hate; between government by terror or by the rule of law.
And let us demonstrate to Muslims here in Britain that these are values we apply to all our citizens, and change the law to make religious discrimination unlawful as we do with race, gender and disability.
This party knows the depth of my commitment to the Middle East peace process and shares my frustration at the lack of progress.
After November I will make its revival a personal priority.
Two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in an enduring peace would do more to defeat this terrorism than bullets alone can ever do.
Britain is now, committed for the first time in our history to the UN aid target of 0.7 per cent.
Next year as President of the G8 along with action on climate change, we will try for consensus on a new plan for Africa, that not only on aid and trade but on conflict resolution, on fighting corruption, on the killer diseases Aids, malaria and TB, on education, water, infrastructure – a plan to lift that continent in hope and lift from ourselves the shame that so many human beings live and die in misery when we know together we could stop it; and when unchecked this misery some time, somewhere in the future will threaten us.
But understand this reality. Little of it will happen except in alliance with the United States of America.
And here am I, told by the pro-Europeans to give up on America and the Atlanticists to forget about Europe.
And yet I know Britain must be at the centre of a Europe now 25 nations reunited after centuries of conflict the biggest economic market and most powerful political union in the world and I know that to retreat from its counsels would be utter self-defeating folly. And I know to cast out the transatlantic alliance would be disastrous for Britain. And I believe so strongly that if Europe and America could only put aside their differences and united around a common cause, the future could be different and better.
So the decisions I’ve been called on to make are stark.
When I hear people say “I want the old Tony Blair back, the one who cares”. I tell you something.
I don’t think as a human being, as a family man, I’ve changed at all.
But I have changed as a leader.
I have come to realise that caring in politics isn’t really about “caring”. It’s about doing what you think is right and sticking to it.
So I do not minimise whatever differences some of you have with me over Iraq and the only healing can come from understanding that the decision, whether agreed with or not, was taken because I believe, genuinely, Britain’s future security depends on it.
There has been no third way, this time. Believe me, I’ve looked for it.
But nor should we minimise the strength that unites this Labour Government and this Labour Party as we seek to win a third mandate for change.
It is the lasting change we make to the lives of the British people that matters.
It is the residents of Somers Town in Camden who told me how they are using the powers we have given them to fight back against the yobs who had made their lives a misery.
It is the mothers I met at Dean Bank Sure Start in my own constituency delighted and proud that their children were getting so much better a start in life than they had.
It was Natalie Barney I met in Nottingham, able to stay on at school and do A levels because of the Educational Maintenance Allowance – and last week Natalie started at Nottingham Trent University with 4 A levels to her name.
It is talking to the decent hard working people of this country that gives me strength.
And when I read out to you that long list of policies for the third term, I did so with absolute confidence that we will deliver them.
Because, whatever the events, unexpected as well as planned, along the way, on the central mission and purpose of our politics, on our plan to modernise our country, give a fair deal to everyone, build our economy on the talents of all, we are delivering as promised, and will deliver much more if we win that third term.
It means having the courage of our convictions.
Knowing that it we are to make the NHS deliver what it was created to deliver, free, universal, decent health care for all, we have to modernise it to meet the demands of a new age.
Knowing that unless we offer more than the standard comprehensive, parents will desert our state schools and the whole of our society will suffer.
Knowing that we will not solve our transport problems by traditional methods of funding or our pensions challenge without altering the rest of our welfare state.
And there are the easy bits and hard bits of leadership.
There’s no doubt which is preferable. But true leadership means doing both. Without the climb, you don’t hit the peak.
And we can reach it.
Our ambition is to make the change in our country and in our world lasting, irreversible. In the last century brief periods of progressive governments were rapidly extinguished. In this century we must ensure that the progressive case once made is maintained, and the periods of conservatism are the punctuation marks not the sentences in which our history is written.
For so long, we knew only the importance and futility of Opposition.
But because we dared to change, we dared to dream that we could win again. And we did.
And now we stand, in a position no Labour Party ever dared to dream of standing before, with a third term Labour Government beckoning.
With the values for today and the ideas for tomorrow, and a policy programme that will change the country for better and for good.
