Millennium Countdown: `Britain will not be mightiest nation but it can be the best, a beacon to the world'

Extracts from the Prime Minister's New Year message from Trimdon Colliery Community Centre, Co Durham

THE 20TH CENTURY was a century in which for all our extraordinary achievements - most notably in World War II - Britain's power declined. But it can be rebuilt in a new way for a different age.

Some of the changes in the Eighties were necessary to do this, in removing obstacles to enterprise. Now it is a different type of change, a process not of removing barriers but of building the things necessary to equip our people and country to progress and prosper in the new economy and society being created around us.

On Saturday, January 1, as we usher in a new year, a new century, and a new millennium, we will not only be celebrating a once-in-a-lifetime event. We will, as a country, be looking back on and honouring our great past and looking forward to - indeed reaching out to - a challenging new future.

The last 100 years have brought wonderful advances in science, medicine and information technologies. Doctors tell us a baby born in the first year of the new century could easily live until the first year of the 22nd century. The computer and micro technologies are revolutionising our lives. Now is the time to harness these advances, not just for the benefit of a few, but for everyone.

Britain will not be the mightiest nation of the 21st century in size or population; but it can be the best, it can be that beacon to the world. Not only in taking to the challenge of the new economy but in developing a modern civil society built around tolerance and respect, where different races, creeds and religions live side by side in harmony.

In my view, successful nations in the new millennium will have at least some of these five characteristics.

First, they will be flexible and adaptable, able to meet the challenge of the pace of change. The human genome project, e-commerce, the Internet, mass communication will release a flood of technological change.

Second, the successful nations will see education as the key economic and social imperative for us all. The race for educational excellence for all, not just an elite, is on.

Third, a successful nation will develop new bonds of connection, of community. Even though today's world is individualised, the age of mass production over, diversity in lifestyle much more prevalent, people need communities. People need to feel a sense of belonging.

Fourth, nations will be driven to co-operate more across national boundaries. In a nuclear age, we will need better systems of international security, better channels of dialogue for peace.

Finally, nations that succeed will be tolerant, respectful of diversity, multi-racial, multi-cultural societies.

Some people might have predicted that, with the loss of our Empire, Britain would slowly fade away, swamped by the giants of America, Russia or China. But, as we enter the next century, I believe the reverse is true. We have every reason to be confident. For what makes Britain such a great place to live, to work, to grow up - the British character - is in tune with the times.

In a world that requires fast thinking we have some of the best creative brains. And in a world where global change produces insecurity, we have a history of pulling together and showing compassion to those less fortunate.

There's still no place on earth that has our combination of qualities. Our creativity, our determination, our courage, our sense of fairness.

Foreigners will continue to ask: why does such a small country produce so many great actors, singers, authors, architects? Why is there such a concentration of ground-breaking scientists, inventors, thinkers?

The answer I think is that there is still something called the British genius - a collection of qualities deep in our character.

We will always stand out as a nation, we will never be a run-of-the-mill people doing run-of-the-mill things - there's simply too much talent for that to happen. I want the next century to be one where Britain's worth is measured not in how much of the globe it owns or conquers, but measured by the achievements of its citizens, by the sort of people we want to become, the sort of society we choose to create.

The real threat to Britain succeeding in the next century would be a lack of self-belief, a failure to embrace change, to shape it for our own ends. That is why I urge us as a country to take those values that have made us great in the past and put them to work making Britain succeed in the future.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins win the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor