by Prime Minister Tony Blair
at Labour’s local government, women’s and youth conferences, SECC,
Speech as Prepared —
We’ve been in power for six years now. Through
the election wins, the popular changes and yes, the tougher decisions.
It’s a very different business from Opposition.
What we do matters.
There are a thousand good causes. But our job
is to decide on the basis of the values we share and what’s
best for the country we love.
Take yesterday, and an end to tobacco advertising.
Opposed by the Conservatives. The right thing to do. And done
by a Labour Government.
The decisions are not always easy. Many of the
people in this room know what I mean. Labour councils up and down
the country have to take tough decisions every day of the week.
And I tell you we could not have achieved what
we have managed so far without you. Today I want to thank you.
The Labour family isn’t just the Government
or just MPs. It’s councillors trying to do their best for
the community. It’s the party members who give up their
time to knock on doors, make the calls and campaign to win. It’s
the Labour student groups campaigning to reduce third world debt.
It’s ordinary union members who want decent terms and conditions
at work. It’s Labour voters – new and old – who have
placed their trust in us because they believe we can make Britain
a better place.
The progress we have made, we have made together.
I know it is tough right now. I know it is an uncertain time for
our country. But we will come through this and we will come through
We will come through it by holding firm to what
we believe in. One such belief is in the United Nations. I continue
to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction
through the UN. That is why last November we insisted on putting
UN inspectors back into Iraq to disarm it.
Dr Blix reported to the UN yesterday and there
will be more time given to inspections. He will report again on
28 February. But let no one forget two things. To anyone familiar
with Saddam’s tactics of deception and evasion, there is a weary
sense of déjà vu. As ever, at the last minute, concessions
are made. And as ever, it is the long finger that is directing
them. The concessions are suspect. Unfortunately the weapons are
Last year, 12 long years after the UN first gave
him 15 days to produce a full audit of his chemical, biological
and nuclear weapons programmes and he denied he had any, we passed
UN Resolution 1441. It gave him a "final opportunity"
to disarm. It instructed him to co-operate fully with the UN inspectors.
Why was the inspection regime so tough? Because for 12 years,
he had played a game with the inspectors.
In 1991 Iraq denied it had a biological weapons
offensive programme. For four years the inspectors toiled. It
was not until 1995 that Saddam’s son-in-law defected to Jordan,
explained the true biological weapons programme and it was partially
dealt with. He was, of course lured back to Iraq and then murdered.
The time needed is not the time it takes the inspectors
to discover the weapons. They are not a detective agency. We played
that game for years in the 1990s. The time is the time necessary
to make a judgment: is Saddam prepared to co-operate fully or
not. If he is, the inspectors can take as much time as they want.
If he is not, if this is a repeat of the 1990s – and I believe
it is – then let us be under no doubt what is at stake.
By going down the UN route we gave the UN an extraordinary
opportunity and a heavy responsibility. The opportunity is to
show that we can meet the menace to our world today together,
collectively and as a united international community. What a mighty
achievement that would be. The responsibility, however, is indeed
to deal with it.
The League of Nations also had that opportunity
and responsibility back in the 1930s. In the early days of the
fascist menace, it had the duty to protect Abyssinia from invasion.
But when it came to a decision to enforce that guarantee, the
horror of war deterred it. We know the rest. The menace grew;
the League of Nations collapsed; war came.
Remember: the UN inspectors would not be within
a thousand miles of Baghdad without the threat of force. Saddam
would not be making a single concession without the knowledge
that forces were gathering against him. I hope, even now, Iraq
can be disarmed peacefully, with or without Saddam. But if we
show weakness now, if we allow the plea for more time to become
just an excuse for prevarication until the moment for action passes,
then it will not only be Saddam who is repeating history. The
menace, and not just from Saddam, will grow; the authority of
the UN will be lost; and the conflict when it comes will be more
bloody. Yes, let the United Nations be the way to deal with Saddam.
