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Ward Labour Party Conference Speech- Newcastle
Colleagues, welcome. We are entering a new year and a new age. Today I set out my vision for our party and our country: what we are, where we stand and how we will govern. We meet in a spirit of hope, hope that change can come, hope that we can rid our country of this Tory government, their broken promises, their failed policies, their discredited philosophy, and elect in their place a Labour government for Britain.

For the first time in a generation, it is the right wing that appears to be lost and without direction. I have heard their cawing and crowing about the last sixteen years, I assure you I have heard it. But let us turn the clock back only a few months. We found ourselves on similar footings, both seeking new leaders and new direction. Since that time, we have seen a prime minister rise, be knifed, and replaced. We have seen the new prime minister send a significant section of the navy where there has been no credible threat proven. We have seen that same deployment returned because of the lack of credible threat was exposed. We have seen them grow silent and stonewall our attempts to hold them to account. 

This isn’t progressive conservatism, this is purposeless conservatism. They are being tossed to-and-fro. Notice, the one bill of significance has been reactionary, not planned. Outside of that, they have been the party of “no”. We know what the Tories are against, VAT cuts and letting Scotland and Wales decide their own fate. But we have no idea what they support. Today, politics is moving to our battleground. Across the nation, across class, the Labour Party is speaking out for the majority of Britons against the knee jerk policies of the so called progressive conservatives. To the parents who want to send their children to good schools that are well taken care of, and to the teachers who are serving in oversized classes- the Tories have failed you, but we are on your side. To men and women, who are feeling the squeeze through their taxes, and to the pensioners left forced to choose between heat and something to eat, the Tories have abused your trust. They have failed, but we are on your side. We see the struggle you face every day The Tories may have forgotten you, but the Labour party never will, your fears are our fears. Your aspirations are our aspirations. We are back to speak for the majority of Britons. Back to speak up for you. Back as the People’s Party. 

Look at where we are now. Almost twenty years after Margret Thatcher stood at Downing Street. I remember. Where there was discord, has there has been harmony? Where there was error, has there been truth? Where there was doubt, has there been faith? Is there hope? Harmony? When the Tories walked us through Black Wednesday and a recession? Truth? When they won an election by lying about what they would do. Hope? When millions are jobless and the Conservatives have increased tax. They have brought this injustice and discord. It is the fruit of over fifteen years of mismanagement. Spending is up, taxes are up, and growth is stagnant. They squandered hundreds of billions in North Sea Oil, not to invest in our future, but squandered to continue to give tax cuts to the richest. This is what we mean when we say they don’t have an economic policy. It’s not a symptom of post-Thatcherism, it is Thatcherism. To hide this, they sold our nation's assets. They sold off Water and Coal, not to invest. Not to ensure good schools. Not to cut taxes on the poorest. But just to maintain current levels. Billions of pounds, gone forever. Everytime Phillip Coburg, the insufferable Tory frontbencher flaunts their electoral record I am flabbergasted. They think the current situation is success. This isn’t common sense conservatism, its chaotic conservatism. It is time to take the Tories to task for what they have done to your country. 

I have heard them say that their new focus is compassionate conservatism. Is it compassion to threaten to sell of the NHS? Is it compassion to raise the taxes on the poor and pensioners? Of course it isn’t. But this is not why we should take them to task. But rather because they are the most cowardly, careless group of incomeptent ministers to ever plague Britain. 

They are done. They are finished. They tried Thatcherism, and it’s failure is clear. It is time for them to go. Not because of one person or another in government. It is the entire lack of values that is wrong. Because they fail to understand that we as a nation must all work together in order for us to succeed. It is so simple, but it is so fundamental. This is not a theory, but we are seeing it. In this country, after fifteen years of Thatcherism; we are taxing not to build, but to make up for past failure. I don’t complain about paying taxes for good schools, safe streets, and a fair society. But it enrages me to pay taxes for crowded hospitals, crowded classes, and unsafe streets. Tory economics is based on a view of the market that is antiquated, and their view of society is the furthest thing from compassion. I have grown to believe that what distinguishes those on top from those on the bottom are the chances that they receive to get on the right path. So much talent and potential underdeveloped. There are some that have been abandoned and work jobs instead of careers because of a lack of opportunity. Let it be known in this Labour Party, that we seek to maximise every opportunity for the next generation to succeed in work, in play, and in life. We believe in a strong family and strong community. We believe in a Britain that prioritises the many, not just the few. 

