|“The foodstuffs and other goods which the world needs can be produced in far fewer hours of work than formerly. But this has made the problem of the division of labour and the distribution of the goods produced far more difficult. We all feel that the free play of economic forces, the unregulated and unrestrained pursuit of wealth and power by the individual, no longer leads automatically to a tolerable solution of these problems.
Production, labour, and distribution needs to be organised on a definite plan, in order to prevent valuable productive energies from being thrown away and sections of the population from becoming impoverished and relapsing into savagery. If unrestricted sacro egoism leads to disastrous consequences in economic life, it is a still worse guide in international relations.”
|The world as I see it|
In Germany’s Black Forest for my grandfathers 90th.
Am having issues with moving about for two reasons all of which relate to one event – Tuesday football astro turf..
It did not go well-we lost and I was confronted with something I knew but has cast a kindly eye over… 14 months since last game and even longer since any concerted activity occurred.. It’s been longer since I mustered the capacity to run.
In short we lost and I barley mustered the ability to overcome gravity let alone the opposition an outcome wholly rational but worse than I’d falsely allowed myself to envisage.
As a result I was immobile and throwing myself at things in desperation, this meant sliding and sliding on astro means a certain kind of inideal skin friction/burn, so my right leg now has as adhesive link to my trousers.
Other than that all other parts of my person that showed no immediate negative response to being asked to remain unideally stationary have now opted to seize up (or confess ill found discomfort at movements) most belatedly.
My 90 year old grandfather whose birthday I’m in Germany to celebrate cuts a far more nimble figure than I.
Good for him perhaps and yes but beyond that surley an opportunity if ever there were one.
Right now a kick about has been arranged for Monday and a recovery time of 5 days is looking precarious let alone the knowledge of what’s to greet me out there on the turf.
It’s cold the water in the black forest lake where we’re staying, motivated by incontrovertible proof, at least and I hope not, in the immediate term, I’d made the effort to partake in some minimal swimming – it was so not warm.
Meanwhile the topic of trident and nuclear weapons went and popped up at the Labour Party leadership candidate hustings had remained in some guise within the subsequent thoughts.
Regardless of your view the answers coming back seemed largely designed to appear like real leadership candidates and in no way deal with the query – reflecting back on this retrospectively it became odder that we should be deemed to be looking for irrationality or dishonesty in our leaders because one or the other was all but certainly at play.
Military spokespeople have often enough distanced themselves from trident for us to know by now it’s a political tool not a military one. Talk of an unstable world while true seems a given, while specific mention of religion utilising extremist groups in this context is little short of ridiculous. As if any military leaders are wondering into the MoD with s plan for dealing with these groups by dispatching the irradiating all incinerating solution of an atomic bomb.
Perhaps it has a relationship to some international obligations or to our presence on some important international groups but then, just say so.
What adds to the mix is that not one of them would ever make the argument that domestic weapon inflation is any way to make anyone more secure. The idea of giving guns to our police to protect against knives, then bigger guns to protect against smaller guns is an argument that was lost to all who believe in the rule of law, some time ago.
Within an international society then how does it serve a long term security interest to have ownership of things such as these, tethered like a golden key to exclusive international clubs, building a political rational for others to pursue them.. Investing in mutually assured distraction in the name of safety, whatever the short term nuisance ultimate surely that’s a nonsense, but it is the position of the responsible statesman. To profess a moral principled position to pursue s belief is not befitting of a countries CEO, yet there ought surely to be more to public leadership than the short term pragmatism that is sought in the pursuit of profit within private enterprise.
Itv decided to followup the uneventful but quietly interesting hustings with an all but entirely fictitious story about audience backlashes and candidate booing. There had been so little ranker between anyone present that it seemed they had opted to invent the narrative. This was a surprise as I somewhat naively had held the view that by and large media coverage was factual if perhaps bias rather than founded upon the need to regale and entertain the readership with fanciful works of fiction. The place had been full of TV cameras so I looked for the supporting footage of what I’d missed, it was understandably absent.
No dragons were harmed in the making of this leadership hustings.
Right about now – back in the Black Forest everyone’s wondered off the few meters back into the town to circulate amongst the shops. Half asleep lazy and never shop inclined I stayed behind in a bemused state with half an eye to spending the last hour back by the lakeside, I even left the hotel momentarily before heading back for those ‘just in case’ swimming trunks and towel. Though on leaving I was distracted one more time by the idea of the pool, there’s one here somewhere, there are signs to it…. Surely with less hostile temperatures to contend with and as yet not even visited .. So it was to there I go, and on the patio outside it that I now mooch about – life should be spent in the pursuit of activities and then resting from the effort of those activities.
I have done no activities beside mildly over indulging in breakfast time and it would appear am most eager to rest up after it.
I am here though for the pool… Remember the pool … Oh the effort, the sun is out and the lieing down so restful like – wondrous mooching and it’s easy sink hole ways .. Of your arse boy … You can do it
May and it will not be long until Oscar marries, it’s come round quick which shouldn’t be a surprise and always is. Today it’s the commencement of his stag weekend, a bank holiday elongated stag weekend in Amsterdam. It’s very tedious and a bit socially unacceptable of me but in not looking forward to it. It could so very likely become just a tad to untoward for my slowing and never were too vigorous tastes.
When I first met Oscar he was a lairy sort under the influence, settling down in recent times but some of his old acquaintances (whom mostly I do not personally know) have a reputation for not having relinquished such inclinations at the door.
Trepidation. Fuelled on my side by some amount of ropiness which has manifested itself as Fatigue, confusion, a most unvarnished guard and some digestive system discomfort. The merest decline in energy levels and the speed of mental recoil is pronounced, requiring not the challenge of weekends such as this.
On the flip side- going abroad, somewhere I’ve not visited before, I was not burdened with a wide variety of other plans… The question how socially acceptable is it to go away but only participate in the more sober and pedestrian activities?
Other friends have gotten married but their stag things were not nights/weekends in the way this is, the rules are unclear.
First though to work and another meeting to discuss the future. Having. Discussed it at some length with my boss at the beginning of the week it’s now my bosses boss… I don’t see myself staying really, pragmatically I probably should and go with it regardless but I don’t really believe in their project, lofty ambitions beyond the spheres of probable reality and moderate to slender resourcing, the reality gap is rather large.
My boss is leaving and my natural inclination is to follow, not in the general sense but in the specific sense of this role. Better to be one of the many in a pleasant land than a price of a sprawling baron desert.
Still we will see. My cv has been changeable (job wise) and while my boss was in place I’d not looked at other roles. I have now started to (most moderately) but now or rather when I get back from Amsterdam this will have to be taken more seriously. It’s defiantly time for something newer, my understanding of digital is quite well settled in after all those inadvertent years working in it, repeating, comfortable. The uncomfortable notion of the salary reducers looms as fresher areas are sought out, the question that casts the biggest shadow though- what?
Political jobs would be ideal but I’m labour and the Labour Party is a clique, a club and inward looking network or rather two invested looking networks – the central party and the local parties – both quite different in many ways but both highly old fashioned, out dated and out of touch, there is something of the old club about them where you pass through the rooms depending upon family, acquaintances, longevity and toil. The first two are more for the central party and the latter for the local. Toil and longevity are certainly more rational and worthy reasons given that no party can function without its loyal activists working to it’s cause.
It’s so dammed interminably tedious though, the meetings they go on and on and on and on some more – as near as my wilted concentration levels can tell mostly about remarkably little.
