|‘Pick some dominant emotion if you want, but touch on it only for a few minutes. Then swing your argument to something else. Then come back to it. The human mind is like a pendulum: you can start it swinging a little at a time and gradually come back with added force, until finally you can close in a burst of dramatic oratory, with the jury inflamed to a white rage against the other side. But if you try to talk to as jury for as much as fifteen minutes, and harp continually upon one line, you will find that the jurors have quit listening to you before you finish.’|
So this is a fight we have to make everywhere which brings me to my last point, and the most important thing of all – although it may sound naive to you.
What this is all about is that simple question: which will be more important in the twenty first century – our differences or our common humanity?
This encounter we have had with the Taliban and Mr Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda and all the debate that has filled the airwaves since, has given us a picture of this debate and of the very different ideas we have about the nature of truth, the value of life, the content of community. Like fanatics everywhere throughout history, these people think they’ve got the truth, and if you share their truth, your life has value. And if you don’t, you’re a legitimate target, even if you’re just a six year old girl who went to work with her mother at the World Trade Center on September 11th.
That’s what they think. And they really believe it, like fanatics everywhere. They think to be in their community, you have to look like them, think like them and act like them and they know people will stray every now and then, so they pick a few people to beat the living daylights out of those who stray.
Now most of us believe that no-one has the absolute truth. Indeed, in our societies, the most religious among us sometimes feel that most strongly because we believe as children of God, we are by definition, limited in this life, in this body, with our minds. That life is a journey toward truth, that we have something to learn from each other, and that everybody ought to have a chance to make the journey. So for us, a community is just made up of anybody accepts the rules of the game, everybody counts, everybody has a role to play, everybody deserves a chance and we all do better when we work together. Now, that’s what this is about.
This is not complicated. The people that want to kill us over our differences do so because they think their life doesn’t matter except insofar as they are different from and better than others. Those of us who are trying to change ourselves and change them, we think our common humanity is more important and if we could just live up to its potential, the world would be a better place. And which side wins will shape the twenty first century.
What do you think is more important?
The answer is easy to give, but very, very hard to live. Think about this as you go home tonight.
Think about how important your differences are to you. Think about how we all organise our lives in little boxes – man, woman, British, American, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Tory, Labour, New Labour, Old Labour, up, down – you know, everything in the world. I like red ties, I got a blue shirt on, you laugh about it, think about everything you define yourself by.
Our little boxes are important to us. And indeed it is necessary, how could you navigate life if you didn’t know the difference between a child and an adult, an African and an Indian, a scientist and a lawyer?
We have to organise that, but somewhere along the way, we finally come to understand that our life is more than all these boxes we’re in. And that if we can’t reach beyond that, we’ll never have a fuller life. And the fanatics of the world, they love their boxes and they hate yours. You’re laughing, that’s what this is all about. And it’s easy to give the right answer but it’s hard to live.
Source: The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century
by Bill Clinton
Gordon Brown’s speech to Congress: the full text
Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, gave a speech to US Congress in Washington on Wednesday. Here is the full transcript.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown addresses a Joint Meeting of Congress Photo: EPA
4:33PM GMT 04 Mar 2009
With faith in the future, We can build tomorrow today
Madam Speaker, Mr Vice-President, distinguished members of Congress, I come to this great capital of this great nation, an America renewed under a new President to say that America’s faith in the future has been, is and always will be an inspiration to the whole world.
The very creation of America was a bold affirmation of faith in the future: a future you have not just believed in but built with your own hands.
And on January 20th, you the American people began to write the latest chapter in the American story, with a transition of dignity, in which both sides of the aisle could take great pride. President Obama gave the world renewed hope, and on that day billions of people truly looked to Washington D.C as “a shining city upon a hill”.
And I hope that you will allow me to single out for special mention today one of your most distinguished Senators, known in every continent and a great friend. Northern Ireland is today at peace, more Americans have health care, more children around the world are going to school, and for all those things we owe a great debt to the life and courage of, Senator Edward Kennedy.
