Tony Blair: Labour Party Conference, 2006

Tony Blair’s speech to the Labour Party 2006 conference, just before he stepped down as Prime Minister.

I’d like to start by saying something very simple. Thank you. Thank you to you, our Party, our members, our supporters, the people who week in, week out do the work, take the flak but don’t often get the credit.

Thank you, the Labour Party for giving me the extraordinary privilege of leading you these past 12 years. I know I look a lot older. That’s what being leader of the Labour Party does to you. Actually, looking round some of you look a lot older. That’s what having me as leader of the Labour Party does to you. Nobody knows that better than John Prescott, my Deputy these last 10 years, author of “traditional values in a modern setting”. I may have taken New Labour to the country but it was you that helped me take it to the Party, so thank you. And, ah, Something I don’t say often enough – thank you to my family. To the children. To Cherie. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about her running off with the bloke next door. Sorry – couldn’t resist that one.

It’s usual after you thank the family, you thank your agent and yes I do want to thank my agent, John Burton, and through him the wonderful people of Sedgefield. You know, when I went to Sedgefield to seek the nomination, just before the 1983 election, I was a kind of refugee from the London-based politics of that time. I knocked on John’s door. He said “come in; but shut up for half an hour, we’re watching Aberdeen in the Cup Winners Cup final”. And I sat in the company of the most normal people I had met in the Labour Party. They taught me that most of politics isn’t about politics in the sense of meetings, resolutions, speeches or even Parties, sometimes. It starts with people. It’s about friendship, art, culture, sport. It’s about being a fully paid up member of the human race before being a fully paid up member of the Labour Party. But above all else, I want to thank the British people. Not just for the honour of being Prime Minister but for the journey of progress that we have travelled together. Leaders lead but in the end it’s the people who deliver.

In the last few months I’ve seen new hospitals like University College in London, the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital planned in Birmingham or Whiston Hospital in Knowsley, where I laid the foundation stone. But without the talents and dedication of the National Health Service staff, they would be just empty shells. It is their efforts which have cut waiting, improved care, transform and save tens of thousands of lives every day. Thank you. And we in Government of course can help put in place the new Academy in Liverpool or the ground-breaking Education Village in Darlington which I visited recently. But it’s the commitment and love of learning of the teachers and their pupils, and the support of parents, which have given our country the best educated children in our history. To them too, thank you.

And what about this wonderful city of Manchester? A city transformed. A city that shows what a confident, open, and proud people with a great Labour council can do for themselves. So thank you…

In 1994, I stood before you for the first time and I shared with you the country’s anger at crumbling school buildings, patients languishing, sometimes dying in pain, waiting for operations, of crime doubled, of homes repossessed, of pensioners living in poverty; and I told you of our dismay at four election defeats and how it was not us who should feel betrayed but the British people. That such a speech seems so dated today is not through the passage of time but through progress.

In 1997, we faced daunting challenges. Boom and bust economics. Chronic under-investment in our public services. Social division, with millions living in poverty, including over 3 million children at that time. And more than all this, a country culturally, socially behind. No black Ministers and never a black Cabinet Minister. Parliament, supposedly the forum of the people, with only 1 in 10 women MPs. Gay people denied equal rights. Trade unionists able to be sacked for joining a trade union. Workers on £1.20 an hour, legally. London – the only major capital city in the world without city Government. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all run from Whitehall. Inner cities depleted, a refuge for the dispossessed. This was a country aching for change.

And now, for all that remains to be done, just for a moment, dwell on what has been achieved. The longest period of sustained economic growth in British history. Mortgage repossession, like mass unemployment, terms we have to be reminded of. The last NHS winter crisis was 6 years ago. Heart patients wait on average less than three months. Cancer deaths down by 43,000. Today, you are more likely to see a new school building than a crumbling one. There are virtually no long-term unemployed.

Today we ask: Well can we meet our ambitious targets on child poverty? Before 1997, the idea of a child poverty target would have been laughable. We have black Ministers and the first woman and then the first black woman Leader of the Lords. Not enough women MPs but twice what there were. A London Mayor, thankfully Labour again. Devolution in Scotland and Wales. But not just this. Free museum entry that has seen a 50% rise in visitors. Banning things that should never have been allowed: handguns, cosmetic testing on animals; fur farming, blacklisting of trade unionists and from summer next year, smoking in public places.

Allowing things that should never have been banned: the right to roam; the right to request flexible working; civil partnerships for gay people. And in 2012 it is London that will host the Olympic Games. Of course, the daily coverage of politics focuses on the negative. But take a step back and be proud: this is a changed country. Above all, it is progressive ideas which define its politics. That’s the real result of a third term victory. And there’s the Tories having to pretend they love it. The Bank of England independence, they never did in 18 years, the minimum wage, they told us would cost a million jobs. Help for the world’s poor, they cut. Now they fall over themselves saying how much they agree with us. Don’t lose heart from that; take heart from it.

We have changed the terms of political debate. This Labour Government has been unique. First time ever two full terms; now three. So why and how? We faced out to the people, not in on ourselves. We put the Party at the service of the country. Their reality became our reality. Their worries, our worries. We abandoned the ridiculous, self-imposed dilemma between principle and power. We went back to first principles, to our values, our real values, those that are timeless, and separated them from doctrine and dogma that had been ravaged by time. In doing so, we freed Britain at long last from the reactionary choice that dominated British politics for so long: between individual prosperity and a caring society. We proved that economic efficiency and social justice are not opposites but partners in progress. We defied conventional political wisdom and thereby we changed it. And around that we built a new political coalition.

