Blair: 'Only legacy that matters to me is fourth-term election victory'

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair made his final farewell to the Labour Party faithful yesterday, imploring them to work to secure him the legacy of a fourth election victory.

Mr Blair made an emotional and highly personal tour through his 10 years in power and told the Labour rank and file to "keep on winning". He told the party that a historic fourth election victory was "the only legacy that has ever mattered to me".

Mr Blair said he wanted to "heal" the divisions in the party and praised Gordon Brown, while urging delegates to keep faith with the New Labour reforms which he said had delivered three election victories.

Labour's achievements

Labour had "changed the terms of political debate", Mr Blair told his party, as he urged activists to "take heart" from every policy now accepted by the Tories.

He listed a roll-call of New Labour's achievement, from Bank of England independence to the minimum wage, and London's Olympic bid.

"Of course, the daily coverage of politics focuses on the negative," he said. "But... this is a changed country. Above all, it is progressive ideas which define its politics. That is the real result of a third-term victory."

He said Tories "now fall over themselves saying how much they agree with us".

Iraq and the war on terror

Britain should not retreat from its involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and should maintain its fight against international terrorism, Mr Blair declared as he launched an outspoken defence of his foreign policy.

He said that terrorism "isn't our fault" and denied it was linked to foreign policy, insisting: "It is an attack on our way of life. It's global. It has an ideology."

He said there would be no retreat from Iraq and Afghanistan. "If we retreat now, hand Iraq over to al-Qa'ida and sectarian death squads, and Afghanistan back to al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, we won't be safer. We will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril."

Blair legacy

Mr Blair insisted that he was "right to let go" of the Labour leadership and pledged to build a unified party to face the future.

He admitted that 10 years of Government had "taken its toll", and said: "The truth is, you can't go on forever."

"It is right that this is my last conference as leader. Of course it is hard to go. But it is also right to let go, for the country and for you the party. I will help build a unified party with a strong platform for the only legacy that has ever mattered to me: a fourth-term election victory that allows us to keep changing Britain for the better."

Gordon Brown

The Prime Minister heaped praise on Gordon Brown and said he was crucial to New Labour's election wins.

Mr Brown smiled as Mr Blair said that no relationship at the top of any walk of life was easy "least of all in politics which matters so much and which is conducted in such a piercing spotlight". He added: "But I know New Labour would never have happened, and three election victories would never have been secured without Gordon Brown. He is a remarkable man. A remarkable servant to this country."

Public service reforms

The "Google generation" will demand reformed public services, Mr Blair said.

He told the Labour conference: "The Google generation has moved beyond the idea of nine-to-five, closed on weekends and bank holidays."

He said: "Of course public services are different. Their values are different. But today people won't accept a service handed down from on high. They want to shape it to their needs and the reality of their lives." He added: "My advice: at the next election, the issue will not only be who is trusted to invest in our public services, vital though that is. It will be who comes first, and our answer has to be the patient; the parent."

Challenges in the future

Britain faces challenges that dwarf those when it swept to power in 1997, Mr Blair said. "They are different, deeper, hammered out on the anvil of forces, global in nature, sweeping the world. In 1997 the challenges we faced were essentially British. Today they are essentially global."

The environment

Tackling global warming would require "the most radical overhaul of energy policy since the war", Mr Blair said, warning that climate change "is the greatest long-term threat to our planet's environment. Scarce energy resources mean rising prices and will threaten our country's economy."

He added: "We will increase the amount of energy from renewable sources five-fold, ensure every major business in the country has a responsibility for greenhouse-gas reduction, treble investment in clean technology including clean coal, and make sure every new home is at least 40 per cent more energy efficient."

Civil liberties

"Let liberty stand up for the law-abiding", Mr Blair insisted as he defended his record on civil liberties and ID cards. He said there was a fundamental dilemma: "How do we reconcile liberty with security in this new world?

"I don't want to live in a police state or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy. Because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy."

David Cameron

Labour's rank and file cheered as they were told to "go after" David Cameron's resurgent Tories.

He lambasted the Conservatives' policy platform and told the party faithful: "The first rule of politics is there are no rules. You make your own luck. There's no rule that says the Tories have got to come back.

He mocked Mr Cameron, saying: "Built to last? They haven't even laid the foundation stone. If we can't take this lot apart in the next few years we shouldn't be in the business of politics at all."

The Labour Party

Mr Blair declared his "love" for the Labour Party and rejected claims that he was "a closet Tory", telling the conference: "They say I hate the party and its traditions. I don't. I love this party. There's only one tradition I hated: losing.

"Next year I won't be making this speech. But in the years to come, wherever I am, whatever I do, I'm with you. Wishing you well. Wanting you to win.

"You're the future now. Make the most of it."


