Blair sets out Labour's task task of renewal: Labour leadership contenders lay out agendas for the future of the party

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TONY BLAIR, the shadow Home Secretary, yesterday called for 'a new relationship between society and the individual where the purpose of social action is to liberate individual potential, and where rights and duties go hand in hand'.

Crime had more than doubled since 1979, increasing the costs of the criminal justice system by 100 per cent to its current pounds 9bn a year, he said. 'It is crucial to recognise that while everyone is affected by crime it is the poor and disadvantaged whose quality of life has suffered most. There is nothing that worries and alarms the core vote and support of the Labour Party more than crime.'

Detailing the argument that the rise in crime had been accompanied by a sharp increase in poverty and family breakdown, Mr Blair said: 'The irony is that the policies of the right have ended up destroying the very thing they were designed to create: individual security and fulfilment. Those that are unemployed and dependent on state benefit suffer directly. The rest suffer as a consequence of the social disintegration around them.'

Mr Blair attacked Thatcherism as a failure not only of policy but of philosophy, under which Tory paternalism had been usurped by a 19th-century liberalism which held that all policy must concentrate solely on the individual, free to make life choices.

But the 'intellectual inadequacy' of a 'strictly individualistic ideology' had been recognised even by former supporters of the new right like the political philosopher John Gray. There was a recognition that 'unfettered (economic) liberalism' will produce an 'atomised, uncaring, rootless society'.

The task of the left was not to replace this 'crude individualism with old notions of an overbearing or paternalistic state'. The task was rather one of 'national renewal to rebuild a strong civic society . . . where rights and duties go hand in hand, where the purpose of social action is to develop individual potential not subjugate it'.

Social action should not be a substitute for personal responsibility but through social improvement should enhance the prospects of self-improvement. 'This is indeed not to change the traditional philosophy of the left but instead to rediscover and give it new life.'

The principle of 'social solidarity' was the basic tenet of 'democratic socialism'. 'That is why it is the left and the Labour Party that is best placed to take on this project of renewal . . . Our task is to renew and rebuild our nation as a strong and active society sustaining stable community and family life.'

(Photograph omitted)