Blair unveils a 10-point policy plan as he sets out vision for third term

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Tony Blair pledged to create an "opportunity society" in which everyone had "an equal chance to succeed" yesterday as he outlined the policies he would introduce if Labour wins an historic third term in power.

Tony Blair pledged to create an "opportunity society" in which everyone had "an equal chance to succeed" yesterday as he outlined the policies he would introduce if Labour wins an historic third term in power.

The Prime Minister tried to rally his party for the next general election by promising to help the most underprivileged people in society to break through the "glass ceiling" that stops them achieving their full potential.

Promising a pension system that "has the basic state pension at its core" and rewarded savings, he suggested that it could be funded by cutting the bill for incapacity benefit.

He promised "tax relief" for millions of hard-working families rather than the Tory proposal to cut inheritance tax "for the wealthy few".

Mr Blair sought to end his rift with Gordon Brown by describing him as "a personal friend for 20 years" and hailing him "as the best Chancellor this country has ever had". But he refused to give ground in his battle with Mr Brown over Labour's election manifesto.

On Monday, the Chancellor said the NHS was about more than "contracts, markets and exchange". In a direct riposte to the Brown camp, Mr Blair rejected the criticism that his plans to extend "choice" in public services was a "Tory word".

He said: "Tell that to 50 per cent of heart patients who have exercised it to get swifter operations and help bring cardiac deaths down 16,000 since we came to power.

"Or to the parents who made the new City Academy Schools so popular in areas of the greatest social disadvantage.

"Choice is not a Tory word. Choice dependent on wealth; those are the Tory words.

"The right to demand the best and refuse the worst, and do so not by virtue of your wealth but your equal status as a citizen, that's precisely what the modern Labour Party should stand for," Mr Blair said.

"Fairness in the future will not be built on the state, structures, services and government of times gone by," he added. "The 20th century traditional welfare state has to be re-shaped as the opportunity society, capable of liberation and advance every bit as substantial as the past but fitting the contours of the future."

On education, every parent would have the choice of sending their child to a "good specialist school" and there would be "no return to selection at 11". There would be the same commitment to quality vocational skills as to academic education and 300,000 apprenticeships.

Labour would bring in "universal, affordable and flexible" child care for all three- to 14-year-olds from 8am to 6pm.

He announced that everyone who is arrested would be tested for drugs, doubling the number of tests to 240,000 a year, and given compulsory treatment if the tests proved positive.

Curbs on religious discrimination would be wider than expected and apply to all goods and services. To make it harder for people to enter Britain illegally, there would be a £15m scheme to use online technology to check passengers before they leave certain destinations.

Mr Blair promised to bring broadband technology to every home that wants it by 2008. Four million households have it, but the Government will target the three million poorest families to close the "digital divide".

He hinted at an extension of road pricing to reduce congestion, saying that Britain's transport problems could not be solved by "traditional methods of funding".

The Prime Minister said that Labour had "the values for today and the ideas for tomorrow" to change the country for good. "I want us to win a third term, not so that we can go into the history books, but so that we can consign Britain's failings to the history books," he said.

Calling for Labour to have "the courage of its convictions", he said: "There are the easy bits and hard bits of leadership. But true leadership means doing both. Without the climb, you don't reach the peak. And we can reach that peak.

"Our ambition is to make the change in our country and in our world lasting. In the last century, brief periods of progressive governments were rapidly extinguished. In this century, we must ensure that the progressive case, once made, is maintained, and the periods of conservatism are the punctuation marks, not the sentences, in which our history is written."

At a fringe event, Home Secretary David Blunkett last night urged feuding supporters of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to put the good of the party first.

Mr Blunkett suggested that the talk of division was fuelled not by the two men themselves, but by their camp followers.

He said: "Tony and Gordon do not brief against each other, but it is patently obviously that some people around them do.

"And the best message we can tell them is just to shut up, actually, because it would do all of us a power of good."

Mr Blair said Labour could be proud of its record, but acknowledged that the party had not yet achieved the goal in Clause 4 of its constitution ­ to make sure "power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few".

"If you have professional parents you are five times more likely to go to university. If you live in a smart part of town you are half as likely to be the victim of crime.

"It's great we introduced two and a half hours free nursery education.

"But if your job means working 'til 5pm, what good is that? The New Deal gave half a million youngsters a job. But what happens when they want a career?"

The challenge for the third term, he said, was to overcome these problems. The goal was to create "not a society where all succeed equally ­ that is Utopia ­ but an opportunity society, where all have an equal chance to succeed; that could and should be a 21st-century Britain under Labour."


Jane Brueseke, delegate from Leyton and Wanstead, east London

"I'm not a Blair supporter but I do admire him for bringing up the issues everybody wanted to hear about. I don't support the war in Iraq but I can understand that he truly believed he was doing the right thing."

Stan Davison, delegate from Mid Bedfordshire

"It was a very competent speech. I thought yesterday that he would have a hard job following Gordon Brown. Having heard the speech I think he did have a hard time following him. The situation in the party is not very different from before he spoke. There is a lot of cynicism in the party, particularly over Iraq."

Christine Wilde, from the Isle of Wight. Unison vice-president

"Mr Blair came across as very sincere, but there were no particular sparkles or rockets; it was a very solid speech. It concentrated on what the party has done and what the Government has achieved, that's good."

Senan Hartney, delegate from Reading

"I'm positive. Mr Blair has promised to do something about the pensions issue, education and the economy in general. They are all bread and butter issues. I think the party will be improved by this. I think he said the right thing about Iraq. I support him on that pretty much."

Terry Dix, delegate from Tamworth. Leader of Staffordshire County Council

"Tony told us what we pledged in 1997 and 2001 and what we had delivered. I was impressed with what he said about Sure Start, which is one of the greatest things that has happened to people at the grass roots. "

Mohammed Khaliel, prospective parliamentary candidate for Aylesbury, Bucks

"This was a very positive upbeat message from a very good leader, but it seems that everything to do with Iraq comes back again and again. It's like an illness."