Power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many not the few.
That was and is our mission and our purpose.
I want us to win a third term not so that we can go in the history books.
But so that we can consign Britain’s failings to the history books.
Build on the progress we have made.
Give everyone the chance to make the most of themselves.
Deliver better lives for working families.
United in our values,
Proud in our record,
Optimistic about the future,
With the courage of our convictions, we can win the third term
Deliver the lasting change.
It is worth the fight.
Now let’s get out and do it.
— Check against delivery —
Speech by the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at the Trades Union Congress, Brighton on 13 September 2004— CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY —As ever, before the TUC speech, I’m not short of advice. The difference this year is that I agree with it. Some have told me not to break the agreement at the Warwick Policy Forum in July. Some, notably Brendan, have said it’s time to come out in favour of social partnership, not be embarrassed about it. All have told me not to lose touch with the concerns of the hard-working families it’s our and my duty to represent.So I come here to praise Warwick not bury it. To advocate social partnership not belittle it. And above all to demonstrate that our and my priority is and always will be the lives, living standards and quality of life of Britain’s hard-working families, the men and women who play by the rules and expect others to do the same; who worry about the bills and the mortgage and making ends meet; who struggle with the modern burden of work and family life, and don’t ask for or expect miracles just a fair chance to make the most of life for them and their children.I frankly admit that too many people look at the past few years and see how the political and media agenda has been dominated by nothing but foreign affairs. Now there’s all sorts of explanations I can give. The world agenda since September 11th 2001 has been different. Different for the leaders that have stood by America since then. Different for the leaders that haven’t, but dominant for both.I can’t apologise for what I think about the world since September 11th or what I have done in the war against this vicious terrorism we face. That would be insincere and dishonest.But vital though that war is, the daily lives of our citizens here in Britain are not about foreign affairs. It’s interest rates, the workplace, taxes and bills, schools and hospitals, crime and ASB. Their stage is not the world; it’s here on our streets, our towns, villages and cities.Yet even at the height of the crises of the last three years – since I stood here in this hall on 11 September and spoke about this new form of terrorism our world faces – we have never stopped working on that domestic, bread and butter, real life agenda.
But I acknowledge it hasn’t seemed like that. I have never been away from those issues that make daily life good or bad for our people. But too many people watching the news every night might think I have. And if I can put it like this: even if I’ve never been away, it’s time to show I’m back.
The best way of doing that is to prove it by action.
Over the weekend I got out the first speech I ever made to a Labour Party Conference not as leader but as Employment spokesman back in 1990. I said: a Labour Government would introduce a minimum wage; a legal right to union recognition; sign the Social Chapter; restore trade union rights at GCHQ; improve maternity leave; introduce paid holidays; end blacklisting; and remove the power of automatic dismissal for those lawfully on strike.
We have done every one of those things. But we only did them by being in Government not in permanent Opposition.
There is another thing I want to remind you about that period. The name of my opposite number in the Tory Cabinet that gave us mass unemployment, soaring interest rates, and the poll tax. You may remember him. Mr Michael Howard.
And I’ve told you what I said in 1990.
Let me tell you what he said in 1990.
That the minimum wage would cost 1 million jobs.
That the social chapter would cost another half million.
He was talking nonsense then. He talks nonsense now.
And if we want to keep our economy strong, we need to keep Mr Howard in Opposition.
None of this – not the economic strength, not the legislation to correct injustice at work, came through chance, but through choice. The choice you made was not to make demands you knew won’t be met; nor to hark back to the past; but to understand economic stability had to be the irreducible bedrock of economic opportunity and social progress.
Seven years on, our long-term interest rates are the lowest for 25 years, matching continental levels. Employment has risen steadily without generating inflation. Economic growth is currently the highest in the G8 with 29 quarters of consecutive growth since 1997. The public finances are in good shape. Immense productivity challenges remain, but the foundations of future prosperity are being laid.
