Election '97 : Blair sets out basics for a Labour Britain

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair yesterday offered to create a decent society founded on "the seven pillars of security", the basic building blocks of Labour policy.

In a lecture in Southampton, the Labour leader deliberately set out his positive policy stall, as an alternative to the personal attacks and negative campaigning of the Tories.

But that did not stop him contrasting the political stances of the two parties - and portraying the Conservatives in a highly negative light.

"After 18 years of Conservative government," he said, "Britain is more divided and less equal than at any time since the war.

"It will be a new Labour government's task to rebuild Britain as one nation, where every individual has a stake in its future, where we treat poverty and unemployment not as problems we shut out or ignore, but as intolerable in any decent society true to the best of British values.

"The Conservatives say: choose between self-interest and the good of society. I say any sensible view of self-interest recognises that the stronger, more unified a society is, the better for the individuals within it.

"More than that, we cannot confront and overcome the problems of health, schools, action on unemployment, security in old age - as well as new problems like environmental degradation - unless we face the challenges together.

"This is the case for collective action: Britain cannot be one nation unless it is prepared to act as one nation.

"As leader of the Labour Party I have made it my goal to create a decent society based on security for all in a world of change.

''It is that decent society that the Tories are incapable of creating. They believe number one comes first in all things.

"They believe inequality is a sign of success. They see insecurity as the only spur to activity. So they denigrate the things that we hold in common - the health service, the basic pension, public education."

Mr Blair said that a few at the top were well-off and secure, but there was an insecure majority and a large and anxious group in the middle.

If the election was to be fought on the Conservative record, and on what they offered, people would be appalled and terrified.

"Terrified at their abolition of the state pension; terrified at their plans to strangle the health service; terrified at the prospect of a growing Tory 'underclass'; terrified at the idea of four out of five schools being turned into secondary moderns; terrified at the idea that Britain cannot be better than this."

The Labour leader said he was offering, instead, "seven pillars of security in a world of change: A world class education system; a modern, comprehensive NHS with the peace of mind that comes from knowing it will be there when you need it; security and dignity in retirement; freedom from the fear of crime and security in our communities; quality housing; a welfare state that promotes independence; and strong social institutions - from the family upwards - that promote mutual responsibility and a spirit of public and voluntary service."

He concluded: "Together, you and I will begin to build the new society, a society in which each of us has the chance to grow, to achieve, to contribute, to create dignity for ourselves, and not for ourselves alone, but for others also; a society in which each of us has a stake, a share; and we will give back to our children what they deserve - a heritage of hope."