Historic conference

October 02, 2006 ,

PARTY Conferences are the modern day equivalent of medieval pilgrimages.

They are a sort of virtuous holiday when ‘pilgrims’ from all over the country get together to renew their faith; in politics rather than religion.

This year’s Labour Party Conference deserved the term ‘historic’. It was the last time with Tony Blair as Party Leader.

I remember his first speech as Leader in Blackpool in 1994, when he said he wanted to change the Party’s rules. I turned to a future minister in the Labour government and said, “That means he wants to scrap Clause 4”. The future minister said,

“He’ll never get away with it”.

He did, and with overwhelming support of Party members, showing how Labour had changed and was fit to govern.

It was symbolic of the kind of Leader Tony Blair would be, not afraid to challenge his own party and take tough decisions he thought were right.

That is what has marked him and Gordon Brown out from the leaders of other parties in the last decade.

Gordon Brown’s bold decision to devolve control of interest rates to an independent Central Bank has produced the longest period of economic stability in British history.

The challenge for anyone wishing to take over from the Prime Minister will be to continue that record, as well as meet the huge challenges ahead in domestic and international policy.

It takes more than re-branding to provide strong effective leadership as David Cameron is finding out; it takes vision and political courage.