Tony Blair – 2009 Speech to Trimdon Labour Club


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair to Trimdon Labour Club in 2009.

When I was Prime Minister I was known as an optimist. I still am. I’m optimistic about Britain, its future and the opportunities the world holds for us. Provided we take the right decisions, imbued with the right attitude of mind.

Strange as it might seem, the financial crisis does not diminish this optimism. The way we are coming through the crisis instead reinforces it. We are not out of the woods yet; but we are on the path out.

This did not happen by chance; but by choice. Think back 18 months, think back to the collapse of September 2008, and where the world was. It was poised on the brink of catastrophe. The prediction indeed of many – economists, commentators, even at least in private, leaders, was that we were doomed to repeat the collapse of the 1930’s. The spectre of prolonged recession stalked the corridors of economic and political power.

Britain, like all other major nations, was hit hard by the crisis. In a deluge such as this, no one escapes. But now, March 2010, Britain has just had a Budget signalling a return to growth, a slow, difficult recovery, but a recovery nonetheless. The world economy is now similarly poised: not for catastrophe but for recuperation. It will mean here and elsewhere adjustments, tough action on deficits, changes in the way both public and private sectors work. All round the globe, in Cabinets, in boardrooms, at work places such a debate is happening about how best to proceed. We cannot understate the pain some people have gone through as a consequence of the global crisis or the insecurity they now face. For many young people and equally young families or people whose livelihoods have been badly hit, the anxiety has not abated, it continues. What we can say is compared to the fear of what might have been, we have emerged better than virtually any predicted. Hard decisions l ie ahead undoubtedly. But though the sea is still rough, the storm has subsided.

This is for a simple reason, both in respect of Britain and of the world. The right decisions at the outset of the crisis were taken. Governments were mobilised, the financial sector put on emergency support, demand stimulated and most of all, there was an immediate recognition that decisive action was necessary and urgent. At the moment of peril the world acted. Britain acted. The decision to act, required experience, judgement and boldness. It required leadership. Gordon Brown supplied it.

Since then, Gordon and Alistair Darling have been striving to keep the country moving, capable of meeting not just future challenges, but seizing future opportunities.

The issue for the future is very clear: how does Britain emerge from the financial crisis; how do we compete in the new markets; how do we re-energise our dynamism, enterprise and sense of possibility?

This is not just about policy, but about mindset. Who “gets” the future? That’s always the political question. Who understands the way the world is changing and can be comfortable in it? Who sees the excitement where others see the fear?

The New Industries, New Jobs paper from Peter Mandelson, for me, correctly identifies both challenge and opportunity. It is the right judicious mix of Government and market, reserving for the first the role only it can play, and giving the second the help it needs to prosper. It represents a vision of how Britain can do well and how individuals and families can do better. It’s a platform for the hope of prosperity to come.

So now our country has to debate the direction for our future. It’s a big thing for Labour to win a 4th term. Remember prior to 1997 Labour had never won two successive full terms. Now we have won three. So it’s a big moment for the Party; but of course, most of all, it is a momentous decision for the country.

The tough thing about being in government, especially as time marches on, is that the disappointments accumulate, the public becomes less inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, the call for a time to change becomes easier to make, prospect of change becomes more attractive. But as I always used to say when some in our ranks urged a mantra of “time for a change” in 1997, it is the most vacuous slogan in politics.

“Time for a Change” begs the question: change to what exactly? And the reason an election that seemed certain to some in its outcome, is now in sharp contention, lies precisely in that question.

As the issue has ceased to be “what makes me angry about the government”, and has focused instead on “if I get change, what change exactly am I getting”, so the race has narrowed. Because that is not a question readily or coherently answered; and in so far as it can be answered, gives as much cause for anxiety as for reassurance.

On some issues like racial equality the Conservatives have left behind the prejudices of the past. I welcome that.

But when it comes to the big policy issues, there is a puzzle, that has turned into a problem that has now become a long hard pause for thought: Where are they centred?

Is there a core? Think of all the phrases you associate with their leadership and the phrase “you know where you are with them” is about the last description you would think of. They seem like they haven’t made up their mind about where they stand; and so the British public finds it hard to make up its mind about where it stands. In uncertain times, there is a lot to be said for certain leadership.

What happens after a long period of one party in Government, is this: the flipside of change being attractive, is that the public put a question mark over the Party seeking to be the change. It is not a cynical question mark. It is not loaded. It’s just a simple inquiry: what is it that I am getting?

Prior to 1997, Gordon and I were acutely conscious of this. We sought to answer the question by saying, again, then again, then further again, that we were a new and different progressive force, that we would combine ambition and compassion, that we understood why Labour had been rejected and we had learnt. Even when we were 20 points ahead in the polls and some of my colleagues would say “oh come on, Tony, ease off now” I would say: no it is at the very moment when we are ahead, that we reinforce and repeat the message that our agenda is different from the past and we reassert New Labour.

However, more than that, we had worked out a set of positions – not always defined policy but positions – that were clear and mutually coherent. We advocated a New Labour policy on the economy and also on law and order; we aimed to be as forward-looking on defence as on public services. We were New Labour throughout. It was a philosophical concept woven across the whole fabric of the case we were putting to the people. We re-wrote the Party constitution; changed policy on education, Northern Ireland, trade union law, crime. There was no compromise with the essential manifesto of New Labour. This was for a straightforward reason: we believed in it. We wanted to define not only our case for government but the way we would govern.

So over time, the question mark faded and was answered. The question mark over the Tories has gone into bolder print. It has grown not faded. They look like they’re either the old Tory Party, but want to hide it; or they’re not certain which way to go. But either is not good news.

On Europe, they’ve gone right when they should have gone centre. On law and order, they’ve gone liberal when actually they should have stuck with a traditional Conservative position; and on the economy, they seem to be buffeted this way and that, depending less on where they think the country should be, than on where they think public opinion might be.

The Europe policy is really not trivial. It is bad enough to end up trying to form an alternative far right group to the mainstream Conservatives like Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy. That really isn’t smart. Of course those leaders will work with whichever Party is elected; but forfeiting goodwill in such a spectacular fashion won’t be a great beginning. Withdrawing from the Social Chapter will expend vast amounts of political energy and capital. It is a truly regressive step and for what? The feeling I get is that this is all a sop to the Tory Party. But that’s worrying at two levels. The issue is too important to be a sop, so that’s not good judgement and if it is a sop, what does that say about the Tory Party? Either way, Britain will pay the price, as it did before 1997. And by the way, no Party has won an election in Britain on an avowedly anti Europe platform since we joined the Common Market in the 1970’s.

On law and order the Tories have opposed the stronger anti-terrorism measures and much of the anti-social behaviour agenda. They even want to restrict the use of the DNA database. This employs the advanced technology of DNA tracking and matching, to provide incontrovertible evidence of guilt or innocence. Its use so far has resulted in extraordinary breakthroughs. Old crimes, whose victims or their families never received justice, can be solved and perpetrators brought to book. Innocent people have been freed. As the database builds up, it becomes an invaluable crime fighting tool. In time, it will also be a fierce deterrent, since criminals particularly murderers, rapists and those who commit violent assault, will know they run a big risk of detection. It is an absolutely sensible use of modern technology. It can actually help prevent abuses of civil liberties. Yet the Tories oppose it.

Everywhere you look, where you want certainty, you get confusion.

So the Conservative leader speaking about his policy on the NHS a few weeks back spoke of his pride at how his party members “wrote out the placards, marched on the streets, campaigned to save our community hospitals, our maternity units, our GP’s surgeries.” Well, ok. That’s a policy of preserving the status quo in the NHS.

But here’s Oliver Letwin, now Shadow Cabinet member in charge of policy for a Conservative Government speaking yesterday in the Wall Street Journal: He talks of bringing transformational free-market principles to public services and says: “We will implement a very systematic and powerful change agenda where hospitals compete for patients, schools compete for pupils, welfare providers compete for results…”

That’s also clear. That’s a policy of radical transformation of the status quo.

Or on economic policy, one week the absolute priority is deficit reduction. Ok, again clear. But yesterday a big tax cut became the centrepiece and not a vague ‘when things are better’ aspiration; but a full-on pledge.

Leave aside for a minute, the rights and wrongs of the policies. What can’t be left aside is that they are plainly diametrically opposite. So why the confusion?

The benign but still disqualifying explanation is that the policy-makers are confused, not just the policies. The less benign one is that one set of policies represents what they believe in; the other what they think they have to say to win. That’s not a confusion, actually; that’s a strategy and the British people deserve to have that strategy exposed before polling day.

By contrast, Labour has chosen its path. It is mapped out. It is consistent. It is solid. It matches a strong commitment to public services with a strong commitment to reform. It is clear on crime. The economic policy is measured and set out by the steady hand of Alistair Darling. The package is coherent and thought through.

It does two other things that are defining. It acknowledges completely that difficult choices lie ahead. But it seeks to do them fairly, to balance the tough medicine with the compassion. There are policies to cut the deficit but also to help the unemployed, to protect pensioners from poverty, to ensure that opportunity is spread as widely as possible and today a new plan to provide a National Care Service. It seeks to keep Britain together as a nation through troubled times.

But it does something else. It recognises that we must make these choices and map out our path in a world whose challenges are increasingly global and whose solutions therefore must be. It is outward not inward looking.

Thirteen years of power has seen its share of bad times and good, for the people and for the government. That’s for sure.

But just cast our mind back and recall the change for the better. Not just the pledges on the famous pledge card back in 1997, every one met and more.

Remember how people used to wait 18 months queuing on a hospital waiting list. Now it is a maximum wait of 18 weeks from GP to operation. Delivered by a Labour Government.

Thousands fewer deaths from heart disease and cancer. Delivered by a Labour Government.

In 1997 half of all schools got fewer than 30% of their pupils 5 good GCSEs. Today it is only 1 in 12. Delivered by a Labour Government.

And the biggest schools and hospitals re-building programme since the Welfare State began. Delivered by a Labour Government.

New services like Sure Start.

New frontline workers.

Help for families through tax credits and the winter allowance.

Delivered by a Labour Government.

Crime down, having doubled in the 18 years of the last Tory Government, the chances of being a victim lower than at any time since the Crime Survey began.

Delivered by a Labour Government.

Then the changes that we delivered and that would never have happened under the Tories: a minimum wage, flexible working, devolution, a ban on handguns. And how do we know they wouldn’t have happened under the Tories? Because in each case they opposed the change.

Then there are the things done which define the spirit of the society we believe in: civil partnerships, the Human Rights Act, the boost for arts and culture and yes even bringing the Olympics to Britain in 2012.

This has been part of a global vision. One of my charities today works in Africa. We have teams in Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. In each country, Britain’s role is celebrated as a leader in the fight against global poverty. We can be proud of what we done in development. Our troops continue to perform heroically and brilliantly in Afghanistan. And just recently in Basra, we have seen the huge change in the local economy, due in part to the way British troops held the line there through the most fraught times and of course the Iraq election. In Europe, Britain is standing up for our interests but reckoned and respected as a sound partner for Europe’s other nations. When Gordon sought to bring the world together to act in the financial crisis, it came naturally. He understands it.

Which leads me back to the central point of the election: who “gets” the future? This is not a matter of age or personality. It is a matter of comprehension. This is a very, very important moment in which to exercise understanding. Since leaving office, and spending much time abroad, I can tell you one thing above all else. The characteristics of today’s world are: it is interdependent; it is changing; and power is moving East. And all of this is happening fast, faster than we can easily imagine. Britain’s challenge is not a 20th Century one and its politics cannot afford 20th Century political attitudes. The country has to go forward with energy, drive, determination and above all understanding. Closed minds close off the future. That would mean the challenge is failed, but it would also mean the opportunity is squandered.

This country faces big challenges in the futures.

I want this party to be the one able to meet those challenges.

This country needs strong leadership.

I want our leadership to be the one that gives it.

There is still vast potential and promise in our nation.

I want our government to be the one that develops it.

I want a future fair for all.

I believe a 4th term Labour Government can deliver it.

Tony Blair – 2008 Atlantic Conference Speech


Below is the speech of the text made by Tony Blair in Washington DC, USA, on 21 April 2008.

The transatlantic alliance is, of course, a product of historical connection, culture, language and tradition. But most of all it is an alliance of belief, of shared values, of a common outlook not just about nations and their common interest but about humanity and its common destiny. Out of the travails of the twentieth century, the alliance drew its history and its strength. In the fight against fascism, and communism, it confronted and defeated totalitarian ideology. Millions of our citizens died for the victory. Through their sacrifice, we gained our freedom.

More than that, we came to a profound understanding about what it is to be free. We realised through the pain and suffering, the difference between deferring to those in power and deciding who they are; between the rule of law and the caprice of dictatorship; between the right to speak out and the silence of the fearful.

Now with those twentieth century battles over, it is tempting to think that this alliance has served its purpose. But here is the important point about it. It was never, and is not now, an alliance only of interests. It was and is an alliance of conviction. We, in the West, don’t own the idea of freedom. We didn’t fight for it because of the happenstance of birth in Europe or America. It is there, in the DNA of humankind. It is universal in nature and appeal. We developed it but we didn’t invent it.

Now is the time to stand up for it. If we want our values to govern the twenty first century, we must combine hard and soft power. We must show unhesitating resolution in the face of threats to our security; and we must show that our values are indeed universal, that they encompass not only freedom but justice, and not for us alone but for the world as a whole. We must show these values are global. And build alliances accordingly, starting with the renewal of our own. And we need to do it with energy and urgency. In the Middle East this is time critical. We must act now.

Two things I now perceive more clearly than in office. The first is: the fundamental shift of the centre of gravity, politically and economically, to the East; to China and of course India, but more broadly to the Middle and Far Eastern nations.

This evening I will focus elsewhere, but suffice it to say that we are still, in the West, not in the state of comprehension or analysis we need to be, fully to grasp this shift. China and India together will over the coming decades industrialise on a scale, and at a pace, the world has never seen before. In China especially, the implications are huge. Whatever the present controversies, a strong strategic relationship with it is vital; as it is with India. We are so much better able to fashion the terms of such a relationship if we do it in unison. That alone would justify and re-justify our alliance.

This is a challenge of diplomacy and statesmanship of one kind.

The other challenge arises from the security threat that occupied so much of the last years of my premiership. Today, as we meet, our armed forces face the prospect of a continuing campaign in Afghanistan and Iraq. I hope one thing unites us all. Whatever the debate about the decisions that brought us to these countries, there should be no debate about the magnificent and sustained heroism of our armed forces. British and American troops and the forces of other allied nations deserve our full support and our gratitude.

But this struggle is not limited to those fields of conflict. Out in the Middle East, it is there in the activities of Hezbollah in Lebanon, of Hamas in Palestine; it is played out in the street of Arab opinion every day. It has spread across the world. More than a score of nations have suffered terror attacks in the last year, still more have foiled them. They do not include only the usual list, but Thailand, Nigeria, China itself.