And so today, having talked to him last night, I want to announce that Her Majesty The Queen, has awarded an honorary Knighthood for Sir Edward Kennedy.
Madam Speaker, Mr Vice-President, I come in friendship to renew, for new times, our special relationship founded upon our shared history, our shared values and, I believe, our shared futures.
I grew up in the 1960s as America, led by President Kennedy, looked to the heavens and saw not the endless void of the unknown, but a new frontier to dare to discover and explore. People said it couldn’t be done – but America did it.
And 20 years later, in the 1980’s, America led by President Reagan refused to accept the fate of millions trapped behind an Iron Curtain, and insisted instead that the people of Eastern Europe be allowed to join the ranks of nations which live safe, strong and free. People said it would never happen in our lifetime but it did, and the Berlin Wall was torn down brick by brick.
So early in my life I came to understand that America is not just the indispensible nation, it is the irrepressible nation.
Throughout your history Americans have led insurrections in the human imagination, have summoned revolutionary times through your belief that there is no such thing as an impossible endeavour. It is never possible to come here without having your faith in the future renewed.
Throughout a whole century the American people stood liberty’s ground not just in one world war but in two.
And I want you to know that we will never forget the sacrifice and service of the American soldiers who gave their lives for people whose names they never knew, and whose faces they never saw, and yet people who have lived in freedom thanks to the bravery and valour of the Americans who gave the “last full measure of devotion”.
Cemetery after cemetery across Europe honours the memory of American soldiers, resting row upon row – often alongside comrades-in-arms from Britain. There is no battlefield of liberty on which there is not a piece of land that is marked out as American and there is no day of remembrance in Britain that is not also a commemoration of American courage and sacrifice far from home.
In the hardest days of the last century, faith in the future kept America alive and I tell you that America kept faith in the future alive for all the world.
Almost every family in Britain has a tie that binds them to America. So I want you to know that whenever a young American soldier or marine, sailor or airman is killed in conflict anywhere in the world, we, the people of Britain, grieve with you. Know that your loss is our loss; your families’ sorrow is our families’ sorrow and your nation’s determination is our nation’s determination that they shall not have died in vain.
And let me pay tribute to the soldiers, yours and ours, who again fight side by side in the plains of Afghanistan and the streets of Iraq, just as their forefathers fought side by side in the sands of Tunisia, on the beaches of Normandy and then on the bridges over the Rhine.
And after that terrible September morning when your homeland was attacked, the Coldstream Guards at Buckingham Palace played the Star Spangled Banner. Our own British tribute as we wept for our friends in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And let me promise you our continued support to ensure there is no hiding place for terrorists, no safe haven for terrorism. You should be proud that in the hard years since 2001 you have shown that while terrorists may destroy buildings and even, tragically, lives, they have not, and will not ever, destroy the American spirit.
So let it be said of the friendship between our two countries; that it is in times of trial – true, in the face of fear – faithful and amidst the storms of change – constant.
And let it be said of our friendship – formed and forged over two tumultuous centuries, a friendship tested in war and strengthened in peace – that it has not just endured but is renewed in each generation to better serve our shared values and fulfil the hopes and dreams of the day. Not an alliance of convenience, but a partnership of purpose.
Alliances can wither or be destroyed, but partnerships of purpose are indestructible. Friendships can be shaken, but our friendship is unshakeable. Treaties can be broken but our partnership is unbreakable. And I know there is no power on earth than can drive us apart.
We will work tirelessly with you as partners for peace in the Middle East: for a two state solution that provides for nothing less than a secure Israel safe within its borders existing side by side with a viable Palestinian state.
And our shared message to Iran is simple – we are ready for you to rejoin the world community. But first, you must cease your threats and suspend your nuclear programme. And we will work tirelessly with all those in the international community who are ready to reduce the threat of nuclear proliferation.