There is no objectivity or professionalism or efficiency about any of it, maybe that’s how it’s meant to be but to add to the list of 22nd of May grumbles I really am not in agreement with it. Part of me has long thought a new pan European affiliated party built on activism and more modern social tools was needed. The Labour Party resists change so diligently and nothing so good at this really comes to benefit from it, the world moves on and leaves it behind.
If I worked for them I would not stop in pursuing change, the energy I had for work would not be a surface exercise fuelled by interest in the puzzle but a routed and meaningful interest in the outcome. That said the party is probably more inclined to irrelevance than to change, aside from perhaps espousing some more conservative styled policies to appease the inherently right leaning southern England populous. Change the figure head and the policies but not the operational infrastructure or 1950s apparatus.
What this really needs is a distant railing against on an obscure web page with all the prethought of a Friday morning stop off commute to Heathrow.
Leader’s speech, Blackpool 1992
John Smith (Labour)
This was Smith’s first conference speech as Party Leader and followed Labour’s third successive general election defeat on 9 April. The focus of this address was ‘Black Wednesday,’ the day on which the UK was forced out of the ERM. For Smith, these events proved conclusively that the Conservatives’ policies had failed and that they were ‘devalued’ as a government. Labour, in contrast, was committed to ‘active government,’ which means increased investment in training, efficient public services, the increased participation of women in the workforce, and the construction of a stronger European Community with Britain at its heart.
Comrades and friends, it is a great honour to have been elected Leader of the Labour Party and it is a proud occasion for me to address conference for the first time as your leader.
Not all of you were present at the special conference in July, so let me thank you now for placing your trust in me. It is an immense responsibility as we begin a new era for Labour.
At the outset let me make one thing clear: it is not my wish or my intention to lead for long a party of opposition. I was elected to lead a party of government and, with your help, that is what I will do. I take over this mantle of leadership from Neil Kinnock. Neil had the vision to see what needed to be done to carry Labour forward, he had the courage to take on the task and he had the determination and skill to see it through. No one else could have achieved that. Neil, the Labour movement owes you an incalculable debt of gratitude, and all of us owe the same debt of gratitude to Glenys, because if ever there was a complete partnership, this is it. We are all enriched by the warmth, the integrity, the personal effort and the dedication you have both shown over the past eight years. Neil and Glenys, we salute you today.
I want on this occasion to pay a tribute to everyone who worked so hard during the general election campaign – my colleagues in the shadow cabinet, fellow Members of Parliament, members of the NEC, the party’s staff all round the country, Labour candidates – men and women of outstanding ability and dedication – party agents, volunteers young and old, and of course our colleagues who organised so skilfully in Trade Unions for Labour. People did not just work hard; they gave all they had to give, physically, mentally, emotionally. So please accept our thanks, as well as the thanks of the entire labour movement. We were defeated, but we have nothing to be ashamed of, because you are exceptional people and the labour movement has good reason to be proud of you.
We fought a hard and honourable election campaign. We had a united and professionally organised party. There was a sense of energy and excitement, a sense of purpose which many had not experienced in the whole of their political lives, and we gained seats right across the country. Indeed, we were the only party to make gains, and we made many of them in spectacular style. So I am proud of the campaign we fought and I am particularly proud because we told the British people the truth. We told the truth about our policies and we told the truth about the condition of our country. The Tories did not, and all that has happened since 9 April has confirmed our worst fears and exposed their deceit.
I do not believe that the return of a government, last April was in any way a positive endorsement by the British people, nor do I accept that it was a vote of confidence. There was no enthusiasm for this government, no admiration for their performance, no sense that, after 13 years, they had delivered the goods, fulfilled their promises or proved themselves worthy of the nation’s trust. That vote on 9 April was a reluctant vote, and now, six months on, how many of those reluctant voters who gave John Major the benefit of the doubt are regretting their decision?
Two weeks ago, confronted with a sterling crisis of their own creation, we saw a government gripped by indecision, paralysed by fear, and a Prime Minister plodding on to disaster. John Major had only one policy – to wait and see, what happened. The result was total humiliation, not only for himself and his government but for Britain, the opt-out Prime Minister leading a do-nothing government off the European stage. So much for being at the heart of Europe.
We were promised a New Statesman and what have we got instead? The Spectator. The man who dreamt of toppling the Deutschmark carries the responsibility for the single most disastrous day in our post-war economic history. So our people are entitled to be angry. The cynical deceit of the Tory election campaign, the easy promise that all the economy needed was the reassurance of a Tory victory – all now exposed in the harsh light of the real world.
But of course this was not just the work of weeks; it was the result of years of economic error compounded by mismanagement, and it has left the pound not top of the pile but as the one currency that no one wants to hold. The dole queues, poverty, repossessions, the collapse of industrial investment – a record which has sent our manufacturing industry to the breaker’s yard. There is no escape for John Major, no alibi. As Chief Secretary, as Chancellor and as Prime Minister, he has designed and delivered the disaster. It is all his own work.
In the debate in the House of Commons last week a Tory Member had the gall to ask me how much Labour’s programme for economic recovery would cost; this from a party which in one day, Black Wednesday, in the course of its failed attempt to prop up the pound, cost this nation £1,000 million. Just think what could be done constructively with £1,000 million. How many houses could be built, how many schools could be repaired, how many hospital wards could be opened with £1,000 million?
The events of the past weeks have proved once and for all that the Tories have failed. What we have seen is the devaluation not just of a currency but of a Prime Minister and an entire government. Yesterday their humiliation was complete. After a week of Downing Street press briefings blaming the Germans for sinking the pound and after the shameless attribution of blame to the Bundesbank by Mr Major in the House of Commons, yesterday the Chancellor, Mr Lamont, travelled to Brussels and finally apologised at a meeting of Community Finance Ministers, while still trying to give the impression that it was all the fault of the press.
It is surely bad enough that yet again this government’s economic strategy is in total disarray, but what is really unusual this time: is that they cannot even work out who is to blame. If ever there was a time for apologies to be made, it is certainly now, and it is not just Norman Lamont who should be apologising; it is the Prime Minister. He should apologise to the. British people for his betrayal of their trust.
What started out on Black Wednesday as a tragi-comedy has degenerated into Whitehall farce. John Major and Norman Lamont – the Laurel and Hardy of British politics. Another fine mess they got us into! And just look at that mess. In three days last week 3,000 jobs went at British Aerospace, 1,500 were lost at Ford and nearly 1,000 went at Rolls-Royce; and today we hear that the government is sacking 2,000 workers from its Defence Research Agency, with no thought at all of how such skills might be used elsewhere to strengthen our industrial future. With these crucial sectors in such deep decline, we have good reason to fear for our ability ever to repair the damage that this government has inflicted.
Have you noticed the way Tory Ministers steer well clear of the management techniques they want to apply to everyone else? They keep saying that the idle and incompetent must be weeded out and they call for performance-related pay. If the Prime Minister is so keen on these ideas, why does he not apply them to the Cabinet? I think the trouble is that he would not know where to start. Should he start on the idle or concentrate on the incompetent? Would he be able to tell which is which? Would there be any Ministers left? But if the Cabinet faced performance-related pay, they would be in real trouble. With the present crime wave, what, I wonder, would be the proper performance-related pay for the Home Secretary? With the current trade deficit, how much would the President of the Board of Trade deserve? Perhaps it is just as well he is not short of a bob or two himself. And with unemployment rising to three million, what could the Employment Secretary hope to get?