The USP of New Labour is aspiration and compassion reconciled. We reach out not just to those in poverty or need but those who are doing well but want to do better; those on the way up, ambitious for themselves and their families. These are our people too. Not to be tolerated for electoral reasons. But embraced out of political conviction. The core vote of this Party today is not the heartlands, the inner city, not any sectional interest or lobby. Our core vote is the country.

And it was they who made us change. The beliefs of the Labour Party of 2006 should be recognisable to the members of 1906. And they are: Full employment; strong public services; tackling poverty; international solidarity. The policies shouldn’t. The trouble was for a long time they were. In the 1960s, re-reading the Cabinet debates of In Place of Strife, everyone was telling Harold Wilson not to push it. Divisive, unnecessary, alienated core support. In the end he gave up but so did the public on Labour. Even in 1974, the Labour Government spent 2 years renationalising shipbuilding and the public spent 2 years wondering why. In the 1980s, council house sales had first been suggested by Labour people. It was shelved. Too difficult. Too divisive. We lost a generation of aspiring working-class people on the back of it.

In the 1980s we should have been the party transforming Britain. But we weren’t. And the lesson is always the same. Values unrelated to modern reality are not just electorally hopeless, the values themselves become devalued. They have no purchase on the real world. We won in the end, not because we surrendered our values but because we finally had the courage to be true to them.

Click on the video for Part 2

And our courage in changing gave the British people the courage to change. That’s how we won. 10 years after, Government has taken its toll. It does. It’s in the nature of the beast. In the harsh climate of the 24/7 media, in which gossip and controversy are so much more newsworthy than real news, people forget.

I spoke to a woman the other day, a part-time worker, complaining about the amount of her tax credit. I said: Hold on a minute: before 1997, there were no tax credits not for working families not for any families; child benefit was frozen; maternity pay half what it is; maternity leave likewise and paternity leave didn’t exist at all. And no minimum wage, no full time rights for part time workers, in fact nothing. “So what?”, she said “that’s why we elected you. Now go and sort out my tax credit. ” And, of course, she’s right. In Government you carry each hope; each disillusion. And in politics it’s always about the next challenge.

The truth is, you can’t go on forever. That’s why it is right that this is my last Conference as Leader. Of course it is hard to let go. But it is also right to let go. For the country, and for you, the Party. Over the coming months, I will take through the changes I have worked on so hard these past years. And I will help build a unified Party with a strong platform for the only legacy that has ever mattered to me – a fourth term election victory that allows us to keep changing Britain for the better. And I want to heal. There has been a lot of talk of lies and truths these past few weeks. In no relationship at the top of any walk of life is it always easy, least of all in politics which matters so much and which is conducted in such a piercing spotlight.

But I know New Labour would never have happened, and 3 election victories would never have been secured, without Gordon Brown. He is a remarkable man. A remarkable servant to this country. And that is the truth. So now, 10 years on, this Party faces the real test of leadership: not about what we’ve achieved in the past; but what we can achieve for Britain’s future. Not just how do we win again; but how does Britain carry on winning? I won’t be leading you in the next election. But I’ve sat in the hot seat for 10 years. Here’s my advice. The scale of the challenges now dwarf what we faced in 1997.

They are different, deeper, bigger, hammered out on the anvil of forces, global in nature, sweeping the world. In 1997 the challenges we faced were essentially British. Today they are essentially global. The world today is a vast reservoir of potential opportunity. New jobs in environmental technology, the creative industries, financial services. Cheap goods and travel. The internet. Advances in science and technology. In 10 years we will think nothing of school-leavers going off to university anywhere in the world. But with these opportunities comes huge insecurity.

In 1997 we barely mentioned China. Not any more. Last year China and India produced more graduates than all of Europe put together. 10 years ago, energy wasn’t on the agenda. The environment an also-ran. 10 years ago, if we talked pensions we meant pensioners. Immigration 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 globalisation. Not with climate change. Not with organised 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 globalisation, 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. Others see no option but to submit to global forces and let the strongest survive. Our answer is very clear. It is, once again, to help people through a changing world by using collective power to advance opportunity and provide security for all. To reconcile openness and security as we reconciled aspiration and compassion, not as enemies but as partners in progress. The British people today are reluctant global citizens. We must make them confident ones.

The danger in all this, for us, is not ditching New Labour. The danger is failing to understand that New Labour in 2007 won’t be New Labour in 1997. 10 years ago I would have described re-linking the BSP with earnings as “Old Labour”. Our aim is by 2012, but by the end of the next Parliament at the latest – we are going to do it. Rodney Bickerstaffe has become New Labour. Or have I become Old Labour? 10 years ago, if you had asked me to put environmental obligations on business, I would have been horrified. Now I’m advocating it. I would have baulked at restrictions on advertising junk food to children. Today I say unless a voluntary code works, we will legislate for it. 10 years ago I parked the issue of nuclear power. Today, I believe without it, we are going to face an energy crisis and we can’t let that happen.

Over the next year we are reviewing every aspect of our economic policy, not because we were wrong in the past, but because whether in tax and spending, regulation, planning, enterprise, the question is not about our competitiveness in the last 10 years, but in the next 10. Developing financial services and the City of London; the creative industries and modern manufacturing. How to be the world’s number one place of choice for bio-science – if America does not want stem-cell research – we do. How to fund transport through road-pricing. Skills. I say to business: you have a responsibility to train your workforce. To trade unions: here is the chance to be the learning partners for the workforce of the next generation. Take the chance.