And the difference we have made to the living standards of hard-working families since we came to office is crystal clear. Average monthly mortgage payments are £400 less under this government than under the Conservatives. Property repossessions, so devastating during the late 1980s, are now at a historic low. Families are far better off with living standards growing by a fifth since 1996/97. The average working family with children is £1350 a year better off in real terms since Labour came to power. The poorest fifth are over £3000 a year better off in real terms.
It’s a clear reminder that economic stability is for a purpose – to create a fairer, more prosperous society with decent provision for the least advantaged, and world-class public services for all.
Full employment has transformed regions of the country left behind in the Eighties. Across Britain’s cities, City centres and riversides that had become drab, empty at night, are now vibrant. Derelict factories and empty warehouses have been converted into new homes and businesses providing the jobs of the future. Britain is working, its economy now one of the most dynamic and competitive in the world.
We are the only major nation in the world that for the last two years and the next two will be increasing public investment in healthcare and education as a percentage of national income. The only one.
Alongside that 700,000 children have been lifted out of poverty. Almost two million pensioners relieved from acute hardship. And there has been record help for poorer families through childcare benefit, tax credits and family support.
So when I hear people saying we should pursue Labour policies not Tory ones, I say what could be more Labour than record jobs, record investment in the NHS and millions lifted out of poverty.
And yet you don’t continue to govern on the basis of your record but on the basis of your vision of the future.
The truth is modern life for many of our people is tough. There are jobs but they are often insecure. There are still too many people who are sick and disabled who would like to work, but don’t have the opportunity to do so. The minimum wage may give some protection but it’s hard to raise a family on it. Years ago, if you talked of pensions, you meant pensioners. Today, there is real anxiety amongst those of working age as to how to save for their retirement. More women work than ever before but balancing work and family life is a struggle and equal pay still an aspiration not a reality for millions of women.
And what’s more, even if people are in work, reasonably secure, comfortably off, the economy they work in is part of a world market that has never seen such revolutionary changes in technology, in consumer tastes, and in the scale of competition. China and India each with well over one billion people mean that every European nation no longer competes today only with America and Japan, let alone only each other.
So how do we – us in Government, you in trade unions and in business – help our people cope with change, survive it and prosper in it?
When I opened recently one of the many new community centres in the former coalfields in the North East, there was a union banner. It featured a picture of Peter Lee, who in 1869 founded the miners’ union in the Durham Coalfield. The union was formed to break the virtual serfdom with which the coal owners ruled those that worked for them. The union successfully fought for miners’ rights. In time, in Durham alone over 120 collieries employed 150,000 men. But the union did more than fight for them at the workplace. It founded mutual societies to provide them with help for medical care and pensions. It looked after legal claims and families bereaved. The unions stood for solidarity not only at work, but also through life.
No one works in the mines of Durham today. The whole economy of the North East is new. The jobs are new. The way of life is new. Within a few years of the mines closing, Fujitsu, one of the great Japanese hopes of inward investment, had set up its factory in my constituency and closed it again when the microchip market collapsed. The process of change is constant.
So the issue for trade unions is the same as for the rest of us: how to adapt to change, to keep principles intact whilst the reality in which they exist, has been transformed.
Once before, you took a decision to put aside the past in order to equip the Labour Party to govern successfully. Today, I ask you – as social partners to do the same – to help the country succeed.
This to me is the significance of what was agreed at Warwick.
There can be no return to the industrial relations framework of the 1970s, no move away from the enterprise and dynamism a modern economy needs. We cannot and will not reverse the programme of change and modernisation that together with record investment is delivering public services combining equity with choice and excellence.
Union members are not just workers. They use the NHS. They need good state schools for their children. And they know that the welfare state of 2004 not 1945 has to be one that re-distributes opportunity not merely pays more out in benefit.
These changes as much as the money are allowing us to cut dramatically the waiting time for operations; make sure, for example that no London Borough now has pass rates of under 40 per cent for GSCEs, up from 25 per cent in 1997; and make long-term youth unemployment literally disappear. This is not selling out; it is paying back, reducing inequality, extending opportunity, giving hope.
Warwick should be seen not as diluting the changes we have made but conditioning them with one very basic set of principles at its heart: good jobs don’t come with bad work practices; successful employers don’t succeed by abusing their employees; quality public services don’t achieve excellence by undervaluing public servants.
