Urging delegates to learn the lessons of the past, Mr Straw used his last major conference speech to say the party cannot succeed with only the support of the ”weakest in society”. Instead Labour must appeal to people ”who feel more secure about their incomes and their place”, he said, insisting this is not ”selling out”.
But Mr Straw also hit out at ”private extravagance” as he attacked the Government, and said the Coalition’s policies on crime and civil liberties risk making life easier for criminals. ”As Ed Miliband has said, the crucial thing is that we listen and stay connected to maintain the confidence of the vast majority of the British people,” said Mr Straw, who is stepping back from frontline politics after 30 years on Labour’s front bench.
”This is not about selling out, or any of that nonsense. It’s about listening, listening carefully, and putting our timeless values into ways which protect and benefit people as their lives – and their circumstances – change.” Mr Straw repeated calls from new leader to appeal to the ”squeezed middle”.
He said: ”We mould our own future. If we are to stay relevant and electable in 2015 we have to learn the lessons of our past. ”It took years of work by Neil Kinnock, John Smith, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, to undo the damage of the 1980s and reconnect us with all the people for whom this party works, recognising a fundamental truth: that we can only help the poorest and most insecure if we are in government.
”And we can only achieve government by building our support not only amongst the weakest in society but crucially among, as Ed has said, the squeezed middle and amongst those who feel more secure about their incomes and their place.”
Mr Straw said the coalition agreement drawn up between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats represented the ”worst of both parties” as he issued a stark warning about Government policies.
‘Conference, our great legacy on equal rights and public safety is at risk,” Mr Straw said. ”The Liberal Democrats have conspired to put the Human Rights Act under review. The Conservatives, meanwhile, are going to cut the use of DNA technology and CCTV, and restrict the ability of the police and local communities to fight the scourge of anti-social behaviour.
”And who will benefit from this madness? There’ll be greater freedom for the criminal, less liberty for the law abiding. It’s crazy.” Seeking to set out dividing lines between Labour and the coalition, he added: ”Equality is the most important idea which separates us from the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
”We know that the countries which are healthiest, happiest and most secure are also those which offer the most equal societies. ”Equality is not uniformity. It’s not about making everything and everyone the same. It is certainly not about levelling down. It’s about recognising and celebrating that every individual is different, and entitled to an equality of rights, of dignity, of the opportunity to realise their dreams to the greatest extent.
”And equality too is about opposing private extravagance and public squalor – Telegraph