In the Middle East, the ideology that drives the extremism is not abating. The Annual Arab Public Opinion survey published last week was not striking simply for its specific findings – but for its overall picture. The basic ideological thrust of the extremists has an impact way beyond the small number of those prepared to engage in terror. In sum, it shows an alarming number of people who buy the view that Islam is under attack from the West; the leaders to support are those like Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad who are perceived to take on the West; and there is a contrast between Governments and their people that is stark.

The extremism is a tiny minority activity; the ideas, prejudices and sentiments that drive it, are not. The truth is that the roots of this global ideology are deep, far deeper than I first thought in the aftermath of September 11.

I believe the eventual outcome is not in doubt. But it is possible, dangerously, to underestimate the size of this challenge. And it is possible completely to misunderstand its origins.

This global ideology is based on a total perversion of the true faith of Islam. Its revolutionary rhetoric and attachment to so-called liberation movements is a sham designed to hide its profoundly reactionary and regressive character. It is totalitarian in nature and compromising with it will lead not to peace but to a ratcheting up of demands, none of which are remotely tolerable.

But it plays cleverly on the insecurities and uncertainty deep within Islam. It speaks to a sense that the reason for its problems is not to be found within, but as victims of outside aggression.

So today the issue hangs in the balance. The Middle East is without doubt a region in transition; but in which direction will it travel?

Like it or not, we are part of the struggle. Drawn into it, Europe and America must hold together and hold firm. Not simply for our own sake, but for that of our allies within Islam. If we do not show heart, why should they?

If they don’t see our resolve, how much more fragile is theirs?

So how is this battle won?

We have to recognise that though the circumstances and conflicts of the twentieth century are very different from ours, nonetheless, one thing remains true in any time and for all time: that if under attack, there is no choice but to defend, with a vigour, determination and will, superior to those attacking us. Our opponents today think we lack this will. Indeed they are counting on it. They think that if they make the struggle long enough and savage enough, we will eventually lose heart, and our will fade. They are fanatics but they have, unfortunately, the dedication that accompanies fanaticism.

We cannot permit this to happen. Where we are confronted, we confront. We stand up. And we do so for as long as it takes. This ideology now has a nation, Iran, that seeks to put itself at the head of extreme Islam. They need to know what we say, we mean and, if necessary, will do.

If we exhibit this attitude, peace is more likely; because they will not miscalculate or misread our character. But if they think us weak, they will fight all the harder and risk all the more.

They need to see our belief. We should not apologise for our values, but wear them with pride, proclaim their virtues loudly; show confidence; ridicule the notion that when people choose freedom this is somehow provocation to terror; and do so together, one alliance.

This struggle did not begin on September 11th 2001. It isn’t the fault of President Bush, of Israel, or of Western policy. The idea that we suppress Muslims in the West is utterly absurd. There is more religious freedom for Islam in London than in many Muslim countries.

You can argue about the rights and wrongs of the military invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, but to allow for a single instant that this action justifies not simply terrorism but the idea that the West is innately hostile to Islam, only has to be contemplated, rationally, momentarily, for its nonsense to be manifest. We get rid of two brutal dictatorships; put in place a UN led democratic process; plus billions of dollars in aid: Where exactly is the hostility to Islam? And the only reason our troops are forced to stay is because of terror attacks carried out by this ideology in defiance of the democratically expressed wishes of the Muslim people of both countries.

And if it is hard and bloody, how bizarre to blame the allied forces, there under a UN mandate and who are trying to keep the peace, rather than those using terror to disturb it.

Yet this paradigm that it is ‘our’ fault that this terror threat is with us, has infiltrated a large part of Middle Eastern public opinion and actually influences significantly a large part of our own. It has to be taken on.

And here is the good news. The same poll shows most Muslims want peace. Most support a two state solution in Israel and Palestine. The modern minded rulers of the successful Arab economies are also admired. People in Iran don’t hate America even if its leader does. Go beneath the surface and there are allies out in the region and within Islam; people who believe strongly in their faith, but know that the twenty first century is not about civilisations in combat but in alliance. In other words people are open to persuasion.

And here is the point. To win this struggle, we must be prepared to confront; but we must also be prepared to persuade.

This is a battle that can take a military or security form. But it can’t be won by military or security means alone. It is a battle of ideas. To win, we must persuade people of what we stand for and why; and we must do so in a way that answers their concerns as well as our own.

We believe in freedom and democracy. We also believe in justice. We believe in equality. We believe in a fair chance for all, in opportunity that goes beyond an elite and stretches down into the core of society. That, after all, is the American dream; free not just in politics but free to achieve, to fulfil your ambition by your own efforts and hard work, to make something of yourself, to give your children a better start than you had.

To win this battle, we must demonstrate these values too. That is why the Middle East peace process matters. It is the litmus test of our sincerity. We should not in any way dilute our commitment to Israel’s security. We simply have to show equal commitment to justice for the Palestinians.

In the coming months, we have a chance to put it on a path to peace. It will require Israel to do more to lift the burden of occupation and give the Palestinians a sense that a state is possible. It will require the Palestinians to do more to get the robust capability on security to give the Israelis a sense that a state is permissible. It will require a different and better strategy for Gaza. And it will require a relentless, insistent focus on the issues, from the U.S. and the international community, macro and micro managing it as necessary, to get the job done. President Bush and Secretary Rice have made that commitment. This can be done. It has to be done. It is not optional. It is mandatory for success.

The origin of this extremism does not lie in this dispute; but a major part of defeating it, lies in its resolution.

Then, wider than this, we have to work with the modern and moderate voices within Islam to help them counter the extremism and show how faith in Islam is supremely consistent with engagement in the twenty first century, economically, politically, and culturally. There is a vast amount of toil and time and energy to be expended in building bridges, educating each other about the other, creating the civic and social networks of reconciliation.

I would go further still.

In Africa, we have a cause of justice which cries out to be pursued; one that is, at the same time, a moral imperative and a strategic investment; one that needs the attention of East and West. In climate change, we have an issue that demonstrates that justice is also part of the compact of responsibility between this generation and those of the future.

My argument is therefore this. The struggle can be won. But it can only be won by a strategy big enough and comprehensive enough to remove the roots as well as the branches. The battle will, in the end, be won within Islam. But only if we show that our values are theirs also.

The problem with so much of Western politics is that the argument is posed as one between the advocates of hard power and soft power, when the reality is, we need both.

This is where America and Europe, united, should act. America has to reach out. Europe has to stand up. Not a single one of the global challenges facing us today is more easily capable of solution, if we are apart; if we let the small irritants obscure the fundamental verities; if we allow ourselves to be assailed by doubt about the value of our partnership, rather than affirm, albeit self-critically, its strengths.

We need now a powerful revival of our alliance. In the world so rapidly changing around us, we cannot take a narrow view of our interests or a short-sighted view of our destiny. We can’t afford to take fright at these changes and go back into isolationism. We can’t avoid the challenges. But we can master them. Together.

The transatlantic partnership was never just the foundation of our security. It was the foundation of our way of life. It was forged in experience of the most bitter and anguished kind.

Out of it came a new Europe, a new world order, a new consensus as to how life should be lived.

Today times are different. Every era is different. What is necessary is to distinguish between what endures for one time and what endures for all time.

In our history, we discovered the values that endure. We learnt what really matters and what is worth fighting for.

And we learnt it together.

Today, the challenge to those values is different. But it is no less real. Our propensity to avow those values will shape the way the twenty first century is governed. Will these values become, as they should be, universal values, open over time to all human beings everywhere; or will they be falsely seen as the product of a bygone age? That is the question. It is fundamental. It is urgent. It is our duty to answer it.

Tony Blair – 2007 Callaghan Memorial Speech


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, in 2007.

There’s little doubt that Jim Callaghan had the character of a great Prime Minister. But he had neither the luck nor the time nor, in the 1970s, the Party he needed. This much most people would agree with.

However, there is another, more interesting side to the politics of Jim Callaghan. To a far greater extent than is ever reflected in commentary on him, he both analysed correctly the changes that were coming in the country and had worked out the answers. His lecture on education, launching the great debate, was remarkably prescient in predicting that the mere abolition of selection would not of itself change educational opportunities for the poorest in society. His speech recognising the limits of Keynesianism in an era of stagflation, in fact predated later Conservative analysis. He was fiercely patriotic not in a gung-ho, militaristic sense, but in the quiet but clear and determined way of someone who had actually seen military service and knew what it was about.

He also – and this is very seldom realised – got completely the social movement that was, even in his time, producing what we would today call the Respect agenda. His values were simple, straightforward and some would say, old-fashioned. There is an interesting exchange he had with Austin Mitchell MP in the 1980s when during a Select Committee hearing, he was asked about how Ministers should behave towards civil servants:

“Callaghan: It is your responsibility to be polite, to be courteous, to listen to what is said to you and absorb it and be loyal to your Private Office so they can serve you to the best of their ability.

Mitchell: It sounds like a Boy Scout code.

Callaghan: What is wrong with the Boy Scouts?”

To Jim, there was nothing to be ashamed of in the code of the Scouts; on the contrary, to him such self-discipline, the giving back of something to society, were of the essence.

He also saw something else before his time. He realised that though social conditions could play a major part in shaping an individual’s life chances – which was why he was in the Labour Party – it could not determine their life: that was their responsibility. He was the living proof. He never took the view: I did it, so why can’t everyone else. But he was not soft on law and order; on the contrary. He also rightly sensed that though the years of Roy Jenkins at the Home Office had been stellar in their action on discrimination – and he was fully supportive of that; liberalism was not necessarily the correct response to the growing disrespect and lawlessness that in the 1960s and 1970s saw crime rise.

In other words, what appeared quite old-fashioned – respect for others – he saw as the answer to a growing modern phenomenon. I believe he was right in this. He saw – and I agree with him – no contradiction between a liberal view of personal lifestyle or action against prejudice; and a tough view of violence or wrong-doing that harmed others.

None of this made him harsh on penal policy. He was a deeply humane man who made prison reform one of his early priorities. But he described – at the time of the “permissive society” – the word “permissiveness” as “one of the most unlikeable words invented in recent years”. He powerfully opposed calls to legalise cannabis. And he described his commitment to order and authority in ways that at that time seemed old-fashioned but in 2007 seem remarkably close to where the consensus is.

Above all, he saw the society and the public realm as more than just the public services, the public spaces, the bricks and mortar. He also saw it as about shared values, respect for others, a certain discipline and rigour in how we comported ourselves.

That is the theme of the lecture today. We need the investment in the public realm. But on its own it is not enough. We have seen over the past decade a renaissance in our cities, like Cardiff. But we are still too often missing the component that cannot be delivered by money alone: the basic, mutual respect that makes a community work.

By the late 1980s many of our cities were in decline.

But now, just look at Cardiff.

In the old days, the rapid growth of Cardiff was based on its development as a major port for the transport of coal. With the fall of the industry, unemployment used to blight Cardiff. Now it has fallen 54% since 1997. There has been major redevelopment, which has led to Cardiff being one of the fastest-growing cities in the UK. It is certainly one of few with an expanding population. On March 1, 2004, Cardiff was granted Fairtrade City status.

Cardiff has the UK’s largest Film, TV & Multimedia sector outside London. Employment in the sector has grown significantly in recent years, and currently provides employment for thousands of the City’s workforce. Cardiff is home to BBC Wales, S4C and ITV Wales. Cardiff is home to Cardiff Castle, the National Museum and Gallery, the Museum of Welsh Life and Llandaff Cathedral. The Welsh National Opera moved into the Wales Millennium Centre in November 2004.

Cardiff is now, on any basis, one of the foremost cities of Europe. But the revitalisation of this city is not unique.

Our major cities have recovered after years of decline.

In total more than £20bn has been invested. The New Deal for Communities supports 10-year regeneration strategies in 39 of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country. The Neighbourhood Renewal Fund has focused on the 88 most deprived local authority areas. The Coalfields Regeneration Trust provided regeneration projects in declining coalfield areas. There have been a myriad of initiatives from the European Union, from Regional Development Agencies, from Urban Regeneration Companies, from English Partnerships.

Work has, for two centuries or more, driven migration to urban areas. It still does. Almost 80 per cent of new jobs in the six years to 2003 were created in city-regions. This is a long-term, global pattern. In 1901 25% of the world’s population lived in a city. Now 80% does.

Despite a very powerful myth of the pastoral, especially in England, this has been an essentially urban country since the Industrial Revolution. Over 80% of the UK’s population lives in an urban area.

The cities of Britain that are prospering are often those that are leading growth in knowledge intensive business and financial services. As well as services, the benefits of cities are important for a number of manufacturing businesses – notably in the case of high-tech modern manufacturers who invest heavily in knowledge, innovation and creativity. Again Cardiff is a prime example.

Previously lagging cities in the North are picking up. The ex-industrial cities in the North have found new economic niches. Derby, Northampton and Manchester all have a rate of change in productivity higher than the English average. Rates of employment have improved in those cities that started with the lowest employment rates at the beginning of the 1990s such as Wigan, Grimsby, Middlesbrough, Sheffield and Hull.

What made the Victorian cities of the Industrial Revolution so grand and so proud was a sense of civic pride in the public realm inculcated, and acted upon, by powerful local government. Cities around the world are citadels of power.

Strong civic government in Cardiff, nationally in the Welsh Assembly, have taken decisions closer to the people and generated a genuine sense of local determination and leadership.

In addition, there has been an immensely healthy and sensible partnership between the private and public sector. The years of division, suspicion occasionally hostility have been put behind us. Again, the Cardiff Bay Barrage and its attendant development shows precisely what the modern relationship can bring.

The redevelopments of the past decade are all partnerships across the traditional boundaries. National leadership is needed, often with the stimulus of public regeneration projects. Then private enterprise joins in, to create jobs and make places work, underpinned by strong local leaders, with a durable commitment to seeing a place come to life.

The renaissance has been spectacular. Here in Cardiff, the waterways have come back into use; we have world-class arts venues and there is the massive redevelopment of the city centre, the largest-ever private investment in Wales, now underway.

London has seen rapid employment and population growth in recent years, mostly in knowledge-based and creative industries. Manchester has seen huge investment in the city centre, particularly in retailing and housing, with over 13,000 jobs created over the past 5 years. In 2008 Liverpool will be the European City of Culture. The city’s total population has now stabilised after many decades of decline. Derby is proving that that there is a future for high-calibre manufacturing in this country. It is home to the Headquarters of aerospace giants Rolls Royce and also Bombardier rail engineering. Leeds is now the UK’s largest financial services location outside London. It is home to Opera North, the Henry Moore Sculpture Institute, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and a wider, thriving cultural scene. After a decline of traditional industries, Sheffield has experienced an economic revival in the last six years, driven by strong local authority leadership. There are exciting plans for redevelopment of the Gloucester Quay that will create 1,000 new homes and 800 new jobs. The Middlehaven project in Middlesbrough will include a new primary school, a new theatre or arena, a museum and apartments set in ‘living piers’ that stretch into the water and provide leisure facilities for all. It will combine public and private sector investment of £500 million and create up to 3,000 new jobs.

