The Labour Leadership: 'Labour is the party of the majority': Extracts from Tony Blair's acceptance speech: mission to lift spirit of the nation demanded as party is told it must inspire as well as govern
Friday 22 July 1994
There was a time when an election such as this would have been watched with trepidation by our friends and glee by our enemies; now it is an advertisement for Labour . . . this election has been fought without bitterness and with dignity. We look at the involvement of literally hundreds of thousands of the British people - the largest exercise in party democracy this country has seen, and we feel pride.
Now it is our values and ideas that are the battleground of politics in the 1990s. The Tories tell us to judge them on their wishes and on their aspirations. Let us tell them after 15 years of government, we will judge them on one basis only: they can change their Cabinet, but they cannot change their record.
Let me say to them: You have had your chance. You have had 15 years to get it right. If you can't change this country for better after 15 years, you never will. It is time for you to go.
As the Tories move yet again to the right it is Labour that speaks for the aspirations of the British people, north and south, young and old, haves and have nots, Labour is the party of the majority in Britain today.
They have failed. But, I will wage war in our party against complacency wherever it exists. The Tories have lost the nation's trust. But that does not mean we inherit it automatically. We have to work for it. We have to earn it. Above all, we must show not just that they have failed, but how we can succeed.
Let me tell you how. It is not just a programme for government. It is a mission of national renewal, a mission of hope, change and opportunity. It is a mission to lift the spirit of the nation, drawing its people together, to rebuild the bonds of common purpose that are at the heart of any country
fit to be called one nation. Where we say we are part of a community of people, we do owe a duty to more than ourselves.
We should help those who cannot help themselves. I want to see a community where if it's not good enough for my children it's not good enough for theirs and anyone else's either. Where there is no corner of Britain, not in its length and breadth, where we shield our eyes in shame and look away because we dare not contemplate what we see. A country with pride in itself because it has pride in its people.
A country (in which) the power of all is used for the good of each. That is what socialism means to me. It works when every person who wants to, can get up in the morning with a job to look forward to, and prospects upon which to raise a family.
When our kids go to school in classrooms with teachers, books on desks, and a roof on the school building and when they come home, they can go outside and play without fear.
When our nurses are nursing not filling out forms, our doctors are caring for patients not billing them and are spending on improving health care in the NHS not on management, accountants and bureaucrats.
That is why we need change. It is wrong that we spend billions of pounds keeping able-bodied people idle and right that we spend it putting them to work to earn a living wage as a Labour government will do.
Wrong that we have people appointed to run local services because of Tory patronage, that people in the House of Lords make the laws of this country simply because of their birth, and right that those who wield power do so on democracy and merit.
Wrong that we live in a society where our elderly are terrified in their own homes, women can't walk in the streets at night, and children can get drugs even in the school playground, and right that we are tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime and Labour will make our communities safe for people to live in.
And wrong that we should tell old- age pensioners that they will have to choose between paying VAT on fuel or freezing in their home, while the executives of these privatised utility companies pay themselves six-figure sums for three-day weeks.
There is a place for anger, for passion when we look at our country today. But ours is a passion allied to reason. Because a society that is unjust, a society that rewards privilege not hard work, a society that ignores its industry and undervalues its skills, a society in which only one in 50 crimes is punished and the majority unrecorded, a society that is divided, unequal, set against itself, is not only unjust, but inefficient, not just unfair but unfit for any decent person to raise a family and live in.
Look around the world today: its chief characteristic is change. We can't hide from this change; and nor should we simply let it wash us away. The task . . . is to equip our people and our industry, allowing them to prosper through change. It means taking historic principles of solidarity, of community, but applying them anew and afresh to the world today.
It can't be done by a return to the past or staying with the failed policies of the present.
It won't be done either by seeing society as just state control, central power or sectional interests; any more than it can be through crude free-market economics, junking public services or running the country for a tiny Tory elite in the vain belief that their wealth will trickle down to the rest of us.
That is why I said at the beginning of this campaign that we needed neither the politics of the old left nor new right but a new left-of-centre agenda for the future, one that breaks new ground, that does not put one set of dogmas in place of another, that offers the genuine hope of a new politics to take us into a new millennium.
The challenge of the Labour Party is not just to govern but to inspire, not just to show how politics matters to us, but what it can do for them.
I say this to the people of this country and most of all to our young people - join us in this crusade for change.
Of course, the world can't be put to rights overnight. Of course, we must avoid foolish illusions and false promises. But there is amongst all of the hard choices and uneasy compromises that politics forces upon us, a spirit of progress throughout the ages, with which we must keep faith.
'A chance to serve, that is all we ask': John Smith, London May 11th 1994. Let it be his epitaph. And let it be our inspiration.
I am ready to serve. We are ready to serve. And together we can make this a turning point, we can change the course of our history, and build a new and confident land of opportunity in a new and changing world.
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