Past British Prime Ministers have travelled to this Capitol building in times of war to talk of war. I come now to talk of new and different battles we must fight together; to speak of a global economy in crisis and a planet imperilled.
These are new priorities for our new times.
And let us be honest – tonight too many parents, after they put their children to bed, will speak of their worries about losing their jobs or the need to sell the house. Too many will share stories of friends or neighbours already packing up their homes, and too many will talk of a local store or business that has already gone to the wall.
For me, this global recession is not to be measured just in statistics, or in graphs or in figures on a balance sheet. Instead I see one individual with their own aspirations and increasingly their own apprehensions, and then another, and then another.
Each with their own stars to reach for.
Each part of a family, each at the heart of a community now in need of help and hope.
And when banks have failed and markets have faltered, we the representatives of the people have to be the people’s last line of defence.
And that’s why there is no financial orthodoxy so entrenched, no conventional thinking so engrained, no special interest so strong that it should ever stand in the way of the change that hard-working families need.
We have learned through this world downturn that markets should be free but never values-free, that the risks people take should never be separated from the responsibilities they meet.
And if perhaps some once thought it beyond our power to shape global markets to meet the needs of people, we know now that is our duty; we cannot and must not stand aside.
In our families and workplaces and places of worship, we celebrate men and women of integrity who work hard, treat people fairly, take responsibility and look out for others.
If these are the principles we live by in our families and neighbourhoods, they should also be the principles that guide and govern our economic life too.
In these days the world has learned that what makes for the good economy makes for the good society.
My father was a Minister of the church and I have learned again what I was taught by him: that wealth must help more than the wealthy, good fortune must serve more than the fortunate and riches must enrich not just some of us but all.
And these enduring values are the values we need for these new times.
We tend to think of the sweep of destiny as stretching across many months and years before culminating in decisive moments we call history.
But sometimes the reality is that defining moments of history come suddenly and without warning. And the task of leadership then is to define them, shape them and move forward into the new world they demand.
An economic hurricane has swept the world, creating a crisis of credit and of confidence.
History has brought us now to a point where change is essential. We are summoned not just to manage our times but to transform them.
Our task is to rebuild prosperity and security in a wholly different economic world, where competition is no longer local but global and banks are no longer just national but international.
And we need to understand what went wrong in this crisis, that the very financial instruments that were designed to diversify risk across the banking system instead spread contagion across the globe. And today’s financial institutions are so interwoven that a bad bank anywhere is a threat to good banks everywhere.
So should we succumb to a race to the bottom and a protectionism that history tells us that, in the end, protects no-one? No. We should have the confidence that we can seize the opportunities ahead and make the future work for us.
Because while today people are anxious and feel insecure, over the next two decades literally billions of people in other continents will move from being simply producers of their goods to being consumers of our goods and in this way our world economy will double in size.
Twice as many opportunities for business, twice as much prosperity, and the biggest expansion of middle class incomes and jobs the world has ever seen.
And America and Britain will succeed and lead if we tap into the talents of our people, unleash the genius of our scientists and set free the drive of our entrepreneurs. We will win the race to the top if we can develop the new high value products and services and the new green technologies that the rising numbers of hard-working families across our globe will want to buy.
So we must educate our way out of the downturn, invest and invent our way out of the downturn and re-tool and re-skill our way out of the downturn.
And this is not blind optimism or synthetic confidence to console people; it is the practical affirmation for our times of our faith in a better future.
Every time we rebuild a school we demonstrate our faith in the future. Every time we send more young people to university, every time we invest more in our new digital infrastructure, every time we increase support to our scientists, we demonstrate our faith in the future.
And so I say to this Congress and this country, something that runs deep in your character and is woven in your history, we conquer our fear of the future through our faith in the future.
And it is this faith in the future that means we must commit to protecting the planet for generations that will come long after us.