When someone in the family is sick, the rest of the family helps. Community is the same way. When we work together, we can create a just and fair society. So then we teach our children to take pride in their school, their city, and their country. We teach them that it is good to be, and they should be proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom. We should teach them to be self reliant and to look to the good of their neighbour, mutual support and improvement. The Tories despise such views. Their view is simple. They believe in a world where the hospitals just spring up. Where the free market handles everything, protects our streets, and trains employees. Let’s congratulate ourselves while we stand aside and due to our inaction where the elederly are warm and the children are safe. Where everyone sings hymns to the invisible market in this magical world. At least Narnia was allegory, they live in a Saxon fantasy. Market forces cannot educate us, we must do it together. We cannot buy our way to success, we must work for it together. That is our belief: community, solidarity, and comradery. These are our values, this is my socialism, a word for which we should never apologize. 

It is not a socialism of Marx or Lenin. It is not one of strict state control. It is founded in a view of society. Where the individual does best in a society of common aims and aspirations. We are the party of the individual because we are the party of community working together. Our task is to apply those values to the modern world. This will not come without changes. It will change the traditional dividing lines between right and left. It calls for a new brand of politics; without dogma or prejudice. It is time to break out of the past and declare a modern vision of Britain. We must build the strong and active society that embraces that vision. We believe in our four pillars: Opportunity, Responsibility, Social Justice, and Truth.

A society of opportunity must be built on a strong and stable economy where each of us has a stake. Mass unemployment is inconsistent with a civilised society. It is time to state clearly: It is the duty of government to maintain a high and stable level of employment. It is a responsibility we share, and I reaffirm our commitment to full employment. It will take time, and the means by which we get there must change. But it is a necessity if we are to be a society where everyone is apart. It won’t be done by state control, nor by laissez faire market dogma. It can only be done by a dynamic view of a partnership between government and industry, employer and employee, public and private sector. For example, infrastructure. Only in the Tory fantasy can we try to build roads without public investment. Now they are raising taxes to flood and fix it, tax and spend. We have the investment, but we have the Tories making it harder. 

Government must lead, and Labour will do it. We will get public and private working together in transport, in housing, in education. If there antiquated rules that hold us back, then let’s change them. That is what common sense government must do, that is what leadership is for. There is an information boom occurring. Massive markets will be created, and we are not investing in the next generation to adapt. The problem with their investment is that it looks backwards to fix old problems, not ahead to prepare for a glorious future. We will act. We will make sure that British companies are at the front leading, not at the back catching up. The market won’t build it on it’s own, but a partnership will. We need to make sure that we are educating for a new society. Education will be the most important focus of our government. If schools are bad we should make them better. If teachers can’t teach, they shouldn’t be teaching. If the government can’t see why education matters, sack the government and get one that does. But education is lifelong. If you want to earn, you must learn. This is how we expand opportunity. Education is just one of those public services that can’t be left to the market. Neither should our health service, our railways, or the Post. These are public services. They should stay in public control to the benefit of the public. The Tories say there is no money, but they can’t attack the deficit. Isn’t a scandal that while waiting lists are expanding, patient’s don’t have beds, they could save millions if not billions if they spent it on patients instead of on bureaucracy. Sixteen years, the Tories aren’t working. That’s what we should be providing. 

But with opportunity comes responsibility. The Tories have adopted the language of responsibility, but neglect it for themselves. But the left have undervalued it too. It’s time we understand how central it is. Families should have responsibility, that means fathers too. Companies should be responsible to their employees and community. It is at the heart of our crime message. The Labour Party is now the party of law and order. Tough on crime and on the causes of crime. The Tories are long on rhetoric and short on policy. Crime hurts us all. It’s not enough to get angry. We need a new approach. Tough on drugs, and compassionate in our policing. The unemployed youngster has no right to your television. But let us also go after the swindlers who want to take your pension. 

