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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Tony part, reste le blairisme

by Peter Avis, special correspondent, Manchester

Great Britain: Tony on his Way Out, but Blairism is Here to Stay.

Translated Thursday 5 October 2006, by Patrick Bolland

Manchester, England. The prime minister said his farewell at the podium of the annual Labour Congress on 27 September. An emotional speech, disrupted by critics of his policies. [Translator’s note: Beware, he’s not leaving yet!]

Tony Blair gave a very emotional farewell speech yesterday at the annual Congress of the British Labour Party, the last congress he will be participating in as leader and head of government. The applause coming from the Manchester Hall was mainly for Blair the actor, who will soon leave the show, rather than for his politics, which have always created dissent and which will continue to tear the Labour Party, as well as its traditional electorate, apart.

In a speech focused partly on the necessity to continue the war on terrorism at least into the next generation: “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”, Blair denied any possibility that the West could somehow have any responsibility for the terrorist attacks. And he still refutes any hint that the British army should leave Iraq.

A “road map” for the parliamentary elections

The Prime Minister says he wants to leave Labour a “road map” aimed at giving Labour a fourth consecutive victory in the parliamentary elections: “a fourth term election victory that allows us to keep changing Britain for the better”: His advice, a bit thin, is in a few words to “pursue fearlessly the search for good answers”.
In an overview of what New Labour has achieved and its objectives, Blair used many emotionally-charged sentences: “We defied conventional political wisdom and so changed it.” “We reconciled aspiration and compassion”. “We proved that economic efficiency and social justice are not opposites but partners in progress.”
Such statements were not music to the ears of the demonstrators in front of the Manchester Congress Hall to protest the latest privatisation measures in the Health System.

In a Congress that was carefully stage-managed by the leaders of different currents within the Party, delegates were still able at times to express ideas that were clearly not those of the leadership. Yesterday, during the debate on foreign affairs, the government policy in the Middle East was condemned by many participants.

Walter Wolfgang, newly elected to the executive committee of the party, accused the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Margaret Beckett, of having blood on her hands, since Great Britain refused to demand an immediate cease-fire in the Lebanon conflict. One remembers that “Wolfie”, who is now eighty three years old, was elected to the Executive Committee by members of Labour, after being expelled during the last Congress, where he was labeled a “potential terrorist”, having interrupted a speech of Jack Straw, then Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Yesterday, Tony Woodley, general-secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU), supported by some forty Labour MPs, tried to place on the Congress agenda a debate over Blair’s controversial proposal to renew Trident, Britain’s nuclear arsenal, at a cost of more than 35 billion euros to Britain, and to be supplied by the United States. The attempt failed: the issue wasn’t considered urgent! For Tony Woodley and many other delegates, the strengthening of nuclear arsenal in Great Britain is unnecessary and the 35 billions could be spent more usefully.

The endless war of words between Blairites and Brownites

Nevertheless, the big issue for the British press remains the ongoing rivalry between the Blair and Brown factions within the Labour Party. All efforts by the leadership of the party to create an impression of perfect harmony between Tony Blair and his Finance Minister Gordon Brown fell apart Monday evening. Cherie Blair, the wife of the prime minister, known for her dislike of the assumed heir to the throne, kept the sore open. Sitting in front of a television during Brown’s speech, she called Brown a "liar" just as he was praising the departing leader.

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