Philip Gould Lecture 2014: opening remarks

Good morning. It is wonderful to be here today.

I can’t tell you how much my dad would have loved this.

Some of you may be aware that in his final months my dad became very fond of planning every detail of what can only be described as his post-death legacy campaign.

And these plans were not small ones.

When we went with him to Highgate cemetery on one of the many family funeral planning day trips, and his friend Matthew suggested a mid-height statue might be appropriate, my dad looked appalled.

‘No, no, no. I want it to be massive. I want it to be what people see when they walk in’

But I think even in his most ambitious plans he wouldn’t have been able to imagine that over two years later so many people would be here to celebrate his life.

So I would like to thank Rob, Richard and everyone else from Progress for everything you have done to make today happen.

Today’s event gave me some time to reflect on what he would have said to us had he been here.

I know he would told us to keep on modernising.

That modernisation is not a set of policies – it is a progressive mindset, a commitment to ensuring our values stay relevant and alive as the world changes at breakneck speed.

He would have reminded us to be strong in our purpose, firm in our values and radical in our thinking.

He would have urged us to be out there fighting for Labour on every doorstep to ensure that Ed Miliband is Britain’s next Labour prime minister.

He never stopped fighting for Labour and he would want us to put every bit of energy into ensuring that this country isn’t subjected to five more years of Conservative rule.

Most importantly he would have told us to trust the people. This in essence was his politics, his faith and his purpose.

Trusting the people doesn’t mean blindly following the surface views we find in opinion polls, but deeply listening to their aspirations for their communities and their families.

It means putting more power in their hands.

And trusting the people means trusting in their optimism, their tolerance and their ambitions.

We are all vulnerable to those playing on our fears – and there are many that seek to do this today – about immigration, about Europe and about change.

But this is also a country with a big imagination and he would have told us to play to people’s hopes.

It is a real privilege to be able to introduce our keynote speaker today, someone who captured this country’s imagination not once but three times.

And who turned that vision into concrete achievements.

We can never concede to a Conservative government determined to trash Labour’s record.

The only Broken Britain was the one Tony Blair inherited in 1997, a country scarred by mass unemployment, social deprivation and neglected public services.

The Britain that Tony Blair’s Labour government left behind was one where: a million children and pensioners were lifted out of poverty, where crime was down and university enrolment up, here, after a century of trying, workers were finally protected by a national minimum wage and where the NHS which took such wonderful care of my dad was restored to its rightful place as our most valued public institution.

Sure Start, investment in the arts, civil partnerships, the Good Friday agreement, devolution to Scotland and Wales.

There wasn’t a community in Britain that did not see the benefits of a Labour government.

And we became a country that was more open, more accepting of difference. A country with the confidence to bid for the Olympic Games, a country with something to celebrate.

Great Britain, not little England

Today we find ourselves at risk of leaving Europe, of losing Scotland and losing another generation to the scars of youth unemployment.

As a Camden councillor I am fed up of a Tory-led government that shows no compassion.

We must never tire of standing up for the great things Labour did in office, because the battle for the past is also the battle for the future.

So we have a lot to be grateful to Tony Blair for as a movement and as a country.

But as a family we also have a lot to be grateful for.

Because, despite how busy Tony is with his foundations and international work – he always had time for my dad.

He had the time to write the updated foreword of The Unfinished Revolution and to be there for him throughout his long battle with cancer.

Tony, it was you who helped him find meaning in a situation that seemed to have none.

So on behalf of my mother, my sister and me, I would like to thank you for everything you have done for our family and for being here today.

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Photo: Paul Heartfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments: 1...

  1. On August 6, 2014 at 4:24 pm Shiranee Ranasinghe responded with... #

    Tony had an unblemished record as a PM that delivered for his country, good old England. It was heart breaking to see him being pulled down ruthlessly, inspite of his 3rd election victory and I daresay the country now misses what Tony actually did and endeavoured to deliver diligently each day in office, being true to the lord in power and practice. I am sure the Labour Party misses its former leader, and will now need to mend their onward path to face the next challenge to be in power and in control of nothing but delivery to the dire needs of the nation. It is only a Labour Government that cares for the public services and the well being of the general public… Tories are on record of having looked the other way in pursuit of their own selfish style of radical governance.

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