I'm a true Blairite - Brown's insistence to unions
"I want to see a Labour Party continue in government. It will only ever continue in government if it focuses on policy and accepts that government is a hard, difficult business, but it is a damn sight better than wasting our time in opposition. That is the brutal truth" - TONY BLAIR
Story in full GORDON Brown last night moved to reassure centre-ground voters that he would maintain Tony Blair's reforming policies, issuing a public rebuke to left-wingers who heckled the Prime Minister's final speech to the Trades Union Congress.
Now restored to their traditional status as Labour's biggest financial backers, and with Mr Blair scheduled to quit within months, many union leaders believe they have a good chance to kill off many of his policies, particularly the involvement of private firms in providing health-care and education services.
But in a carefully co-ordinated show of unity following last week's bitter Labour infighting, the Chancellor told union leaders at a private dinner that he would not take the party back to the left if he entered No10 next year.
Mr Blair had earlier used his last address to the TUC to warn his successors that if they used his departure to ditch his policies and move Labour back to the left, the party would quickly be cast out of office. The Prime Minister was heard mostly in sullen silence as he outlined what he called the "brutal truth", but he also faced some heckling and a stage-managed walk-out by fewer than 20 delegates from the RMT transport union.
Before he even arrived in Brighton for last night's dinner, Mr Brown had taken the opportunity to burnish his reformist credentials by attacking the union hardliners. "I condemn those who walked out when they had the chance to listen and ask questions," he said.
Since a failed coup against Mr Blair last week, the Chancellor has been hit by a backlash from Labour modernisers, with senior Blairites openly questioning his loyalty, his character and his commitment to reform.
Fearful of being cast by his foes as a closet left-winger, Mr Brown used the TUC gathering to lavish praise on Mr Blair's agenda, pointedly rejecting the attacks on the Prime Minister from the conference floor. "I support everything Tony Blair said today," the Chancellor told the union leaders over dinner.
Singling out what the unions call the "privatisation" of the NHS, their greatest source of discontent, he added: "I urge all to support Tony Blair in what he said about our reforms in health."
The Prime Minister, scarcely bothering to hide his contempt for the unions, used his speech to the TUC to hit back at the left-wingers who have criticised his leadership for more than a decade.
He was repeatedly heckled over his references to foreign policy, especially his insistence that Britain should be proud of the UK troops currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Addressing several delegates holding "Troops Out" placards, he said: "You can hold up your posters, but the reasons the troops are there is to defend democratic governments against the Taleban and al-Qaeda."
The Prime Minister also bluntly told the TUC that Labour would remain in power only if it stuck to his path.
"I want to see a Labour Party continue in government. It will only ever continue in government if it focuses on policy and accepts that government is a hard, difficult business, but it is a damn sight better than wasting our time in opposition. That is the brutal truth," he said, to stony silence from delegates.
"For those of you who think we'll ever get a government where everything is fine, that doesn't happen."
He also slapped down those who heckled him, telling them: "Those people who are hostile to a Labour government, you are doing precisely what they want - not very sensible."
Pressure from his own party forced Mr Blair to say publicly last week that this would be his last TUC conference as Prime Minister, and in an unscripted question-and-answer session with delegates, he appeared to begin sketching out what he will present next year as his legacy.
"When I look back, I realise that there are some things that have changed in this country for good," Mr Blair said. He concluded by telling the unions that Britain was "a more open and more decent society than we were ten years ago".
He received barely 25 seconds of applause, and many union leaders later queued up to attack him. Tony Woodley, of the Transport and General Workers Union, said Mr Blair was "out of touch" and his speech was "sad".
Bob Crow, of the RMT, said: "What is the point of listening to someone when you cannot believe a word they say?
• It was sad to see such a consummate performer perform so poorly."
Dave Prentis, the general-secretary of Unison, said: "It is the end of an era. He has never been that comfortable at Congress, and his heart wasn't in it."
'You never had sight nor sound of a prime minister. For 18 years, you were addressed by the leader of the Opposition. That title does what it says on the tin - he has no power'
Feeling your pain:
'People feel they are working longer but are less secure. They feel the rules are changing and they never voted for change. They feel powerless'
Know thy enemy:
'A large part of the West is [wrongly] inclined to think the threat is George Bush, not Islamic extremism'
'When the politicking of the previous two weeks passes, true politics can deliver progress'
HECKLERS ON BLAIR...
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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