Local party says thanks to Blair

AS Labour's activists yesterday said farewell to Tony Blair, delegates to the conference in Manchester paid tribute to the towering political figure of his generation.

By Graham Dines

AS Labour's activists yesterday said farewell to Tony Blair, delegates to the conference in Manchester paid tribute to the towering political figure of his generation.

The 1997 Labour landslide produced a record crop of MPs across the East of England, and the party faithful were quick to acknowledge that it was Tony Blair personality that had given them this success and produced a Government of social responsibility.

Ivan Henderson (Labour MP for Harwich from 1997 to 2005) said: “He touched and made better the lives of everybody - from nursery places to the minimum wage and pension credits, from education and health to free bus fares for the elderly.

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“It was because of Tony Blair that I was elected. Harwich and Clacton have four new schools and a community hospital, which is about to open - that's his legacy in my part of Essex. Without Labour, this investment would never have happened.

“His government has given confidence to the business community and the economy has been safe in Labour's hands.”

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Carole Jones, Ipswich Constituency Labour Party (CLP) delegate and twice parliamentary candidate for Suffolk Central & Ipswich North constituency, said: “Tony Blair made Labour a party of government and kept us a party of government. No one can take away from him three straight election victories.

“Even though I have not agreed with him on everything he did, and I regret his backing for the Americans in Iraq, he was a statesman. He cares about Africa and globalisation equality, he has championed diversity, banished homophobia in the UK, and has given us economic stability.”

Colchester councillor and former Essex North candidate Tim Young said: “You can't put a price on how much Labour owes Tony Blair. He has not only turned the party's electoral fortunes around, but also much of its thinking.

“He will go down in history as a great Prime Minister will an impressive record of achievement in office.”

Jill Ellis (Suffolk Coastal CLP): “I am devastated he is going. It was the way he went about rebuilding our country and society that fired me up to rejoin the Labour Party in 1999. I had left because I was demoralised by all the infighting and the lack of direction - Tony Blair spoke my language, I could relate to what he was saying.”

Chris Aldous (Colchester CLP) said he had only one word to say about Mr Blair. “Irreplaceable.”

John Kotz (Braintree CLP). “I am not interested in personalities, only about the direction in which the party is going.

“I think under Blair we have drifted too far to the right, but that is not to denigrate the terrific strides we have made for the country since 1997.”

One of the youngest delegates in Manchester is 18 year-old Maria Fegan (Chelmsford CLP), who praised Mr Blair for delivering two promises he had made on issues which were personally important to her - an animal welfare Bill and the abolition of hunting with hounds.

“I was signed up to the Labour Party by John Prescott in his office on the day the hunting Bill received the Royal Assent - a Labour government keeping its promises.”

Labour's Euro MP for the East of England Richard Howitt: “Having lived through the 18 years of Conservative government, I will never forget that it is down to him that he made Labour electable again in Britain.”

Bryony Rudkin, former leader of Suffolk county council: “Without Tony Blair, we would not have won in 1997, not would we have had subsequent victories.

“Look at the improvement in the lives of tens of thousands of people. We should be proud and we should be grateful that Tony Blair has been our leader.”

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