But let the United Nations mean what it says; and do what it means.
What is the menace we speak of? It is not just
Saddam. We are living through insecure times. Wars; terrorist
threats; suddenly things that seem alien to us are on our doorstep,
threatening our way of life.
Let me try to make sense of it. For hundreds of
years, Europe was at war, the boundaries of many nations shifting
with each passing army, small countries occupied and re-occupied,
their people never at peace. Large countries fought each other
literally for decades at a time with only the briefest respite
to draw breath before the resumption of hostilities. For my father’s
generation that was the Europe they were brought up in. Today
in Europe former enemies are friends, at one, if not always diplomatically.
The EU is a massive achievement of peace and prosperity now set
to welcome in the nations who suffered from the other great tyranny
of my father’s life time and my own: the Soviet Union. For the
first 40 years of my life, the reality was the Communist bloc
versus the West. Today the Cold War is over. The EU is set to
grow to 25, then 30 then more nations. Russia is our partner and
we, hers, in her search for a new and democratic beginning. China
is developing as a Socialist market economy and is the ally of
Europe, and the US.
We don’t wake up and fear Russia or China as we
did. America is not focussed on the struggle for ideological hegemony
between Communism and liberal democracy. The issue is not a clash
for conquest between the big powers.
But the old threat has been replaced by a new
one. The threat of chaos; disorder; instability. A threat which
arises from a perversion of the true faith of Islam, in extremist
terrorist groups like Al Qaida. It arises from countries which
are unstable, usually repressive dictatorships which use what
wealth they have to protect or enhance their power through chemical,
biological or nuclear weapons capability which can cause destruction
on a massive scale.
What do they have in common these twins of chaos
– terrorism and rogue states with Weapons of Mass Destruction?
They are answerable to no democratic mandate, so are unrestrained
by the will of ordinary people. They are extreme and inhumane.
They detest and fear liberal, democratic and tolerant values.
And their aim is to de-stabilise us.
September 11th didn’t just kill thousands of innocent
people. It was meant to bring down the Western economy. It did
not do so. But we live with the effects of it even today in economic
confidence. It was meant to divide Muslim and Christian, Arab
and Western nations, and to provoke us to hate each other. It
didn’t succeed but that is what it was trying to do.
These states developing Weapons of Mass Destruction,
proliferating them, importing or exporting the scientific expertise,
the ballistic missile technology; the companies and individuals
helping them: they don’t operate within any international treaties.
They don’t conform to any rules. North Korea is a country whose
people are starving and yet can spend billions of dollars trying
to perfect a nuclear bomb. Iraq, under Saddam became the first
country to use chemical weapons against its own people. Are we
sure that if we let him keep and develop such weapons, he would
not use them again against his neighbours, against Israel perhaps?
Saddam the man who killed a million people in an eight year war
with Iran, and then, having lost it, invaded Kuwait? Or the other
nations scrabbling to get a foot on the nuclear ladder, are we
happy that they do so?
And the terrorist groups already using chemical
and biological agents with money to spend, do we really believe
that if Al Qaida could get a dirty bomb they wouldn’t use it?
And then think of the consequences. Already there is fear and
anxiety, undermining confidence. Think of the consequences then.
Think of a nation using a nuclear device, no matter how small,
no matter how distant the land. Think of the chaos it would cause.
That is why Saddam and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Every time I have asked us to go to war, I have
hated it. I spent months trying to get Milosevic to stop ethnic
cleansing in Kosovo, delaying action while we negotiated endlessly.
I agreed with President Bush not to strike Afghanistan after
September 11th but instead to offer the Taliban,
loathsome though they were, an ultimatum: yield up Al Qaida and
we will let you stay. We used force in the end, but in Kosovo
only as a last resort, and though I rejoiced with his people at
the fall of Milosevic, as I rejoiced with the Afghan people at
the fall of the Taliban, I know that amid the necessary military
victory there was pain and suffering that brought no joy at all.