But I suppose it is no surprise that Mr Major does not introduce such a principle. After all, he would have to apply the same rule to himself and his Chancellor. The fact is that if this government were on performance-related pay, the taxpayer would not be paying them; they would be paying the taxpayer. So no wonder they will not practise what they preach.
I want to announce this afternoon a new policy. It is a citizen’s charter, designed, they usually say, to hold one particular group of service providers to account, forcing them to meet new standards of efficiency and giving customers rights of redress if they do not measure up. It is a citizen’s charter for the Cabinet. Perhaps we should call it ‘Majorwatch.’ From now on I and my colleagues on the front bench will be checking their every move. In the days and months ahead we will expose all their broken, promises, all their empty commitments, so that the British people can hold them to account.
I made my first contribution to Majorwatch in the debate in the House of Commons last Thursday, and it gives you some idea of what we are up against. Before, the election the Prime Minister promised that the Forestry Commission would not be privatised. After the election it was a different story. The explanation given by Downing Street for this U-turn, for breaking a pre-election pledge, was: The commitment given by the. Prime Minister on this matter was drafted incorrectly during the frenzied activity of the general election campaign. So there we have it – the frenzied activity of the general election campaign offered as a justification for any reversal of policy, any shift in the government’s position. So there is clearly no more devalued political currency than a Conservative election promise.
In the bleak aftermath of the early days after the election fashionable political commentators said that Labour was dead. They said that our vision of a fairer society had been conclusively rejected by the British people, and that the only future lay in abandoning our beliefs; even jettisoning our name. But they were wrong. Why? Let me tell you why. They were wrong not merely because the Tory dream has turned into a nightmare. They were wrong because they failed to understand the enduring values of our movement; they failed to, appreciate the underlying beliefs that inspire and guide us.
When the Labour Party was born at the end of the last century it was born, out of the desire of working people .to challenge the power of private capital and the tyranny of the ruling elite. It was born out of the determination of ordinary citizens to play their full part in society, to claim for themselves the opportunities enjoyed by others, opportunities of-individual advancement and fulfilment that had previously been denied to them. The Labour Party was a vehicle for their individual aspirations; it was a force for social justice and for change.
Our strength today lies in these same principles, in our belief that people should enjoy as a right of citizenship and not as a privilege of wealth the opportunity of a good education, the chance to find a decent job with decent pay, the opportunity to buy or rent a decent home, to have access to child-care and health care and security in their old age, to enjoy a clean environment, to walk the streets of their neighbourhood in safety and to have a real voice in the conduct of public affairs. And our strength lies in our knowledge that we are, each of us, members of one community, and it is our responsibility as citizens to work together for the good of that community as a whole, because we believe that the power of all of us together can advance the good of each individual.
These are the principles that inspire us. They are the bedrock of our movement, and we know in our heart that our values, the values of individual opportunity and social justice, are also the values of the British people.
This Conservative government has an idea about people that I must say I find totally objectionable. Fundamentally, they believe people are driven, purely by greed and self-interest. They believe all of us are motivated by a desire to accumulate wealth with no regard for others. They see us exclusively as consumers in a market place. Everything is up for grabs as long as you have the money. In this blinkered view of the world there is little room for community, little room for compassion, little room for helping others to share the benefits we enjoy. Their language is the language of self, of self-interest.
But I have too much faith in the British people to accept that view. I do not believe that the British people lack a sense of compassion, a sense of decency, a sense of honour. I believe they do care about others and that they are concerned about their country’s future, for people live in communities, not in isolation. I believe they want to be citizens of a country which shows care and responsibility for all its people and which does not pass by on the other side. And for those who claim that Labour lets its heart rule its head, I say they could not be more wrong. In modern civilised societies, social justice and economic strength go hand in hand.
It is a simple enough point and it is plain common sense: the more people there are out of work, the more people there are without homes, the more people there are in poverty, the heavier the burden on our economy. It costs the public exchequer £8,000 a year for every person who is unemployed and it costs £14,000 a year for every homeless family. And still the Tories say ‘We cannot afford Labour’s policies to revive our businesses and put our people back to work.’ Tory policies are not only heartless, they are also mindless, and it is no wonder there is a great longing for a better way forward.
Later this year, the Special Commission, on Social Justice, which I have proposed, will begin its work. More than a new policy initiative, the commission will be the first serious attempt since Beveridge to assess need and find new ways of dealing with our deep social problems. Income, wealth distribution; poverty, social welfare policy and taxation are all interlinked and have to be tackled together by us in a strategic and radical way.
Ina recent interview Mr Major was asked about poverty in Britain. Do you know what he said? He said ‘What poverty?’ ‘What poverty?’ said the man who, as Minister for Social Security, invented the Social Fund. ‘What poverty?’ said the man who took housing benefit away from three million people. Well, Mr Major may not know what poverty is, but he certainly knows how to create it
After 13 years of Tory government people begin to think that the condition of our country is all part of some inevitable social decline, but it is not so. It is the legacy of this government and it is not inevitable. There is a better way.
What is the role of government in modern society? We know what the Tories say about that. They want to leave everything to the market. Some of them are not even sure that society exists. For them it is more important to build a free market than a free society. They do not accept that governments have a responsibility to shape society, to offer opportunities and to provide for need. They believe governments should abdicate in favour of the market. But a society run only on the lines of a market is a society in which power is in the hands of the few who have economic strength, not the many who have democratic rights, and it is shaped to answer financial demand, not social need. It is a society that respects purchasing power, not individual rights.
In a revealing phrase Mr Major said he wanted to see what he called the ‘privatisation of choice’: note, not the extension of choice, not the improving of choice, but the privatisation of choice. Now what does that mean? Let me put it another way: if you want choice, you pay, or the other way round, no pay, no choice. Not a classless society but a heartless society, ruled by a government devoid of any sense of responsibility for its people.
Mr Major’s first comment as he finally emerged blinking from the air-raid shelter last week was to protest that it was not his fault. It was the markets that were irrational That is a case of the pot calling the kettle grey. And has it not occurred to him that it might just be a mistake to let these same markets, these irrational markets, determine all aspects of our national life?
For the past 13 years people have been obliged to live their lives at the mercy of this irrational force called the market. But we know to our cost that this approach has failed. The market must serve our needs, not we the needs of the market; and if the market system becomes an agent of speculation and stagnation instead of an engine for prosperity, then it is time for governments to act. For governments are not impotent. They have power at their disposal to shape events, to bring about change, to improve the lives of the people whose trust, after all, they carry. That is why it is so unacceptable, so unbearable to see the injustice in our country, the waste of human talent, the lack of hope, the loss of pride, because it is not inevitable.
We in Labour stand for active government – active government not absence of government; government taking responsibility, not pointing the finger at someone else; government caring about all the people, not just looking after its own; government acting to help industry, to create jobs, to boost the housing market, not sitting on its hands waiting for those green shoots to sprout. An active government is what Britain needs today, and it needs it urgently if we are ever to lift ourselves out of this downward spiral of decline.
I believe our people want government to take responsibility for the things that they as individuals just cannot provide – safe streets, an efficient transport system, a high standard of education, good health care, training for jobs, a strong economy – for without these things people are not free, nor do they have real choices.
Of course government should not run people’s lives for them, but it can help them live their own lives to the full; and government need not run companies or small businesses, but it must create the conditions for them to prosper. Good government, active government, lies at the very heart of a fair, prosperous and free society.
