CNN .COM 13/9/2006
Union Members Walk Out on Blair Speech
By BETH GARDINER
BRIGHTON, England Sep 12, 2006 (AP)— Union members booed and hissed Prime Minister Tony Blair during a speech to an organized labor conference Tuesday, and more than a dozen delegates walked out to protest his efforts to partly privatize public services.
After a rocky trip to the Middle East, where he encountered demonstrations, and bitter infighting at home over when he would leave office, the Trades Union Congress had promised to be a tough audience.
Many union members are angry over the privatization plans and the Iraq war. Demonstrators held placards that said "Go Now!" as Blair began speaking, and he jokingly thanked the delegates "for that fine introduction more or less."
Some of the roughly 1,000 delegates who remained in the hall shouted and heckled when Blair mentioned Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all issues on which he has angered many members of his governing Labour Party.
"You can hold up your posters about troops out, but the reason troops are in is because the democratic governments of Afghanistan and Iraq need our troops," he retorted. "You can disagree, but just listen to the argument."
Blair underscored the links between globalization, immigration and terrorism.
"Suddenly we feel under threat: physically from this new terrorism that is coming onto our streets; culturally as new waves of migrants change our society; and economically because an open world economy is hastening the sharpness of competition," Blair said. "They feel the rules are changing and they never voted to change them. They feel, in a word, powerless."
Blair said the answer was not to give in to fear.
"The answer to economic globalization is open markets and strong welfare and public service systems, particularly those like education, which equip people for change," he said. "The answer to terrorism is measures on security and tackling its underlying causes. The answer to concern over migration is to welcome its contribution and put a system of rules in place to control it."