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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 08:00 GMT 09:00 UK

UK Politics

Mo Mowlam's speech on Labour's future

This is the full text of Northern Ireland Secretary Mo Mowlam's introduction to the 21st century party document:

I'm pleased to introduce the discussion on the consultation questionnaire "21st Century Party".

This was to have been done by Ian McCartney as Chair of the party's Partnership in Power Task Force but Ian is unfortunately unable to be with us today.

He has sent us a message, which I will now read: "Please accept on behalf of myself and my family, our apologies for being unable to attend this year's party Conference. I was so looking forward to the week, full of hope. I had a lot of aspirations for both the Party and our Government.

At 11.30am last Tuesday I was informed of the death of my only and so precious son, Hugh. From that moment onwards we have all been thrust into a deep black hole, made deeper by the activities of the press. The fact that we have been able to survive these first few traumatic days is down not only to the inner strength of the family but due to the overwhelming number of letters, cards, telephone calls and personal visits we have had from so many of our friends and comrades in the party and from people from all walks of life and families we have never met and do not know.

We have been touched by the warmth and concern of so many people. It has given us courage where we thought none existed.

Hugh always listened into the Party Conference and the TUC. In fact, the last time we spoke together he mentioned to me Bill Morris's 'save the pound' speech. He said "save the pound, Bill wants to save a few for me", I thought "that's my boy". I saw the humour shining through despite his anguish.

We will be thinking of you all as we know you will be thinking of us. It's times like this you realise what a great family the Labour Party is.

Good luck and best wishes. Ian"

Like you all, I am sorry Ian is not with us. He is a good friend, a great colleague and we send love from the great Labour family to his. Ian epitomises both Old and New Labour. He didn't give up his strong views when he entered Parliament. But at the same time, he knows we've got to change if we want to keep our members involved. That's why he is so suited to chair the 21st century party consultation.

There have been many changes over Labour's first 100 years but we have remained true to our core values. We are applying our principles to the modern world - and it's the process which counts, as well as the beliefs.

Organisationally too, the party has already changed.

  • One member one vote.
  • A new cocnstitution which re-states our traditional principles in the context of a modern world.
  • And a new policy making process based on partnership which allows more and more of our members to be involved and have a real say.

EG NORTHERN IRELAND. Each of those organisational changes was achieved through consultation and inclusion. And each of them has made an important contribution to putting Labour into the position it is in today. A modern party in government implementing a radical agenda for change.

But to continue to be a successful party in the next century we have to keep l ooking at the way we do things and keep thinking about how we make the most of our most precious resource our members.

That is why the NEC asked Ian McCartney to begin a consultation process on the future of our structures. The document "21st Century Party members the key to our future" looks at the links between the party's structures and aims and gives everyone in the party an opportunity to express their views.

It is important we all understand what this process is about. It's about seeking the views of party members and learning from their experiences. It is not about limiting the input of party members in how the party is run. It is not about tearing down structures, or about making decisions without asking members what they think. It is not about forcing through changes or short-cutting any of the party' decision making processes.

It is about listening to people's views about how the party works, what works well, what doesn't work so well, and what if anything could be improved. It is about making the most of the ideas, energy and talents of all our members and increasing their numbers. It is about spreading best practice and learning from those who have been successful. It's about consultation. Indeed, there are no votes on this report at this year's conference as the consultation process has not yet formally begun.

But when it does begin, it will be very important to get it right. There is no doubt that the task of preparing our party for the challenges of the next century is a daunting one. But to do it properly we need to do it together.

We need to concentrate our efforts on making Labour a modern effective campaigning organisation - and an inclusive party, which recognises that our members are the key to the future.

I know this change is needed.

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