It is not difficult to see where action needs to be taken in Britain in 1992. We need action to get the economy moving again, with measures to stimulate investment, create jobs and boost the housing market. We need action for, families, action to build new homes, homes for rent as well as for sale, homes that people can afford, homes built to modern standards of energy efficiency, homes that get families out of the costly misery of bed and breakfast and get our building industry working once again.
We need action for young people, to give them the skills to do the jobs to win success, both for themselves and for Britain. A government that leaves training to the vagaries of the private sector puts school-leavers and workers at the mercy of people whose priority is profit and whose interests are short term. It is the responsibility of government to invest in the future of our workforce.
We need action to stop the turmoil in our schools. For far too long they have been used as an ideological battleground by the Tories. Children, teachers and parents have been pushed this way and that by one failed reform after another, and we must restore stability and confidence to our classrooms. We need action on the environment. Active government means standing up for the quality of people’s lives, and in our society that requires tougher regulations on waste disposal, making the polluters pay for the harm they inflict, and high standards of water and air quality.
It is the job of active government to make sure that the strategic assets of our country are preserved. One of Britain’s most important resources is our immense coal reserves. It was ready access to coal that put Britain at the front of the industrial revolution and it is the plentiful remaining reserves that give us an edge over most of our European competitors. Yet Britain’s present government is proposing to abandon half of all the pits that remain. That is vandalism. It is vandalism because it will destroy whole communities built around their role of providing the nation with coal. But it is also vandalism because it will destroy a national asset which could meet Britain’s long-term energy needs.
But we now have in this country a government so beholden to the vested interests it has created – the private water monopolies, the private energy monopolies, the, deregulated transport concerns – that they are too weak to set and enforce the standards that the people want. That is why we are calling for an environmental protection agency to tell the people the truth about the water they drink, the food they eat and the air they breathe.
An active government means providing efficient and caring public services. That is why we are committed to a National Health Service that is free at the time you need it. We will never abandon that principle, because it is the only way to ensure that all patients get the treatment they need, not the treatment they can afford; and it is the only way to ensure, that the people who work in the Health Service can concentrate on providing the treatment that gives the best results, not the treatment that gets the biggest commercial return.
People of pension age make up almost half of all National Health Service patients. They are the generation who created the National Health Service and who paid for it all through their working lives. Surely it is the job of government to make sure that the National Health. Service can now serve them and any member of our society who needs the support of a modern health service.
Active government means strengthening the rights of people at work. Labour believes we need to establish a framework of rights for employees as part of a fair system of industrial relations. We also believe that the rights pf workers are best advanced through the work of free and active trade unions, with whom we in our party are proud to be linked.
I have long been committed to a minimum wage which gives people a fair reward for their labour, for low pay leads to low aspirations, low standards and low productivity. We want Britain to be able to stand alongside her European partners and say: ‘We are proud of our workforce and we treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.’
It is the role of active government to ensure that everyone can contribute to our country’s public life, not just half the population. We need women to participate fully in all fields of work if we are ever to respond successfully to our country’s needs. I have to say that this is as true in politics as in any other field. But if we are to change attitudes, we must have women in place to change them; and if we are to have women in place, we must make it possible for them to be there. Child care provision, flexible working hours, job-sharing, are practical and necessary measures for women – and for men too – who should not have to choose between family life and outside employment.
We believe that active government must also mean democratic government, with people having a real say in their community’s affairs, having more, not less, control over the decisions that affect their lives. That is why we want to strengthen local democracy and decentralise power. That is why we need a Scottish Parliament, a Welsh Assembly and devolution of power to the regions of England.
We need a Freedom of Information Act to break down the barriers of secrecy that surround government institutions. Knowledge is power. We want to share that power with the people and we should start by sharing knowledge with them.
We need to push back the barriers of prejudice that restrict the choice and waste the talents of so many in our society. It is not enough to make discrimination illegal. An active government must positively promote opportunities for all our citizens in every aspect of public life.
I look around Britain today and I see millions of families who, instead of feeling that they are moving forwards, are struggling to stay in the same place, struggling to make the household budget balance, struggling to keep a job, run a business or keep a roof over their head, struggling to make sure their children get a decent education and a solid start to their working lives.
The British people deserve better than this. We are a nation rich in talent and in skills, men and women who are eager to work hard and to succeed, men and women who want to play their full part in the life of our nation, and young people full of energy and aspirations. All these people ask is the opportunity to prove their worth; and it is up to government to unlock the extraordinary potential of our ordinary people. For the people of Britain deserve good government, and for that they need active government, a government that will stand up for them, a government that will meet its responsibilities so that they in turn can meet theirs.
But of course the responsibility of active government extends far beyond our national boundaries. Earlier I spoke about our duty as citizens to work together for the good of the whole community, in the knowledge that the power of all can advance the good of each. That basic tenet of democratic socialism applies not just to us as individuals but equally to Britain as a country on the world stage. I have always believed that Britain’s future lies in Europe and that we must take a confident and leading role in the European Community. That has been my firm conviction throughout my political life, and the events of the last few weeks have done nothing but reinforce it.
But we cannot expect to influence either the major political and economic events of our own continent or the direction of global affairs if Britain is pushed to the periphery and relegated to the second division of Europe. We are not advocates of a European super state, we never have been, but we are determined to play our part, working closely with our sister socialist parties, in maintaining the momentum for closer co-operation, to build a stronger European community, to extend social justice, to preserve the environment and to deepen our democracy. That is why we are advocates for change and progress in the European Community.
For Europe cannot stand still. We can either move forward or retreat into isolationism. On 1 January the single market will begin. Europe will be a community for business, but still not a community for people, and that is something we in the Labour Party cannot accept. It is why we have strongly supported the Social Chapter, which provides the framework for a social dimension in Europe. It is also why we believe the Community must take joint action on the real economy at the heart of its economic policy, making growth and jobs the benchmark of success.
We demand that the Community strengthen its democracy. Too many of its institutions are too remote and not accountable enough to the people they represent. The principle of subsidiarity – making decisions at the closest practicable level to the people – must be given real force. We have argued for a more open and effective Council of Ministers, closer scrutiny of the work of the Commission and more power to the European Parliament.
Mr Major, struggling to patch together his crumbling European policy and his stumbling EC Presidency, will no doubt talk a lot about subsidiarity and the democratic deficit over the next few weeks and months. I for one will only believe Mr Major’s new commitment to subsidiarity when he puts it into practice at home. That which he recommends for Europe should also be applied at home in. Britain. If it is good for Europe, why is it not good enough for Britain?
But of course our commitment .to Europe should strengthen, not weaken, ours obligations to a wider world. Right at the heart of our policies should be strong and consistent support for the United Nations. I have always believed that that is the best means of principled and collective international action. I want to see the powers of the UN strengthened and I want to see it broaden its agenda to tackle the economic and social issues which call out for a global approach just as desperately as do the environment, poverty and peacekeeping.
The new challenges to international stability come from poverty in the Third World, worldwide environmental decline and regional conflicts and unrest. In the former Yugoslavia we see the tragic consequences in terms of human suffering of ethnic intolerance and civil war. Labour not only supports the UN’s peace-keeping role; we argue strongly for the strengthening of the mandatory sanctions and an increase in humanitarian aid.
At a time when the hearts of our people have been moved by the suffering in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa, what does our government do? It threatens a massive reduction in Britain’s already shamefully low budget for overseas aid. To seek to inflict the results: of their economic incompetence upon millions of people living in poverty in the developing world is not just callous, it is morally repugnant.