These changes are wonderful. But empty places are no better for being new. A city needs citizens. It is really encouraging that Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle have all moved up steadily from their high population losses of the early 1990s. We have seen people come back to the centre of the city, often on the waterfront: Albert Dock in Liverpool, Salford Quays, the Quayside in Newcastle and canal-side schemes in Leeds and Birmingham.

A city cannot function unless its services are good enough. A lot of previous redevelopment has left monuments to good intentions rather than a revived city in its wake. Economic regeneration will fail if it is separated from education, health, housing and the transport network.

Here the public realm we inherited was in a state of considerable disrepair. We have, in fact, gone through perhaps the most intense period of public services construction there has ever been. There has been as much school-building since 2001 as there was in the preceding 25 years.

Ten years ago half of the NHS estate was built before the NHS itself; it is now down to a quarter.

Wales has seen its largest-ever school investment programme. In the last 3 years more than £660 million has been invested in 1,400 school building projects across the country.

In the Welsh health service, we have exceeded our commitment to invest in hospitals and GP surgeries. 7 new hospitals have either been built or are on the way. Investment in dentistry is up 89% since 1999 and free nursing care has been introduced.

Of course this creates demands for staff. There are 1,700 more teachers and 5,700 more classroom assistants than in 1998. There are also over 8,000 more nurses and a 28% increase in NHS staff overall.

Investment in transport in Wales is up 150% since 2001. More than half a million pensioners and disabled people benefit from free bus travel. There are more rail journeys than at any time since the 1940s. We recently announced a £1bn programme to add 1000 new carriages to our rolling stock.

On social housing, we have reversed years of neglect. In the UK as a whole, over £20bn of public money has been spent on improving council housing since 1997. In Wales, the Social Housing Grant will increase 62% between 2005 and 2008. The HomeBuy scheme for first-time buyers has been launched. There has been a ten-fold increase in investment to tackle homelessness in Wales which is down by 35% since 2005.

Health spending in Wales has doubled since 1999; investment in new buildings and equipment has trebled; schools have been refurbished; new hospitals have sprung up. The physical stock that we have today is unrecognizably better than that we inherited.

Primary schools in the areas of highest poverty have improved at nearly twice the rate of schools in the most affluent areas. There has been a 23% increase in the number of pupils achieving the expected grades in the basic subjects in Welsh primary schools.

In the Welsh health service, waiting times are down. Nobody now expects to wait longer than 8 months for an outpatient appointment – 92% now wait less than six months, with the majority waiting less than 3 months. For inpatient treatment, nobody now expects to wait longer than 8 months and 89% wait less than six months.

Perhaps the most important success of all has been the reduction in crime. The chances of being a victim of crime in Wales are at their lowest since 1981.

There are almost 1,000 more police officers and over 600 more Community Support Officers.

However, it doesn’t always feel like that.

Without safe streets the public realm is an unattractive place. Cities are living places, arenas for people rather than things.

But it is in respect of this latter point, that success has been much more elusive. It is not for want of trying. ASB laws have made a huge difference to many communities, notably here in Wales. Never forget, the crimes most people experience are down 35% since 1997. Violent crime has fallen 28% in the last five years.

But it is not how people feel. And in part, this is precisely because the physical aspect of regeneration is so clear and so obvious. People see no reason why the less tangible but still critical aspect – behaviour towards others – should not also be regenerating.

Alright, it may be the fear of crime rather than simply crime. But fear is a very real emotion. And it diminishes severely the quality of people’s lives.

This manifests itself in everything from City Centre disturbances through binge drinking to the recent spate of killings of young people in our inner cities.

I have come to the conclusion that we are in danger of completely misunderstanding the nature of what we are dealing with. In this instance, we need less Jenkins and more Callaghan. We tend to see this as a general social problem which, with the right social engineering, we could cure.

More and more, I think this is not just wrong but misleading; I mean literally misleading us to the wrong answer.

In truth, most young people are perfectly decent and law-abiding, more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime. Most families are not dysfunctional. Most people, even in the hardest communities, are content to play fairly and by the rules. Most young black boys are not involved in knife and gun gangs.

Pace the recent unrest at football matches, on the whole, even at the height of football “hooliganism” most football fans were proper fans, not hooligans.

What we are dealing with is not a general social disorder; but specific groups or people who for one reason or another, are deciding not to abide by the same code of conduct as the rest of us. This came home to me when, at the recent summit I held on knife and gun crime, the black Pastor of a London church said bluntly: when are we going to start saying this is a problem amongst a section of the black community and not, for reasons of political correctness, pretend that this is nothing to do with it.

The fact is you can talk to a teacher who will tell you that at the early stages of primary school it is perfectly plain which kids will be going off the rails a few years later.

In the end, football hooliganism was dealt with by a combination of tougher laws, intensive police work, and reducing the possibilities of organised violence. It worked. But it only worked when people stopped pretending it was a problem of football fans.

We need to do the same in dealing with these latest manifestations of severe disorder. In respect of knife and gun gangs, the laws need to be significantly toughened. There needs to be an intensive police focus, on these groups. The ring-leaders need to be identified and taken out of circulation; if very young, as some are, put in secure accommodation . The black community – the vast majority of whom in these communities are decent, law-abiding people horrified at what is happening – need to be mobilised in denunciation of this gang culture that is killing innocent young black kids. But we won’t stop this by pretending it isn’t young black kids doing it.

In the same way, at the risk of again being misrepresented, as advocating baby ASBOs, or some such nonsense, those families known to the social services, health workers, often the law enforcement agencies, who are dysfunctional and whose children are being brought up in chaos, need to be identified early and put within a proper structured disciplined framework where in return for their state benefits, they get the right mix of pressure and support to change.

Likewise for those people who, unlike the majority, can’t have a good time in the City Centre without getting into a fight, the new powers should be used to the full, against licencees encouraging excessive drinking, against under-age consumption and against those who drink and are violent. Violence when drunk should not be seen as a mitigating element but as an aggravating one. Courts should deal out tough sentences to those that engage in such violence.

This is the missing dimension to the regeneration of our towns and cities. The years of underinvestment have gone. Business is thriving. Culture and art is one of the real success stories of the last decade. The physical infrastructure of public services is getting better all the time. But the behavioural problems of the minority – which may have a myriad of causes but have one effect, namely hell for the rest of us, blight this otherwise optimistic story of renaissance. We need to stop thinking of this as a society that’s gone wrong – it hasn’t – but of specific groups that for specific reasons have gone outside of the proper lines of respect and good conduct towards others and need, by specific measures aimed at them, to be brought back within the fold.

Jim Callaghan would have understood this. He was quintessentially the common sense politician. He grasped the reality of life because he had lived it from humble beginnings to great office. I remember his 90th birthday party which we gave for him in Downing Street. At the time, Audrey his wife was suffering from Alzheimers. She barely recognised anyone, even him, but he visited her every day. When she died, he died 11 days later. At the party in Downing Street, he gave the most beautiful and moving speech about her, their life together and how it had sustained him. He had a simple, clear code by which he lived.

Of course the modern world is different. Our mores are different. The opportunities and also dangers present in the lives of our children different to the nth degree. What is acceptable, what goes, would, indeed does, shock older generations. But we still know that the public realm is about shared public values as well as shared space and buildings. Enforcing those values is not an attempt at nostalgia. It is the way to make our public realm ours.

Tony Blair – 2007 Resignation Statement


Below is the text of the speech made by Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, announcing his resignation as Prime Minister in June 2007.

I have come back here, to Sedgefield, to my constituency, where my political journey began and where it is fitting it should end.

Today I announce my decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party. The Party will now select a new Leader.

On 27 June I will tender my resignation from the office of prime minister to the Queen.

I have been prime minister of this country for just over 10 years. In this job, in the world today, that is long enough, for me, but more especially for the country.

Sometimes the only way you conquer the pull of power is to set it down.

Great country

It is difficult to know how to make this speech today. There is a judgment to be made on my premiership. And in the end that is, for you, the people, to make.

I can only describe what I think has been done over these last 10 years and, perhaps more important, why.

I have never quite put it like this before.

I was born almost a decade after the Second World War. I was a young man in the social revolution of the 60s and 70s.

I reached political maturity as the Cold War was ending, and the world was going through a political, economic and technological revolution.

I looked at my own country, a great country – wonderful history, magnificent traditions, proud of its past, but strangely uncertain of its future, uncertain about the future, almost old-fashioned.

All of that was curiously symbolised in its politics.

You stood for individual aspiration and getting on in life or social compassion and helping others. You were liberal in your values or conservative.

You believed in the power of the state or the efforts of the individual. Spending more money on the public realm was the answer or it was the problem.

None of it made sense to me. It was 20th Century ideology in a world approaching a new millennium.

Of course people want the best for themselves and their families, but in an age where human capital is a nation’s greatest asset, they also know it is just and sensible to extend opportunities, to develop the potential to succeed, for all – not an elite at the top.

People are, today, open-minded about race and sexuality, averse to prejudice and yet deeply and rightly conservative with a small ‘c’ when it comes to good manners, respect for others, treating people courteously.

They acknowledge the need for the state and the responsibility of the individual.

Living standards

They know spending money on our public services matters and that it is not enough. How they are run and organised matters too.

So 1997 was a moment for a new beginning, for sweeping away all the detritus of the past.

Expectations were so high, too high – too high in a way for either of us.

Now in 2007, you can easily point to the challenges, the things that are wrong, the grievances that fester.

But go back to 1997. Think back. No, really, think back. Think about your own living standards then in May 1997 and now.

Visit your local school, any of them round here, or anywhere in modern Britain.

Ask when you last had to wait a year or more on a hospital waiting list, or heard of pensioners freezing to death in the winter, unable to heat their homes.

There is only one government since 1945 that can say all of the following: ‘More jobs, fewer unemployed, better health and education results, lower crime and economic growth in every quarter,’ – this one.

But I don’t need a statistic. There is something bigger than what can be measured in waiting lists or GSCE results or the latest crime or jobs figures.

Look at our economy – at ease with globalisation, London the world’s financial centre. Visit our great cities and compare them with 10 years ago.

No country attracts overseas investment like we do.

Think about the culture of Britain in 2007. I don’t just mean our arts that are thriving. I mean our values, the minimum wage, paid holidays as a right, amongst the best maternity pay and leave in Europe, equality for gay people.

Or look at the debates that reverberate round the world today – the global movement to support Africa in its struggle against poverty, climate change, the fight against terrorism.

Britain is not a follower. It is a leader. It gets the essential characteristic of today’s world – its interdependence.

This is a country today that for all its faults, for all the myriad of unresolved problems and fresh challenges, is comfortable in the 21st Century, at home in its own skin, able not just to be proud of its past but confident of its future.

I don’t think Northern Ireland would have been changed unless Britain had changed, or the Olympics won if we were still the Britain of 1997.

As for my own leadership, throughout these 10 years, where the predictable has competed with the utterly unpredicted, right at the outset one thing was clear to me.

Without the Labour Party allowing me to lead it, nothing could ever have been done.

But I knew my duty was to put the country first. That much was obvious to me when just under 13 years ago I became Labour’s Leader.

What I had to learn, however, as prime minister was what putting the country first really meant.

Ultimate obligation

Decision-making is hard. Everyone always says: ‘Listen to the people.’ The trouble is they don’t always agree.

When you are in opposition, you meet this group and they say: ‘Why can’t you do this?’ And you say: ‘It’s really a good question. Thank you.’ And they go away and say: ‘Its great, he really listened.’

You meet that other group and they say: ‘Why can’t you do that?’ And you say: ‘It’s a really good question. Thank you.’ And they go away happy you listened.

In government, you have to give the answer – not an answer, the answer.

And, in time, you realise putting the country first doesn’t mean doing the right thing according to conventional wisdom or the prevailing consensus or the latest snapshot of opinion.

It means doing what you genuinely believe to be right.

Your duty is to act according to your conviction.

All of that can get contorted so that people think you act according to some messianic zeal.

Doubt, hesitation, reflection, consideration and re-consideration, these are all the good companions of proper decision-making. But the ultimate obligation is to decide.

Sometimes the decisions are accepted quite quickly. Bank of England independence was one, which gave us our economic stability.

Sometimes, like tuition fees or trying to break up old monolithic public services, they are deeply controversial, hellish hard to do, but you can see you are moving with the grain of change round the word.

Sometimes, like with Europe, where I believe Britain should keep its position strong, you know you are fighting opinion, but you are content with doing so.

Sometimes, as with the completely unexpected, you are alone with your own instinct.

Global terrorism

In Sierra Leone and to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, I took the decision to make our country one that intervened, that did not pass by, or keep out of the thick of it.

Then came the utterly unanticipated and dramatic – September 11th 2001 and the death of 3,000 or more on the streets of New York.

I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. I did so out of belief.

So Afghanistan and then Iraq – the latter, bitterly controversial.

Removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taleban, was over with relative ease.

But the blowback since, from global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly. For many, it simply isn’t and can’t be worth it.

For me, I think we must see it through. They, the terrorists, who threaten us here and round the world, will never give up if we give up.

It is a test of will and of belief. And we can’t fail it.

So, some things I knew I would be dealing with. Some I thought I might be. Some never occurred to me on that morning of 2 May 1997 when I came into Downing Street for the first time.

Great expectations not fulfilled in every part, for sure.

Occasionally people say, as I said earlier: ‘They were too high, you should have lowered them.’

But, to be frank, I would not have wanted it any other way. I was, and remain, as a person and as a prime minister, an optimist. Politics may be the art of the possible – but at least in life, give the impossible a go.

So of course the vision is painted in the colours of the rainbow, and the reality is sketched in the duller tones of black, white and grey.

High hopes

But I ask you to accept one thing. Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.

I may have been wrong. That is your call. But believe one thing if nothing else. I did what I thought was right for our country.

I came into office with high hopes for Britain’s future. I leave it with even higher hopes for Britain’s future.

This is a country that can, today, be excited by the opportunities not constantly fretful of the dangers.

People often say to me: ‘It’s a tough job’ – not really.

A tough life is the life the young severely disabled children have and their parents, who visited me in Parliament the other week.

Tough is the life my dad had, his whole career cut short at the age of 40 by a stroke. I have been very lucky and very blessed. This country is a blessed nation.

The British are special. The world knows it. In our innermost thoughts, we know it. This is the greatest nation on earth.

It has been an honour to serve it. I give my thanks to you, the British people, for the times I have succeeded, and my apologies to you for the times I have fallen short. Good luck.

Tony Blair – 2004 Statement on the Butler Report


Below is the text of the speech made in the House of Commons by Tony Blair on 14th July 2004.

Lord Butler’s Report is comprehensive, thorough; and I thank the members of his Committee and their staff for all their hard work in compiling it. We accept fully the Report’s conclusions.

The Report provides an invaluable analysis of the general threat in respect of WMD; of the potential acquisition of WMD by terrorists; and though it devotes much of its analysis to Iraq, it also goes into detail on the WMD threat posed by Iran, Libya, North Korea and A Q Khan. Some of the intelligence disclosed is made available for the first time and gives some insight into the reasons for the judgements I and other Ministers have been making. I hope the House will understand if I deal with it in some detail.