Global warming is the greatest long-term threat to our planet’s environment. Scarce energy resources mean rising prices and will threaten our country’s economy. In 15 years we will go from 80% self-sufficient in oil and gas to 80% imported. We need therefore the most radical overhaul of energy policy since the War. We will increase the amount of energy from renewable sources fivefold; ensure every major business in the country has a responsibility for greenhouse gas reduction; treble investment in clean technology, including clean coal; and make sure every new home is at least 40% more energy efficient. We will meet our Kyoto targets by double the amount; and we will take the necessary measures, step by step by step, to meet one of the most ambitious targets on the environment set anywhere in the world – a 60% reduction in emissions by 2050.

In the future, as people live longer, we can’t afford good pensions and help for disabled people who can’t work, with 4 million people on benefit, many of whom could work. Almost a million less than there were. But too many. That is why we need more radical welfare reform, getting more disabled people, more lone parents, more on unemployment benefit, into work, not to destroy the welfare state. But to preserve it. And why is reform so important in public services? Over the past 10 years Britain has invested more in our public services than any comparable nation in the world. From near the bottom in Europe to the average in a decade. 300,000 more workers, treble the money, 25% more pay in real terms and the largest ever hospital programme; that is an NHS being re-built not privatised. Refurbishing or rebuilding every state secondary school in the country. 92,000 more classroom assistants, 36,000 more teachers, pay also up 17% in real terms. This isn’t privatising state education; it’s producing the best schools results ever.

But what happens? Expectations rise. People want power in their own hands. Two thirds of the country has access to the internet. Millions of people are ordering flights or books or other goods on-line, they are talking to their friends on-line, downloading music, all of it when they want to, not when the shop or office is open. The Google generation has moved beyond the idea of 9 to 5, closed on weekends and Bank Holidays. Today’s technology is profoundly empowering. Of course public services are different. Their values are different. But today people won’t accept a service handed down from on high. They want to shape it to their needs, and the reality of their lives. The same global forces changing business are at work in public services too. New ways of treating. New ways of teaching. New technologies. There will be no selective Trust Schools or City Academies. But if, as at the Academy I visited in Lewisham, good GCSE results doubled in a year, and a school once under-subscribed, now five times over-subscribed, how is that a denial of public service values? Surely it is the most vivid affirmation of them. And if an old age pensioner who used to wait 2 years for her cataract operation now gets it on the NHS in an independent treatment centre, in 3 months, free at the point of use, that is not damaging the NHS; it is fulfilling its purpose. My advice: at the next election, the issue will not only be who is trusted to invest in our public services, vital though that is. It will be who comes first. And our answer has to be. The patient; the parent. Meeting the 18 weeks maximum for waiting in the NHS with an average of 9 weeks from the door of the GP to the door of the operating theatre. Booked appointments. The end of waiting in the NHS. Historic. Transforming secondary schools in the way we have done for primary schools. Schools with three quarters of children getting good results the norm. Historic. Both within reach. Do this and we will have earned the right to be custodians of our public services for the next generation. If we fail, and without change we will, then believe me: change will still be done; but in a regressive way by a Conservative Party. I want change true to progressive values, done by a fourth term Labour Government. I always said the Home Office was the toughest job in Government. It hasn’t got easier. We should get a few facts straight. Crime has fallen not risen. We are the only Government since the war to do it. Asylum applications are dealt with faster, removals are greater, the system infinitely better than the chaos we inherited in 1997. But the fact is that the world is changing so fast that the reality we are dealing with – mass migration, organised crime, ASB – has engulfed systems designed for a time gone by. 30 million people now come to Britain every year. Visitors, tourists, workers, students. Our economy needs them. 227 million pass through our airports. Yet we have no means of checking who is here lawfully. The fundamental dilemma: how do we reconcile liberty with security in this new world? I don’t want to live in a police state, or a Big Brother society or put any of our essential freedoms in jeopardy.

But because our idea of liberty is not keeping pace with change in reality, those freedoms are in jeopardy. When crimes go unpunished, that is a breach of the victim’s liberty and human rights. When organised crime gangs are free to practice their evil, countless young people have their liberty and often their lives damaged. When ASB goes unchecked, each and every member of the community in which it happens, has their human rights broken. When we can’t deport foreign nationals even when inciting violence the country is at risk. Immigration has benefited Britain. But I know that if we don’t have rules that allow us some control over who comes in, goes out, who has a right to stay and who has not, then instead of a welcome, migrants find fear. 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 offences a month including last year several hundred murders, and thousands of rapes and other violent offences. 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 is not British soldiers who are sending car bombs into Baghdad or Kabul to slaughter the innocent. They are there along with troops of 30 other nations with, in each case, a full UN mandate at the specific request of the first ever democratically elected Governments of those countries in order to protect them against the very ideology also seeking the deaths of British people in planes across the Atlantic. If we retreat now, hand Iraq over to Al Qaeda and sectarian death squads and Afghanistan back to Al Qaeda and the Taleban, we won’t be safer; we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril. Of course it’s tough. Not a day goes by or an hour in the day when I don’t reflect on our troops with admiration and thanks – the finest, the best, the bravest, any nation could hope for. They are not fighting in vain. But for this nation’s future. But this is not a conventional war. It can’t be won by force alone. It’s not a clash of civilisations. It’s about civilisation, 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 learnt. The danger for us today is not reversion to the politics of the 1980s. It is retreat to the sidelines. To the comfort zone. It is unconsciously to lose the psychology of a governing Party. As I said in 1994, courage is our friend. Caution, our enemy. A governing Party has confidence, self-belief. It sees the tough decision and thinks it should be taking it. Reaches for responsibility first. Serves by leading. The most common phrase uttered to me – and not at rallies or public events but in meetings of chance, quietly, is not “I hate you” or “I like you” but “I would not have your job for all the world”.

