Tom Watson tells Labour: Stop trashing Blair and Brown

Posted On: 
27th September 2016

Tom Watson has told Labour it needs to stop "trashing" the legacy of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. 

Tom Watson delivers a speech to Labour conference in Liverpool
Matt Crossick/ EMPICS

Labour's deputy leader was given a standing ovation as he delivered an impassioned defence of the New Labour government.

Jeremy Corbyn, a frequent critic of the Blair era, remained seated while others on the stage stood in approval and did not applaud that section of the speech.

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Mr Watson said only a Labour victory in an election could "set Britain free from the Tories".

He said: “You need both good government and a strong private sector to make a successful society. It’s just a fact.

“Look what happens when you get it right: the 11 years of Labour government between 1997 and 2008… A completely unbroken period of economic growth; we made the economy work like never before or since, and we lifted half a million children out of poverty; and lifted a million pensioners out of poverty. We gave millions of low-paid workers the decency of a National Minimum Wage. We introduced a radically reduced redistributive system of tax credits.

"And winter fuel payments; free TV licenses; free bus travel for older people; more than a 100 new hospitals, more than 200,000 doctors; nurses, teachers, police officers, firefighters; bringing waiting lists down, school standards up; crime down; more than doubling our overseas aid budget.

“I could go on all afternoon about what we achieved during 11 years of economic growth, from a position of national prosperity. We had the space to do good things, and not just economically, but imaginatively. The nation as a whole bought into social justice, from the sunny up lines of increasing prosperity, social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain.

“I don’t know why we’ve been focussing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won’t win elections like that and we need to win elections.”

The West Bromwich East MP, who was first elected to Parliament under Mr Blair and was a close ally of Mr Brown, was heckled by some in the audience at Labour's conference in Liverpool.

He responded by turning to Mr Corbyn, who was sitting on the stage, and saying: "Jeremy, someone didn't get the unity memo."

His was the second speech of the day to stress the importance of Labour being in power after Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's at lunchtime.