We are the new radicals - Blair

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair used his speech to leaders of Rupert Murdoch's media empire early this morning to proclaim the "revolutionary" change from the "unelectable" Labour Party of the early 1980s to a "meritocratic" party of free trade and Europe.

The Labour leader bluntly told NewsCorp executives in their exclusive Hayman Island resort in Australia that the new-right politics which they have been advocating had failed around the world. But at the same time he presented "new" Labour as the true expression of the radical "anti- Establishment" spirit of the Reagan/Thatcher administrations.

The speech was designed to position Mr Blair as a leader on the world stage, taking as its central theme global economic change and the need for governments to provide security. A spokesman for Mr Blair said that he regarded the speech as one of his most important since he became leader a year ago.

"Ever more intense competition, ever more creative innovations and ever more advanced skills have made insecurity at work a permanent feature of life. There will be nothing odd in people changing jobs a dozen times in their life," he said, claiming the left of centre was better placed to cope with change: "We are more willing actively to organise our country for it, not just let it wash us where it will."

He added: "We understand the need for a new moral purpose in politics." The family was an important source of security in the face of change. "This is not some lurch into authoritarianism. It is, in fact, about justice and fairness. The strong and the powerful can protect themselves. Those who lose most through the absence of rules are the weak and the vulnerable."

He pointedly restated Labour policy for "plurality of ownership" in the media. Later today the party launches a policy document on access to the information "superhighway" which also reinforces this theme.

In his fullest statement of the foreign policy of a future Labour government, Mr Blair strongly restated his commitment to the European Union. He accepted the single European currency was "the hard issue", but said: "To rule out a single currency for ever, now, would be folly."

In his first statement on Hong Kong, he said: "The greatest promise for economic growth and therefore for investments, trade and services in East Asia is China. It is therefore important after 1 July 1997 that Britain enjoys constructive relations with China with, I hope, the present problems properly resolved."

For the benefit of critics of his decision to attend the event, Mr Blair told his audience: "Neither of us are in the business of trading policy or editorial support. But we should know where the other is coming from." His trip was endorsed by John Edmonds, leader of one of Labour's largest affiliates, the GMB general union, who said: "You have to go into the tents of the ungodly to persuade them."

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