You know, when my two boys were canvassing in the last general election, they were going down the street, and my boy Nicky went and knocked on the door. Asked them to vote Labour. Guy gave him this absolute volley of abuse. You know, I hate that Tony Blair, he’s absolutely terrible, and all the rest of it. Usual stuff… ah, Some of it – it may be familiar to some of you, I don’t know! – And anyway, he got the earful – and he marched off.

And here’s brotherly love for you. He goes up to Euan, who’s canvassing a different part of the street, and he says, Euan, there’s a bloke over at number 14 who’s mad keen on Dad.’ But anyway, Euan, of course, he goes over and he knocks on the door, and the bloke sees there’s another guy here from the Labour Party, and gives him an even worse volley of abuse.

And he sees Euan looking a bit sort of fragile under it all, and he says, er,’What’s wrong then?’ And Euan says, ‘Actually I’m Euan Blair – it’s my dad.’ And the bloke says, ‘Look, I’m really sorry, son… come in and have a cuppa tea. I didn’t really mean all that.’ And that – that is what the British people are like… They are good people – they know. The thing about leadership is, they know it’s tough. The British people will, sometimes, forgive a wrong decision. They won’t forgive not deciding.

They know there isn’t some fantasy Government where nothing difficult ever happens. They’ve got the Lib Dems for that. Government isn’t about protests or placards, shouting the odds or stealing the scene. It’s about the hard graft of achievement. There are no third-term ever-popular Governments. Don’t ignore the polls but don’t be paralysed by them either. Ten years on, our advantage is time, and 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. And 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. David Cameron’s Tories? My advice: get after them. His foreign policy: Pander to anti-Americanism by stepping back from America. Pander to the Eurosceptics through isolation in Europe. Sacrificing British influence for party expediency is not a policy worthy of a Prime Minister. His immigration policy: Says he’ll sort out illegal immigration, but opposes Identity Cards, the one thing essential to do it. His energy policy: Nuclear power “but only as a last resort”. Look – it’s not a multiple-choice quiz question, Mr Cameron. We need to decide now otherwise in 10 years time we will be importing expensive fossil fuels and Britain’s economy will suffer.

He wants tax cuts and more spending, with the same money. He wants a Bill of Rights for Britain drafted by a Committee of Lawyers. Have you ever tried drafting anything with a Committee of Lawyers? And of course, his policy for the old lady terrorised by the young thug is that she should put her arm round him and give him a nice, big hug. Built to last? They haven’t even laid the foundation stone. If we can’t take this lot apart in the next few years we shouldn’t be in the business of politics at all. The Tories haven’t thought it through. They think it’s all about image. Now, it’s true we changed our image. We created a professional organisation. But I’ll tell you something else that’s true. If I’d stood in 1997 on the policies of 1987 I would have lost. Period. And it’s the same now. Enough talk of hung Parliaments. The next election won’t be about image unless we let it be. It’ll be about who has the strength, judgement, weight and ideas for Britain’s future in an uncertain world. And if we show belief in ourselves, the British people will feel that belief and be given confidence. Something else I’ve learnt. It’s about a Party’s character. I’ll give you two examples. Dennis Skinner. Watching from his sick bed. Get well soon. Never agreed with a policy I’ve had. Never once stopped him knowing the difference between a Labour Government and a Tory one. People like Janet Anderson, George Howarth, Mike Hall. Good Ministers, but I asked them to make way. They did. Without a word of bitterness. They never forgot their principles when in office; and they never discovered them when they left office.

This is the Party I am proud to lead. From the day I was elected until the day I leave, they will always try to separate us. “He’s not Labour. ” “He’s a closet Tory. ” In the 1980s some things done were necessary for the country. That’s the truth. Saying it doesn’t make you a Tory. I’m a progressive. The true believer believes in social justice, in solidarity, in help for those not able to help themselves. They know the race can’t just be to the swift and survival for the strong. But they also know that these values, gentle and compassionate as they are, have to be applied in a harsh, uncompromising world and what makes the difference is not belief alone, but the raw courage to make it happen.

They say I hate the Party, and its traditions. I don’t. I love this Party. There’s only one tradition I hated: losing. I hated the 1980s not just for our irrelevance but for our revelling in irrelevance. And I don’t want to win for winning’s sake but for the sake of the millions here that depend on us to win, and throughout the world. Every day this Government has been in power, every day in Africa, children have lived who otherwise would have died because this country led the way in cancelling debt and global poverty. That’s why winning matters. So keep on winning. Do it with optimism. With hope in your hearts. Politics is not a chore. It’s the great adventure of progress. I don’t want to be the Labour Leader who won 3 successive elections. I want to be the first Labour Leader to win 3 successive elections.

So: it’s up to you. You take my advice. You don’t take it. Your choice. Whatever you do, I’m always with you. Head and heart. You’ve given me all I have ever achieved, and all that we’ve achieved, together, for the country. Next year I won’t be making this speech. But, in the years to come, wherever I am, whatever I do. I’m with you. Wishing you well. Wanting you to win. You’re the future now. Make the most of it.