At every stage, we should seek to avoid war. But
if the threat cannot be removed peacefully, please let us not
fall for the delusion that it can be safely ignored. If we do
not confront these twin menaces of rogue states with Weapons of
Mass Destruction and terrorism, they will not disappear. They
will just feed and grow on our weakness.
When people say if you act, you will provoke these
people; when they say now: take a lower profile and these people
will leave us alone, remember: Al Qaida attacked the US, not the
other way round. Were the people of Bali in the forefront of the
anti-terror campaign? Did Indonesia ‘make itself a target’? The
terrorists won’t be nice to us if we’re nice to them. When Saddam
drew us into the Gulf War, he wasn’t provoked. He invaded Kuwait.
So: where has it come to? Everyone agrees Saddam
must be disarmed. Everyone agrees without disarmament, he is a
No-one seriously believes he is yet co-operating
fully. In all honesty, most people don’t really believe he ever
will. So what holds people back? What brings thousands of people
out in protests across the world? And let’s not pretend, not really
that in March or April or May or June, people will feel different.
It’s not really an issue of timing or 200 inspectors versus 100.
It is a right and entirely understandable hatred of war. It is
moral purpose, and I respect that.
It is as one woman put it to me: I abhor the consequences
And I know many in our own Party, many here today
will agree with her; and don’t understand why I press the case
so insistently. And I have given you the geo-political reason
– the threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction and its link with
terrorism. And I believe it.
If I am honest about it, there is another reason
why I feel so strongly about this issue. It is a reason less to
do with my being Prime Minister than being a member of the Labour
Party, to do with the progressive politics in which we believe.
The moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral
case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must
be according to the United Nations mandate on Weapons of Mass
Destruction. But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have
to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.
Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove
Saddam by force, people will die and some will be innocent. And
we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended
But there are also consequences of "stop
If I took that advice, and did not insist on disarmament,
yes, there would be no war. But there would still be Saddam. Many
of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences
of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling
the Iraqi people. A country that in 1978, the year before he seized
power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal. A country where today,
135 out of every 1000 Iraqi children die before the age of five
– 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infections
that are easily preventable. Where almost a third of children
born in the centre and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.
Where 60% of the people depend on Food Aid.
Where half the population of rural areas have
no safe water.
Where every year and now, as we speak, tens of
thousands of political prisoners languish in appalling conditions
in Saddam’s jails and are routinely executed.
Where in the past 15 years over 150,000 Shia Moslems
in Southern Iraq and Moslem Kurds in Northern Iraq have been butchered;
with up to four million Iraqis in exile round the world, including
350,000 now in Britain.
This isn’t a regime with Weapons of Mass Destruction
that is otherwise benign. This is a regime that contravenes every
single principle or value anyone of our politics believes in.
There will be no march for the victims of Saddam,
no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly
every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture
chambers which if he is left in power, will be left in being.
I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful
protest is a natural part of our democratic process.
But I ask the marchers to understand this.
I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour.
But sometimes it is the price of leadership. And the cost of conviction.
But as you watch your TV pictures of the march,
If there are 500,000 on that march, that is still
less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible
If there are one million, that is still less than
the number of people who died in the wars he started.
Let me read from an e-mail that was sent by a
member of the family of one of those four million Iraqi exiles.
It is interesting because she is fiercely and I think wrongly
critical of America. But in a sense for that reason, it is worth
She addresses it to the anti-war movement.
In one part, she says:
"You may feel that America is trying to blind
you from seeing the truth about their real reasons for an invasion.
I must argue that in fact, you are still blind to the bigger truths
Saddam has murdered more than a million Iraqis
over the past 30 years, are you willing to allow him to kill another
Saddam rules Iraq using fear – he regularly imprisons,
executes and tortures the mass population for no reason whatsoever
– this may be hard to believe and you may not even appreciate
the extent of such barbaric acts, but believe me you will be hard
pressed to find a family in Iraq who have not had a son, father,
brother killed, imprisoned, tortured and/or "disappeared"
due to Saddam’s regime.