In other words, our belief is that the more we value, invest in, understand and resolve the dilemmas of those that produce the wealth and services of our nation, in the modern world, the more likely we are to have the future we desire.
What does this mean in practice?
Manufacturing and Skills
First, let us be clear. For Britain to prosper and thrive in the future, we need a vibrant modern manufacturing sector, just as much as a powerful service sector, and world-class public services.
Manufacturing in the UK has gone through a difficult time as it has in every developed country in the world. There are real successes: pharmaceuticals and aerospace, or ICT and the biotechnology industry; truly world-class enterprises, of which any country should be proud.
Britain’s car industry – once thought to be in terminal decline – has been reinvigorated, gaining a new lease of life.
Nissan in Sunderland is the most productive car plant in Europe, last month producing the millionth Nissan for the UK market. The new MINI built at Cowley is a runway success with half a million cars now coming off the production line, and the sector as a whole is now the UK’s largest source of manufactured exports.
But there is a huge amount to do. We will continue to see how investment in technology, the tax system for capital investment, and help for businesses to grow can benefit manufacturing.
And in every region, each RDA is now working up a strategy to build on the particular strengths of its manufacturing enterprises.
This Government now set to make the largest sustained investment in science for a generation, £3 billion a year. Such a commitment means modernised labs, better pay for researchers, new research programmes at the cutting edge of human knowledge.
Let me also make it absolutely clear that the Government is determined to protect research staff facing daily threats of intimidation and violence from animal rights extremists and will bring forward legislation to ensure this.
Second, Warwick signifies that skills, once a social cause – are now an economic imperative.
Britain will not succeed if over a third of its workforce lacks basic qualifications.
We’ve started by creating a new framework for skills and are on course to meet our 2007 target to help 1.5 million adults get basic skills and qualifications. We’re also working with the TUC on the proposals for a TUC Academy to take the skills agenda even further.
Since 1998, we’ve invested £35 million in the Trade Union Learning fund, and put Union Learning Reps on a statutory footing. We want to treble these numbers by 2010.
Education Maintenance Allowances have been extended to every 16-19 year from a low-income background remaining in full-time education. We are extending the offer of free tuition for those without level 2 qualifications to every worker. And we are now examining whether it is possible to extend financial support to those seeking Level 3 qualifications for 19-30 year olds which with the other changes would represent the biggest expansion in access to skills for half a century.
In over a third of the country, we are now piloting employer training schemes.
We have expanded Modern Apprenticeships from 70,000 to 200,000 but I can tell you today we are now aiming at 300,000 modern apprenticeships by the end of 2006.
Two Tier Workforce
Next, because there is today, rightly, far greater interaction between public, private and voluntary sectors to deliver public services, we have agreed a new deal to tackle the two-tier workforce.
In local government, we have already acted to end the ‘two-tier’ workforce. At Warwick, we made the commitment to end it across the public sector; and we will fulfil that commitment.
In some workplaces, there is a long hours culture regardless of whether it is productive. We have introduced a right for people to choose not to work more than 48 hours, and an entitlement for the first time to four weeks paid holiday a year. We are committed to ensuring that people are able to exercise a genuine choice about the hours they work.
Paid Holiday Entitlement
And let me repeat the commitment we made at Warwick that in a third term, the Labour Government will extend the paid holiday entitlement, so that the four-weeks is always an addition to eight days of public holiday.
Our new family friendly law means that employers are now required to consider seriously requests from parents with children under six – or disabled children under 18 – to work flexibly. Nearly one million parents have taken advantage of the new law, and have applied for a change in working hours. Eight out of ten requests have been accepted in full.
It is not right that mothers or fathers are refused time off to see their sick child through a hospital operation, the right to time off when a family member is ill.
So we want to build on what’s so far been achieved.
We’ve made a commitment to our social partners not to introduce any changes before 2006. But the time is right to start thinking about the next steps. In particular, we will examine how we can extend this right to flexible working to the growing numbers of citizens who have caring responsibilities for the elderly and disabled.