Even the famously dour Chancellor laughs when the Prime Minister makes reference to the Downing Street neighbours' troubled relationship. "At least I don't have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door,' he quips. Mr Blair and Mr Brown have both had their fair share of run-ins with the London Mayor. So when the Prime Minister hails troublesome Ken Livingstone as one of New Labour's more notable achievements, Mr Brown demonstrates he too can do irony. A broad grin plays across the Iron Chancellor's face as he squeezes out a smile at the good-natured joshing coming from the podium.

When Mr Blair starts bashing the Tories, he's guaranteed a big clap from the floor. But as the Prime Minister espouses the merits of New Labour's "progressive ideas", Mr Brown begins a series of bizarre grimaces as if he's desperately stopping himself from muttering out loud something unflattering. But he composes himself again with some contemplative chewing and slow clapping.

If there's one thing both Mr Brown and Mr Blair hate more than each other, it's the media. When the Prime Minister lambasts the "harsh climate" of the 24/7 media, Mr Brown gives a sharp snort of agreement.

The big one... Mr Blair's splendid tribute to his Chancellor as a "remarkable servant" elicits a "gee-shucks" shrug of something that looks like bashfulness.

Blair versus Brown

Total words

Blair: 5,452

Brown: 4,808

Length of speech

Blair: 56 minutes

Brown: 37 minutes

Number of jokes

Blair: 5

Brown: 1

Standing ovation

Blair: Nine minutes, 13 seconds

Brown: Three minutes

Sweat factor

Blair wiped away a few beads of perspiration but not a patch on the drenched shirt of the address in Brighton at the 2000 conference.

Brown's dark fringe glistened with sweat towards the end.

Dress code

Blair wore a 2012 Olympics tie.

Brown opted for a pink tie, clearly designed to soften his hard image.

Blair's best joke

Blair, gesturing to Brown: "I mean, I don't have to worry about Cherie running off with the bloke next door."

Brown's best - and only - joke

"I'm more interested in the future of the Arctic Circle than the future of the Arctic Monkeys."

Best soundbite

Blair: "You're the future now. Make the most of it."

Brown: "Your values are our values."

Counting the buzzwords


"Party" 22

"Thank you/thanks" 13

"British" 13

"New Labour" 7

"Europe" 7

"America" 5

"Tories" 4

"Cameron" 2

"Gordon Brown" 1

"John Reid" 1


"Community/ies" 25

"British/ness" 21

"Values" 15

"Responsibility/ies" 13

'Rights" 7

"Parents" 7

"Tony/Tony Blair" 6

"New Labour" 6

"Environment/al" 5

"Arctic Monkeys" 1

Brilliant. Extraordinary. Fantastic. Acclaim for PM's final bow

Joyce Still Yateley, Hampshire

"Tony Blair gave a brilliant speech and has been a brilliant prime minister. It was his decision to leave and the party won't be the same without him. But our party is more than any one person and the way forward is for us to pull together"

Tom Cashman Surbiton, Surrey

"I am relieved it is all over - it was bloody hot in that hall. Rather than talking about personalities, we ought to take a look at our ideas. Gordon Brown has been here for 10 years and has to take responsibility for some of the mistakes that have been made."

Tessa Jowell Culture Secretary

"An absolutely extraordinary speech. I don't think anyone watching could fail to be intensely moved by it. It was personal ... and very challenging. Tony set out the challenge for the future very well by reminding us of the pace of change in the last 10 years."

Chris Martin Woking, Surrey

"It was the best speech I have ever heard and I have heard all his speeches as Prime Minister. I got quite emotional towards the end. He was very forward looking, but I don't think the party has made a mistake. He has done a difficult job and we need to move on."

Abdul Asad Whitechapel, London

"It was a fantastic speech. I wouldn't have minded if he had wanted to stay, but he wanted to go - and probably for good reasons. Gordon Brown must currently be the favourite to take over the leadership, but I want to know more about his policies."

Maria Fegan Chelmsford, Essex

"What stood out was when he said he didn't want to be the Labour leader who won three elections, but the first leader to win three elections. That was a really good moment. He was very different from Gordon Brown. But Mr Brown will be equally fantastic."

David Triesman Foreign Office Minister

"Very, very few politicians in the world can communicate messages of such complexity so simply. I am absolutely sure we will miss him when he is gone. What we saw today is the reason for the success we have had over the years."

Wendy Nichols Selby, Yorks

"I don't know why they [the plotters] did what they did to Tony Blair, to be honest. He and the Labour Party have delivered a lot for this country. The atmosphere in the hall today was electric and we need someone with that passion to become leader."

Geraldine Smith Elected MP in 1997

"It's been a good day for the Labour Party and a good day for Tony Blair. We've always said we want the Prime Minister to leave on a high and we've achieved that. He will be a hard act to follow, but if Gordon Brown becomes leader he will be a good leader."