As the Greek proverb says, why does anybody plant the seeds of a tree whose shade they will never see?
The answer is because they look to the future.
And I believe that you, the nation that had the vision to put a man on the moon, are also the nation with the vision to protect and preserve our planet earth.
And it is only by investing in environmental technology that we can end the dictatorship of oil, and it is only by tackling climate change that we create the millions of new green jobs we need.
For the lesson of this crisis is that we cannot just wait for tomorrow today. We cannot just think of tomorrow today. We cannot merely plan for tomorrow today. Our task must be to build tomorrow today.
And America knows from its history that its reach goes far beyond its geography. For a century you have carried upon your shoulders the greatest of responsibilities: to work with and for the rest of the world. And let me tell you that now more than ever the rest of the world wants to work with you.
And if these times have shown us anything it is that the major challenges we all face are global. No matter where it starts, an economic crisis does not stop at the water’s edge. It ripples across the world. Climate change does not honour passport control. Terrorism has no respect for borders. And modern communications instantly span every continent. The new frontier is that there is no frontier, the new shared truth is that global problems need global solutions.
And let me say that you now have the most pro-American European leadership in living memory. A leadership that wants to cooperate more closely together, in order to cooperate more closely with you. There is no old Europe, no new Europe, there is only your friend Europe.
So once again I say we should seize the moment – because never before have I seen a world so willing to come together. Never before has that been more needed. And never before have the benefits of cooperation been so far-reaching.
So when people here and in other countries ask what more can we do now to bring an end to this downturn, let me say this: we can achieve more working together. And just think of what we can do if we combine not just in a partnership for security but in a new partnership for prosperity too.
On jobs, you the American people through your stimulus proposals could create or save at least 3 million jobs. We in Britain are acting with similar determination. How much nearer an end to this downturn would we be if the whole of the world resolved to do the same?
And you are also restructuring your banks. So are we. But how much safer would everybody’s savings be if the whole world finally came together to outlaw shadow banking systems and offshore tax havens?
Just think how each of our actions, if combined, could mean a whole, much greater than the sum of the parts
– all and not just some banks stabilised
– on fiscal stimulus: the impact multiplied because everybody does it
– rising demand in all our countries creating jobs in each of our countries
– and trade once again the engine of prosperity, the wealth of nations restored.
No one should forget that it was American visionaries who over half a century ago, coming out of the deepest of depressions and the worst of wars, produced the boldest of plans for global economic cooperation because they recognised prosperity was indivisible and concluded that to be sustained it had to be shared.
And I believe that ours too is a time for renewal, for a plan for tackling recession and building for the future. Every continent playing their part in a global new deal, a plan for prosperity that can benefit us all.
First, so that the whole of the worldwide banking system serves our prosperity rather than risks it, let us agree rules and standards for accountability, transparency, and reward that will mean an end to the excesses and will apply to every bank, everywhere, and all the time.
Second, America and a few countries cannot be expected to bear the burden of the fiscal and interest rate stimulus alone. We must share it globally. So let us work together for the worldwide reduction of interest rates and a scale of stimulus round the world equal to the depth of the recession and the dimensions of the recovery we must make.
Third, let us together renew our international economic cooperation, helping the emerging markets rebuild their banks. And let us work together for a low carbon recovery worldwide. And I am confident that this President, this Congress and the peoples of the world can come together in Copenhagen this December to reach a historic agreement on climate change.
And let us not forget the poorest. As we strive to spread the values of peace, political liberty, and the hope for better lives across the world, perhaps the greatest gift our generation could give to the future, the gift of America and Britain to the world could be, for every child in every country of the world, the chance millions do not have today; the chance to go to school.
For let us remember there is a common bond that unites us as human beings across different beliefs, cultures and nationalities. It is at the core of my convictions, the essence of America’s spirit and the heart of all faiths.