Labour knows that we cannot afford to allow the downward spiral of poverty, debt, protectionism and instability to continue. As a world community, we simply cannot afford it. So we must .work to make Britain a strong and confident country again, so that she can play her rightful part in shaping the world of, the future, a strong and confident country within Europe, within the United Nations, within the Commonwealth. Everywhere where Britain has influence we must strive unceasingly for co-operation and for new and imaginative solutions to our problems.
We live in a time of great pessimism, not just in our own country but throughout the world. As the fear of nuclear annihilation recedes, it is not being replaced by optimism but by new fears, fears of environmental catastrophe, of economic disintegration, of racism and fascism, of new ethnic and religious tensions, and the fear that we do not have the means or the will to deal with what lies ahead. People want answers, but they feel there are none. They want action, but they see none.
More than anything else today Britain needs leadership, leadership to take the long view of problems and to act to solve them, to anticipate future tensions and to act to avoid them, to restore hope; leadership to make people feel their voice is being heard, their needs no longer being ignored.
Labour is going to provide that leadership. In the years that remain of this discredited government Labour will be a fighting opposition. We will relentlessly challenge every attempt by this government to inflict further damage on the fabric of our society or to limit the chances of our people. But at the same time, in every week of every month, we will be working and preparing for government. For there is a void at the heart of our public life in Britain, a vacuum left by 13 years of Conservative rule. It is up to Labour now, to all of us working together, to fill that void, to fill it with a new programme that responds to the real needs of our communities, with leadership that speaks for the real interests of our people and with a vision that will restore hope and create confidence in our country’s great future.
Clement Attlee – Achievements: Instigating Real Social Welfare & Publicly Available Free Health Care For All
Attlee’s second speech to the Party Conference as Prime Minister spells out what he sees as his government’s two main objectives: to tackle the difficulties facing Britain in the aftermath of the war, and to begin the groundwork for a new social order characterised by freedom, peace and justice. He is also keen to stress achievements, and to demonstrate the commitment to, and success of, planning measures and also internationalist goals.
It is a relatively short speech. As with Attlee’s other addresses it is primarily focused on the party, an attempt to dampen expectations and to communicate the complexity and weight of government. But it is also an affirmation of determination and faith despite difficulties. Again, however, some of the speech is clearly a response to general criticisms of the government. For instance, in the context of a discussion of international solidarity Attlee insists: “…we are seeking earnestly to build up harmony and world peace, and I utterly deny the charge made by some people whose subservience to one great power makes them charge us with subservience to another. We are subservient to none. We seek to collaborate with all’. Elsewhere he says “We are not, I think – despite some prognostications in the newspapers – yet half way through this Parliament. We intend to complete our programme”.
Attlee suffered an extremely hostile press. But in his speeches to the Party he tends to rebut accusations somewhat obliquely (in a way that runs the risk of emphasizing rather than overturning them) and to avoid making strong, direct counter-attacks. For him the speech is a formal report presented to the party for its approval.
It is twenty-two months almost to a day since the Labour Government was formed, and in this Report we give you an account of our achievements, a second installment of the carrying-out of the programme which we placed before the electorate. This record is one of which I think we can be proud. We have admittedly placed before Parliament a heavier and more important programme of legislation than has been submitted in any previous Parliament. Our opponents say that it is too heavy. But the times in which we live demand great changes, and there was a great legacy of past neglect which we inherited. Let me give you but one instance the problem of the mines. That had been ripe, and over-ripe for decades. It was left to us to deal with the muddle of the past. That has meant a heavy addition to our legislation and it has meant also that we have been hampered by the neglect of the past in the reconstruction of the present and in our work for the future. No little of our troubles in the industrial and economic sphere is due to the fact that the mines were neglected. Now we have taken action we can see a change in the scene.
There were great measures of social reform prepared during the Coalition Government. Many of those could have been brought forward during the war. They were not brought forward. We have had to do that work: in fact, in twenty-two months we have had to do the entire programme that the Conservative Party had at the last General Election – a Five-Year Plan. We have a young and eager Parliament and a nation demanding great things. Therefore I make no apology on behalf of the Government for having given Parliament plenty of hard work. After all, work is what we are asking of the nation. It is just as well that Parliament should set a good example.
I have received complaints of rushed legislation, of insufficient time to discuss great measures. I have been nearly twenty-five years in Parliament and I have never known an Opposition fail to make that complaint. We had a good many years in opposition, and the work of opposition takes a great deal of learning. You have to learn how to make the best use of the time, and we are resolved to give the Conservative Party the opportunity to become thoroughly versed in the part.
I should like to pay a tribute to our members in the House of Commons and also in the House of Lords. They have been diligent. They attend much better than in any previous Parliament I have known. They are loyal. Of course, in a Party like ours there is always a great deal of freedom. They have been co-operative and they have collaborated with Ministers. And, after all, Government is not just a matter of Ministers giving orders. It is essential in a Parliamentary democracy that the Members of Parliament should be co-workers with .the Ministers. Let me pay a tribute particularly to two men who I think have done a great job in this Parliament – Neil Maclean and Maurice Webb. They have had the job of presiding over Party meeting; and, having had a longer experience than most of that particular work, I congratulate them. There has been immense activity in Parliament, and work on Committees, official and unofficial; and I should like to thank all my colleagues in Parliament, my colleagues in the Government and our members throughout the country for the help and support they have given to the Government. The record is before you. You know it quite well – and if you don’t, you should.
But quite as important as legislation is administration. Much of it is less spectacular but equally important. When you pass great measures, you set in train a whole mass of actions which have to be taken by Ministers. Health, Social Insurance and Education Bills all mean an immense amount of administrative work. You have to get those things through and coming in at the right time, and I congratulate those who have been in charge of the measures we have taken through on their implementation and on the work they have done. I claim that in every sphere of Government you have seen our Socialist impulse, our Socialist outlook.
We have had some difficult times because some of our Ministers have been away ill. We are all very glad to get Herbert Morrison back again. He seems to have plenty of vigour. And I am glad to say, too, that the health of the Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, has been better. The strain on him and on other Ministers is very heavy. And let me say a word for our Civil Service, who get more kicks than they should: The strain on the Civil Service is heavy. Civil Servants play their part splendidly. When I see, demands from this Conference and so many resolutions that this must be done immediately and that must be done immediately, I want just to warn you not to overstrain the machine but to leave it to the Government to decide on priorities.
Let us look at our purpose, our achievement and the work that lies ahead. First of all, what is our purpose? We came in with a double purpose, first, to deal with the very difficult conditions, internally and externally, resulting from a long war, and second, to lay the foundations of a new social order evolving from the old. We had to effect two transitions, one from a war to a peace economy and one from a capitalism based on private enterprise and private property to a Socialist economy based on the control and direction of the wealth and resources of this country in the interests of all the people. Neither of those transitions could be effected in a few days or a few months; it takes a long time. We had three great advantages in tackling this task and seeking to achieve our purpose. First, we had our Socialist faith as our guide and inspiration; secondly we had a clear programme integrated into a definite plan; and thirdly we had a fine Majority in Parliament. I would like to stress here the integrated plan. Our action in bringing great spheres of economic activity under national control and ownership was not the result of some academic theory; it was the essential part of our plan, a plan conceived in relation to the actual conditions of the world today and the actual problems we had to solve.
