Labour in Blackpool: Blair signals possibility of links with Lib Dems: Conference ends with recruitment call to give party half a million members

TONY BLAIR yesterday opened up the possibility of closer dialogue with the Liberal Democrats on a day when the deputy leader, John Prescott, launched a drive to bring membership of the Labour Party up to 500,000.

In end-of-conference interviews, the Labour leader proffered a 'dialogue of ideas on the left', adding: 'I don't think the Labour Party should be exclusive about its politics. I don't think we should say we are the people with the only good ideas.'

It was 'intelligent politics' to co-operate, he said, but it was important that discussions were about ideas, not 'pacts and

deals and fixes between political parties'.

The change in political style should also apply in Westminster, where he said voters who watched Prime Minister's question time must 'wonder what on earth they have elected'. He wanted Westminster reconnected with people's lives. For that to happen Parliament had to conduct its affairs more sensibly.

Mr Blair claimed a sea change in British politics. He dismissed Thursday's Clause IV vote as 'a mild mishap', as he repeatedly drove home the message that in future Labour will 'mean what we say and say what we mean'. He offered the rewriting of Clause IV, which he remained certain would be adopted, as 'a symbol of the trust the British people can place in us to govern'.

At the same time, he reassured Labour's left that 'of course public services should be publicly owned', citing health, education, the Post Office and the railways.

Mr Blair, however, had to live with final-day warnings, greeted with cheers, from Larry Whitty, the departing general secretary, that 'the trade union base of this party is its greatest strength, and not its weakness', and that when the leadership moved it had to ensure that it took the party with it.

Mr Prescott launched the renewed membership drive on the back of already sharply rising figures by urging the party's 290,000 members each to recruit one new member. His roistering speech echoed his leader's message that: 'We are a Labour Party that has learned its lessons. Once again we are a Labour Party with ambition. Labour with confidence. Labour to be proud of,' and himself used the phrase 'New Labour'.

He acknowledged that there would be an argument about Clause IV, but in a warning to the left he told them they needed to be loyal. 'This movement has always had debate,' he said. But once a decision was made 'then we all get behind that decision. Let's all be clear about that as we embark on this particular debate'.

The finale proved it was Mr Prescott's day as a New Orleans parade band played Labour through the traditional 'Red Flag' and out to dixie jazz. Mr Prescott, a noted jazz fan, and his wife, Pauline, wowed the conference by jiving on the platform as the conference ended, the Labour deputy leader notably light on his feet.

In his last conference speech as Labour's general secretary, Larry Whitty warned Tony Blair and the party not to split over Clause IV when power was in Labour's grasp.

Mr Whitty, who is moving to work for the party in Europe after almost 10 years as the head of Labour's headquarters in Walworth Road, south London, said: 'Socialist politics is not simply about the transfer of power from one elite to another.' Too often he had seen the movement split.

He gave them three pointers: 'Remember your history and the history of the broader Labour and trade union movement. Remember those people who have voted for you through bad times and good. And remember, to make progress in life and in politics you have to take the people with you.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
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: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015