Why it is now that you deem it appropriate to
voice your disillusions with America’s policy in Iraq, when it
is right now that the Iraqi people are being given real hope,
however slight and however precarious, that they can live in an
Iraq that is free of its horrors?"
We will give the e-mail to delegates. Read it
all. It is the reason why I do not shrink from action against
Saddam if it proves necessary. Read the letter sent to me by Dr
Safa Hashim, who lives here in Glasgow, and who says he is writing
despite his fears of Iraqi retribution.
He says the principle of opposing war by the public
is received warmly by Iraqis for it reveals the desire of people
to avoid suffering. But he says it misses the point – because
the Iraqi people need Saddam removed as a way of ending their
Dr Hashim says:
"The level of their suffering is beyond anything
that British people can possible envisage, let alone understand
his obsession to develop and possess weapons of mass destruction.
Do the British public know that it is normal practice for Saddam’s
regime to demand the cost of the bullet used of in the execution
of their beloved family members and not even to allow a proper
If the international community does not take note
of the Iraqi people’s plight but continues to address it casually
this will breed terrorism and extremism within the Iraqi people.
This cannot be allowed to happen".
Remember Kosovo where we were told war would de-stabilise
the whole of the Balkans and that region now has the best chance
of peace in over 100 years?
Remember Afghanistan, where now, despite all the
huge problems, there are three million children in school, including
for the first time in over two decades one and a half million
girls and where two million Afghan exiles from the Taliban have
So if the result of peace is Saddam staying in
power, not disarmed, then I tell you there are consequences paid
in blood for that decision too. But these victims will never be
seen. They will never feature on our TV screens or inspire millions
to take to the streets. But they will exist nonetheless.
Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of
humanity. It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.
And if it does come to this, let us be clear:
we should be as committed to the humanitarian task of rebuilding
Iraq for the Iraqi people as we have been to removing Saddam.
And there will be no stability in the Middle East
until there is lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians
based on a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. I promise
we will not rest until we have used every drop of our influence
to achieve it.
Just as we are proud we lead the way on third
world debt, on aid, on development, on hope for Africa.
The values that drive our actions abroad are the
same values of progress and justice that drive us at home.
I believe in social justice; it is the ideal that
inspired the birth of our movement.
And at its core social justice is about the basic
dignity that comes from work. Labour governments have always cared
about employment. Not every Labour government has created jobs
in record numbers. But this week we announced the strongest job
growth for three years.
Today long-term unemployment is at its lowest
level for 35 years.
Youth unemployment slashed by three-quarters.
Jobs here in Scotland, jobs across the UK, dignity
for those who were too often forgotten and left behind in the
One and a half million more jobs in the six years
Labour has been in power – that’s the difference between
a Tory government and a Labour government. Three million out of
work under the Tories, the lowest unemployment for a generation
But jobs alone are not enough. We’ve got to make sure that
those in work get a fair deal.
That is why Britain has its first ever Minimum
wage. It is why we have introduced the Working Families Tax Credit.
It is why we signed the social chapter so that working people
were guaranteed four weeks paid leave.
I believe that the private and voluntary sectors
can play a valuable role in the delivery of public services. I
am perfectly clear on that. But I am also clear that it should
not be done by driving down wages and conditions. Good quality
companies do not compete on this basis anyway. That’s why it is
right to tackle the two-tier workforce. It is not anti-business.
It is not anti-reform. It is about offering decent wages and conditions
for delivering the service.
And yes it is social justice that also drives
our passion to renew and to rebuild the National Health Service.
Because we believe in the NHS, believe in its
values, believe in the people who work for it, believe in its
power for good, we have made a commitment to rebuild it.
But that commitment could only be made real because
we made the tough choices necessary to build a strong economy.