The hallmark of the Report is its balanced judgements.

The Report specifically supports the conclusions of Lord Hutton’s inquiry about the good faith of the intelligence services and the Government in compiling the September 2002 dossier.

But it also makes specific findings that the dossier and the intelligence behind it should have been better presented, had more caveats attached to it, and been better validated.

It reports doubts which have recently arisen on the 45 minute intelligence and says in any event it should have been included in the dossier in different terms; but it expressly supports the intelligence on Iraq’s attempts to procure uranium from Niger in respect of Iraq’s nuclear ambitions.

The Report finds that there is little – if any – significant evidence of stockpiles of readily deployable weapons.

But it also concludes that Saddam Hussein did indeed have:

a.         “the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted.

b.         In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities.

c.         Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions;”

Throughout the last 18 months, throughout the rage and ferment of the debate over Iraq, there have been two questions.

One is an issue of good faith, of integrity.

This is now the fourth exhaustive inquiry that has dealt with this issue. This report, like the Hutton inquiry, like the report of the ISC before it and of the FAC before that, has found the same thing.

No-one lied.  No-one made up the intelligence. No-one inserted things into the dossier against the advice of the intelligence services.

Everyone genuinely tried to do their best in good faith for the country in circumstances of acute difficulty.  That issue of good faith should now be at an end.

But there is another issue.  We expected, I expected to find actual usable, chemical or biological weapons shortly after we entered Iraq.  We even made significant contingency plans in respect of their use against our troops.  UN Resolution 1441 in November 2002 was passed unanimously by the whole Security Council, including Syria, on the basis Iraq was a WMD threat. Lord Butler says in his report:

“We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found.”

But I have to accept: as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of invasion Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.

The second issue is therefore this:  even if we acted in perfectly good faith, is it now the case that in the absence of stockpiles of weapons ready to deploy, the threat was misconceived and therefore the war was unjustified?

I have searched my conscience, not in a spirit of obstinacy; but in genuine reconsideration in the light of what we now know, in answer to that question.  And my answer would be: that the evidence of Saddam’s WMD was indeed less certain, less well-founded than was stated at the time.  But I cannot go from there to the opposite extreme.  On any basis he retained complete strategic intent on WMD and significant capability; the only reason he ever let the inspectors back into Iraq was that he had 180,000 US and British troops on his doorstep; he had no intention of ever co-operating fully with the inspectors; and he was going to start up again the moment the troops and the inspectors departed; or the sanctions eroded. And I say further: that had we backed down in respect of Saddam, we would never have taken the stand we needed to take on WMD, never have got the progress for example on Libya, that we achieved; and we would have left Saddam in charge of Iraq, with every malign intent and capability still in place and every dictator with the same intent everywhere immeasurably emboldened.

As I shall say later: for any mistakes, made, as the Report finds, in good faith I of course take full responsibility, but I cannot honestly say I believe getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all.  Iraq, the region, the wider world is a better and safer place without Saddam.

The Report begins by an assessment of intelligence and its use in respect of countries other than Iraq.  It points out that in respect of Libya, the intelligence has largely turned out to be accurate especially in respect of its nuclear weapons programmes; and those are now being dismantled.  In respect of Iran, the Report says Iran is now engaged with the IAEA, though there remain ‘clearly outstanding issues about Iran’s activities’.

About North Korea, the Report concludes that it ‘is now thought to be developing missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons as far away as continental US and Europe’.

The Report goes on at para 99: ‘North Korea is a particular cause for concern because of its willingness to sell ballistic missiles to anyone prepared to pay in hard currency’.

The Report also discloses the extent of the network of A Q Khan, the Pakistani former nuclear scientist.  This network is now shut down largely through US and UK intelligence work, through Pakistani cooperation and through the dialogue with Libya.

The Report then reveals for the first time the development of the intelligence in respect of the new global terrorism we face.  In the early years, for example, in the JIC assessment of October 1994, the view was that the likelihood of terrorists acquiring or using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons was, whilst theoretically possible, highly unlikely.

However, as the name and activities of Usama Bin Laden became better known, the JIC started to change its earlier assessment.  In November 1998, it said:

[UBL] has a long-standing interest in the potential terrorist use of CBR materials, and recent intelligence suggest his ideas about using toxic materials are maturing and being developed in more detail. … There is also secret reporting that he may have obtained some CB material – and that he is interested in nuclear materials.

And in June 1999:

Most of UBL’s planned attacks would use conventional terrorist weapons.  But he continues to seek chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material and to develop a capability for its terrorist use.

By mid-July 1999 this view hardened still further:

There have been important developments in [Islamist extremist] terrorism.  It has become clear that Usama Bin Laden has been seeking CBRN materials … . The significance of his possession of CB materials is that, in contrast to other terrorists interested in CB, he wishes to target US, British and other interests worldwide.

A series of further assessments to the same effect issued in January 2000, again in August 2000, and in January 2001.

To anyone who wants to know why I have become increasingly focused on the link between terrorism and WMD, I recommend reading this part of the Report and the intelligence assessments received.

It was against this background of what one witness to Lord Butler called the ‘creeping tide of proliferation’ that the events of September 11th 2001 should be considered.  As the Report says, following September 11th, the calculus of the threat changed:

I said in this House on the 14th September 2001:

“We know, that the terrorists would, if they could, go further and use chemical or biological or even nuclear weapons of mass destruction.  We have been warned by the events of 11 September.  We should act on the warning.”

I took the view then and stand by it now that no Prime Minister faced with this evidence could responsibly afford to ignore it.  After September 11th, it was time to take an active as opposed to reactive position on the whole question of WMD.  We had to close down the capability of the rogue states – usually highly repressive and unstable – to develop such weapons; and the commercial networks such as those of A Q Khan helping them.

Again my clear view was that the country where we had to take a stand was Iraq.  Why?

Iraq was the one country to have used WMD recently.  It had developed WMD capability and concealed it.  Action by UN inspectors and the IAEA had by the mid to late 1990s reduced this threat significantly; but as the Butler Report shows at paras 180-182, by the time the inspectors were effectively blocked in Iraq (at the end of 1998) the JIC assessments were that some CW stocks remained hidden and that Iraq remained capable of a break-out chemical weapons capability within months; a biological weapons capability, also with probable stockpiles; and could have had ballistic missiles capability in breach of UN Resolutions within a year.

This was the reason for military action, taken without a UN Resolution, in December 1998.

Subsequent to that, the Report shows that we continued to receive the JIC assessments on Iraq’s WMD capability.  For example, in respect of chemical and biological weapons it said in April 2000:

Our picture is limited.

It is likely that Iraq is continuing to develop its offensive chemical warfare (CW) and biological warfare (BW) capabilities.

In May 2001, the JIC assessed, in respect of nuclear weapons:

Our knowledge of developments in Iraq’s WMD and ballistic missile programmes since Desert Fox air operations in December 1998 is patchy.  But intelligence gives grounds for concern and suggests that Iraq is becoming bolder in conducting activities prohibited by UNSCR 687.

There is evidence of increased activity at Iraq’s only remaining nuclear facility and a growing number of reports on possible nuclear related procurement.

In February 2002, the JIC said:

Iraq … if it has not already done so, could produce significant quantities of BW agent within days.  …

The Report specifically endorses the March 2002 advice to Ministers which states that though containment had been partially successful and intelligence was patchy, Iraq continues to develop WMD:

Iraq has up to 20 650km range missiles left over from the Gulf War.  These are capable of hitting Israel and the Gulf states.  Design work for other ballistic missiles over the UN limit of 150km continues.  Iraq continues with its BW and CW programmes and, if it has not already done so, could produce significant quantities of BW agents within days and CW agent within weeks of a decision to do so.  We believe it could deliver CBW by a variety of means, including in ballistic missile warheads.  There are also some indications of a continuing nuclear programme.

The point I would make is simply this.  The dossier of September 2002 did not reach any startling or radical conclusion.  It said, in effect, what had been said for several years based not just on intelligence but on frequent UN and international reports.  It was the same conclusion that led us to military action in 1998; to maintain sanctions; to demand the return of UN Inspectors.

We published the dossier in response to the enormous Parliamentary and press clamour.  It was not, as has been described, the case for war.  But it was the case for enforcing the UN will.

In retrospect it has achieved a fame it never achieved at the time.  As the Report states at para 310:

It is fair to say at the outset that the dossier attracted more attention after the war than it had done before it.  When first published, it was regarded as cautious, and even dull.  Some of the attention that it eventually received was the product of controversy over the Government’s further dossier of February 2003.  Some of it arose over subsequent allegations that the intelligence in the September dossier had knowingly been embellished, and hence over the good faith of the Government.  Lord Hutton dismissed those allegations. We should record that we, too, have seen no evidence that would support any such allegations.

The Report at para 333 states that in general the statements in the dossier reflected fairly the judgements of past JIC assessments.

The Report, however, goes on to say that with hindsight making public that the authorship of the dossier was by the JIC was a mistake. It meant that more weight was put on the intelligence than it could bear; and put the JIC and its Chairman in a difficult position.

It recommends in future a clear delineation between Government and JIC, perhaps by issuing two separate documents. I think this is wise, though I doubt it would have made much difference to the reception of the intelligence at the time.

The Report also enlarges on the criticisms of the ISC in respect of the greater use of caveats about intelligence both in the dossier and in my foreword and we accept that entirely.

The Report also states that significant parts of the intelligence have now been found by SIS to be in doubt.

The Chief of SIS, Sir Richard Dearlove has told me that SIS accepts all the conclusions and recommendations of Lord Butler’s report which concern the Service.  SIS will fully address the recommendations which Lord Butler has made about their procedures and about the need for the Service properly to resource them.  The Service has played, and will continue to play, a vital role in countering worldwide the tide of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, its successes are evident in Lord Butler’s report.

I accept the Report’s conclusions in full.  Any mistakes made should not be laid at the door of our intelligence and security community.  They do a tremendous job for our country.

I accept full personal responsibility for the way the issue was presented and therefore for any errors made.

As the Report indicates, there is no doubt that at the time it was genuinely believed by everyone that Saddam had both strategic intent in respect of WMD and actual weapons.


I make this further point.  On the sparse, generalised and highly fragmented intelligence about Al Qaida prior to September 11th, it is now widely said policy-makers should have foreseen the attacks that materialised on September 11th 2001 in New York.  I only ask:  had we ignored the specific intelligence about the threat from Iraq, backed up by a long history of international confrontation over it, and that threat later materialised, how would we have been judged?

I know some will disagree with this.  There are those who were opposed to the war, remain so now and will forever be in that position.

I only hope that now, after two detailed Parliamentary Committee reports, a judicial inquiry more exhaustive than any has ever been in examining an allegation of impropriety against Government and now this voluminous report, people will not disrespect the other’s point of view but will accept that those that agree and those that disagree with the war in Iraq, hold their views not because they are war-mongers on the one hand or closet supporters of Saddam on the other, but because of a genuine difference of judgement as to the right thing to have done.

There was no conspiracy.  There was no impropriety.

The essential judgement and truth, as usual, does not lie in extremes.

We all acknowledge Saddam was evil and his regime depraved.  Whether or not actual stockpiles of weapons are found, there wasn’t and isn’t any doubt Saddam used WMD and retained every strategic intent to carry on developing them.  The judgement is this: would it have been better or more practical to have contained him through continuing sanctions and weapons inspections; or was this inevitably going to be at some point a policy that failed?  And was removing Saddam a diversion from pursuing the global terrorist threat; or part of it?

I can honestly say I have never had to make a harder judgement.  But in the end, my judgement was that after September 11th, we could no longer run the risk; that instead of waiting for the potential threat of terrorism and WMD to come together, we had to get out and get after it.  One part was removing the training ground of Al Qaida in Afghanistan.  The other was taking a stand on WMD; and the place to take that stand was Iraq, whose regime was the only one ever to have used WMD and was subject to 12 years of UN Resolutions and weapons inspections that turned out to be unsatisfactory.

And though in neither case was the nature of the regime the reason for conflict, it was decisive for me in the judgement as to the balance of risk for action or inaction.

Both countries now face an uncertain struggle for the future.  But both at least now have a future.  The one country in which you will find an overwhelming majority in favour of the removal of Saddam is Iraq.

I am proud of this country and the part it played and especially our magnificent armed forces, in removing two vile dictatorships and giving people oppressed, almost enslaved, the prospect of democracy and liberty.

This Report will not end the arguments about the war.  But in its balance and common sense, it should at least help to set them in a more rational light; and for that we should be grateful.

Tony Blair – 2004 Speech on Law and Order


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on 19th July 2004.

Today sees the publication of the third 5 year strategy – this time for the Criminal Justice System and Home Office. The NHS strategy built on the investment and reforms of the past seven years; and indicated a step change to a de-centralised, non-monolithic consumer and patient driven NHS. The result will be an NHS true to its founding principle of healthcare available according to need not wealth; but radically changed for the world of the early 21st century.

Likewise the education strategy signalled a move to a new era of secondary education beyond the traditional comprehensive model towards independent specialist schools.

Today’s strategy is the culmination of a journey of change both for progressive politics and for the country.  It marks the end of the 1960s liberal, social consensus on law and order.

The 1960s saw a huge breakthrough in terms of freedom of expression, of lifestyle, of the individual’s right to live their own personal life in the way they choose. It was the beginning of a consensus against discrimination, in favour of women’s equality, and the end of any sense of respectability in racism or homophobia. Not that discrimination didn’t any longer exist – or doesn’t now – but the gradual acceptance that it was contrary to the spirit of a new time.  Deference, too, was on the way out and rightly.  It spoke to an increasing rejection of rigid class divisions.

All of this has survived and strengthened in today’s generation.  But with this change in the 1960s came something else, not necessarily because of it but alongside it.  It was John Stuart Mill who articulated the modern concept that with freedom comes responsibility.  But in the 1960’s revolution, that didn’t always happen.  Law and order policy still focussed on the offender’s rights, protecting the innocent, understanding the social causes of their criminality.  All through the 1970s and 1980s, under Labour and Conservative Governments, a key theme of legislation was around the prevention of miscarriages of justice.  Meanwhile some took the freedom without the responsibility.  The worst criminals became better organised and more violent.  The petty criminals were no longer the bungling but wrong-headed villains of old; but drug pushers and drug-abusers, desperate and without any residual moral sense.  And a society of different lifestyles spawned a group of young people who were brought up without parental discipline, without proper role models and without any sense of responsibility to or for others.  All of this was then multiplied in effect, by the economic and social changes that altered the established pattern of community life in cities, towns and villages throughout Britain and throughout the developed world.

Here, now, today, people have had enough of this part of the 1960s consensus.  People do not want a return to old prejudices and ugly discrimination.  But they do want rules, order and proper behaviour. They know there is such a thing as society.  They want a society of respect.  They want a society of responsibility.  They want a community where the decent law-abiding majority are in charge; where those that play by the rules do well; and those that don’t, get punished.

