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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 19:21 GMT 20:21 UK
Labour's roots poke through
"I don't want to go into the next election telling people to vote Labour because the alternative is worse.

"That's a negative approach. I want to go out and campaign for a rolling radical programme," was the cry from TGWU leader TGWU Bill Morris.

The general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union was speaking on the Labour conference fringe just hours after Tony Blair had given the party gathered in Brighton the highlight of its week - the leader's speech.

In clear campaigning mood, Mr Morris set out to the Nye Bevan Society his vision of the party's priorities in the context of its socialist past.

Labour's old values "must never be relegated to the dustbin of history", he said.

Picking up the theme Melvyn (Lord) Bragg spelt out why the party's traditions in the working class socialist movement of the first half of the last century still had resonance.

Describing Bevan as one of the greatest British socialists, Lord Bragg told the audience - seated somewhat strangely in an Odeon multiplex on a rainy Brighton seafront - what difference the man had had made to his childhood in a working class family in Cumberland.

"He was our champion, he was our guy. Nye Bevan was a true hero for a generation of our lot."

Bevan was the great missing prime minister, in Labour's history he said.

Smiling beside Lord Bragg on the platform was Labour's onetime leader and devoted Bevanite, Michael Foot.

He was, continued Lord Bragg, "the main chance that we had in the twentieth century to bring the values of the working class into our polity."

If only Bevan had been prime minister he said he would have brought to the nation "all the energies buried in the working class".

Bringing Bevan up to the present day, Lord Bragg said it was a "wonderful irony" that after the passage of time - surviving the Thatcher and Major eras - "that somehow or other inside the National Health Service, which Bevan created, we have preserved the DNA of his Welsh idea of socialism - that everyone is equal at the point of need."

The strength of the idea was such, said Lord Bragg, it had even "been picked up by the present prime minister".

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