And it must be at the centre of our response to the crisis of today. At their best, our values tell us that we cannot be wholly content while others go without, cannot be fully comfortable while millions go without comfort, cannot be truly happy while others grieve alone.
And this too is true. All of us know that in a recession the wealthiest, the most powerful and the most privileged can find a way through for themselves.
So we do not value the wealthy less when we say that our first duty is to help the not so wealthy. We do not value the powerful less when we say that our first responsibility is to help the powerless. And we do not value those who are secure less when we say that our first priority must be to help the insecure.
These recent events have forced us all to think anew. And while I have learnt many things, I keep returning to something I first learned in my father’s church as a child. In this most modern of crises I am drawn to the most ancient of truths; wherever there is hardship, wherever there is suffering, we cannot, we will not, pass by on the other side.
But working together there is no challenge to which we are not equal, no obstacle that we cannot overcome, no aspiration so high that it cannot be achieved.
In the depths of the Depression, when Franklin Roosevelt did battle with fear itself, it was not simply by the power of his words, his personality and his example that he triumphed.
Yes, all these things mattered. But what mattered more was this enduring truth: that you, the American people, at your core, were, as you remain, every bit as optimistic as your Roosevelts, your Reagans and your Obamas.
This is the faith in the future that has always been the story and promise of America. So at this defining moment in history let us renew our special relationship for our generation and our times. Let us restore prosperity and protect this planet and, with faith in the future, let us together build tomorrow today.
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.
The Struggle for the Soul of the 21st Century by Bill Clinton
The lecture was presented 14 December 2001.
I’m delighted to be here, delighted to be part of this distinguished lecture series at a time when every American is especially grateful for our long friendship with the United Kingdom; one that we see manifest now in the partnership that President Bush and Tony Blair have demonstrated in the fight against Afghanistan; one that touched every American heart when the Queen instructed her band to play the American national anthem in the grounds of Buckingham Palace the day after September 11th; one that I came to appreciate deeply when we worked together for peace for Northern Ireland and the Balkans.
Lord Keynes once said how difficult it is for nations to understand one another, even when they had the advantage of a common language; everyone talks about international co-operation, but how little of pride, of temper, or of habit. Tonight I want to talk a little bit about the prospects for international co-operation, and the problems of pride and temper and habit standing in the way, knowing that co-operation is the living legacy of Richard Dimbleby and the continuing mission of the BBC. In the poetic words of its motto nation shall speak peace unto nation.
The BBC first spoke to another nation in an experimental broadcast to the United States in 1923. At the time it was questionable that we spoke the same language, it took a team of translators a week to figure out that bangers and mash were not some veiled British threat. By the end of the Second World War, the BBC was broadcasting globally in more than forty languages, setting the standard for the kind of international reporting we see down to the present day in Afghanistan. It was exactly a year ago today, near the end of my tenure as President, on my final trip overseas, that I went to Warwick University with Tony Blair to deliver a speech. As Mr Dimbleby said just a few moments ago, none of us at that time could have foreseen the exact difficulties of this time, but what many of us could see even then and what Prime Minister Blair and I talked about, was a larger battle brewing, one that made it clear to us, at least, that we could no longer delude ourselves that the harsh realities a world away are without real consequence for our own people.
On that day a year ago, I said we have seen how abject poverty accelerates conflict, how it creates recruits for terrorists and those who incite ethnic and religious hatred, how it fuels a violent rejection of the economic and social order on which our future depends. The world has now witnessed a tragic, graphic illustration of that new reality, one that, as Mr Dimbleby implied, has made a lot of people rethink their rosy projections for this new century. I come here to tell you that on balance, I remain quite optimistic. I am absolutely confident that we have the knowledge and the means to make the twenty first century the most peaceful, prosperous, interesting time in all human history. The question is whether we have the wisdom and the will.