For me this has always been something of a personal crusade. I got used to the society of fear in the 1980s canvassing on the Holly Street estate in Hackney (now thankfully greatly improved); when people were too scared to open the door and the letterboxes had burn marks round them where lighted rags had been shoved through them.

Later still, as an MP, I realised to my shock that this wasn’t confined to inner-city London. In the shire county of Durham, it was the same. I wrote a piece about it in The Times in April 1988, the first time I remember using the phrase “anti-social behaviour”.

Then as Shadow Home Secretary, I had the chance to campaign on it. At the time the shift in Labour’s stance on law and order was seen as clever politics. Actually I just worked through instinct; and discovered that all over progressive politics, including in the 1960s generation, the same anger and concern was felt.

But in Government, of course, the issue is not what to say, but what to do. Looking back, of all the public services we inherited in 1997, the one that was most unfit for purpose was the criminal justice system. Police numbers were falling. Though recorded crime had begun to fall, it was still double what it had been in the 1970s. Detections and convictions were going down. Trials often collapsed. Fines were often not paid.  Probation training had stalled. 1 in 6 CPS posts were vacant. There were literally no computers for frontline prosecution  staff.  But above all, there was a resigned tolerance of failure, a culture of fragmentation and an absence of any sense of forward purpose, across the whole criminal justice system. And anti-social behaviour was a menace, without restraint.

In the first few years we took some important first steps.  We stopped the fall in police numbers, once free of the spending constraints of the first two years.  We halved the time to bring persistent juvenile offenders to justice.  We introduced the first testing and treatment orders for drug offenders.  We introduced and implemented a radical strategy on burglary and car crime which cut both dramatically.  We toughened the law.

As a result, on the statistics we are the first Government since the war to have crime lower than when we took office.  But that’s the statistics.  It’s not what people feel.

Building on these foundations, we started to become a lot more radical in our thinking. We introduced the first legislation specifically geared to ASB.  We asked the police what powers they wanted and gave them to them.  The latest Criminal Justice Act is a huge step forward. We put a £1 billion investment into CJS technology. We have introduced mandatory drug testing at the point of charge in high crime areas. We have established the first DNA database. There will be a new framework for sentencing. Probation and prisons are to be run under one service. Community penalties are being radically re-structured. And we have 12,500 more police than in 1997. There is a real feeling within the CJS that change is happening.

But as fast as we act, as tough as it seems compared to the 1970s or 1980s, for the public it is not fast or tough enough.

What we signal today is a step-change. It has three components to it.

First, we seek to revive community policing. People want not just the bobby on the beat, but a strong, organised uniformed presence back on the streets.  And the local community itself wants a say in how they are policed. They want to be in charge. Our proposals for police, CSOs and neighbourhood action do that.

Second, we are shifting from tackling the offence to targeting the offender. There will be a massive increase in drug testing and drug treatment, with bail and the avoidance of prison being dependent on the offender’s co-operation.  Sentencing and probation will likewise focus on the offender; and just paying the penalty will not be enough.  For as long as they remain a danger, the most violent offenders will stay in custody.

Thirdly, we are giving local communities and police the powers they need to enforce respect on the street. ASB measures will be strengthened. Summary justice through on-the-spot fines, seizure of drug dealers’ assets, closure of pubs, clubs and houses that are the centre of drug use or disorder, naming and shaming of persistent ASB offenders, interim ASBO’s, will be rolled out.  Organised criminals will face not just the pre-emptive seizure of their assets, but will be forced to cooperate with investigations and will face trial without jury where there is any suggestion of intimidation of jurors.  Abuse of court procedures, endless trial delays, the misuse of legal aid will no longer be tolerated.

The purpose of the CJS reforms is to re-balance the system radically in favour of the victim, protecting the innocent but ensuring the guilty know the odds have changed.

I know this is a lot to promise and to deliver.  But there is change underway.  For the first time in years, people’s fear of crime, and of ASB and of their satisfaction levels with the CJS are moving in the right direction.  I want this to be a major part of our offer to the people of Britain in the time to come.  We can’t do it on our own.  We need the police to use the powers.  We need the public to get engaged.  But for the first time in my political lifetime the politicians, police and public are on the same side.  We are providing help with the causes of crime: big investment in the poorest communities; extra family support for the most disadvantaged families; the New Deal; Sure Start; more drug treatment.

We understand criminal behaviour often has complex and tragic antecedents.  But out first duty is to the law-abiding citizen.  They are our boss.  It’s time to put them at the centre of the CJS.  That is the new consensus on law and order for our times.

Tony Blair – 2002 Science Matters Speech


Below is the text of a speech made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on 23rd May 2002 to the Royal Society.

When 12 men founded the Royal Society in 1660, it was possible for an educated person to encompass all of scientific knowledge. In fact, that was probably true for more than half of this body’s existence. It was only in 1847 that the Royal Society decided to restrict its membership to working scientists.

But in the last century, and in particular in the last 50 years, such has been the pace of scientific advance that even the best scientists cannot keep up with discoveries at frontiers outside their own field. More science is being done, it’s more global and it’s faster to impact on our lives.

Given the great advances of recent years, it would be easy for non-scientists to think that the great scientific problems have been solved, that today’s work is filling in minor gaps. But we stand on the verge of further leaps forward in scientific endeavour and discovery.

Now I know there are scientists here who can explain with far more insight than I the challenges and wonders that are emerging. But there are three main reasons why I want to address the potential of this new age of discovery.

First, science is vital to our country’s continued future prosperity.

Second, science is posing hard questions of moral judgement and of practical concern, which, if addressed in the wrong way, can lead to prejudice against science, which I believe would be profoundly damaging.

Third, as a result, the benefits of science will only be exploited through a renewed compact between science and society, based on a proper understanding of what science is trying to achieve.

The idea of making this speech has been in my mind for some time. The final prompt for it came, curiously enough, when I was in Bangalore in January. I met a group of academics, who were also in business in the biotech field. They said to me bluntly: Europe has gone soft on science; we are going to leapfrog you and you will miss out. They regarded the debate on GM here and elsewhere in Europe as utterly astonishing. They saw us as completely overrun by protestors and pressure groups who used emotion to drive out reason. And they didn’t think we had the political will to stand up for proper science.

I believe that if we don’t get a better understanding of science and its role, they may be proved right.

Let us start with the hardest thing of all to achieve in politics: a sense of balance. Already some of the pre-speech criticism suggests that by supporting science, we want the world run by Dr Strangelove, with all morality eclipsed by a cold, heartless test-tube ideology with scientists as its leaders.

Science is just knowledge. And knowledge can be used by evil people for evil ends. Science doesn’t replace moral judgement. It just extends the context of knowledge within which moral judgements are made. It allows us to do more, but it doesn’t tell us whether doing more is right or wrong.

Science is also fallible. Theories change. Knowledge expands and can contradict earlier thinking.

All of this is true, but none of it should stop science trying to tell us the facts. Yet in every generation, there are those who feel that the facts may lead us astray, may tempt us to do wrong. And in one way, they are right. There is a greater capacity to do wrong with scientific advances because we have greater technological capability – for example, nuclear weapons.

But the answer is not to disinvent nuclear fusion. The answer is that with scientific advance, we need greater moral fibre; better judgement; and stronger analysis of how to use knowledge for good not ill.

The balance is that better moral judgement goes hand-in-hand with better science.

But first why is science important to our economic and social future?

Current state of science

There are many issues of gravity in our world, of danger, of difficulty. But I think scientific discovery is one of the most exciting developments happening in the world today.

The biosciences are, rightly, drawing much admiring attention at the present time. But huge advances continue to be made in the physical sciences and the interdisciplinary areas between them. Indeed, increasingly, physical and life sciences are inderdependent.

The current work in nanoscience – manipulating and building devices atom by atom – is startling in its potential. From this we now see emerging nanotechnology, the ultimate in miniaturisation. Programmable and controllable microscale robots will allow doctors to execute curative and reconstructive procedures in the human body at the cellular and molecular level. Visionaries in this field talks about machines the size of a cell that might, for example, identify and destroy all the cancerous cells in a body. Nanomachines might target bacteria and other parasites, dealing with tuberculosis, malaria and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

I saw a demonstration last week of some of the pioneering work being done in Cambridge in light-emitting polymers. Imagine a thin, flexible sheet of plastic coated with flexible semiconductors. This kind of disruptive technology may create whole new industries and products we can’t begin to imagine. And it’s revealing that this sort of work requires the collaboration of physicists, chemists, material scientists and engineers.

Meanwhile, climate change presents one of the greatest challenges. Science alone can’t solve the problem. But I’m encouraged by the work in Britain on improved solar panels, better fuel cell technology, and more efficient means of tapping tidal and wave energy. Note for example that our tidal rip – if harnessed – could provide ten times our current energy needs.

Meanwhile, hydrogen technologies offer the potential of zero-pollution transport. The vision of the scientists and engineers developing this technology is of clean and safe cities, without the air quality and health impacts of conventional vehicles.

What is particularly impressive is the way that scientists are now undaunted by important complex phenomena. Pulling together the massive power available from modern computers, the engineering capability to design and build enormously complex automated instruments to collect new data, with the weight of scientific understanding developed over the centuries, the frontiers of science have moved into a detailed understanding of complex phenomena ranging from the genome to our global climate. Predictive climate modelling covers the period to the end of this century and beyond, with our own Hadley Centre playing the leading role internationally.

The emerging field of e-science should transform this kind of work. It’s significant that the UK is the first country to develop a national e-science Grid, which intends to make access to computing power, scientific data repositories and experimental facilities as easy as the Web makes access to information.

One of the pilot e-science projects is to develop a digital mammographic archive, together with an intelligent medical decision support system for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. An individual hospital will not have supercomputing facilties, but through the Grid it could buy the time it needs. So the surgeon in the operating room will be able to pull up a high-resolution mammogram to identify exactly where the tumour can be found.

We already enjoy many of the fruits of biomedical science. In Shakespeare’s day, life expectancy in Britain was only 30 years. Even by the 1880s, for the malnourished working class, it was still under 40. Today, life expectancy at birth is nearly 80 years, and we can expect many of us to live healthily into our eighties and nineties and even hundreds. The availability of this extraordinary progress is largely a direct result of advances in the life sciences and improved diets.

As we move into what Sir Paul Nurse calls the post-genomic world, we can anticipate that healthcare will undergo enormous change. Some diseases can be directly linked to the presence or absence of particular genes or gene sequences. The new field of pharmacogenomics will vastly increase the efficiency of medication. Drugs will be tailored to an individual’s genetic make-up.

Beyond that, we can now see a future where the doctor will swab a few cells from inside your cheek, put them into a DNA-sequencing machine and a computer will spit out a complete reading of your unique genetic makeup – all 30,000 or so genes that make you who you are. From that, doctors could pinpoint flawed genes and gene products and predict what diseases you are likely to develop years in advance of any symptoms – and how to help you avoid them.

As scientific understanding develops, we may even be able to change the fate of individual cells – which could mean breakthroughs against diseases like Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s and cancer.

We have a unique resource in this regard in the National Health Service. There are crucial issues of privacy of genetic information that we need to deal with. But our national, public system will enable us to gather the comprehensive data necessary to predict the likelihood of various diseases – and then make choices to help prevent them.

Everything I’ve mentioned is already work in progress in laboratories in Britain and elsewhere. But what is most exciting is that science creates possibilities that were not imagined previously. After all, only ten years ago researchers in elementary particle physics were determined to find a way in which they could share information more effectively. Out of this seemingly simple aim, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

This is the best recent example of the hidden power of science. We use these devices and don’t even think about them being creations of science. In the case of the Web, particle physicists created a great equalising, democratic force.

Britain’s special position

So: what can all this mean for Britain’s future well-being and prosperity?

We are fortunate to have a long science tradition, perhaps best represented by the history of this very institution. Newton, a former president of the Royal Society, and Darwin are acknowledged as two of the epochal scientists of human civilisation, and are probably – with Shakespeare – Britain’s greatest contributors to human civilisation. I would also cite Faraday, Thomson, Dirac, Crick, Perutz, Nurse and many others. As Bob May has said, “creative imagination at and beyond the frontiers simply is something we are good at”.

By any measure, our record is outstanding. With 1% of the world’s population, we fund 4.5% of the world’s science, produce 8% of the scientific papers and receive 9% of the citations.

The strength and creativity of our science base is a key national asset as we move into the 21st century. Britain has produced 44 Nobel laureates in the last 50 years, more than any country except the US. But this statistic does conceal a problem we must acknowledge. Only eight of those laureates are in the last 20 years. We have relied for too long on tradition and sentiment to aid our scientists. We need strong funding and strong public support, not just the warm glow of our traditions.

I don’t want our next Nobel laureate to echo the tale of Tim Hunt, who – in the moment of his Nobel triumph last year – told the story of how he and his colleagues had to scrape together money to buy a telephone for their lab.

When the Government came to power science was suffering from a lengthy and disastrous period of underfunding and neglect. Scientists were increasingly going abroad to do their research; our laboratories were in an appalling condition and the inept political handling of the BSE crisis meant that there was a growing distrust of science and scientists.

The Government has taken major steps to improve the funding of science. In the 1998 comprehensive spending review we increased the science budget by 15%, the largest increase of any area of Government expenditure. And in the 2000 Spending Review we took further steps, so that today the science budget is increasing by 7% a year in real terms.

As part of this increase, in a highly valuable partnership with the Wellcome Trust, we have invested £75bn for the renewal of science research infrastructure in the last 2 spending reviews.

And it isn’t just the sums of money that are important. The Research Assessment Exercise and the thousands of hard working scientists who have responded to these incentives have fostered excellence and driven up the quality of research in universities. But we realise the need to do more still to promote world class excellence and this will be a priority for us in the period ahead.

As a result, we are seeing an improvement in the quality of our laboratories, and instead of seeing a continuing “brain drain” we may be seeing the beginning of a “brain gain”. Sir Gareth Roberts’ report for 2001 estimated a net inflow of 5000 scientists and engineers to the UK. But there is a long way to go.

Also, science is a thoroughly globalised endeavour, one in which Britain can and must play a key role.

A considerable amount of scientific effort today occurs on a pan-European scale. There’s the research at CERN, the fusion work at Culham and the experiments organised through the European Space Agency.

It is typical in today’s research to have British scientists working with other European, American and Asian colleagues on a common problem. In radio astronomy, for example, UK scientists at Jodrell Bank collaborate in a network of antennae spreading across Europe, China, Australia and the US. This is truly an example of global science, with free access to the facilities and to the science.

Science is both internationally competitive and internationally collaborative. If we are to remain an innovative, forward-looking nation, we need to retain the capacity to do this work, both on our own and in collaboration with scientists in other nations.

High technology industries

Government and business support for scientific research is not enough on its own. We also need to make sure that scientific innovation gets translated into applied uses in business.

We are already leaders in science-based industries including pharmaceuticals, aerospace, biotechnology and opto-electronics. But there are many more that could benefit from our world-class science and technology.

So we are establishing strong links between universities and business through specific schemes – such as University Challenge, Link, the Faraday Partnerships and the Higher Education Innovation Fund.

