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Tony Blair
launches the Labour manifesto
 real 56k

The BBC's John Pienaar
"No politician can please all of the people all of the time"
 real 56k

The BBC's Richard Bilton
gages public reaction to the Labour manifesto
 real 56k

The BBC's Caroline Quinn
was in Birmingham to watch the launch
 real 28k

Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 20:40 GMT
Labour plans radical decade
Tony Blair
Labour's "radical" manifesto for transforming Britain's public services over the next decade was launched in Birmingham - the first time the party has announced its election commitments outside of London.

The choice is clear: for an ambitious and confident Britain, the choice is Labour

Manifesto conclusion

The city is at the centre of a key battleground, and flanked by the cabinet and student party members Tony Blair said the manifesto took "the next steps to building a strong economy, a strong society and a strong Britain."

The 44-page, 28,000-word manifesto, titled Ambitions for Britain and featuring Mr Blair on the cover, sets out ten goals for 2010 covering major issues such as health, education and law and order.

Mr Blair repeatedly stressed the long-running Labour theme that, although progress had been made, there was still "a great deal more to do".

He said the manifesto looked forward to creating a "modern, fair" Britain, "a nation pulling together to confront the challenges we face".

Tony Blair at manifesto launch
Mr Blair said he wanted to break down the UK's "glass ceilings"
They include long-term economic stability, rising living standards for all, a healthier nation, full employment in every region and ideas leading a reformed and enlarged Europe.

Among the new ideas is a new department for rural affairs to be established in the wake of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

The document - which features seven pictures of Mr Blair inside but none of his fellow ministers - renews the 1997 election commitment not to raise the basic or top rate of income tax.

For savers, tax relief on ISAs will remain for the whole of the next parliament.

The family tax credit will be extended and the minimum wage raised to 4.20 an hour.

We reject the quiet life

Tony Blair
Mr Blair spoke of a "driving ambition" to renew public services, including three years of record investment in schools, hospitals and the police.

With education "still the number one priority" according to the prime minister, the manifesto outlines plans to recruit 10,000 teachers and give every secondary school a "clear mission".

On health 20,000 extra nurses and "at least" 10,000 extra doctors are pledged alongside a commitment to give control over 75% of NHS funding to frontline managers.

The manifesto also includes a pledge to recruit an extra 6,000 police to take officer numbers to their "highest ever level".

Crime victims are promised a "bill of rights" and major criminals such as drug traffickers warned to expect a doubling in the amount of assets seized.

Welfare changes

The ten-year "vision" for the welfare state includes an Employment First interview for all those entering the benefits system.

Paid maternity leave is extended and increased, paternity pay introduced for the first time, and a new pension credit for pensioners on lower and middle incomes.

But Labour are also keen to stress they do not intend to put economic stability at risk, with Mr Blair repeatedly stressing at the launch the need for "a balanced approach".

On the wider stage, the manifesto commits Labour to leading economic reform in Europe, building a "strong, effective and responsive" armed forces and increasing international aid.

Mr Blair summed up his ambitions: "This manifesto is driven by one central idea; how we create a society in which people rise to the highest level their talents take them, whatever their background, class, race or position.

"That is the New Labour vision and it is one worth fighting for.

"As long as there is one child in poverty, one pensioner in poverty, one person denied their chance in life, this is one prime minister, and one party who will have no rest, no vanity in achievement, no sense of mission completed."

BBC News Online's in depth coverage of the 2001 election campaign

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