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Carole Walker reports for BBC News
"Tony Blair set out his vision of British identity"
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The BBC's Richard Bilton examines
What is being British all about?
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Sir George Younger MP
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Tuesday, 28 March, 2000, 13:43 GMT 14:43 UK
Blair defines 'British values'

Tony Blair: "Devolution has strengthened the UK"
Prime Minister Tony Blair has set out his vision of "Britishness", attacking both opponents of devolution and nationalists who want to break up the UK.

Spelling out his vision of "Britishness", he said that "blood alone" did not define national identity and modern Britain was shaped by a "rich mix of all different ethnic and religious origins over the centuries".

His speech was attacked by Conservative leader William Hague as the rival leaders tried to appeal to the patriotic voter.

Standing up for our country means standing up for the core British values of fair play, creativity, tolerance and an outward looking approach to the world.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair told regional newspaper executives in London: "Few would disagree with the qualities that go towards that British identity.

"Qualities of creativity built on tolerance, openness and adaptability, work and self improvement, strong communities and families and fair play, rights and responsibilities and an outward looking approach to the world that all flow from our unique island geography and history.

"If these values are what makes us British ... then devolution is a necessary part of keeping Britain together."

Mayors with power

Turning to devolution within England, Mr Blair defended the government's decision to press ahead with city mayors saying they "made sense".

He added: "City mayors with real power have their place, hereditary peers in the House of Lords don't, and a constructive engaged attitude to Europe reflects the best of British values of openness and leadership in the world."

Mr Blair also stressed his belief in the Union saying: "The United Kingdom is stronger together than apart."

He attacked the Tories' policy of English votes for English laws, saying it was important that all MPs voted together in the Commons with no "second class citizens".

Turning to Europe, Mr Blair said: "Standing up for Britain does not mean being anti-Europe. It is not pro-British to be anti-Europe."

For us, Britain succeeds when we ally our courage to our imagination. The courage that won wars. The imagination that built the NHS.

Tony Blair

Mr Blair's appeal to a united Britain still coming to terms with devolved government provoked criticism from opponents.

Mr Hague said the prime minister's attempts to claim "Britishness" for Labour were "laughable".

He added that Mr Blair "conspires to sell out the British national interest by scheming to scrap the pound and by refusing to stand firm against the drift towards a European superstate".

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy also took Labour to task over its handling of the constitution.

But he had some praise for devolution and attacked Mr Hague saying the Tory leader was taking his party down a "narrow cul-de-sac of nationalism".

Joining the debate, John Adams of the Campaign for the English Regions said: "The union is stronger for devolving power to Scotland and Wales.

"But far too much power is still concentrated in Whitehall and Westminster and the English regions are being left behind."

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28 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Blair waves the pre-election union flag
28 Mar 00 | Talking Point
Is patriotism a virtue?
09 Mar 00 | Scotland
Blair denies union will break
09 Mar 00 | Scotland
Dewar defends devolution
04 Oct 99 | Scotland
Hague demands Scots votes ban
02 Dec 99 | UK Politics
A guide to devolved powers
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