But more general initiatives too are helping lead to a major cultural change in higher education. A recent survey showed that in 1999-2000, 199 companies were spun off from our universities, compared with 70 a year on average in the previous five years. In relation to the amount of research we do, this was a better record than even the United States. The number of patents filed was also sharply up. And the percentage of university research funded by industry was higher than in the US.

Cambridge Science parks and the surrounding area now house about 1,400 high-tech companies, and some of the top companies are worth over 1 billion Euro. Science parks and incubator laboratories for start-up companies have now sprung up around many of our universities.

We have also just introduced a new tax credit for research and development: a boost to innovation, affecting expenditure by 1,500 large companies in the UK.

Biotechnology is at the forefront of these developments. The biotech industry’s market in Europe alone is expected to be worth $100 billion by 2005. The number of people employed in biotech and associated companies could be as high as three million, as we catch up with the US industry – currently eight times the size of Europe’s.

And Britain leads Europe: three-quarters of the biotechnology drugs in late-stage clinical trials in Europe are produced by British companies. With our excellent science base, our sophisticated capital markets and venture capital industry, the large number of skilled scientists and managers in our pharmaceuticals sector, and the investment in research by the Research Councils, Wellcome Trust and others, Britain is well placed to keep and extend its lead.

What’s more, the other disruptive technologies that I have already mentioned – nanotechnology and plastics electronics – have the potential to penetrate global markets in the same way.

The ideas recently put forward for a Nanotech fabrication plant and for investment by a public/private partnership in “proof of concept” work to demonstrate the potential of new scientific discoveries, are well worth examining.

Science and Government

So Britain can benefit enormously from scientific advance.

But precisely because the advances are so immense, people worry. And, of course, many of these worries are entirely serious. In GM crops, I can find no serious evidence of health risks. But there are genuine and real concerns over biodiversity and gene transfer. Human cloning raises legitimate moral questions. Advances in arms technology makes the world less safe. Humanity has, for the first time, the capacity for vast prosperity or to destroy itself completely.

People have an understandable concern about the pace of change, about the new and the unknown. They are concerned that technology dehumanises society. They are concerned by their belief that scientists contradict each other, or can be unreliable. And about what they see as the inability of Government to regulate science properly.

In some cases, these concerns descend into a fear, which is amplified by parts of the media.

Some of these concerns are not new. You don’t need to go back to Galileo for examples. Lightning conductors, invented by Benjamin Franklin, were initially torn down, even from churches, because it was believed they thwarted God’s will. There were riots in the streets when the smallpox vaccine was introduced. Smallpox has now been eliminated. In the early days of heart transplants they were attacked as unnatural or dehumanising, but in surveys today heart transplants are seen as one of the most beneficial results of modern science.

Sometimes science is wrongly blamed for the faults of others. Take BSE. Science in this case correctly identified a new problem. The American Scientist Stanley Prusiner won the Nobel Prize for discovering prions, and establishing the link between BSE and CJD. Bad science didn’t cause the spread of BSE; it was bad agriculture and poor government.

The response of the government must be to encourage openness, transparency and honesty. The Food Standards Agency, which operates in an area of particular public concern and sensitivity, holds meetings in public and publishes minutes on the Web. The Human Genetics Commission and the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission are other examples where we are spearheading this approach and the Chief Scientific Adviser has established an independent voice in Government as an important part of this process.

And there are lessons to be learnt from the way that we handled the embryonic stem cell debate. Firstly, we established the scientific facts very carefully, with the authoritative report by the Chief Medical Officer in August 2000.

There was then a lengthy discussion which gave time for all groups, including the medical charities, to make their views known, and this led to a very balanced debate in Parliament, resulting in carefully framed legislation. As a result we have an intelligent, stable regulatory regime for this crucial field.

Nowhere in the world has what one might call a community of stem cell experts yet – the science is too new. But Britain starts with a strong reputation in developmental biology and a number of institutes with worldwide reputations. I want to make the UK the best place in the world for this research, so in time our scientists, together with those we are attracting from overseas, can develop new therapies to tackle brain and spinal cord repair, Alzheimer’s disease and other degenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s.

It is also critically important that the Government are given the best possible advice on science, engineering and technology through Government departments. We are currently looking at ways of improving Government science.

The recent appointment of Professor Howard Dalton, a Fellow of this Society and a much respected microbiologist, as Chief Scientific Adviser to the Secretary of State for DEFRA, is an example of this in action. Drawing on the successes of the Research Assessment Exercise in the University sector, we are looking at introducing a programme of external benchmarking and review of the way Government departments use science.

The revised Government Foresight Programme has just been launched by the Chief Scientific Advisor with two examples of scientific horizon scanning. A Foresight project on cognitive neuroscience will bring together experts in IT and in brain research to seek out new technological opportunities for exploitation.

And a project on flood and coastal defences will examine increasing threats to our country over the next 50 to 100 years arising from predicted changes in climate. Here the predictive capability of the science will be evaluated alongside science and engineering possibilities of mitigating against the worst effects. Environmentalism is strongest when allied to hard science and empirical testing.

Science and Society

But this isn’t just about Government and science. Its crucially about society. We need better, stronger, clearer ways of science and people communicating. The dangers are in ignorance of each others point of view; the solution is understanding them.

The fundamental distinction is between a process where science tells us the facts and we make a judgement; and a process where a priori judgements effectively constrain scientific research. We have the right to judge but we also have a right to know. A priori judgement branded Darwin a heretic; science proved his tremendous insight. So let us know the facts; then make the judgement as to how we use or act on them.

None of this, incidentally, should diminish the precautionary principle. Responsible science and responsible policymaking operate on the precautionary principle. But that principle should make us proceed with care on the basis of fact; not fail to proceed at all on the basis of prejudice.

There is only a small band of people, I believe, who genuinely want to stifle informed debate. But a small group can, as has happened in our country, destroy experimental crops before we can determine their environmental impact. I don’t know what that research would have concluded. Neither do the protestors. But I want to reach my judgements after I have the facts and not before.

Of course there must be constraints that we properly place on scientists, through health and safety regulations, through legislation controlling animal experimentation, and, most recently, through the ban on human reproductive cloning. There are strong ethical reasons why we have one of the world’s strictest, most regulated regimes for animal experimentation. The Government is also at the forefront of pan-European efforts to ensure that there is no unnecessary duplication of animal experimentation. But if we had stopped all animal experiments in recent years we would not have developed a meningitis vaccine or combined drug therapy for HIV infection.

We’re faced with a current example, where Cambridge University intends to build a new centre for neurological research. Part of this would involve using primates to test potential cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But there is a chance the centre will not be built because of concerns about public safety dangers and unlawful protests. We cannot have vital work stifled simply because it is controversial.

We need, therefore, a robust, engaging dialogue with the public. We need to re-establish trust and confidence in the way that science can demonstrate new opportunities, and offer new solutions.

This task will be aided if we can embed a more mature attitude towards science in our society. I absolutely reject notions of two cultures. There is a deep human need to understand, and science has revealed so much of our extraordinary world. Science is a central part, not a separate part, of our common culture, together with art, history, the social sciences and the humanities.


All of this adds up to a clear challenge for Britain over the next 10 years.

We need to ensure our bright young people share our excitement about the potential of science and the role they can play. We particularly need to reverse the decline in maths, physics and engineering, and make science a career to aspire to, for girls as well as boys.

We have recently reversed an eight-year decline in teacher training applications for science subjects, partly through ‘golden hellos’ for science and technology teachers. But we are not complacent – recruiting and retaining more science teachers remains a key priority.

We’ve also concentrated on establishing a network of specialist schools that share their best practice with other schools in the locality: of the 1000 we expect by this September, around 500 will be in scientific disciplines, of which about 25 will be specialist science colleges. We have proposed a new National Centre of Excellence in Science Teaching. We have created a network of Science and Engineering Ambassadors to support science teachers. And we have provided millions to refurbish school labs and modernise the learning infrastructure.

We have also ensured that science remains a core subject until 16. From September 2002 there will be a new applied science GCSE to offer pupils a new route into science as a career. Science is also at the heart of our programme to develop the potential of the very brightest pupils through the Academy for Gifted and Talented pupils at Warwick University, which will open next year.

We also need to deepen school specialisation in science, in particular by seeking new forms of collaboration involving colleges and Higher Education institutions. I would like to see many more universities sharing their facilities and teaching expertise with secondary schools, as well as linking up with the private sector to maximise our national scientific capability.

We should not ignore our strengths in science education. The recent, highly respected OECD PISA study ranked British 15-year olds fourth internationally for science literacy, well ahead of most of our competitors.

However, I am concerned about the findings of the Roberts report on skills shortages in the sciences and engineering. We will be looking very carefully at his recommendations as part of the Spending Review 2002.

I want to make sure the UK is one of the best places in the world to do science. For that we need our people, equipment and infrastructure to be properly funded. And we should continue to promote British science abroad.

We need to continue our improvements in Government handling of science, where public trust is particularly low. All departments need strong systems for managing research and handling advice. Scientific information and advice to Government should be freely available and accessible. Open and informed public debate on key scientific issues will be an integral part of our approach.

We need to go further in our drive for successful knowledge transfer. Our goal is prosperity for all through successful business using excellent science.

We need to ensure that Government, scientists and the public are fully engaged together in establishing the central role of science in building the world we want.

If we can succeed in producing a confident relationship between scientists and the public, the promise is that Britain can be as much of a powerhouse of innovation – and its spin-offs – in the 21st century as we were in the 19th and early 20th century. The benefits in industry, jobs of quality, healthcare, education, and the environment can transform our future. Of course, we must exercise the care and judgement to make scientific discovery a liberating, civilising force not a leap into the unknown.

But let the debate be one between open minds, not a retreat into a culture of unreason. I want to prove those entrepreneurs in Bangalore wrong. I want Britain and Europe to be at the forefront of scientific advance. But its no exaggeration to say that in some areas we’re at a crossroads. We could choose a path of timidity in the face of the unknown.

Or we could choose to be a nation at ease with radical knowledge, not fearful of the future, a culture that values a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to new opportunities. The choice is clear. We should make it confidently.

Tony Blair – 2002 Statement Following Death of the Queen Mother


Below is the text of a statement made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, following the death of the Queen Mother. The statement was released on 30th March 2002.

During her long and extraordinary life, her grace, her sense of duty and her remarkable zest for life made her loved and admired by people of all ages and backgrounds, revered within our borders and far beyond.   She was part of the fabric of our nation and we were all immensely proud of her.

Along with her husband, King George VI, she was also a symbol of our country’s decency and courage.

Her bravery, when she refused point blank to leave London and her husband’s side during the Blitz epitomised both her own indomitable spirit and the spirit of the nation in its darkest hours. Later as Queen Mother, she was a unifying figure for Britain, loved by all, sharing in its joys and troubles.

But respect for her went far beyond Britain.  Throughout the Commonwealth and the world she was greeted with instant affection and acclaim. Above all, she was motivated by the most powerful sense of duty and service, enhanced by her profound religious conviction.

She believed that the Royal Family’s role and duty was to serve the British nation and she carried out that duty with total and selfless devotion.

Our thoughts are with The Queen, and particularly so after the sad loss of Princess Margaret, and with all the Royal Family, with whom Britain mourns, united in grief at our loss and giving thanks for a life of extraordinary service to our country.

Tony Blair – 2002 Speech at the LSE


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on the future of New Labour. The speech was made at the LSE on 12th March 2002.

Just under a decade ago a gathering like this would have been a wake; raking over the ashes of Labour’s fourth election defeat, with everyone asking, can we ever win? Is the left in Britain doomed? Is this the end of progressive politics?

Today the contrast is almost taken for granted. Labour has won an historic second term. As if we had been in power for decades. The Right is seen as divided and incapable.

We are emerging from a long period in which Tory values held sway; elitism; selfish individualism; the belief that there is no such thing as society and its international equivalent, insularity and isolationism, which led Britain to turn its back on Europe and the world.

I passionately, profoundly, reject these values. I reject elitism because I believe that our country will only ever fulfil its true potential when all of our people fulfil their potential. And there is such a thing as society. As communities and as an international community, we do best when we work in co-operation with others.

Our values – our belief in equality, in progress, our belief in the power of community to be a force for good, at home and abroad – these are the values that hold strong now.

But as Mario Cuomo once said: “you campaign in poetry: you govern in prose”. There is a danger in the day to day business of Government – keeping the economy on track, getting the details of health and education improvements sorted out, dealing with the innumerable practical obstacles – large and small – strewn across the path of progress – that we lose sight of the destination. The destination to me is clear: to build a Britain that is a modern, tolerant, outward-looking nation where power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many not the few. Our basic analysis is that people are held back from fulfilling their true potential – by economic failure, poor education, poverty, prejudice, discrimination, class, inadequate access to top quality services. Our job is to liberate that potential; to remove those barriers. To make aspiration and achievement not the ambition of a privileged few but of all; where the limit to that achievement is merit, not birth, class, race or gender.

Britain under the Conservatives was a long way from that lofty ideal. And because we had failed to modernise ourselves, for a long time Labour lacked the credibility to be able to win power, or even had we won power, to deliver it.

Now two election victories later, people are asking: can we carry it through? Is there a core of beliefs that will sustain us? Will we be submerged by the slings and arrows of an outrageous opposition, furious we are in power at all, never mind in power for a full second term for the first time in our history.

The answer is to take stock. Lift our eyes from the immediate and hold high again the ideal we are striving for. And then return to work with renewed energy and determination.

And, of course, patience: change takes time. Yet consider: an economy that is stable, has weathered the downturn better than many, with the best economic record in Europe and the lowest unemployment in the Western world; the first clear signs of public service improvement, certainly in education and increasingly in health; the first concerted attack on social exclusion any Government has undertaken with increased participation rates at work, one million children out of poverty, Sure Start and other programmes giving deprived children at least a fighting chance; overall crime down and police numbers the highest ever; and Britain’s position and influence in the world incomparably higher than 5 years ago. In all sorts of small ways – from banning handguns, to the equal age of consent, to the trebling of women MPs and the first black Ministers and Muslim MPs – the country has a different feel to the harshness of the Thatcher years.

But yes, naturally, a huge amount remains to do. Too many people still wait an unacceptably long time in the NHS. The transport system is nowhere near what the world’s 4th largest economy needs. Street crime and social disintegration in parts of the inner city are a menace we must tackle quickly. There are still many people who could work but don’t. Still too much ignorance, too much wasted potential, too much inequality.

We accept these challenges remain. And the forward programme of the Government is designed to meet them; still driven by that same ideal, of a modern, fairer Britain, where opportunity is open to all.

What we have to do is to explain the journey we are undertaking by reference to that ideal, blow away the fog that is designed to cloud the sight of it and work ever harder to translate it into reality.

Today I call on those who share our beliefs to join us in the battles that lie ahead.

Join us in the battle to extend prosperity and full employment to all parts of the country based on a platform of economic stability.

Join us in the battle for the investment and reform necessary to build strong public services and encourage greater opportunity and equality.

