Blair comes out fighting

Prime Minister Tony Blair today urged his party to put aside its differences over Iraq and seize the chance of an historic third term in power.

The Prime Minister, twice interrupted by protesters, told Labour's conference in Brighton he would not apologise for ousting Saddam Hussein from power, while acknowledging mistakes were made in the run–up to war.

But he appealed to delegates: "Whatever disagreements we have had, (we) should unite in our determination to stand by the Iraqi people until the job is done."

He unveiled a ten point manifesto pledge to take his party into the next election, appealing to activists: "Let's get out and do it."

The Prime Minister defended his focus on foreign policy, saying: "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."

As the Premier began his address, he was interrupted by a shout of: "You have got blood on your hands."

Mr Blair hit back: "That's fine, sir. You can make your protest. Just thank goodness we live in a democracy and you can."

After he was interrupted a second time, the Premier said: "Excuse me, but if there's any more of you, do you mind standing up now?"

The Premier went on to deliver his rallying cry, saying: "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."

He defended his Government's record on domestic issues and highlighted Scottish and Welsh devolution and progress on peace in Northern Ireland.

But Mr Blair conceded government was "so tough" because life was "still tough for many hardworking families".

He heaped praise on Chancellor Gordon Brown and Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, saying: "Gordon and John, the one a personal friend for 20 years and the best Chancellor this country has ever had and the other the strongest, most loyal deputy any leader could ever wish for."

The Prime Minister turned briefly to the Liberal Democrats and the Tories, saying he could not take Charles Kennedy's party seriously and accusing the Conservatives of still being stained by their record in office of recession, high mortgage rates and mass unemployment.

In his 55 minute speech, Mr Blair promised to maintain low mortgage rates, give a boost to vocational education, allow parents the choice of a good specialist school and also promised patients would be able to choose which NHS hospital they wanted to be treated in.

He also flagged up initiatives on childcare, offering all parents the chance for their youngsters to be cared for from 8am to 6pm in schools.

The Prime Minister dismissed speculation that he had wanted to put aside discussion of Iraq, saying: "That was never my intention. I want to deal with it head on."

He told delegates: "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."

But he went on: "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."

He acknowledged the issue had divided the country and said he understood why many disagreed with him.

Mr Blair added: "Do I know I'm right? Judgments 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."

Mr Blair conceded: "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."

He pledged to make the revival of the Middle East peace process "a personal priority" after the US presidential elections in November.

The Prime Minister conceded he had "changed as a leader".

He said: "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."

The Premier went on: "I want us to win a third term, not so that we can go in the history books but so that we can confine Britain's failings to the history books.

"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."

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on