Labour the party of majority, says Blair

LABOUR leader Tony Blair last night told the Tories their time was up and called for a clear and radical vision for Britain, saying Labour was back as the party of the majority.

In a speech aimed at the middle classes Labour needs to win over if it is to succeed at the next general election, he stole many of the Tories' clothes - with the offer of help to the small businessman and the promise that Labour would be tough on crime.

Mr Blair adopted the slogan 'New Labour, New Britain' to bring his audience to life with one of the most prolonged standing ovations in many years.

He failed to detail his own policies - but that was intentional. Instead he urged those on the left of the party impatient for detail to have faith in the policies being developed to take the party to victory.

Mr Blair's first speech to the Blackpool conference as party leader had been flagged as epoch-making and it did not fail in raising the morale of a party which senses victory three years hence. 'Sensational' was the typical comment from his delighted audience.

There were promises on full employment and rebuilding the welfare state but few details. Instead Mr Blair spent much of his speech attacking the 'broken promises and failed policies' of the Tories.


But he called for new politics, which must give praise when things went well as in Northern Ireland.

Calling on his party to unite behind his leadership he stressed that leaders must know how to say 'no' as well as 'yes'.

'When we make a promise we must be sure we can keep it. That is page one, line one of a new contract between Labour and the citizens of this country.' He promised a Bill of Rights, and new parliaments for Scotland and Wales. But he would not repeal all Tory trade union laws, he said.

He would reform the House of Commons and end voting rights for hereditary peers. He would also tighten up the rules of financing for political parties, he said.


The Labour leader said he would not pretend that he could achieve full employment overnight.

'Under my leadership I will never allow this country to be isolated, cut off or left behind in Europe,' said Mr Blair.


'The tide of ideas in British politics is at last on the turn,' he told the 5,000 at the Blackpool conference. Parties that did not change died but Labour was changing. It would succeed not in spite of its politics but because of them.

For the first time in a generation the right wing was disillusioned, said Mr Blair. 'Today politics is moving to our ground, across the nation the Labour party is once again able to represent the British people. We are the mainstream voice in British politics today.' Middle and lower-income Britain had been betrayed by the biggest tax rises in history. 'We are back as the party of the majority in Britain, back to speak up for Britain, back as the people's party.' The average family had to pay an average of GBP800 (HK$9,760) more a year in tax, yet the Tories had squandered billions in privatisation.

They had lost GBP5,000 for every family in the country. 'They have sold our nation's capital assets built up over many years . . . I say it is time to take these Tories apart for what they have done to our country,' he said.


'Not because they lack compassion but because they are most feckless, irresponsible group of incompetents ever to be let loose in Government in Britain.

'Their game is up, their philosophy is over, their failure is clear - it is time for them to go,' he said.