09-27-2005, 04:33 PM
Rock n' Roll Doggie
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Birmingham, UK
Local Time: 02:21 PM
Blair snubs succession talks
BRIGHTON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair, refusing to fuel speculation about when he will quit, urged his party on Tuesday to back faster economic and social reform in Britain.
Blair told his Labour Party annual conference that it had had to change to win power in 1997 and must do so again to win a fourth election and allow Britain to compete on the world stage.
"I hear people say we have to stop and debate globalisation. You might as well debate whether autumn should follow summer," he said. "They're not debating it in China and India."
Blair promised changes in health, education, transport and law and order, insisting market-oriented public sector reforms would continue. The pledges were a blow to party members who want a return to Labour's left-wing roots and a jibe to European Union partners who favour more protection of their workers.
"This is a country today that increasingly sets the standard," the prime minister said. "Not for us the malaise of France or the angst of Germany."
Blair flagged major policy announcements next year -- on reform of pensions, which currently will condemn many of today's young to poverty in old age, and a review of energy policy to meet Britain's climate change commitments which many experts say will need new investment in nuclear power.
He did not say so explicitly but the suggestion was he will be at the helm when those changes are unveiled and enacted.
"Today, the fresh challenges beckon. In 1997, we responded, in 2005 we have to respond again," he said.
"Some day, some party will make this country at ease with globalisation. Let it be this one. Some day, we will forge a new consensus on our public services. Let it be us."
Talk of succession has spread at the conference with Chancellor Gordon Brown delivering a speech of prime ministerial sweep on Monday as other ministers declared he was likely to succeed Blair unopposed.
Blair has said he will not fight a fourth election, expected in 2009, having won a third term in May.
Most in the party expect him to leave the stage before then but some are urging him to hold on for three years yet.
Some commentators said Brown wanted Blair out within a year. But many Labour delegates said Blair's policy slate suggested he was not going anywhere for two years or more.
Blair's wife, Cherie, whose relations with Brown are said to be frosty, risked causing new tumult between the top two in politics.
Asked about giving up the role of prime minister's wife, she told the BBC: "Darling, that is a long way in the future. It is too far ahead for me to even think about."
The favourite handover date with party members is 2007, although the next few months could prove pivotal.
While he holds the presidencies of the EU and the G8 group of rich nations, Blair pledged to push for a global trade deal to cut farm subsidies keeping many African nations in poverty.
And the success or failure of Iraqi elections in December will help determine whether he can serve out his remaining time without being dogged by the biggest decision he made as prime minister -- to help topple Saddam Hussein.
The bloody aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq has not dominated this year's conference, as it has the previous two but many remain angry about mounting bloodshed and chaos.
Blair conceded that several thousand insurgents were operating in Iraq but said the only way to stop the innocent dying was to defend their right to decide their government."
This could most certainly hinder the Labour party, both internally and in terms of the vote.
I like Blair, but even my patience with him is dwindling now. He seems to have made alot of promises in terms of how and when his succession will occur, none of which seem to be happening.