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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 30 September, 1998, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
In his own words
Tony Blair
"I challenge you..."
Extracts from the speech by Prime Minister Tony Blair to the Labour Party conference in Blackpool:

The coming year

Last year, we celebrated victory. This year, we meet in more mature and sober reflection. We have pride in what we have done. Yet the wisdom to accept there is much more to do.

No longer novices in government, we carry more visibly its burdens and responsibilities. A Mario Cuomo once said: 'We campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose.'

Promises

We've done more than we ever promised and where we have made promises, we are keeping them; and where we are accused of breaking them, it is over promises we never made.

The challenge

The people ask: "How can I be sure about my job, about my family's safety, about the future prosperity of my country?

That is the challenge: Finding security and stability in a world pushed ever faster forward by the irresistible forces of history and human invention."

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.

Modernise. Reform. Equip our country for the future.

The economy and business

I challenge business: you are the wealth creators; vital to the success of everything we do. We will work in partnership with you as a pro-business, pro-enterprise government pursuing policies for the long-term.

But be honest: your fundamental problem is not high interest rates or a high pound.

It is too few first-class managers. Too little investment. Too little productivity. Too much instability in government economic management over decades.

Backbone not backdown is what Britain needs.

Education

There are too few good state schools. Too much tolerance of mediocrity. Too little pursuit of excellence.

If a head teacher rises to the challenge of turning round a failing school, why shouldn't they earn 60,000 or 70,000 a year? But equally if they cannot run the school properly, they shouldn't be running the school at all.

The welfare state

I did not come into politics to dismantle the welfare state. I believe in it. But it is because I believe in its principles, its purpose, its values, that I know it needs change.

The NHS

Just remember the 1945 Labour manifesto proposing the NHS wasn't called 'remember the past' but 'Let us Face the Future', and 50 years on it's time to stop preserving the NHS and time to start renewing it for the next 50 years.

On reducing crime

Don't tell us it can't be done, because some of you are doing it already.

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

The family

The family is central to our vision of a modern Britain built on the kinds of rights and responsibilities that we learn in the home.

[In October a Bill on the family will be published] I challenge the media: don't use it as an excuse to dredge through the private lives of every public figure.

Accept that whatever our individual weaknesses, our collective strength lies in making the institution of the family work for the good of Britain.

Progress in Northern Ireland

How was it done? It took the British, Irish and Americans standing together as never before. And I thank Bertie Ahern for what he has done and I thank Bill Clinton too.

It took Mo Mowlam.

It took the people.

The only road they really want to march down is the road to the future.

It takes people to lead them. People like David Trimble, John Hume and Seamus Mallon.

And yes it takes Gerry Adams, David Ervine and Gary McMichael too.

The challenge of change

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.

Welcome to government.

This is our challenge. To hold firm. To show the same resolution in changing the country as we changed the Labour Party. To do what is right.

Of course we'd rather be popular than unpopular. But better to be unpopular than wrong.

On Gerd Schoeder becoming German prime minister

His victory, like ours, shows what people around the world already know: we have passed the end of one era, and entered a new one.

And in this new era, a new agenda.

Economies that compete on knowledge, on the creative power of the many not the few. Societies based on inclusion not division.

Countries that are internationalist not nationalist.

This is the Third Way, our way of reconnecting people to political idealism in an age where political ideology is distrusted.

Europe

When the EU helps us trade, promote prosperity, save our environment, co-operate on cross-border problems like crime, it is doing what the EU should do.

When it starts interfering with every last detail of our national life, that's a Europe we can do without.

De-centralise where possible. Integrate where necessary.

Scottish independence

It is wrong in principle. It is the wrong values.

Instead of solidarity, it is separatism, isolation. [The SNP] look at England as the Tories look at Europe. Enough of this narrow chauvinism masquerading as idealism.

Relations with the Lib Dems

I believe in the co-operation we have had between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Where we agree - and there are many issues where we do - our politics should be grown up enough to say so.

Lord Jenkins is due to report on PR for Westminster. Let us listen to what is said. But be assured: the government will decide its response in the interests of the country, not the interests of the Liberal Democrats.

Reform of the House of Lords

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.

And when we use the mandate the British people gave us at the ballot box to get rid of the power of those hereditary peers, I call that democracy.

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