The videos for the other parts of this speech can be seen here:

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Queen Elizabeth II: Dublin, 2011

Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland in May 2011, the British first monarch to do so in a century.

A Uachtarain agus a chairde [President and friends].

Prince Philip and I are delighted to be here, and to experience at first hand Ireland’s world-famous hospitality.

Together we have much to celebrate: the ties between our people, the shared values, and the economic, business and cultural links that make us so much more than just neighbours, that make us firm friends and equal partners.

Madam President, speaking here in Dublin Castle, it is impossible to ignore the weight of history, as it was yesterday when you and I laid wreaths at the Garden of Remembrance.

Indeed, so much of this visit reminds us of the complexity of our history, its many layers and traditions, but also the importance of forbearance and conciliation. Of being able to bow to the past, but not be bound by it.

Of course, the relationship has not always been straightforward; nor has the record over the centuries been entirely benign. It is a sad and regrettable reality that through history our islands have experienced more than their fair share of heartache, turbulence and loss.

These events have touched us all, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy. We can never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. To all those who have suffered as a consequence of our troubled past I extend my sincere thoughts and deep sympathy. With the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would wish had been done differently or not at all.

But it is also true that no-one who looked to the future over the past centuries could have imagined the strength of the bonds that are now in place between the governments and the people of our two nations, the spirit of partnership that we now enjoy, and the lasting rapport between us. No-one here this evening could doubt that heartfelt desire of our two nations.

Madam President, you have done a great deal to promote this understanding and reconciliation. You set out to build bridges. And I have seen at first hand your success in bringing together different communities and traditions on this island.

You have also shed new light on the sacrifice of those who served in the First World War. Even as we jointly opened the Messines Peace Park in 1998, it was difficult to look ahead to the time when you and I would be standing together at Islandbridge as we were today.

That transformation is also evident in the establishment of a successful power-sharing executive in Northern Ireland. A knot of history that was painstakingly loosened by the British and Irish Governments together with the strength, vision and determination of the political parties in Northern Ireland.

What were once only hopes for the future have now come to pass; it is almost exactly 13 years since the overwhelming majority of people in Ireland and Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement signed on Good Friday 1998, paving the way for Northern Ireland to become the exciting and inspirational place that it is today.

I applaud the work of all those involved in the peace process, and of all those who support and nurture peace, including members of the police, the gardai, and the other emergency services, and those who work in the communities, the churches and charitable bodies like Co-operation Ireland.

Taken together, their work not only serves as a basis for reconciliation between our people and communities, but it gives hope to other peacemakers across the world that through sustained effort, peace can and will prevail.
For the world moves on quickly. The challenges of the past have been replaced by new economic challenges which will demand the same imagination and courage.

The lessons from the peace process are clear; whatever life throws at us, our individual responses will be all the stronger for working together and sharing the load.

There are other stories written daily across these islands which do not find their voice in solemn pages of history books, or newspaper headlines, but which are at the heart of our shared narrative. Many British families have members who live in this country, as many Irish families have close relatives in the United Kingdom.

These families share the two islands; they have visited each other and have come home to each other over the years. They are the ordinary people who yearned for the peace and understanding we now have between our two nations and between the communities within those two nations; a living testament to how much in common we have.

These ties of family, friendship and affection are our most precious resource. They are the lifeblood of the partnership across these islands, a golden thread that runs through all our joint successes so far, and all we will go on to achieve.

They are a reminder that we have much to do together to build a future for all our grandchildren: the kind of future our grandparents could only dream of.

So we celebrate together the widespread spirit of goodwill and deep mutual understanding that has served to make the relationship more harmonious, close as good neighbours should always be,

Earl Spencer: Tribute to Princess Diana, September 1997

The transcript for Earl Spencer’s tribute to his sister Diana, Princess of Wales, can be found at the website

I stand before you today, the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock.

We are all united, not only in our desire to pay our respects to Diana, but rather in our need to do so, because such was her extraordinary appeal that the tens of millions of people taking part in this service all over the world via television and radio who never actually met her feel that they too lost someone close to them in the early hours of Sunday morning.

It is a more remarkable tribute to Diana then I can ever hope to offer to her today.

Diana was the very essence of compassion, of duty, of style, of beauty.

All over the world she was the symbol of selfless humanity. A standard bearer for the rights of the truly downtrodden. A very British girl who transcended nationality. Someone with a natural nobility who was classless and who proved in the last year that she needed no royal title to continue to generate her particular brand of magic.

Today is our chance to say ‘thank you’ for the way you brightened our lives, even though God granted you but half a life. We will all feel cheated always that you were taken from us so young and yet we must learn to be grateful that you came along at all.

Only now you are gone do we truly appreciate what we are without, and we want you to know that life without you is very, very difficult.

We have all despaired for our loss over the past week and only the strength of the message you gave us through your years of giving has afforded us the strength to move forward.

There is a temptation to rush, to canonize your memory. There is no need to do so. You stand tall enough as a human being of unique qualities, and do not need to be seen as a saint.

Indeed, to sanctify your memory would be to miss out on the very core of your being — your wonderfully mischievous sense of humour with a laugh that bent you double, your joy for life transmitted wherever you took your smile and the sparkle in those unforgettable eyes, your boundless energy which you could barely contain.

But your greatest gift was your intuition and it was a gift you used wisely. This is what underpinned all your other wonderful attributes.

And if we look to analyse what it was about you that had such a wide appeal, we find it in your instinctive feel for what was really important in all our lives.

