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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 September, 2004, 07:10 GMT 08:10 UK
No time for caution, says Blair
Tony Blair
Blair says policy is the key to renewing support
Labour must be bold as it develops its policies for the next election, Tony Blair has told party activists.

In a speech at Labour headquarters to mark his return from his summer break, the prime minister said: "Now is not the time for caution."

Policy was the key to renewing support for Labour for the coming years, he argued, with the focus on how plans would change people's everyday lives.

Mr Blair pledged to "focus relentlessly" on seven key challenges.

Mr Blair's priorities are:

  • expanding opportunity for all in the economy and education

  • ensuring public services meet people's personal needs

  • tackling the problems of the poor; a tough law and order policy

  • promoting a multi-cultural society

  • building international support for problems such as climate change and poverty in Africa

  • promoting retirement as "an opportunity and not a threat" and providing properly for the ageing population

With preparations gathering speed for the general election expected next spring, the government has already set out its five-year plans for health, education, transport and law and order.

Vital question

Mr Blair said policies to be unveiled in the coming months would also focus on offering "an ambitious, credible and practical prospectus for transforming our essential public services".

He said: "There is one key test that every policy decision should pass; does it, in practical terms, advance and improve the lives of Britain's hard working families in the future?

"Does it help provide opportunity and security for them in a world of constant and rapid change?

"This responsibility to address the future clearly is ever more important to us as, frankly, the Tories flounder, incapable of the bold renewal, top to bottom, that their party needs."

Private firm fears?

Other parties were peddling the "politics of pessimism", he claimed.

Trade unions have complained about "creeping privatisation" of some public services.

But Mr Blair said the new policies would have "no hang-ups, for example, about partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors".

He added: "This is not the time for caution in the face of future challenges - but for the boldness essential to renew Britain for the era of globalisation.

"Britain is getting better but we can be better still."

Liberal Democrat chairman Matthew Taylor accused Mr Blair of mistaking rashness for boldness.

"Labour's rashness has resulted in the introduction of top-up and tuition fees that will disadvantage students who might like to go to university... It has resulted in Britain going to war on a false prospectus."

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