Join us in the battle to tackle crime, anti-social behaviour and poverty to build a society based on rights and responsibilities

Join us in the battle against the sceptics and phobes to get Britain back once again at the top table of Europe.

This is the progressive project for a second term, the next steps for the New Labour project, an ambitious programme for the Labour Party as it enters its second century.

First phase of new Labour: becoming a modern centre left party.

But to chart New Labour’s next steps we have to understand our first steps.

The collapse of the Labour Party and its electoral base, most painfully dramatised by the 1992 defeat, was only the most obvious sign of a broader shift in politics and society. Labour stuttered when confronted by the new world that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s: a more diverse, more fractured society; new industries and new attitudes to work and consumption; and an international order that was both more integrated and yet more unpredictable.

In 1956, Anthony Crosland had set out a new path in his “Future of Socialism”. He urged socialists to acknowledge the successes of post-war capitalism and to understand the consumer society and why it was advancing so fast including in Labour’s heartlands.

But in the 70s Labour seemed to forget Crosland’s revisionist message.

New Labour was in part a response to what had gone wrong. We strove to modernise social democracy, to become a party that brought together wealth creation as well as wealth distribution; enterprise as well as fairness.

So New Labour put levelling up, the aspirations of the majority, at the centre of its appeal.

And we changed our constitution to bring it up to date with the modern world.

New Labour’s second phase: laying the foundations

The first phase of New Labour was becoming a modern social democratic party fit for government. The second phase was to use our 1997 victory to put in place the foundations that would allow us to change the country in a way that lasts.

Labour governments of the past had tried to make progress without firm foundations, firm economic foundations in particular. Getting the foundations right is not time wasted. It is not the boring housework of Government. It is the structure within which we live.

That is why we transformed the framework for economic management.

– It matters whether prices in the supermarket are the same from one week to the next. It matters that today inflation is at its lowest level for 30 years.

– It matters whether interest rates let you pay the mortgage or threaten to lose you your home, and today, it matters that the average family is paying £1800 less on their mortgage compared to the early Nineties.

On welfare reform getting the first term foundations right meant tackling unemployment. The New Deal has helped halve unemployment which is now at its lowest for forty years. We introduced the Working Families Tax Credit and the Minimum Wage to make work pay.

On public services, let us be in no doubt what we inherited:

– Crime had doubled

– Waiting lists had risen by 400,000

– Hospital beds cut by 60,000

– Nearly half of all 11-year-olds were failing to reach the basic levels expected for their age in maths and English.

– Infant class sizes were far too high

– Police numbers falling

– Child poverty tripled

– Investment in rail and the tube stalled

– the railways subject to a botched privatisation, which had fragmented them completely.

In each area in the first term we laid the foundations for investment and reform.

– A strategy for improving numeracy and literacy in primary schools, with record primary school tests results.

– A ten year plan for the NHS including the first ever independent inspection, league tables, the creation of primary care trusts now coming to fruition to transform local services, more doctors and 31,000 more nurses since 1997.

– Crime and Disorder Partnerships in every Community. Police numbers rising. Our youth justice system overhauled. Burglary fell by 34% and car crime by 24%. The Auld Report on the criminal justice system was commissioned.

– A 10 year Transport Plan to treble public sector investment in rail and tube.

– devolution and House of Lords reform, a peace process begun in Northern Ireland.

We also set the foundations of a new foreign policy. Before the Amsterdam Summit in 1997 Britain was totally isolated, treated with something between exasperation and contempt. Today as we approach the summit at Barcelona, Britain has a highly influential position. We have a strong constructive relationship with our partners and we have led the way over Kosovo and more recently Afghanistan, and on debt and aid.

New Labour’s third phase: Driving through reform

Now is the third phase of New Labour. It is about driving forward reforms, building lasting change – and a better society – on the foundations so carefully laid.

– on the basis of economic stability a sustained improvement in productivity and enterprise, measures that will form a key part of next month’s Budget.

Overhauling the Criminal Justice System to support victims and witnesses and bring the most persistent offenders to justice; a thorough programme of police reform; and a reform of the asylum system.

– welfare reform that cuts even further the numbers of working age on benefit plus the integrated children’s credit, and the new pensions credit; and the merger of the employment and benefit service, a huge cultural change in Britain’s welfare system.

– completing House of Lords reform, bedding down devolution and making the peace process in Northern Ireland durable for the long term.

– Britain taking its rightful and leading place at the centre of Europe.

– implementing the plan for Africa, continuing to lead on aid and development and the Kyoto protocol on climate change as the basis for sustainable development in the world.

Alongside this, our core mission: to improve our public services.

In each service, there is a comprehensive, detailed plan for change and reform, broadly supported within the public services themselves.

Underlying the plans are the four principles of reform set out in our pamphlet last week: national standards, devolution, flexible staff, more choice – all aimed at redesigning high-quality public services around the consumer.

But without investment, reform will get you very little further – as the Tories found in the Eighties. There is no point designing new structures for the health service if you don’t tackle the fundamental problem of inadequate capacity – and fashion your reforms around the significant increase in capacity essential to build a modern, consumer-focused service. It is the same with schools and transport, and across our public services.

Under this Labour government there will be no blank cheques – but nor will we expect public services to run on empty.

So in next month’s Budget and the spending review in the summer, the country is faced with a fundamental choice. Either we continue investing. Or we cut back.

We aim to continue investing.

There is no question of putting money into some bottomless pit. Each pound spent will be accounted for.

But we can see already where the existing money has gone. The extra money on infant class sizes reduced them. The money spent on literacy and numeracy, together with the teachers’ dedication, delivered the results.

The schools with new buildings: tell them the money’s wasted.

The new surgical centres, the extra cancer and heart operations, the extra critical care beds, the extra nurses in wards: tell the patients using these facilities the money is all wasted.

Money is not enough. But money used to lever in change is what will work.

So these are our second term ambitions and broadly I believe the country supports them. But that is not enough.

Values that unite us

There is a clear road-map to our destination. But sometimes it can seem as if it were a mere technocratic exercise, well or less well managed, but with no overriding moral purpose to it.

What is vital now is to explain the “why” of the programme, to describe it not simply point by point but principle by principle. The reason for the changes we are making is not for their own sake but because they are the means to the fairer society, where aspirations and opportunity are open to all, which we believe in. The programme is not driven by administration but by values.

It means quality public services because they are social justice made real.

It means an economy with a new job if your old one goes.

It means stable mortgage rates.

It means giving the children of someone who did not go to university the hope they can go. Enough of this nonsense that more than half the population don’t have the brains to get there. When I was a student, 7% of school-leavers went to university. Today it’s 33% and rising. Yet we heard the same arguments back then. Are those extra 27% undeserving?

Opportunity means a young woman with a nursing diploma who is able to work her way up to become a consultant nurse or Director of Nursing or hospital Chief Executive.

It means a first rate vocational education system so people can get new and better skills.

It means children in deprived areas getting first-class schools, their parents helped, their environment improved.

It means your health care shouldn’t depend on the size of your wallet.

It means your security shouldn’t depend on the neighbourhood you can afford to live in.

It means that decent hard-working people who play by the rules don’t see others who refuse to, gain by it.

That is the other part.

We believe in responsibility going with the opportunity. That is the reason for measures to curb anti-social behaviour; to ensure if people have the ability to work, they don’t remain dependent on benefit; that employers treat their employees fairly; that we don’t allow poverty pay; that increasingly the polluter should pay for polluting the environment.

It is why we are making a priority of discipline in the classroom. Because without learning discipline and respect, children will not only fail to learn at school but leave school unfit to be decent citizens.

So it’s about the two together – opportunity and responsibility. And its about using our collective power, in our local communities, in society, and through Government, to enable people to help themselves.

At the root of it all is a simple belief in fairness. It isn’t fair that people are held back or live in poverty. We want to change it. Amidst all the day to day pressures, that is our ideal. That is what we hold aloft. Sure, it’s hard to see it from time to time. But it’s there and it will see us through.

My final point is this. It’s important to understand why people can sometimes find the ideals obscured. It’s not just that Governments get embroiled in events and controversies, though they do, and whilst they dominate the news, the people think: what are they concentrating on this for, when, of course, it’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do.

It is also that for some, even in our own ranks, the idea of New Labour remains controversial or unclear. Even now, a large part of the political discourse in Britain assumes that the “true” Labour Party is one that puts trade unions before business; is indifferent to financial discipline; addicted to tax and spend; weak on issues of crime; irresponsible over state benefits for the unemployed or socially excluded; backs the producer interest in public services; and, give or take the odd exception, weak in defence and foreign policy. Since this Government is plainly none of those things, ergo: we are not real Labour and are “unprincipled”.

This, of course suits immensely the right-wing in politics. They love the “true” Labour Party. These positions made it unelectable. But it also suits some on the left. They see the Labour Party as a pressure group. We campaign against those with the power. We fight for these positions, rejoice in our “principles”, are given the odd crumb from the governing table and avoid the harsh realities of taking any hard decisions.

After 18 years of Conservative government we changed all this. I am not so naïve as to deny some changed to win. Banging your head on a brick wall, hurts. At some point, if you want to stop hurting, you devise the brilliant solution of ceasing to bang your head on the wall.

But changing those positions to win, was never the right reason for changing them; nor can it sustain us over the long term. The right reason for change was a principled one. Those positions, hallowed by the Party over many years, were a tangled and mistaken view of the Party’s true raison d’etre and values; positions that were the product of the circumstances of our birth, of 20th century politics and ideology and of the post-war settlement.

The values of the Labour Party are the values of progressive politics throughout the ages. The same values as those of the great Liberal reformers of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, as well as those of the Labour heroes of 1945: the belief in social justice, opportunity for all, liberty; the belief that the individual does best in a strong community and society of others.

The essence of New Labour is to strip away all the outdated dogma and doctrine, the “hallowed positions” and return to those first principles, to those values. Then we ask: if these are our values, what is their proper translation into practice for today’s world? And that is the question each generation of Labour members should ask, and answer in a different way.

New Labour answered it in this way: that if we want strong economic growth to increase the prosperity of ordinary families, we need low inflation and low interest rates and that requires financial discipline. If we want enterprise to flourish in the post industrial economy, to give our people jobs, we need to support and work with business; and levels of tax that don’t discourage the entrepreneur.

If we want to protect the poor and vulnerable against attack and crime, we have to make sure that the criminal is brought to justice. If we want to stop the working age poor being poor, we need to help them to work, not give them more benefit, which would never provide them with a decent enough income. If we want to rebuild our public services, we need to make them work for the consumer of those services, because they are the very people dependent on them for opportunity and help.

If we want to shape the world around us, outside Britain, we must have the alliances and where necessary, the armed forces, to allow us to do so.

And, yes, we are financially disciplined, but one of the ways we got there was by cutting massively the bills of unemployment through the New Deal. Yes we work with business, but we also introduced the minimum wage. Yes we are reforming our public services, but we are also the only major country in the world today increasing health and education spending as a percentage of national income. Yes we are tough on crime but have also lifted one million children out of poverty, cut pensioner poverty and have huge inner-city regeneration programmes underway.

Yes, we are prepared to take military action where necessary, but are also leading the way on debt relief, and international development, especially in Africa.

Hence the confusion I talked of earlier. We don’t fit the mould. Good. We never intended to.

Why don’t we just conform? Because we shouldn’t. The modern Labour Party is here to stay because it is based on values and principle; and is the right way forward for us and the country.

So we should have confidence, hold firm to our course and above all, hold true to the basis of New Labour. We are changing the basis of British politics. Progressive values are in the ascendant because, in the end, they are also the values of the British people and only needed to be applied in a modern way, to be popular.

Look how our opponents are coming on to our agenda.

What a reversal in these last 10 years to see the Tories now falling over themselves to agree with our economic policy hoping some of our economic competence rubs off on them, travelling around Europe to look at public services but dodging the real test of whether they support our extra investment. As someone said success in politics is not changing your own party; it is changing the opposition.

The Lib Dems don’t know whether to oppose us on reform, for opportunism sake because they know change can be unpopular; or scuttle to our right as a pale imitation of the Tories calling for tax cuts.

The centre of gravity of British politics is moving in our direction. A new post Thatcherite progressive consensus is being born and it is one we should be proud of.

A consensus that a dynamic economy and a fairer society where we realise the potential of all go together; a consensus that our public services have been under-invested in for two decades and now need sustained investment, but that investment will only work if coupled with reform.

Understanding this and not being frightened by it is a vital part of us retaining our ability to change Britain.

So help us get there. We need your energy, your ideas, your commitment. We can’t do it alone. The dialogue and partnership we offer you is an indispensable part of our being successful.

Remember ten years ago: we were on our knees, out of office and out of hope. Now look forward ten years and imagine what could be possible. A society that is fairer, more tolerant of people’s differences, with prosperity shared, quality public services more social mobility and less poverty. And imagine too what we could achieve pulling together if we show our determination, stick to the values we believe are right, stick to our plans and see them through.

A Britain that is modern, fair and strong.

Tony Blair – 2002 Speech to TUC Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to the TUC Conference in Blackpool on 10th September 2002.

Tomorrow, September 11, is the anniversary of the worst terrorist act in history. Let us today, once again, remember and mourn the dead. Let us give thanks to the fire fighters, the police, the ambulance and medical services, the ordinary citizens of New York. Their courage was the best answer to the terrorists’ cruelty. Terrorists can kill and maim the innocent, but they have not won and they never will.

We should never forget the role played by trade unions in the struggle for justice. Today we welcome Wellington Chibebe of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Your opposition to the regime of Mugabe is the ultimate riposte to his fraudulent nonsense about fighting colonialism. People here, including myself, fought the detestable apartheid system of South Africa and we know the difference between the cause of freedom and a leader abusing that cause to conceal incompetence and corruption on a catastrophic scale.

We welcome, too, the Colombian CUT’s Hector Fajardo. Your nation is fighting the ugly scourge of narco-terrorism, in which the drugs trade and terror destroy the life chances of a country. You have our solidarity in that struggle.

Thank you also to the trade unions of Northern Ireland – who, throughout the worst and even at the best, are symbols of the non-sectarian future that Northern Ireland needs.

Around the rest of world too, trade unions are at the forefront of campaigns to end child labour, to remove discrimination, to bring democracy in place of dictatorship.

On September 11 last year, with the world still reeling from the shock of events, it came together to demand action. But suppose I had come last year on the same day as this year – 10 September. Suppose I had said to you: there is a terrorist network called Al Qaida. It operates out of Afghanistan. It has carried out several attacks and we believe it is planning more. It has been condemned by the UN in the strongest terms. Unless it is stopped, the threat will grow. And so I want to take action to prevent that.

Your response and probably that of most people would have been very similar to the response of some of you yesterday on Iraq.

There would have been few takers for dealing with it and probably none for taking military action of any description.

So let me tell you why I say Saddam Hussein is a threat that has to be dealt with.

He has twice before started wars of aggression. Over one million people died in them. When the weapons inspectors were evicted from Iraq in 1998 there were still enough chemical and biological weapons remaining to devastate the entire Gulf region.

