'Let liberty stand up for the law-abiding'

Excerpts from Tony Blair's farewell prime ministerial address to the Labor Party Conference on September 26.

September 27, 2006 22:26
4 minute read.
'Let liberty stand up for the law-abiding'

blair speaks 298.88. (photo credit: AP)

Ten years ago, if we talked pensions we meant pensioners. Immigration was hardly raised. Terrorism meant the IRA. Not any more. We used to feel we could shut our front door on the problems and conflicts of the wider world. Not any more. Not with globalization. Not with climate change. Not with organized crime. Not when suicide bombers born and bred in Britain bring carnage to the streets of London - in the name of religion. A speech by the Pope to an academic seminar in Bavaria leads to protests in Britain. The question today is different to the one we faced in 1997. It is how we reconcile openness to the rich possibilities of globalization, with security in the face of its threats. How to be open and secure. And again, there is a third way. Some want a fortress Britain - job protection, pull up the drawbridge, get out of international engagement. ...WE CAN only protect liberty by making it relevant to the modern world. That is why Identity Cards using biometric technology are not a breach of our basic rights, they are an essential part of responding to the reality of modern migration and protecting us against identity fraud. I remember when I introduced the DNA database. On it go all those who are arrested. We were told it was a monstrous breach of liberty. But it is now matching 3,000 offenses a month including last year several hundred murders, and thousands of rapes and other violent offenses. Difficult reform leading to real progress in the fight against crime. In the next parliamentary session, the centre-piece will be John Reid's immigration and law and order reforms. I ask people of all parties to support them. Let liberty stand up for the law-abiding. And of course, the new anxiety is the global struggle against terrorism without mercy or limit. This is a struggle that will last a generation and more. But this I believe passionately: we will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy, that somehow we are the ones responsible. This terrorism isn't our fault. We didn't cause it. It's not the consequence of foreign policy. It's an attack on our way of life. It's global. It has an ideology. It killed nearly 3,000 people including over 60 British on the streets of New York before war in Afghanistan or Iraq was even thought of. It has been decades growing. Its victims are in Egypt, Algeria, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Turkey. Over 30 nations in the world. It preys on every conflict. It exploits every grievance. And its victims are mainly Muslim. This is not our war against Islam. This is a war fought by extremists who pervert the true faith of Islam. And all of us, Western and Arab, Christian or Muslim, who put the value of tolerance, respect and peaceful co-existence above those of sectarian hatred, should join together to defeat them. ...It's not a clash of civilizations. It's about civilization, about the ideas that shape it. From 9/11 until now I have said again and again. If we want our values to be the ones that govern global change, we have to show that they are fair, just and delivered with an even hand. FROM NOW until I leave office I will dedicate myself, with the same commitment I have given to Northern Ireland, to advancing peace between Israel and Palestine. I may not succeed. But I will try because peace in the Middle East is a defeat for terrorism. We must never again let Lebanon become the battleground for a conflict that neither Israeli or Lebanese people wanted though it was they who paid the price for it. Peace in Lebanon is a defeat for terrorism. Action in Africa is a defeat for terrorism. What is happening now in the Sudan cannot stand. If this were in the continent of Europe we would act. Showing an African life is worth as much as a Western one - that would help defeat terrorism too. Yes it's hard sometimes to be America's strongest ally. Yes, Europe can be a political headache for a proud sovereign nation like Britain. But believe me there are no half-hearted allies of America today and no semi-detached partners in Europe. And the truth is that nothing we strive for, from the world trade talks to global warming, to terrorism and Palestine can be solved without America, or without Europe. At the moment I know people only see the price of these alliances. Give them up and the cost in terms of power, weight and influence for Britain would be infinitely greater. Distance this country and you may find it's a long way back. So all these changes of a magnitude we never dreamt of, sweeping the world, are calling for answers of equal magnitude and vision. All require leadership. And here is something else I've learned. The danger for us today is not reversion to the politics of the 1980s. It is retreat to the sidelines. ...TEN YEARS on, our advantage is time, our disadvantage time. Time gives us experience. Our capacity to lead is greater. Time gives the people fatigue; their willingness to be led, is less. But they will lose faith in us only if first we lose faith in ourselves. Polls now are as relevant as last year's weather forecast for tomorrow's weather. It's three years until an election. The first rule of politics: there are no rules. You make your own luck. There's no rule that says the Tories have got to come back...

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