John Reid defends ten years of New Labour at AAD

21 May 2007

John Reid told ASLEF’s annual conference (AAD) today (Monday) that the Labour government should not be judged by Iraq as he stressed ‘the burdens of leadership’.

. ‘It is easy in Opposition,’ he said. ‘ Nye Bevan once told someone who was leaving the Labour Party, ‘If it is impotence and purity you want, go to a convent’,’ he said. ‘Government is about doing what you believe will be right in the long term.

‘History will make the final judgement,’ he declared as he reminded delegates that Labour voted against Churchill four times over the Second World War.

He repeated that he felt the war in Iraq was just, that he still believed Saddam Hussein had been in possession of weapons of mass destruction - and that he was proud to have removed a fascist dictator.

John defended the record of the Labour government over the past ten years, in which he has served as a minister for nine of the previous ten years. ‘There is always a tension between ideals and practice, he said, quoting Lenin as he argued that the history of the left has always been one of compromise between principles and power.

‘I have always believed that what divides us is nothing compared with the huge chasm between Labour and the Tories,’ he declared, as he conceded that the Labour government ‘hadn’t done everything as well or as quickly as some would want’. But he said Labour had radically improved the position of working people in the UK.

He insisted that Labour had made a huge difference over the last decade. He praised its actions in Bosnia and Kosovo and felt the public service reforms should be seen in the context of shortened hospital waiting lists, increased jobs, lower crime levels, and increased investment in schools and transport, especially rail.

John concluded by reminding delegates that in the 1880’s Kier Hardie’s manifesto had included setting a minimum wage, Home Rule for the nationalities and reform of the House of Lords. All these had finally been delivered he said – but even John seemed to accept that Labour could not be accused of unseemly hastiness of their implementation!

John responded to questions from the floor on pension levels, his comparison of Iraq and the Second World War, the effect of intervention in Afghanistan and plans to change membership of the House of Lords.

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