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Address by TONY BLAIR, Prime Minister of Great Britain
Delivered to the People of the United Kingdom, Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, England, June 2, 1997
I have chosen this housing estate to deliver my first speech as Prime Minister for a very simple reason. For 18 years, the poorest people in our country have been forgotten by government. They have been left out of growing prosperity, told that they were not needed, ignored by the Government except for the purpose of blaming them. I want that to change. There will be no forgotten people in the Britain I want to build.
We need to act in a new way because fatalism, and not just poverty, is the problem we face, the dead weight of low expectations, the crushing belief that things cannot get better, I want to give people back the will to win again. This will to win is what drives a country, the belief that expectations can be fulfilled and ambitions realised.
But that cannot be done without a radical shift in our values and attitudes. When the electorate gave the Conservatives their marching orders after 18 years of government, they did so for more than reasons of political fatigue and "time for a change." They did so also because they thought that the values underpinning the Conservative government were wrong.
The 1960s were the decade of "anything goes." The 1980s were a time of "who cares?" The next decade will be defined by a simple idea: "we are all in this together." It will be about how to recreate the bonds of civic society and community in a way compatible with the far more individualistic nature of modern economic, social and cultural life.
In political terms, the choice used to be posed throughout the 80s as: vote for yourself or vote for helping the disadvantaged.
Today there is a possibility of an alliance between the haves and have nots. Comfortable Britain now knows not just its own forms of insecurity, difficulty following the recession, and industrial restructuring. It also knows the price it pays for economic and social breakdown in the poorest parts of Britain
There is a case not just in moral terms but in enlightened self-interest to act, to tackle what we all know exists - an underclass of people cut off from society's mainstream, without any sense of shared purpose.
Just as there are no no-go areas for new Labour so there will be no hope areas in new Labour's Britain. To be a citizen of Britain is not just to hold its passport, it is to share its aspirations, to be part of the British family.
But this new alliance of interests to build on "one nation Britain" can only be done on the basis of a new bargain between us all as members of society.
We should reject the rootless morality whose symptom is a false choice between bleeding hearts and couldn't care less, when what we need is one grounded in the core of British values, the sense of fairness and a balance between rights and duties.
The basis of this modern civic society is an ethic of mutual responsibility or duty. It is something for something. A society where we play by the rules, you only take out if you put in. That's the bargain.
* In concrete terms that means:
* Reforming welfare so that government helps people to help themselves and provides for those who can't, rather than trying to do it all through government.
* Where opportunities are given, for example to young people, for real jobs and skills, there should be a reciprocal duty on them to take them up.
* We should encourage people like single mothers who are anxious to work but unable to, to get back into the labour market. This is empowerment not punishment.
* We should root out …