Without your God-given sensitivity, we would be immersed in greater ignorance at the anguish of Aids and HIV sufferers, the plight of the homeless, the isolation of lepers, the random destruction of land mines. Diana explained to me once that it was her innermost feelings of suffering that made it possible for her to connect with her constituency of the rejected.

And here we come to another truth about her. For all the status, the glamour, the applause, Diana remained throughout a very insecure person at heart, almost childlike in her desire to do good for others so she could release herself from deep feelings of unworthiness of which her eating disorders were merely a symptom.

The world sensed this part of her character and cherished her vulnerability.

The last time I saw Diana was on July 1st, in London when typically she was not taking time to celebrate her special day with friends but was guest of honour at a fund-raising charity evening. She sparkled, of course.

But I would rather cherish the days I spent with her in March when she came to visit me and my children at our home in South Africa. I am proud of the fact that, apart from when she was on public display meeting President Mandela, we managed to contrive to stop the ever-present paparazzi from getting a single picture of her. That meant a lot to her.
These weredays I will always treasure. It was as if we were transported back to our childhood when we spent such an enormous amount of time together: the two youngest in the family.

Fundamentally she hadn’t changed at all from the big sister who mothered me as a baby, fought with me at school, and endured those long journeys between our parents’ home with me at weekends.

It is a tribute to her level-headedness and strength that despite the most bizarre life imaginable after her childhood, she remained intact, true to herself.

There is no doubt that she was looking for a new direction in her life at this time. She talked endlessly of getting away from England, mainly because of the treatment that she received at the hands of the newspapers.

I don’t think she ever understood why her genuinely good intentions were sneered at by the media, why there appeared to be a permanent quest on their behalf to bring her down. It is baffling.

My own and only explanation is that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum.
It is a point to remember that of all the ironies about Diana, perhaps the greatest was this: a girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting was, in the end, the most hunted person of the modern age.

She would want us today to pledge ourselves to protecting her beloved boys, William and Harry, from a similar fate, and I do this here, Diana, on your behalf.

We will not allow them to suffer the anguish that used regularly to drive you to tearful despair. And beyond that, on behalf of your mother and sisters, I pledge that we, your blood family, will do all we can to continue the imaginative and loving way in which you were steering these two exceptional young men so that their souls are not simply immersed by duty and tradition but can sing openly as you planned.

We fully respect the heritage into which they have both been born and will always respect and encourage them in their royal role. But we, like you, recognize the need for them to experience as many different aspects of life as possible to arm them spiritually and emotionally for the years ahead. I know you would have expected nothing less from us.
William and Harry, we all care desperately for you today. We are all chewed up with sadness at the loss of a woman who wasn’t even our mother. How great your suffering is we cannot even imagine.

I would like to end by thanking God for the small mercies he has shown us at this dreadful time, for taking Diana at her most beautiful and radiant and when she had joy in her private life.

Above all, we give thanks for the life of a woman I’m so proud to be able to call my sister the unique, the complex, the extraordinary and irreplaceable Diana whose beauty, both internal and external, will never be extinguished from our minds.

David Cameron: Acceptance speech, 2010

The full transcript can be found on the official Downing Street website.

I came into politics because I love this country. I think its best days still lie ahead and I believe deeply in public service. And I think the service our country needs right now is to face up to our really big challenges, to confront our problems, to take difficult decisions, to lead people through those difficult decisions, so that together we can reach better times ahead.

One of the tasks that we clearly have is to rebuild trust in our political system. Yes that’s about cleaning up expenses, yes that is about reforming parliament, and yes it is about making sure people are in control – and that the politicians are always their servant and never their masters. But I believe it is also something else. It is about being honest about what government can achieve. Real change is not what government can do on its own – real change is when everyone pulls together, comes together, works together, where we all exercise our responsibilities to ourselves, to our families, to our communities and to others.

And I want to help try and build a more responsible society here in Britain. One where we don’t just ask what are my entitlements, but what are my responsibilities. One where we don’t ask what am I just owed, but more what can I give. And a guide for that society – that those that can should, and those who can’t we will always help.

I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through with us on some of the difficult decisions we have ahead.

Above all it will be a government that is built on some clear values. Values of freedom, values of fairness, and values of responsibility.

I want us to build an economy that rewards work. I want us to build a society with stronger families and stronger communities. And I want a political system that people can trust and look up to once again.

This is going to be hard and difficult work. A coalition will throw up all sorts of challenges. But I believe together we can provide that strong and stable government that our country needs based on those values – rebuilding family, rebuilding community, above all, rebuilding responsibility in our country.

Those are the things I care about. Those are the things that this government will now start work on doing.

Thank you very much..

Ken Robinson: TED, 2006

Sir Ken Robinson argues for an education system that promotes creativity, 2006. From the amazing TED lectures: talks from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference, where leading thinkers talk on science, business, development and the arts.

Good morning. How are you? It’s been great, hasn’t it? I’ve been blown away by the whole thing. In fact, I’m leaving.

There have been three themes, haven’t there, running through the conference, which are relevant to what I want to talk about.

One is the extraordinary evidence of human creativity in all of the presentations that we’ve had and in all of the people here. Just the variety of it and the range of it.

The second is, that it’s put us in a place where we have no idea what’s going to happen, in terms of the future, no idea how this may play out.

