Tony Blair's Speech: Full Text

Part Two
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Indy Politics

This is an extraordinary moment for progressive politics.

Our values are the right ones for this age: the power of community, solidarity, the collective ability to further the individual's interests.

People ask me if I think ideology is dead. My answer is: in the sense of rigid forms of economic and social theory, yes.

The 20th century killed those ideologies and their passing causes little regret. But, in the sense of a governing idea in politics, based on values, no.

The governing idea of modern social democracy is community. Founded on the principles of social justice. That people should rise according to merit not birth, that the test of any decent society is not the contentment of the wealthy and strong, but the commitment to the poor and weak.

But values aren't enough. The mantle of leadership comes at a price: the courage to learn and change, to show how values that stand for all ages, can be applied in a way relevant to each age.

Our politics only succeed when the realism is as clear as the idealism.

This party's strength today comes from the journey of change and learning we have made.

We learnt that however much we strive for peace, we need strong defence capability where a peaceful approach fails.

We learnt that equality is about equal worth, not equal outcomes.

Today our idea of society is shaped around mutual responsibility; a deal, an agreement between citizens not a one–way gift, from the well–off to the dependent.

Our economic and social policy today owes as much to the liberal social democratic tradition of Lloyd George, Keynes and Beveridge as to the socialist principles of the 1945 Government.

Just over a decade ago, people asked if Labour could ever win again. Today they ask the same question of the Opposition. Painful though that journey of change has been, it has been worth it, every stage of the way.

On this journey, the values have never changed. The aims haven't. Our aims would be instantly recognisable to every Labour leader from Keir Hardie onwards. But the means do change.

The journey hasn't ended. It never ends. The next stage for New Labour is not backwards; it is renewing ourselves again.

Just after the election, an old colleague of mine said: "Come on Tony, now we've won again, can't we drop all this New Labour and do what we believe in?"

I said: "It's worse than you think. I really do believe in it."

We didn't revolutionise British economic policy – Bank of England independence, tough spending rules – for some managerial reason or as a clever wheeze to steal Tory clothes.

We did it because the victims of economic incompetence – 15% interest rates, three million unemployed – are hard–working families.

They are the ones – and even more so, now – with tough times ahead – that the economy should be run for, not speculators or currency dealers or senior executives whose pay packets don't seem to bear any resemblance to the performance of their companies.

Economic competence is the pre–condition of social justice.

We have legislated for fairness at work, like the minimum wage which people struggled a century for. But we won't give up the essential flexibility of our economy or our commitment to enterprise.

Why? Because in a world leaving behind mass production, where technology revolutionises not just companies but whole industries, almost overnight, enterprise creates the jobs people depend on.

We have boosted pensions, child benefit, family incomes. We will do more. But our number one priority for spending is and will remain education.

Why? Because in the new markets countries like Britain can only create wealth by brain power not low wages and sweatshop labour.

We have cut youth unemployment by 75%. By more than any Government before us. But we refuse to pay benefit to those who refuse to work.

Why? Because the welfare that works is welfare that helps people to help themselves.

The graffiti, the vandalism, the burnt–out cars, the street corner drug dealers, the teenage mugger just graduating from the minor school of crime: we're not old fashioned or right–wing to take action against this social menace.

We're standing up for the people we represent, who play by the rules and have a right to expect others to do the same.

And especially at this time let us say: we celebrate the diversity in our country, get strength from the cultures and races that go to make up Britain today and racist abuse and racist attacks have no place in the Britain we believe in.

All these policies are linked by a common thread of principle.

Now with this second term, our duty is not to sit back and bask in it. It is across the board, in competition policy, enterprise, pensions, criminal justice, the civil service and of course public services, to go still further in the journey of change. All for the same reason: to allow us to deliver social justice in the modern world.

Public services are the power of community in action.

They are social justice made real. The child with a good education flourishes. The child given a poor education lives with it for the rest of their life.

How much talent and ability and potential do we waste? How many children never know not just the earning power of a good education but the joy of art and culture and the stretching of imagination and horizons which true education brings? Poor education is a personal tragedy and national scandal.

Yet even now, with all the progress of recent years, a quarter of 11–year–olds fail their basic tests and almost a half of 16–year–olds don't get five decent GCSEs.

The NHS meant that for succeeding generations, anxiety was lifted from their shoulders. For millions who get superb treatment still, the NHS remains the ultimate symbol of social justice.

But for every patient waiting in pain, that can't get treatment for cancer or a heart condition or in desperation ends up paying for their operation, that patient's suffering is the ultimate social injustice.

And the demands on the system are ever greater. Children need to be better and better educated.

People live longer. There is a vast array of new treatment available.

And expectations are higher. This is a consumer age. People don't take what they're given. They demand more.

We're not alone in this. All round the world governments are struggling with the same problems.

So what is the solution? Yes, public services need more money.

We are putting in the largest ever increases in NHS, education and transport spending in the next few years and on the police too. We will keep to those spending plans.

And I say in all honesty to the country: if we want that to continue and the choice is between investment and tax cuts, then investment must come first. There is a simple truth we all know.

For decades there has been chronic under–investment in British public services. Our historic mission is to put that right and the historic shift represented by the election of June 7 was that investment to provide quality public services for all comprehensively defeated short–term tax cuts for the few.

We need better pay and conditions for the staff, better incentives for recruitment and for retention. We're getting them and recruitment is rising.

This year, for the first time in nearly a decade, public sector pay will rise faster than private sector pay.

And we are the only major government in Europe this year to be increasing public spending on health and education as a percentage of our national income.

