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EDITIONS
Labour centenary Friday, 25 February, 2000, 13:02 GMT
On the Spot: 100 years of Labour
As Labour celebrates its first 100 years the party's longest serving MP, Tony Benn and one of the 1997 intake Fiona MacTaggart discussed Labour's past and future live on BBC News Online.

Click on the link on the left to hear the broadcast.

Responding to questions posed from your e-mails on the direction of the party, the former cabinet minister rejected Prime Minister Tony Blair's creation of 'New Labour'.

Mr Benn said: "Tony Blair said that New Labour is a new political party. He said, 'we were elected as New Labour and we will govern as New Labour.'

I'm not a member of New Labour, I'm a member of the Labour Party.

Tony Benn
"I'm not a member of New Labour, I'm a member of the Labour Party. I joined it nearly 60 years ago - I've been in Parliament for nearly half of the Labour Party lifetime, and I think one of the great tragedies was the setting up of a new party called New Labour.

"Arthur Scargill set up the Socialist Labour Party, which was mistake and Tony set up a New Labour which was a mistake.

"You can't wish away centuries of tradition and thought and aspirations with a few spin doctors and a few tame journalists."

Looking to the successes of the party since taking office in 1997 Ms MacTaggart picked out the increase in employment.

We are coming to the end of the constant phenomenon during the Thatcher era of young people not getting jobs after they have left school or college.

Fiona MacTaggart
She said: "We are coming to the end of the constant phenomenon during the Thatcher era of young people not getting jobs after they have left school or college.

"Through the New Deal we have ended that."

The Slough MP also insisted the party had lost none of its radical roots since taking office.

"The minimum wage has been one of the most radical changes introduced by this government, so radical that even Michael Portillo admits that the Tories couldn't abolish it."

Ms MacTaggart also urged for the retention of the party's traditional connections with the trade union movement.

While Mr Benn said dissent within the party was to be expected.

He told BBC News Online: "I'm not going to vote for tuition fees on Monday and I didn't vote for cutting the benefit for lone parents.

"You have to accept there has always been a left and right of the party, that hasn't changed.

"The trouble is, that socialists are now to be driven out of the party."

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On the Spot with...
Tony Benn and Fiona MacTaggart
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