How far have we advanced in achieving that purpose? In face of many difficulties we have effected a smooth transition from war to peace over a very wide field. You had demobilisation. You have not yet had the slackening of controls and you will have to have controls as long as there are shortages – and that is admitted even by our opponents, who like to clamour for controls to be abolished but quite often ask for them to be put on when they are asking questions in the House. It is admitted that freedom is relative: one man’s freedom may be the enslavement of thousands. We have to try to get an equal measure of freedom for all. We have had to face world shortages and local shortages, a very difficult foreign exchange position and an uneasy situation in foreign affairs. They have always interrupted the plan. The plan must be worked in relation to the actual conditions of the time, many of the features of which cannot be foreseen. We might have had less difficulty if we had been content not to try so hard to get all the things we wanted done. Then you would have had other evils, other complaints and unemployment. The very vigour of our plan has made difficult the exact integration of every part of it.
I am not going to deal with all our achievements or I would take too long. I want only to indicate those general lines on; which we are, building the foundation of the future. There is the control of finance. There is the smaller tribute paid today by those who work to those who own. The Budgets of the Chancellor of the Exchequer have effected a great Control of finance, and a better distribution of purchasing power among the masses. The second thing is the transfer of basic industries into public ownership. A third is the control of the land and the planning of the country, not only to the economic advantage of the country but to make it a happy and a beautiful place for our people to live in. There is the direction of capital into the places where labour is. We are not going to have the Depressed Areas again. That is planning. We have an agricultural policy going forward, and it is first time in my recollection that any Minister of Agriculture has had his policy approved by all the workers in agriculture – farmers, workers and the rest. We have had the great building up of the social services, of health and education. There are many other matters too numerous to mention, but that is not a bad achievement for less than two years.
Overseas we have been carrying out Labour’s policy. What is Labour’s policy overseas? We have sought to help all our fellow men towards self-government and towards higher economic standards. These problems are not easy. We have sought earnestly to deal with the great problem of India, the problem of Burma, the problems in the Colonial Empire. You heard the account of what is being done in that sphere. We are seeking to promote the economic development of the world in the interests of all peoples – not for some favoured few, as Mr. Nash pointed out so well. We have got away from that idea. We are seeking to develop the resources of the world for a higher standard life for all.
In foreign affairs we have been following a policy based on support of the United Nations organisation. We have had a great many Ministers besides the Foreign Secretary going overseas and taking part in international conferences. People’s eyes are too apt to be fixed on certain political discussions and to ignore the work going on in the Social and Economic Council and in the international field. A number of our Ministers, young as well as old, have taken part. And well they have done; and I would like to express my confidence in Ernest Bevin and his collaborators. I say that we are seeking earnestly to build up harmony and world peace, and I utterly deny the charge made by some people whose subservience to one great power makes them charge us with subservience to another. We are subservient to none. We seek to collaborate with all.
Finally I will say a word on the work that lies ahead. We are not, I think – despite some prognostications in the newspapers – yet half way through this Parliament. We intend to complete our programme. That programme is only an installment of our long-term plan. We intend, with your help and the help of the people of this country, to carry that long term plan to completion. Can we carry it out? Well, we can legislate and we can administer, but the implementation of our plan does not depend on the Government alone, or Parliament alone, or the Civil Service alone; it depends on the co-operation of the people of this country. We have gone far now in deciding fairer distribution of the national cake. We must increase the size of that national cake. We must have hard work, good management, true economy and a full use of science if we are to increase the wealth of this country and raise the standard of life of our people. And we must co-operate to this end with other countries. We must raise the amount of available wealth in the whole world. We must march forward together.
When we took on this great responsibility I said ‘We face great difficulties. We have a great opportunity.’ That opportunity has come to the British Labour Movement. It has come to the British people. It is for us to demonstrate to the world that democratic Socialism is the way to peace, the way prosperity, the way to freedom and the way to happiness. Today there is no coherent alternative policy to Labour’s in this country. Our opponents are bankrupt of ideas. They seek to deck out that shabby garment of competitive capitalism and organised selfishness with shreds and patches taken from our programme. But they lack the essential inspiration. They lack the moral ideal that informs our policy. They lack, in a word, our Socialist faith – the faith that has carried us to power after years of striving, the faith that can remove mountains, the faith in the common people, the faith that we can build a world of peace, a world of justice, a world of freedom, a world of happiness for all. In that faith we shall conquer.
Leader’s speech, Margate 1947
Clement Attlee – Widely considered the finest UK Prime Minister of modern times, in public and academic surveys
Labour was elected to office in July of 1945. Ten months later (on the 11th of June) Attlee reported on the government’s achievements to the rest of the Labour Party. They were many: nationalisation of the Bank of England, the repeal of the Trades Disputes Act, legislation on National Insurance and the NHS. But also numerous were the difficulties: managing demobilization; the transition from a war to a peace economy; the housing shortage in a bombed-out nation; shortages of labour, coal, transport and food.
The Times described this speech, in terms that perhaps seem unlikely to be applied to so famously modest a figure as Clem Attlee, calling it “a vivacious account of the Government’s achievements in the first 10 months of its life”. In truth there is much that seems simply businesslike in this speech. Yet that very manner serves Attlee well as he seeks to reassure his Party and steel it for the labours to come.
Formally, the party leader’s speech to the Labour Party Conference is the report of the Parliamentary section to the rest of the Labour movement. And perhaps the most striking thing about the speech, to those looking at it today, is the extent to which it really is such a report. There is little here that is addressed to a wider public and not much that is hugely rousing. Indeed, the tone is more one of reassurance of the Party. Attlee lays out the successes of his young ministry, and affirms the overall competence and experience of the Labour Parliamentarians. There seems to be a measure of defensiveness in front of a party that may want more, and more quickly. Attlee dampens expectations while reassuring that ‘the Movement is going forward’.
The speech is light on metaphorical flourish – aside from a rather drawn out image of a policy ‘fish basket’ – but ends with a firm commitment to he an idealistic politics. A passage in foreign policy affirms commitment to decolonisation and the spread of democracy. Expressions of international solidarity will remain an element of the Labour leaders speech into the 1990’s.
Overall the speech is an argument for (and a demonstration of) the unity of the party in government. But behind that lurks a certain defensiveness. In reporting on the success of the Parliamentary Party Attlee seems to think it necessary to prove the right of his people to be in office. He stresses their legitimacy by referring several times to their electoral mandate; he affirms competence by adducing ministers’ previous experience in the war cabinet; he cites the ability to convince an unnamed American statesman. He also feels it is important to state that his government’s policies are rooted in practical experience and not ‘a priori theorising’. In short, although primarily addressed to the party the speech seems also to respond to range of criticisms expresses elsewhere (and in so doing draws attention to them). That is a characteristic of speeches from Labour leaders. It is never found in Conservative oratory.
I have heard many Parliamentary Reports moved in Conference. I myself have been responsible for a number of them, but this Parliamentary Report differs in character from any of those that have come before Conference hitherto. For the first time we have a Report of the work of a Labour Government in power, a Labour Government supported by a great majority in the House of Commons, a Labour Government carrying out the policies of the Socialist Movement.
I have been nearly 24 years in the House of Commons, years of struggle, years of being in a minority, with two short frustrated periods of office. It was not without emotion that I rose for the first time in the House of Commons with the consciousness of the backing of nearly 400 Members. Today my mind goes back, first of all, to the last Bournemouth Conference in that fateful year, 1940. I remember how this Conference took its great decision. It did not take that decision lightly, but it resolved that in the crisis of the nation the Labour Movement would take its full share of responsibility. We went into the Government as a united party. Through those difficult years we worked as a united party, and we came out as a united party. Those decisions were taken democratically by the Labour Party in conference. We did not have to wait to be told the party line from elsewhere.