From the spring of next year, employees will have new rights to Information and Consultation at work, not preventing necessary change at work, but ensuring employees are treated as partners in that change.
We will we act to root out abuse at the very bottom of the labour market where working people are most vulnerable. The Government will support Jim Sheridan MP’s Private Member’s Bill to curb exploitative activities among agricultural gang masters. We will improve protection for migrant workers, strengthening measures against employers who seek to exploit them. It is neither fair for those who are exploited, nor for those firms who do play by the rules when a few rogue employers are able to get away with ignoring the law.
You know our concerns on agency workers to maintain necessary labour market flexibility. But whilst we must meet those concerns, we will support the EU Directive on Agency Workers.
And we’ll ensure greater safety for front-line workers in retailing, transport, and the public services, those who working to help others, face the constant daily threat of violence and anti-social behaviour.
We will publish proposals on corporate manslaughter in the current parliamentary session, and introduce legislation to ensure that corporations are prosecuted for a serious criminal offence where they show such wilful disregard for their employees that it results in death.
Finally, building on Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act, Margaret Prosser’s Women and Work Commission will enable us to ensure that in our generation, we close the gap in pay and opportunity between men and women at the workplace.
This is not an agenda about flying pickets, secondary action or the closed shop. Leave the past to the past. But it is an agenda that if carried through, will radically improve the lives of Britain’s hard working and hard-pressed families.
Work with us to get these changes. Help us to fashion them in a way that most benefits your members, actual and prospective. Make a reality of the social partnership with sensible forward-looking employers who share the belief that efficiency and fairness go hand in hand.
Trade unions have a past of which they are rightly proud. Today they are reaching out to the future. In the public services, “Agenda for Change” in the NHS, the “Schools Workforce Reform” programme in education mean radical change in the way services will operate, but they are changes not just supported but in many cases, shaped by constructive union participation.
Across the private sector, unions like Amicus at Rolls Royce, UNIFI at Royal Bank of Scotland, CWU at Alliance & Leicester have protected or enhanced company pension schemes in imaginative ways to keep their members. The GMB, GPMU, and TGWU are now actively involved all over Britain in setting up skills and learning centres with the help of the Government’s Modernisation Fund. The Shop workers Union is not just increasing members but taking the lead, where the employer is in difficulty in helping the company change, restructure and prosper.
One final area for work: pensions. There is no easy solution. The blunt truth is that the population is ageing; people live longer; and yet want, unsurprisingly, the higher living standards they experienced while working, to continue into retirement. We need to get the balance right between what the State ie the taxpayer, the individual and employer each contribute; and we need to get the system right to facilitate that contribution. But one thing I can say to you: the Basic State Pension and guarantees against pensioner poverty will always be an essential part of our solution to this issue; and you in the Trade unions should be, along with business and industry, part of the partnership to get it right.
Those who said unions could never adapt to the challenge of the new economy and its changes are being proved wrong. Of course, wherever there is the possibility of industrial disputes, those capture the headlines. But the true face of modern trade unionism is not to be found in the exception of industrial breakdown, but in the broad rule of social partnership and progress.
We won’t go back to the agenda of the past. But there is much for us now to do on the new agenda and do it together. To people at work, wondering whether membership of a trade union has anything to offer them, I would say: go and see. See what a modern trade union can do; see the breadth of services they provide; see the help in troubled times they can give; and if you want to, join.
And in doing so, join us in building on the record of the past few years to seek new ambitions, new heights to scale, new ways to work, live and prosper.
I go back to that 1990 speech. I said then:
“These are the forward-looking priorities we shall establish by our historic decisions today. The British people can now be clear. It is the Tories, not us, who believe that industrial relations is merely industrial warfare, arcane endless legal disputes about strikes and pickets as if the field of employment were merely a field of battle. It is they who are unable to escape the politics of conflict and grasp the potential for partnership. It is they who embrace the agenda of the 70s and 80s because they have no answer to the problems of the future. Let them: leave the past to those who live in it. This party belongs in the future and we can address that future with confidence and hope.”
It was true 14 years ago. It remains true now.
Blair’s speeches before 2004