I sometimes think that there is a kind of word fatigue about chemical and biological weapons. We’re not talking about some mild variants of everyday chemicals, but anthrax, sarin and mustard gas – weapons that can cause hurt and agony on a mass scale beyond the comprehension of most decent people.

Uniquely Saddam has used these weapons against his own people, the Iraqi kurds. Scores of towns and villages were attacked. Iraqi military officials dressed in full protection gear were used to witness the attacks and visited later to assess the damage. Wounded civilians were normally shot on the scene. In one attack alone, on the city of Halabja, it is estimated that 5,000 were murdered and 9,000 wounded in this way. All in all in the North around 100,000 kurds died, according to Amnesty International. In the destruction of the marshlands in Southern Iraq, around 200,000 people were forcibly removed. Many died.

Saddam has a nuclear weapons programme too, denied for years, that was only disrupted after inspectors went in to disrupt it. He is in breach of 23 outstanding UN obligations requiring him to admit inspectors and to disarm.

People say: but containment has worked. Only up to a point. In truth, sanctions are eroding. He now gets around $3 billion through illicit trading every year. It is unaccounted for, but almost certainly used for his weapons programmes.

Every day this year and for years, British and American pilots risk their lives to police the No Fly Zones. But it can’t go on forever. For years when the weapons inspectors were in Iraq, Saddam lied, concealed, obstructed and harassed them. For the last four years there have been no inspections, no monitoring, despite constant pleas and months of negotiating with the UN. In July, Kofi Annan ended his personal involvement in talks because of Iraqi intransigence.

Meanwhile Iraq’s people are oppressed and kept in poverty. With the Taliban gone, Saddam is unrivalled as the world’s worst regime: brutal, dictatorial, with a wretched human rights record.

Given that history, I say to you: to allow him to use the weapons he has or get the weapons he wants, would be an act of gross irresponsibility and we should not countenance it.

Up to this point, I believe many here in this hall would agree. The question is: how to proceed? I totally understand the concerns of people about precipitate military action. Military action should only ever be a last resort. On the four major occasions that I have authorised it as Prime Minister, it has been when no other option remained.

I believe it is right to deal with Saddam through the United Nations. After all, it is the will of the UN he is flouting. He, not me or George Bush, is in breach of UN Resolutions. If the challenge to us is to work with the UN, we will respond to it.

But if we do so, then the challenge to all in the UN is this: the UN must be the way to resolve the threat from Saddam not avoid it.

Let it be clear that he must be disarmed. Let it be clear that there can be no more conditions, no more games, no more prevaricating, no more undermining of the UN’s authority.

And let it be clear that should the will of the UN be ignored, action will follow. Diplomacy is vital. But when dealing with dictators – and none in the world is worse than Saddam – diplomacy has to be backed by the certain knowledge in the dictator’s mind that behind the diplomacy is the possibility of force being used.

Because I say to you in all earnestness: if we do not deal with the threat from this international outlaw and his barbaric regime, it may not erupt and engulf us this month or next; perhaps not even this year or the next. But it will at some point. And I do not want it on my conscience that we knew the threat, saw it coming and did nothing.

I know this is not what some people want to hear. But I ask you only this: to listen to the case I will be developing over the coming weeks and reflect on it.

And before there is any question of taking military action, I can categorically assure you that Parliament will be consulted and will have the fullest opportunity to debate the matter and express its view.

On Kosovo, on Afghanistan, we did not rush. We acted in a sensible, measured way, when all other avenues were exhausted and with the fullest possible debate. We will do so again.

But Saddam is not the only issue. We must restart the Middle East Peace Process. We must work with all concerned, including the US, for a lasting peace which ends the suffering of both the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and the Israelis at the hands of terrorists. It must be based on the twin principles of an Israel safe and secure within its borders, and a viable Palestinian state.

This must go alongside renewed efforts on international terrorism. That threat has not gone away. I cannot emphasise this too strongly.

Put it alongside India and Pakistan, climate change and world poverty, and it is a daunting international agenda. But the most difficult thing is to persuade people that all issues are part of the same agenda. A foreign journalist said to me the other day: ‘I don’t understand it Mr Blair. You’re very Left on Africa and Kyoto. But you’re very Right on weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. It doesn’t make sense.’

But it does. The key characteristic of today’s world is interdependence. Your problem becomes my problem. They have to be tackled collectively. All these problems threaten the ability of the world to make progress in an orderly and stable way. Climate change threatens our environment. Africa, if left to decline, will become a breeding ground for extremism. Terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combine modern technology with political or religious fanaticism. If unchecked they will, as September 11 showed, explode into disorder and chaos.

Internationalism is no longer a utopian cry of the Left; it is practical statesmanship.

That is one reason why Britain turning its back on Europe would be an error of vast proportions. Be under no doubt: if the economic tests are met, Britain should join the single currency. For Britain to be marginalised in Europe when soon the EU will have 25 members stretching from Portugal to Poland and the largest commercial market in the world, would not just be economically unwise. It would betray a total misunderstanding of the concept of national interest in the 21st century.

Solidarity is at the core of the being of trade unionism. I want to work with you in confronting the challenges abroad and the challenges at home. Again they are linked. The greatest challenge of our age is globalisation. Tremors in one financial market cause the ground to move round the world. Capital is footloose, fancy-free but also intensely vulnerable to changes in consumer fashion. Industries spring up and fall back. Some corporations, in their desperation to satisfy investors, bend or break the rules, collapsing confidence across the globe.

Meanwhile employees often feel powerless, victims not beneficiaries of globalisation. To add to it all, people live longer and retire earlier, bringing a real strain on pension provision, short and long-term.

This challenge needs a strong and vibrant trade union movement, standing up for its members in a coherent and intelligent way.

It needs the trade union movement to work with employers and Government, mapping out a strategy for the future.

What is it? First and foremost it’s jobs.

Since 1997, we have one and a half million more jobs. More people are in work than ever before. Thanks to the New Deal, over 750,000 have benefited and now long-term youth unemployment stands at just 5,300, the lowest total for 30 years.

We are modernising the whole welfare state, bringing benefits and employment support together in Job Centre Plus, offering the unemployed a deal: we will help you, with money and skills and a job offer; you use that to help yourself.

As a result our unemployment levels are below those not just of France and Germany but of Japan and the US.

The trade unions have been instrumental in the New Deal. That is partnership in action. And don’t let anyone say a Conservative Government – who put unemployment above three million – would ever have shown that commitment to the unemployed.

Second, it’s not just jobs but skills. Since the launch in 2001 of Skills for Life we have helped over 156,000 people achieve basic skills qualifications. And we are on course to meet our 2007 target to help 1.5 million adults do so. Over half a million people have gained new skills for the workplace through Learn Direct, our e-learning network, with trade unions at its heart.

Meanwhile there are over 200,000 young people on modern apprenticeships this year – compared to little more than a tenth of that in 1996. Just this morning at the BAE training centre in Preston, I saw the modern apprenticeships scheme in action, all supported by trade unions.

In the North East, the GMB has pioneered a cross-company skills and workforce strategy for shipbuilding, removing old enmities, dismantling outdated practices, creating new opportunities. The result? An industry people thought was dying on the Tyne, now being re-born.

Third, we need modern manufacturing. We understand the worry about currency instability, which is one of the main reasons why, in principle, we favour joining the single currency.

We understand the need to invest in science, skills and technology, and we are doing so – to the tune of £1.25 billion extra in science alone over the next three years.

The new working group established by Patricia at the DTI, which has trade unions represented on it, will allow us to develop policy together to shape our response to the challenges facing manufacturing, which are common not just in Britain but throughout the world. And this is why we must also continue to press internationally – in Europe to end the wasteful abuse of the Common Agricultural Policy, and with the US to persuade them to reverse their decision on steel tariffs.

And modern workplace partnerships also demand modern employment laws. I am proud we have given union learning reps proper recognition in law – something the TUC long campaigned for. We need fair rights at work, not to revive industrial conflict but to make sure that we do not only have more jobs, but jobs of quality.

I am proud that we brought in the National Minimum Wage, putting money in the pockets of 1.5 million workers – something you campaigned on for years.

We introduced the Working Families Tax Credit – helping to make work pay for 1.3 million families.

Everyone is now entitled to four weeks’ paid holiday. No-one now has to work more than 48 hours a week. There is better protection against unfair dismissal, there is longer statutory maternity leave, and for the first time, paid paternity leave too. We have made sure part-time workers get a better deal.

And there is a statutory right to union recognition where a majority vote for it.

Funding to promote social partnership is now well-established and government support for partnership and the TUC Partnership Institute will continue.

We are reviewing the operation of the 1999 Employment Act to ensure that it is working effectively. We are also considering the best way to implement European provisions on informing and consulting employees, and we look forward to working with the TUC on this.

We are addressing the issue of the two-tier workforce. We are introducing new rules so that new recruits enjoy broadly comparable pay and conditions as other local government employees transferred to the private sector. And that includes, for the first time, a right to a proper pension.

We have also ensured that the vast majority of staff involved in hospital PFI schemes are able to stay on NHS terms and conditions of service. I understand you want us to do more. But when some people say there is no difference between a Labour or Conservative government, I say no Conservative government would ever have introduced a minimum wage or statutory union recognition and both you and I know it.

And in the face of globalisation we need public services of quality too. To achieve their potential, young people need first-class educational opportunity. To work effectively, employees need quality healthcare. To make business efficient, we need a good transport infrastructure.

And across all the public services, we require staff to be motivated, skilled and well resourced.

I always said this was a 10-year challenge and it is. But let’s be clear. Real progress has been made. This year, next year, the year after, the year after that we will be increasing health and education spending as a percentage of GDP faster than any other government in the world. Tell that to those who say a Labour Government makes no difference.

Funding per pupil will have increased between 1997/98 and 2003/04 by over £1,000 in real terms – and it will go on rising, with a further real terms increase in education spending of six per cent up to 2005/06.

At the end of 1997, half a million infants were taught in classes of more than 30 children. Now hardly any child under age 7 has to suffer that.

In 1997 the numbers of nurses in training, teachers in training, police in training were all being cut.

In 2002, we have over 29,000 teachers in training and we have increased the number of training places to 32,000. And there are 20,000 more in post than in 1997. There are 38,000 more nurses at work in our hospitals. And police numbers are at record levels, having increased by 4,500 in the last two years alone.

And it is not only the inputs that have changed. School results, not just for primary schools but also secondary schools, are way up. For instance, under 60 per cent reached the expected standard in maths in 1997, compared with over 70 per cent last year. In 1998, well under half of secondary students were getting more than 5 good GCSEs. This year, we hope results will show that more than half of them are doing so.

On every measure – inpatients or outpatients – waiting lists are shorter now than in 1997. There used to be over 70,000 on the outpatient waiting list for more than 6 months. Now it is down to just over 1,000.

The average waiting list time for an operation is now 4.2 months, and 70 per cent of patients are treated inside 3 months.

So don’t fall for this nonsense about the NHS being a third world health service. I saw a third world service in Mozambique two weeks ago, despite the heroic efforts of its doctors and nurses. To describe the NHS as like that is not just a gross distortion of the truth, it is an insult to the brilliant and dedicated NHS staff who give such good care to people.

Remember: of course in a service that treats 1 million people every 36 hours, there will be mistakes – there are in every healthcare system. But those who use those exceptions to denounce the NHS do so not to improve it but to dismantle it.

But money is not all the services need. They need change and reform. New ways of working. New ways of delivering services. New partnerships between public, private and voluntary sectors, and between managers and unions. More choice for the consumer of those services.

On these issues, I offer again a partnership on this basis. No prejudices. No pre-conceptions. On either side. One test only: what is good for the service and the user of the service. We will listen to you on genuine concerns about workforce conditions. I ask you to listen to us on the need for reform.

Because be in no doubt: if we do not join together and reform our public services, the result will not just be unreformed services. The result will be public dissatisfaction and eventually a Tory government who will return to their unfinished business: the break-up of public services. We both have a responsibility never to allow that to happen.

Finally, our partnership must also tackle the issue of pensions. We have already helped the poorest pensioners, and have announced significant rises this year in the basic state pension. We are reforming SERPS. We have introduced stakeholder pensions and Pension Credit. Later this year, we will publish a Green Paper outlining the future for pensions.

But these issues are really tough. There is real concern at employers opting out of final salary schemes and then cutting their contributions; real anxiety amongst older employees; real confusion amongst younger ones as to the best way to provide for the future.

So I have asked the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to bring together both the CBI and the TUC to address these issues to inform the Green Paper. We need your input and welcome it.

This is a big agenda for us both: jobs, manufacturing, public services, pensions.

On all these issues we should work together to make globalisation work for the people we represent.

In the last five or six years the trade union movement has come a long way. Last year saw nearly 500 recognition deals – nearly three times the number in the previous year – all made possible by our legislation and your hard work.

Unions are consulted and listened to. My door is open to any union leader. There is no obligation, of course.

But it’s sensible to remember how very different things were just a few years ago. You suffered 18 years of Conservative Government in which union leaders couldn’t get to discuss anything with the Prime Minister. 18 years of being kicked from pillar to post. 18 years of being ignored, derided and attacked as the ‘enemy within’, years of falling membership and zero influence. 18 years in which Government never offered a partnership and employers were encouraged to decline one.

The trade union movement, however, didn’t give up. You re-grouped – not least through the leadership of John Monks. You re-made your reputation with the public, you worked hard to get a government in place that did believe in social partnership.

It would be ironic if, just at the moment when trade unions are achieving such a partnership, some of you might decide to turn your back on it.

It happened before: in 1948, in 1969, in 1979. The result then was the folding of the Labour Government and the return of a Tory Government. Not this time. It will just be less influence with the same Labour Government.

Don’t misunderstand the situation. The media will love the talk of going back to flying pickets, industrial militancy, unions attacking a Labour Government, the BBC re-running all that old footage of the winter of discontent. Believe me, anyone who indulges in it will get a lot of air time.

By contrast, I can honestly say I must have done scores of initiatives on skills and training and never got a blind bit of publicity for any of them. And even pensions only hit the news when there’s a scandal.

Partnership doesn’t make headlines. But the vast majority of trade union leaders and members know that it does far more good than a lot of self-indulgent rhetoric from a few that belongs in the history books.

Indulgence or influence. It’s a very simple choice.

Of course there will be hard issues in this partnership. There are low-paid workers who deserve more, yet we know we have to be careful we don’t just swallow up all the extra public service spending on pay. There are genuine issues around the desire for employees to have better protection and the need to keep the flexibility of our labour markets. And it is in the nature of governments never to be able to satisfy all the demands made on them.

But we also know that a Labour Government making steady progress is infinitely better than a Conservative one taking us backwards. We know it from our experience. We know it from the rest of Europe, where governments of the Left which desert the centre ground, or where the Left has split its vote, have gone. New Labour was the route to victory. It remains the only proven path to continue it. And it’s successful because it’s right.

Your partnership was vital in that victory. Let us keep it, build on it and make it a new political consensus in Britain. That would be an achievement of which we could both be proud.