Those five years of responsibility were of inestimable value to us when the time came for us to take over the responsibilities of government. We had much experience. We had much knowledge of the problems that we had to face, but before we took over the Government we went to an election, and we fought that General Election honestly. I have known skilful tacticians in the political world who have told me that it was always advisable to go to the country on negatives, on criticism, on grievances and vague promises. I have known Governments that have got in through a subterfuge.
I have known Governments that have got in through stunts of one kind and another. We went in setting out our full programme, and as a result we were returned – as our opponents admit – with a mandate for our full policy. That is democracy in action.
What has been our course of action since we obtained power? How have we approached our problems? I recall very well meeting the new Labour Parliamentary Party in the Beaver Hall in the City of London, and I stated then that our intention was to carry out our full programme. I said: ‘We have to deal with the problems arising from the war and the aftermath of war, very heavy problems that will put a burden on any Government. We have schemes of social reform, schemes prepared during the war government, in the preparation of which your Labour Ministers took a very full share. We are resolved to carry through those great schemes.’ But, I said, ‘We also are resolved to carry out as rapidly and as energetically as we can the distinctive side of Labour’s programme: our socialist policy, our policy of nationalisation.’ That was the line of action laid down then. It was embodied in the King’s speech, and this Report shows you how faithfully it has been carried out.
This vigorous and forceful action rather upset our opponents, for some of them seemed to be rather scandalised that, having gone to the country with a clear and definite programme, we should proceed to carry it out. It was always their pretence that programmes of nationalisation were theoretical, ideological fads, drawing the Government’s attention from its proper duties. Indeed, they went so far as to embody that view in a vote of censure which, as you will see from this Report, was well and truly defeated. The fact is that these measures of ours are not theoretical trimmings. They are an essential part of a planned economy that we are introducing into this country. They are designed to help in promoting full employment, economic prosperity and justice for all. They are vital to the efficient working of the industrial and political machine of this country. They are the embodiment of our Socialist principle of placing the welfare of the nation before that of any section and of dealing with every problem in a practical and businesslike way. We have been able to show how essential our proposals are to the needs of the existing situation, and so, when it came to bringing our measures on to the floor of the House, our Ministers and our Members in the House had no difficulty in putting their case across. Let me say that I have never known a Parliamentary Labour Party with so many Members so capable of putting Labour’s case across.
We had secured a clear mandate from the people, and so, when we introduced the nationalisation of the Bank of England – which some of us can remember as a subject of such violent storms in Parliament and the press, which was regarded by some people as the end of all things – it went through with hardly a ripple on the surface of either House, and when we came to the nationalisation of the mines, although there was criticism in detail, it was quite clear that the Opposition had no alternative. I recall very well, after the Second Reading debate, talking to an American statesman. He does not belong to our Party. The last thing he would like would be to be accused of being a Socialist, but when he came away from that debate he said: ‘Your man Shinwell convinced me.’ The case on the mines was unanswerable. Those two have already become law, but others are marching on. The Cable and Wireless Bill is in Committee, and so is the Civil Aviation Bill. Others are in preparation, and the process will continue. These measures are not the result of some a priori theorising. They come out of hard and practical experience and close study of the problems involved.
I think that that is a pretty good start. You must not overload the political machine. I believe that quite a number of our Members in the House of Commons are realising that we have made our policy of full employment begin with them. You must not overload the administrative machine either, because the Civil Servants are also experiencing full employment. In all these things we must observe the priorities
I can assure you that we are planning ahead. We are planning ahead for the work of the next session after this one and the next after that. It is generally agreed that this legislative activity is unexampled. It is attributable to the energies of Ministers, of the Civil Service and of the House of Commons. 73 Bills have been introduced. 55 have already received the Royal Assent. There are a lot of fish in the basket, and they are not just minnows. There are pretty big salmon among them. Look at those three great measures of social reform: National Insurance, National Insurance Injuries and the National Health Services. In previous Parliaments any one of those would have been thought to have provided a full meal for a whole year. We worked on the basis of what was done under the War Government, but Parliament and this Government have improved on those first drafts submitted during the war years. We have produced them in the first ten months of our Government.
Our opponents had some kind of a vague programme, not very clearly put across at the General Election, which was called the five year plan. As far as I can see they would have proceeded very leisurely to do in five years what we have done in ten months. We are in great measures of social reform, to vary my metaphor, two up and one to play, two on the Statute Book and one which is just going through Committee. We have had a wonderful spirit and wonderfully loyal support from all our Members in the House. Of course, they have criticised because we are trained in criticism, but their criticism has been constructive.
Let us look a little further into the fish basket. Here is another large one: the repeal of the Trade Disputes Act. At long last that unjust stigma on the Trade Union Movement, that injustice to Civil Servants, has been removed. The late Prime Minister invited us to go to the country on this issue, to appeal to Caesar. We appealed, Caesar gave his verdict, and the Trade Disputes Act is no more.
We have had two successful Budgets. It is a remarkable thing that confidence in our British financial system has risen steadily with the work of the Socialist Chancellor of the Exchequer. Besides these Budgets he has introduced other measures designed to make money the servant and not the master, designed to cause capital to flow into those channels where it will bring forth most fruit for the benefit of the whole people.
Among the lesser measures there are some which are of vital importance dealing with questions applicable to the miners, questions dealing with dockers, dealing with special sections of the people and dealing with the whole people. Besides these there are a number of measures which are absolutely needed in the stern conditions under which we are living.
I would like you for a moment to consider just what the conditions have been in which this great volume of legislation has been placed on the Statute Book: not the easy times of peace, not a time of settled conditions, not a time of leisure for Ministers or for Civil Servants, but the most difficult time of all, the period of reconstruction after a great war. I say, the fact that we have been able to pass these measures with full discussion is a great vindication of the democratic system of government.
But legislation is one thing and administration is another. Let us have a look at administration. No one, I think, would deny the magnitude of the administrative tasks that have faced this Government. People used to say to me before the election: ‘Don’t you hope you will not win? Look at the difficulty of your task.’ We did not take that line. Take one or two of our major questions. Demobilisation is an enormous problem. Our policy was to maintain with reasonable flexibility the principles which had been laid down by a great Minister of Labour, Ernest Bevin, during the war. Nothing throws up more difficult cases than demobilisation. Nowhere is it more easy to get prejudice, but I claim, looking back over these ten months, that our policy has been vindicated, and, considering the difficulties, that great change-over has worked wonderfully smoothly, thanks not just to the Government machine but to the temper and patience of the fighting men and women, and to the full co-operation of organised labour.
We then had the problem of the change-over from a war to a peace economy. Inevitably you will get some pockets of unemployment, but we have seen a wonderful and orderly absorption of labour into industry where it was most needed. Again, how much we owe to co-operation with the Trade Unions. We have seen a remarkable expansion of our export trade. You can see here, too, plans working out to direct industry to where it is most needed, to see that never again are we left with those special areas which we had before the war, and that we do not over-congest areas like London and other centres.
We have been giving freedom to develop where restrictions are not necessary, but we have kept on restrictions which are needed to prevent exploitation and inflation.
Take another problem: housing. It is an enormous problem that cannot be solved quickly. Some people seem to think that one could build all the houses that one wants m the winter. They do not belong to the building trades. There is a lot of criticism by ignoramuses, but now, week by week, work is going forward. Houses are being built, houses are in building, houses are being completed. We shall carry out the programme set us, not to solve the problem in twelve months, but, with the resources available, to go steadily ahead on our policy of providing houses for the people.