This party believes in public services, believes in the ethos of public service and believes in the dedication the vast majority of public servants show and the proof of it is that we're spending more, hiring more and paying more than ever before.

Public servants don't do it for money or glory. They do it because they find fulfilment in a child well taught or a patient well cared–for or a community made safer and we salute them for it.

All that is true. But this is also true.

That often they work in systems and structures that are hopelessly old fashioned or even worse, work against the very goals they aim for.

There are schools, with exactly the same social intake. One does well, the other badly.

There are hospitals with exactly the same patient mix. One performs well, the other badly.

Without reform, more money and pay won't succeed.

First, we need a national framework of accountability, inspection and minimum standards of delivery.

Second, within that framework, we need to free up local leaders to be able to innovate, develop and be creative.

Third, there should be far greater flexibility in the terms and conditions of employment of public servants.

Fourth, there has to be choice for the user of public services and the ability, where provision of the service fails, to have an alternative provider.

If schools want to develop or specialise in a particular area or hire classroom assistants or computer professionals as well as teachers, let them.

If in a Primary Care Trust, doctors can provide minor surgery or physiotherapists see patients otherwise referred to a consultant, let them.

There are too many old demarcations, especially between nurses, doctors and consultants, too little use of the potential of new technology, too much bureaucracy, too many outdated practices, too great an adherence to the way we've always done it rather than the way public servants would like to do it if they got the time to think and the freedom to act.

It's not reform that is the enemy of public services. It's the status quo.

Part of that reform programme is partnership with the private or voluntary sector.

Let's get one thing clear. Nobody is talking about privatising the NHS or schools.

Nobody believes the private sector is a panacea.

There are great examples of public service and poor examples. There are excellent private sector companies and poor ones. There are areas where the private sector has worked well and areas where, as with parts of the railways, it's been a disaster.

Where the private sector is used, it should not make a profit simply by cutting the wages and conditions of its staff.

But where the private sector can help lever in vital capital investment, where it helps raise standards, where it improves the public service as a public service, then to set up some dogmatic barrier to using it, is to let down the very people who most need our public services to improve.

This programme of reform is huge: in the NHS, education, including student finance, – we have to find a better way to combine state funding and student contributions – ; criminal justice; and transport.

I regard it as being as important for the country as Clause IV's reform was for the Party, and obviously far more important for the lives of the people we serve.

And it is a vital test for the modern Labour Party.

If people lose faith in public services, be under no illusion as to what will happen.

There is a different approach waiting in the wings. Cut public spending drastically; let those that can afford to, buy their own services; and those that can't, will depend on a demoralised, sink public service. That would be a denial of social justice on a massive scale.

It would be contrary to the very basis of community.

So this is a battle of values. Let's have that battle but not amongst ourselves. The real fight is between those who believe in strong public services and those who don't.

That's the fight worth having.

In all of this, at home and abroad, the same beliefs throughout: that we are a community of people, whose self–interest and mutual interest at crucial points merge, and that it is through a sense of justice that community is born and nurtured.

And what does this concept of justice consist of?

Fairness, people all of equal worth, of course. But also reason and tolerance. Justice has no favourites, not amongst nations, peoples or faiths.

When we act to bring to account those that committed the atrocity of September 11, we do so not out of bloodlust.

We do so because it is just. We do not act against Islam. The true followers of Islam are our brothers and sisters in this struggle.

Bin Laden is no more obedient to the proper teaching of the Koran than those Crusaders of the 12th century who pillaged and murdered, represented the teaching of the Gospel.

It is time the West confronted its ignorance of Islam. Jews, Muslims and Christians are all children of Abraham.

This is the moment to bring the faiths closer together in understanding of our common values and heritage, a source of unity and strength.

It is time also for parts of Islam to confront prejudice against America and not only Islam but parts of western societies too.

America has its faults as a society, as we have ours.

But I think of the Union of America born out of the defeat of slavery.

I think of its Constitution, with its inalienable rights granted to every citizen still a model for the world.

I think of a black man, born in poverty, who became Chief of their Armed Forces and is now Secretary of State Colin Powell and I wonder frankly whether such a thing could have happened here.

I think of the Statue of Liberty and how many refugees, migrants and the impoverished passed its light and felt that if not for them, for their children a new world could indeed be theirs.

I think of a country where people who do well, don't have questions asked about their accent, their class, their beginnings but have admiration for what they have done and the success they've achieved.

I think of those New Yorkers I met, still in shock, but resolute; the fire fighters and police, mourning their comrades but still head held high.

I think of all this and I reflect: yes, America has its faults, but it is a free country, a democracy, it is our ally and some of the reaction to September 11 betrays a hatred of America that shames those that feel it.

So I believe this is a fight for freedom. And I want to make it a fight for justice too.

Justice not only to punish the guilty. But justice to bring those same values of democracy and freedom to people round the world.

And I mean freedom, not only in the narrow sense of personal liberty but in the broader sense of each individual having the economic and social freedom to develop their potential to the full.

That is what community means, founded on the equal worth of all. The starving, the wretched, the dispossessed, the ignorant, those living in want and squalor from the deserts of Northern Africa to the slums of Gaza, to the mountain ranges of Afghanistan: they too are our cause.

This is a moment to seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re–order this world around us.

Today, humankind has the science and technology to destroy itself or to provide prosperity to all.

Yet science can't make that choice for us. Only the moral power of a world acting as a community can.

By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more together than we can alone.

For those people who lost their lives on September 11 and those that mourn them, now is the time for the strength to build that community.

Let that be their memorial.

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