With interest rates now at their lowest level since the 1950s
and the lowest inflation for 30 years we can put the NHS on a
sound footing after years of neglect.
And that is why we are introducing a tax rise
for the NHS.
If you want a decent health service we’ve
all got to pay for it. Don’t apologise for it; go out and
campaign for it in every community up and down the country. And
tell the British people if you want a decent NHS vote Labour,
if you want it torn apart bring the Tories back.
And if you want a different policy for every day
of the week, and for every part of the country, then vote for
the Liberal Democrats.
After years of under-investment, we are now making
the commitment to public services that people have wanted to see
More teachers, more nurses, more police. That
is what you get from a Labour Government.
All of it under threat from the Tories.
At the General Election they were humiliated for
proposing £16bn of cuts. After months of soul searching,
months of in-fighting, months when the Quiet Man went very quiet,
what have the new look Tory Party come back with? Not £16
billion, not even £60 billion but £80bn of cuts. What
that means is one in five nurses gone. One in five teachers gone.
One in five police gone. One precious pound in every five that
we are spending cut. That is their plan.
If I was Mr Duncan Smith I would keep very, very
quiet about that.
But these elections are not just about the future
of public services, they are about building a strong society where
we stand up for decent people in our communities who are fed up
with crime and anti-social behaviour. We want a society where
there is opportunity for all and responsibility from all.
What makes people angry is when they don’t
feel the system is working as it should. On asylum they feel too
many people entering the country are playing the system rather
than genuinely fleeing persecution. I do believe that the British
people want a society free of prejudice and intolerance, but not
one free of order and rules.
Too many families live in neighbourhoods scarred
by vandalism and graffiti; burnt out cars; abandoned mattresses
and rubbish on the street – the petty lawlessness which we know
if left alone soon leads to more serious crime.
Crime, anti-social behaviour, racial intolerance,
drugs destroy families and communities.
Let no one say that crime is not a Labour issue.
For many communities it is the issue. Standing up to criminals,
standing up for victims. The people who play by the rules and
expect others to do the same. I want them to know we are on their
side. But when people ignore the rules, break the law, and take
advantage of others I want them to know we are coming after them.
Local councils on the side of people
Our fight against crime and anti-social behaviour
can’t be run from Whitehall alone. We the need the partnership
of local councils up and down the country.
It is time to put respect back at the heart of
Respect for the law.
Respect for property.
Respect for the elderly.
Respect for the community.
The choices for Britain
Investment versus cuts: that will be the choice
here in Scotland as in the rest of Britain. The only difference
is that in Scotland, while the Tories want to cut public spending
to pay for tax cuts, the Nationalists would be forced to cut investment
and put up taxes to pay for a hugely expensive divorce.
Of course, you don’t hear the SNP talking
much about independence these days. The single issue that used
to unite the SNP is now the single issue they are most afraid
to discuss: independence.
They know Scotland does not want a divorce. So
now they are trying to kid people by proposing a trial separation
But however much they disguise it the SNP have
only one policy they care about deeply. It is separation. Breaking
Britain apart. Investment cut, taxes up, jobs lost, businesses
pulling out. That’s the reality behind the SNP manifesto.
And let no one here forget it.
The choices are clear. Better schools, hospitals
and police or a return to their neglect. The strength to invest
for the long-term, or cuts. Commitment to build strong communities
or a belief there is no such thing as society.
And why do we believe so passionately in these
public services? Because they are what community is all about.
They bind us together. As our constitution says, we achieve more
together than we can alone.
We will never retreat into isolationism that would
leave Britain weak, marginalised, ridiculed.
This is a time when our character is being tested.
Our conviction shows us the way. Social justice;
solidarity; opportunity for all. The belief that we are a community
of people, and a community of nations.
Stronger together achieving more together than
we can alone.
British values. Labour values. Values worth fighting
for. Values to inspire our journey of change. Values to sustain
us for the great challenges ahead. Values to drive us as we create
the Britain that we promised and the Britain that today our world