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Wednesday, 30 September, 1998, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
'No turning back' - Blair
Tony Blair
Tony Blair: I would rather be right than popular
Tony Blair has told his party activists that Labour should prepare to take tough decisions of government even if it means facing unpopularity.

In an uncompromising keynote address to the Labour conference in Blackpool, the prime minister said there would be no change in economic policy and no let-up in the pace of reform.

"Let me warn you: when you make reform, people will oppose you. There will be attacks to the left of you, attacks to the right of you, attacks from behind and in front.

Addressing delegates in the Winter Gardens
"Welcome to government," he said.

"Success in life never comes without a struggle. This is our challenge - to hold firm, to show the same resolution in changing the country as we did in changing the Labour Party."

Mr Blair then ran through highlights of the government's achievements since the election: falling NHS waiting lists; a reduction in the number of classes with more than 30 pupils; unemployment among the young down by more than a third since May 1997.

"That's a Labour government delivering."

He then launched a raft of new policy proposals including a blitz on crime and improved screening for cancer and the first ever government paper on the family.

A targeted approach would be adopted to zero in on crime in Britain's 20 worst crime hotspots, he said.

"Don't show zero imagination. Help us to have zero tolerance of crime."

A new agreement between the police, car manufacturers and government to reduce car theft by 30% over five years was also announced.

With child curfews coming into force and the prosecution of anti-social neighbours from next year the prime minister urged the public to help the police clean up Britain's streets.

New plans for the use of lottery funds were also outlined by the prime minister.

"Because we have changed the law on how lottery money could be used, we announce an extra 400m for specialist health, education and environment projects, starting with a nationwide programme to make our cancer services the best in the world."

On the tricky subject of economic policy - the subject of criticism by unions and some traditional Labour supporters - Mr Blair said there would be no turning back.

"We have set a target on inflation. We will meet it. There will be no backing down.

"We have taken the politics out of interest rates. A tough decision. But the right decision. And there will be no backing down.

"We have an Iron Chancellor. An iron commitment."

Rounding on critics who claim that his government differs little from that of the last Tory administration Mr Blair argued.

"Yes, we are New Labour. But don't give me this nonsense that we're just a more moderate or competent Tory government."

He then asked delegates if they could imagine a Tory government introducing a minimum wage or investing millions of pounds in Britain's most deprived estates.

As Mr Blair turned to Northern Ireland delegates gave a standing ovation to the Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam.

Mo Mowlam
Mo Mowlam: Delegates gave her a spontaneous standing ovation
Responding warmly, Mr Blair said it was the first time conference had given a standing ovation to someone who was not even speaking.

After remembering those killed in the recent bombing of Omagh, the prime minister thanked all those who had played a part in moving the peace process forward - including Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and US President Bill Clinton.

Mr Blair then, to the obvious delight of delegates, took the Tories to task.

"People say there is no Tory opposition any more. Well there is. It's alive and well and unelected and in the House of Lords with a three to one majority over us.

"Not a vote to their name, but able to vote down the plans that the people voted for in our manifesto. I call that arrogance."

Greater democracy would be achieved, he said, when Labour removes hereditary peers from the House of Lords.

Mr Blair also spelled out the ideas behind his policies designed to meet the turmoil of the global economy and prepare Britain for the future.

He said: "There are three choices. Resist change - futile. Let it happen - laissez-faire - each person for themselves, each country for itself.

"Or the third way: we manage change, together. We accept the challenge of the future but refuse to consider ourselves powerless to overcome it.

"We face the challenge together ... one nation, one community each and everyone of us playing our part."

BBC News
"Rock of stability"
BBC News
BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley analyses the speech
BBC News
"Make the powers work"
BBC News
"Deny opportunity and lay waste to the genius of the nation"
BBC News
"We are New Labour and proud of it"
BBC News
"With the money we put in must come modernisation"
BBC News
BBC Political Editor Robin Oakley: Tony Blair was principally addressing voters
See also:

29 Sep 98 | UK
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30 Sep 98 | Tuesday
30 Sep 98 | UK Politics
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