I have an interest in education — actually, what I find is, everybody has an interest in education; don’t you? I find this very interesting. If you’re at a dinner party, and you say you work in education — actually, you’re not often at dinner parties, frankly, (excuse me), if you work in education, you’re not asked. And you’re never asked back, curiously. That’s ah, that’s strange to me. But if you are, and you say to somebody, you know, they say, “What do you do,” and you say you work in education, you can see the blood run from their face. They’re like, “Oh my God,” you know, “why me? My one night out all week.” But if you ask people about their education, they pin you to the wall. Because it’s one of those things that goes deep with people, am I right?, like religion, and money, and other things.

So, I have a big interest in education, and I think we all do, we have a huge vested interest in it, partly because it’s education that’s meant to take us into this future that we can’t grasp.

If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue, despite all the expertise that’s been on parade for the past four days, what the world will look like in five years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it.

So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.

And the third part of this is that we’ve all agreed nonetheless on the really extraordinary capacities that children have, their capacities for innovation. I mean, Sirena last night was a marvel, wasn’t she, just seeing what she could do. And she’s exceptional, but I think she’s not, so to speak, exceptional in the whole of childhood. What you have there is a person of extraordinary dedication who found a talent.

And my contention is, all kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.

So I want to talk about education and I want to talk about creativity. My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status. [applause]

Thank you.

That was it, by the way, thank you very much. Soooo, 15 minutes left. Well, I was born … No….

I heard a great story recently, I love telling it, of a little girl who was in a drawing lesson, she was 6 and she was at the back, drawing, and the teacher said this little girl hardly ever paid attention, and in this drawing lesson she did. The teacher was fascinated and she went over to her and she said, “What are you drawing?” and the girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl said, “They will in a minute.”

When my son was 4 in England — actually he was 4 everywhere, to be honest; if we’re being strict about it, wherever he went, he was 4, but, yeah — he was in the nativity play. Do you remember the story? No, it was big, it was a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel, you may have seen it, “Nativity II.” But James got the part of Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed full of agents in T-shirts: “James Robinson IS Joseph!” He didn’t have to speak, but you know the bit where the three kings come in? They come in bearing gifts, and they bring gold, frankincense and myrhh. This really happened — we were sitting there and they, we think they just went out of sequence, we talked to the little boy afterward and we said, “You OK with that” and he said “Yeah, why, was that wrong?” — they just switched, I think that was it. Anyway, the three boys came in, little 4-year-olds with tea towels on their heads, and they put these boxes down, and the first boy said, “I bring you gold.” The second boy said, “I bring you myrrh.” And the third boy said, “Frank sent this”.

What these things have in common is that kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. Am I right? They’re not frightened of being wrong.

Now, I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original. If you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong.

And we run our companies like this, by the way, we stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make.

And the result is, we are educating people out of their creative capacities.

Picasso once said this, he said that all children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up. I believe this passionately, that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it. So why is this?

I lived in Stratford-on-Avon until about five years ago, in fact we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, so you can imagine what a seamless transition this was, from, LA. Actually we lived in a place called Snitterfield, just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare’s father was born. Were you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being 7? I never thought of it. I mean, he was 7 at some point; he was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he? How annoying would that be? “Must try harder.”

Being sent to bed by his dad, you know, to Shakespeare, “Go to bed, now,” to William Shakespeare, “and put the pencil down. And stop speaking like that. You know, it’s confusing everybody.”

Anyway, we moved from Stratford to Los Angeles, and I just want to say a word about the transition, actually. My son didn’t want to come. I’ve got two kids, he’s 21 now, my daughter’s 16; he didn’t want to come to Los Angeles. He loved it, but he had a girlfriend in England. This was the love of his life, Sarah. He’d known her for a month. Mind you, they’d had their fourth anniversary, because it’s a long time when you’re 16. Anyway, he was really upset on the plane, and he said, “I’ll never find another girl like Sarah.” And we were rather pleased about that, frankly, because she was the main reason we were leaving the country.

But something strikes you when you move to America and when you travel around the world: every education system on earth has the same hierarchy of subjects. Every one, doesn’t matter where you go, you’d think it would be otherwise but it isn’t. At the top are mathematics and languages, then the humanities, and the bottom are the arts. Everywhere on earth.

And in pretty much every system too, there’s a hierarchy within the arts. Art and music are nomally given a higher status in schools than drama and dance. There isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance every day to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? I think this is rather important. I think maths is very important but so is dance. Children dance all the time if they’re allowed to, we all do. We all have bodies, don’t we? Did I miss a meeting? I mean…

Truthfully what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.

If you were to visit education as an alien and say what’s it for, public education, I think you’d have to conclude, if you look at the output, you know, who really succeeds by this, who does everything they should, who gets all the brownie points, who are the winners, I think you’d have to conclude the whole purpose of public education throughout the world is to produce university professors. Isn’t it? They’re the people who come out the top. And I used to be one, so there. But,… And I like university professors, but you know, we shouldn’t hold them up as the high-water mark of all human achievement. They’re just a form of life, another form of life. But they’re rather curious and I say this out of affection for them, there’s something curious about professors, not all of them but typically, they live in their heads, they live up there, and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied. You know, in a kind of literal way. They look upon their bodies as a form of transport for their heads, don’t they? It’s a way of getting their head to meetings.

If you want real evidence of out-of-body experiences, by the way, get yourself along to a residential conference of senior academics, and pop into the discotheque on the final night, and there you will see it, grown men and women writhing uncontrollably, off the beat, waiting until it ends so they can go home and write a paper about it.

Now our education system is predicated on the idea of academic ability. And there’s a reason. The whole system was invented round the world there were no public systems of education really before the 19th century. They all came into being to meet the needs of industrialism.