In conditions of shortage of labour, shortage of materials, difficulties as regards food and transport, to talk of the complete removal of controls is folly. We do not try to keep any controls that are not essential. I think the steadiness of the nation is remarkable, and the demand for the abolition of controls is practically confined to the lunatic fringe, but, actually, we do not want all the time to emphasise restrictions. Actually a new impulse has been, given by the Labour Government over the whole field of governmental activity. In every sphere administration has been given a definite objective. Besides the work of the Cabinet and its Committees in co-ordinating work, there is a wonderful effect from having Ministers who are animated by the same ideals. It helps them to make a co-operative effort. It helps them to take the broad view.
You see, therefore, the Movement going forward, in agriculture, education and every department, and you see it, too, in the fighting services. There has been a new start. For the first time the remuneration of the fighting services has been deliberately equated with that of civilian workers. It is a bigger change, perhaps, than everybody realises.
We are facing difficulties, but difficulties are made to be overcome, but our home problems are affected all the time by the world situation. Our home food troubles have been vastly accentuated by the responsibilities that we have for others. We are holding a firm balance between our responsibilities to our own people and our responsibilities to peoples of the world, and we are striving, and with success, to get the world food problem viewed not as that of a scramble for every country to get its own, but for all of us to overcome these years of dearth and, in the future, to have a world that is free from want.
Coal shortages and transport shortages again are not just home problems. They are foreign problems. I need not tell you what energetic leads have been given by our representatives at international conferences. There are economic matters, monetary matters and social matters. This Labour Movement of ours has never been a narrow insular movement. It has always recognised that the cause of the workers all over the world was one. We have always realised that you cannot build up a little safety zone for yourselves and leave misery in the rest of the world.
In this problem of foreign politics, in the implementation of the great responsibilities that fall on this country – because we were one of the great victors in the war – the Labour Government is resolved to carry out its responsibilities. I am not going to say much this morning on foreign affairs because you are going to have a full debate, and you will hear our great Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin. We are carrying out, in foreign affairs, our Party policy, and we bring to foreign affairs, as to other spheres, the touchstone of our Socialist faith. We are seeking to promote world peace by collective security. For many years we have been faithful to that doctrine when others fell away. At the time of the late Arthur Henderson we did our utmost.
We have taken up again the work that fell from the hands of that great man. We support democracy and freedom everywhere. Let me say that we know what democracy means and we know what freedom means, because we have it ourselves. We know, too, that political world settlement is not enough. We must base the peace on economic prosperity and social justice. I say that we know what democracy and freedom mean. We do not seek to force our ideas on other countries. We recognise that we live in a world of variously organised States, some Socialist, some capitalist, some Communist, and many with mixed economies. We have to live and work in the world with States of diverse characteristics, just as here in this country we live and work with our fellow citizens of diverse characteristics. We believe in the co-operation between peoples of different outlooks, and not the attempt to force a dull uniformit y on the world. We ask for others the freedom that we claim for ourselves.
We proclaim this freedom, but we do more than proclaim it. We seek to put it into effect. Witness India. We have invited the people of India to decide their own destiny. If they will stay with us in the British Commonwealth we shall welcome them. If they desire to go outside, we shall stretch out the hand of friendship to them. Meanwhile, my three colleagues have been labouring over there, not to force something on India, but to help the Indians to solve their own problems.
We have set an example in UNO, where we were the first to proclaim our readiness to hand over our possessions from the last war under a system of trusteeship. In the Colonial Empire also self-government marches on. No Government has given more complete proof of its desire to follow the path of democracy and freedom. We hear a few voices now, and again mumbling the old shibboleths about Imperialism. I must say they seem to me rather second-hand voices.
Well, here is our work at home and abroad. We set this record before you, and this, after all, is but the beginning of things. We have had only just over ten months of Government. The work of a Prime Minister in these days is very heavy. The content of Government has expanded immensely in the last thirty or forty years, and no man can carry the burden of the Premiership without the loyal support and co-operation of his colleagues in the Government and without the loyal backing of the Party in Parliament and in the country. Let me say how fortunate I am in having such good and loyal comrades – a team of able colleagues working each in his own sphere and co-operating together in the general work of government. If you look around today you will not see any easy jobs in the Government. Every Department has its hard problems. Every Department needs an active and hard-working Minister, and every Department has got one today. There are Ministers who hold what are called sinecure offices where there is not much to do in the way of a department, but I am not sure that they are not the most hard-worked of all ministers. Let me refer to the Lord President the Council, Herbert Morrison. He does a great work in leading the House of Commons. That is where you see him, on the floor of the House. What you do not see is the mass of work he is doing behind the scenes in co-ordinating the work of Ministers. Take the Lord Privy Seal, Arthur Greenwood. Our special measures owe an immense debt to his knowledge and hard work. Then, of course, there is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Generally you come up against a Chancellor the Exchequer whenever you want something, and he says ‘No,’ but we have a constructive Chancellor: he is not a ‘Yes’ man and he will say ‘No’ on occasions, but not on every occasion, and that is what you want in a Chancellor of the Exchequer. And, of course, I have got the Foreign Secretary. I cannot run through the list of all my colleagues, but I especially mention another one – Lord Addison, the House of Lords. It is not an easy job to be in a permanent minority, but there are in that House what I used to call the thin red line of heroes – rather more of them now – and they are doing a very good work. The work of a Government is team work, and I want to give my thanks to my colleagues, whether as Ministers or as Under-Secretaries or as Whips; the last-named are people not ways popular, but we have a very good team of Whips. One other Minister I must mention once thought of the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster as being filled by dear old gentlemen – I filled it myself once – but, I should like to pay a tribute to the present Chancellor, John Hynd, and the difficult work that he has done which lies behind the occupation of Germany.
I wish I could mention all my colleagues, but they know we appreciate their work. We are backed by the finest House of Commons, I think, within living memory. I do not know what the House was like in the eighteenth century, but certainly it is the finest in our time, and much as I love and admire my colleagues of the past, I think that we have now in the House certainly the ablest and youngest, as well as the largest, Parliamentary Party we have ever had. If you look at this Report you will see how active they are, not only on the floor of the House but in Committees of every kind, in which they prepare themselves for work in the House and for bringing to bear that constructive criticism which all Governments need.
After all, this is only a beginning. I stand here with this experience of Government to reaffirm my faith in democratic Socialism. We will never sacrifice the liberties won by our forefathers. It is social democracy which can set us free from the tyranny of economic power and preserve us, too, from the dangers of the absolute power of the State. The inspiring vigour of Parliament, with its free and open criticism, is the source of strength of this Government, as of all British Governments. We rejoice in the co-operation of the people with the Government. We rejoice in the fact that great organisations like the Trade Unions co-operate with us, as well as scores of voluntary agencies, national and local, bringing to the governmental machine the surge of individual enthusiasm. That is a mark of the British way of life.
No one realises more clearly than I do that we have a long way to go yet to reach the Britain of our dreams and the world of our desires, and we believe that we shall get from all the people of this land hard work and courage to take us through the years ahead. For that hard work men and women need the inspiration of a great ideal. We are not ashamed to proclaim ourselves a party of idealists inspired by a living faith in freedom, democracy, and social justice. Through many years of adversity we have kept our faith, we have striven for the opportunity to translate our Socialist policy into action. That opportunity has now come to us in full measure. We have, I believe, made a good beginning. We shall not falter. With faith in the justice of our cause and our ability to serve the nation we confidently face the future
Leader’s speech, Bournemouth 1946