Both responsibility and opportunity bust must be built on justice and equality. That means the right to be treated equally as a citizen. That means we take a strong stand against discrimination regardless if it’s on the grounds of race, sex, creed, ability, or sexuality. But justice is about more than fighting discrimination. It’s about the laws we live under and the taxes we pay. If you need to know which side the Tories are on, look at the tax system. Oil barons get the cut, pensioners get the increase on fuel. Offshore drilling get’s relief, while the workers see an increase across the board. Middle incomes get stung, while perks roll on unstopped. More people are in tax than ever before. We will create a new system that focuses on the middle and lower class. We must ensure a fair wage. We believe that to get people off the doll, we must make sure that wages are secure. A minimum wage exists in many European countries and in America for the simple reason that it makes social and economic sense. Of course it should be set sensibly, and it will be. But there will be no retreat from it because it is right and it is Labour that has introduced it. We will sign the Social Chapter because it is the right thing to do. We will give people the right at work to join a union. And let one small act be recognized of our commitment to fairness at work, the restoration to the workers of Cheltenham GCHQ of their trade union rights.

People don’t want handouts. It is better to give a hand up. But the people on benefits deserve better. Not more benefits, but the ability to get off them. Welfare should be about security in a time of need in a changing world. It’s about helping people move on and up. But as the world changes, the welfare state must also change. We are the only people to reform and modernise it, because we are the people who believe in it. I believe in a nation enjoying the dignity of work, not on benefits. 

We must embrace a new politics. Not just a new vision, but a new brand of politics. It must be one of honesty and trust. That means telling it as it is. That means not just opposing every policy of another party for the sake of opposing. If the government is getting right, we give credit where it is due. If the Liberal Democrats are getting right, we agree with them. We welcome new hope when it shows. But it also means speaking the same language to each other. The public look to us for leadership. Leadership is about the courage to say no. Nobody in this country believes strike ballots should be abandoned, so why do we say it? We shouldn’t, and I won’t. Let’s just be honest. I have said that I am committed to full employment, and I mean that. But it will not happen overnight. I will not say to the unemployed that we will walk into Downing Street on Friday, and they will walk into work on Monday. Let’s be honest and realistic. Those most in need of hope deserve it. It is not born on false promises, that is the Tory way. The public are tired of the dogma. They are tired of us believing that we have all the answers. They are tired of broken promises made cheap. When we make a promise, we must be sure that it can be kept. That is the very first line between our contract with the British people. 

We must change the rules of government and we will. We will put forward a drastic change; more than any party before us. A set of fundamental rights that cannot be taken away by state or citizen, a Bill of Rights for all. Government must be brought closer. We will legislate for a Scottish Parliament and Assembly for Wales referendum in our first year in government. We will enact Freedom of Information Act, to rid ourselves of secrecy. As a party, we will work to expand the number of women MPs. The people are not looking for a revolution, they are looking for hope. I need you with me, head and heart. Some believe we are too cautious. But we will not win despite our beliefs but because of them. I need your help in the coming months and years. I need your passion. Stand with me in solidarity. Let us go forward as a New Labour party, ready to adapt and change for a new Britain in the new millennium. To this end, it is imperative that we take a new look at Clause IV of our constitution.It is time to have a clear and up to date statement about the objectives of our party. One that is true to our principles, in a language that is understandable in a modern setting. Let it be presented, and then debated. Let it be open to the whole party. If it is accepted, let it be adopted as our new objective. 

We are a modern party in an age of change. Therefore we need a modern constitution in terms the public cannot misunderstand and the Tories cannot misconstrue. We are proud of our beliefs. Let us be honest about them. Our economy is weakened, our public services are ignored, our people are uneducated, our streets are unsafe, things need not be this way. We can do better. We believe in the aspirations of national renewal as a community of people. The next election gives us an opportunity to change our country. Not just talk about change but to achieve it. Our party- New Labour, Our Mission, a New Britain that is focused on opportunity, responsibility, justice and truth, for the many, not just the few.
A strong call to arms for the party, you decry the Tories and make a decent pitch to be given the premiership. A speech like this doesn't move the needle too much, but your base is more fired up than it was which is a major asset.

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