So the hierarchy is rooted on two ideas: Number one, that the most useful subjects for work are at the top. So you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t do art, you’re not going to be an artist. Benign advice — now, profoundly mistaken. The whole world is engulfed in a revolution.

And the second is, academic ability, which has really come to dominate our view of intelligence because the universities designed the system in their image. If you think of it, the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized. And I think we can’t afford to go on that way.

In the next 30 years. according to Unesco, more people worldwide will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history. More people, and it’s the combination of all the things we’ve talked about — technology and its transformation effect on work, and demography and the huge explosion in population.

Suddenly degrees aren’t worth anything. Isn’t that true? When I was a student, if you had a degree, you had a job. If you didn’t have a job it’s because you didn’t want one. And I didn’t want one, frankly, so…

But now kids with degrees are often heading home to carry on playing video games, because you need an MA where the previous job required a BA, and now you need a PhD for the other. It’s a process of academic inflation. And it indicates the whole structure of education is shifting beneath our feet. We need to radically rethink our view of intelligence.

We know three things about intelligence: One, it’s diverse, we think about the world in all the ways that we experience it. We think visually, we think in sound, we think kinesthetically. We think in abstract terms, we think in movement. Secondly, intelligence is dynamic. If you look at the interactions of a human brain, as we heard yesterday from a number of presentations, intelligence is wonderfully interactive. The brain isn’t divided into compartments. In fact, creativity, which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value, more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things. The brain is intentionally — by the way, there’s a shaft of nerves that joins the two halves of the brain called the corpus collosum, and it’s thicker in women. Following on from Helen yesterday, I think this is probably why women are better at multitasking, because you are, aren’t you, there’s a raft of research, but I know it from my personal life.

If my wife is cooking a meal at home, which is not often, thankfully, but you know, she’s doing (no, she’s good at some things) but if she’s cooking, you know, she’s dealing with people on the phone, she’s talking to the kids, she’s painting the ceiling, she’s doing open-heart surgery over here; if I’m cooking, the door is shut, the kids are out, the phone’s on the hook, if she comes in I get annoyed, I say “Terry, please, I’m trying to fry an egg in here, give me a break.” (Actually, there was – You know that old philosophical thing, if a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it happen, remember that old chestnut, I saw a great T-shirt recently that said, “If a man speaks his mind in a forest, and no woman hears him, is he still wrong?”)

And the third thing about intelligence is, it’s distinct. I’m doing a new book at the moment called Epiphany which is based on a series of interviews with people about how they discovered their talent. I’m fascinated by how people got to be there. It’s really prompted by a conversation I had with a wonderful woman who maybe most people have never heard of, she’s called Gillian Lynne, have you heard of her? Some have. She’s a choreographer and everybody knows her work. She did Cats, and Phantom of the Opera, she’s wonderful. I used to be on the board of the Royal Ballet, in England, as you can see, and Gillian and I had lunch one day and I said Gillian, how’d you get to be a dancer? And she said it was interesting, when she was at school, she was really hopeless. And the school, in the 30s, wrote her parents and said, “We think Gillian has a learning disorder.” She couldn’t concentrate, she was fidgeting. I think now they’d say she had ADHD. Wouldn’t you? But this was the 1930s and ADHD hadn’t been invented, you know, at this point. It wasn’t an available condition. People weren’t aware they could have that.

Anyway she went to see this specialist, so, this oak-paneled room, and she was there with her mother and she was led and sat on a chair at the end, and she sat on her hands for 20 minutes while this man talked to her mother about all the problems Gillian was having at school. And at the end of it — because she was disturbing people, her homework was always late, and so on, little kid of 8 — in the end, the doctor went and sat next to Gillian and said, “Gillian I’ve listened to all these things that your mother’s told me, and I need to speak to her privately.” He said, “Wait here, we’ll be back, we won’t be very long,” and they went and left her.

But as they went out the room, he turned on the radio that was sitting on his desk, and when they got out the room, he said to her mother, “Just stand and watch her.” And the minute they left the room, she said, she was on her feet, moving to the music. And they watched for a few minutes and he turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.”

I said, “What happened?”

She said, “She did. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was. We walked in this room and it was full of people like me, people who couldn’t sit still. People who had to move to think.” Who had to move to think. They did ballet, they did tap, they did jazz, they did modern, they did contemporary. She was eventually auditioned for the Royal Ballet School, she became a soloist, she had a wonderful career at the Royal Ballet, she eventually graduated from the Royal Ballet School and founded her own company, the Gillian Lynne Dance Company, and met Andrew Lloyd Weber.

She’s been responsible for some of the most successful musical theater productions in history, she’s given pleasure to millions, and she’s a multimillionaire.

Somebody else might have put her on medication and told her to calm down.

Now, I think — What I think it comes to is this: Al Gore spoke the other night about ecology and the revolution that was triggered, em, by Rachel Carson. I believe our only hope for the future is to adopt a new conception of human ecology, one in which we start to reconstitute our conception of the richness of human capacity. Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth, for a particular commodity, and for the future, it won’t serve us.

We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children. There was a wonderful quote by Jonas Salk, who said, “If we were to – if all the insects were to disappear from the earth, within 50 years all life on earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.” And he’s right.

What TED celebrates is the gift of the human imagination. We have to be careful now that we use this gift wisely, and that we avert some of the scenarios that we’ve talked about. And the only way we’ll do it is by seeing our creative capacities for the richness they are, and seeing our children for the hope that they are. And our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future — by the way, we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it. Thank you very much.