Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Blair aims for second term
Tony Blair: Lifting his party's sights to next election
By Political Correspondent Nick Assinder
Tony Blair will use his keynote conference speech to set Labour's sights on a second term in office - claiming the party is standing on the verge of an historic opportunity to implement radical policies.
But outside the conference hall, thousands of supporters of fox hunting are already gathering for a mass rally against the government's plans to ban the blood sport.
The protest led by the Countryside Alliance will provide a vocal reminder to Labour delegates of the strength of opposition on the issue and threatens to overshadow the leader's speech.
He will claim: "A new political landscape is being shaped - Labour is better placed than at any time in its 100-year history to fulfil our historic ambitions."
He will express his frustration at the slow pace of change in some areas and insist that only a second term will allow him to push through a huge programme of modernisation of Britain.
And, acknowledging the concerns of many supporters, he will say that, while much has already been done, there is much more to do.
He will tell delegates in Bournemouth that they are half way through a government but nowhere near half way through their goals.
And he will insist that Labour has now become the party of economic competence and the one nation party.
"Labour is now the party of economic competence - nothing will put that at risk. To establish New Labour as the party of economic competence is as politically significant as anything else that will happen in this parliament," he will declare.
In a speech carefully crafted to put the party on election footing and dispel the disillusion gripping some supporters, he will also claim that equality is still central to the party's philosophy.
But he will insist it is equality of worth, not outcome which will drive the party's policies.
"New Labour finally understands the importance of individual aspirations is not equal outcomes but the equal worth of people and development," he will say.
He will slap down demands, led by the unions, for Chancellor Gordon Brown to open the "war chest" of billions of pounds said to be available for a pre-election spending spree.
And he will repeat the message that only a continued iron grip on the economy will make possible real and lasting change in society.
Mr Blair will make his heavily-trailed announcements on crime, with plans for the drug testing of all those arrested for criminal offences, a presumption against bail for cocaine and heroin users and the build-up of a DNA databank to help trace criminals.
He will emphasise the "supertanker" of NHS waiting lists is being turned around, and offer strong support for the government's controversial teaching reforms.
But his continuing theme will be that Labour has for too long been a party of opposition.
"We have now got ourselves into a position where we are governing and governing well," Mr Blair is expected to say.
But he will warn against complacency and stress the importance of striving to achieve the second term in office he regards as vital to continue his modernisation plans.
He will also repeat his controversial call for a new moral purpose in Britain, claiming it is now needed "more than ever."
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