The terrorists who struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Centre believe they were attacking symbols of corrupt power and materialism. My family and I have a different view of that, I was Commander-in-Chief of the people who worked at the Pentagon. My wife represents the people of New York in the Senate, I knew people who were on those airplanes. My daughter was in lower Manhattan. I met one of her friends who lost her fiancé. I talked to victims who lost their loved ones who were Jews and Christians and Hindus and Muslims, who came from every continent, including over 250 from the United Kingdom. I talked to children in schools who lost their school buildings on September 11th in lower Manhattan, whose parents come from over eighty different national racial and ethnic groups. To me, all these victims represent the world I worked very hard for eight years to build, a world of expanding freedom, opportunity and citizen responsibility, a world of growth in diversity and in the bonds of community. The terrorists who killed all these people, they thought they had the truth and because they had the whole truth, anyone who didn’t share it, was a legitimate target. They thought that the differences they have with us, political and religious, were all that mattered and served to make all their targets less than human.
Most of us believe that our differences are important and make our lives interesting but that our common humanity matters more. The clash between these two views over this simple question more than any other single issue, will define the shape and the soul of this new century.
I think victory for our point of view depends upon four things.
First we have to win the fight we’re in, in Afghanistan and against these terrorist networks that threaten us today.
Second, we in the wealthy countries have to spread the benefits of the 21st century world and reduce the risks so we can make more partners and fewer terrorists in the future.
Third, the poor countries themselves must make some internal changes so that progress for their own people becomes more possible.
And finally, all of us will have to develop a truly global consciousness about what our responsibilities to each other are and what our relationships are to be. Let me take each of these issues quickly in turn.
First, terror. The deliberate killing of non-combatants has a very long history. No region of the world has been spared it and very few people have clean hands. In 1095, Pope Urban II urged the Christian soldiers to embark on the first crusade to capture Jerusalem for Christ. Well, they did it, and the very first thing they did was to burn a synagogue with three hundred Jews, they then proceeded to murder every Muslim woman and child on the temple mat in a travesty that is still being discussed today in the Middle East. Down through the millennium, innocents continued to die, more in the twentieth century than in any previous period. In my own country, we’ve come a very, very long way since the days when African slaves and native Americans could be terrorised or killed with impunity, but still we have the occasional act of brutality or even death because of someone’s race or religion or sexual orientation. This has history.
Second, no terrorist campaign apart from a conventional military strategy has ever succeeded. Indeed the purpose of terrorism is not military victory, it is to terrorise, to change your behaviour if you’re the victim by making you afraid of today, afraid of tomorrow and in diverse societies like ours, afraid of each other. Therefore, by definition, a terror campaign cannot succeed unless we become its accomplices and out of fear, give in. The third point I want to make is that what makes this terror at the moment particularly frightening, I think first is the combination of universal vulnerability and powerful weapons of destruction. Both those airplanes on September 11th, the anthrax scare and all the other speculation that all of you have seen in the days since. Now, in any new area of conflict, offensive action always prevails in the beginning.
Ever since the first person walked out of a cave millennia ago with a club in his hand, and began beating people into submission, offensive action prevails. Then after a time, someone figured out, well I could put two sticks together and stretch an animal skin over it and I would have a shield and the club wouldn’t work on me any more. All the way through to the present day, that has been the history of combat – first the club, then the shield; first the offence, then defence; that’s why civilisation has survived all this time even in the nuclear age. So it is frightening now because we are in the gap, and the more dangerous the weapons, the more important it is to close quickly the gap between offensive action and the construction of an effective defence.
We have not quite closed the gap and it’s especially frightening for young people who didn’t even know about the Cold War. When my daughter’s generation started thinking about politics, the Cold War was over, nobody talked to them about Vietnam. They didn’t grow up on memories of Korea and World War II or like my generation, having drills at school where we’d go to a bomb shelter to be prepared when the Soviets dropped bombs on us, in the fond illusion that we could actually survive it. So we have to be sensitive to the fact that there are objective reasons for people to be concerned, and we have to work very hard to close the gap. The modern world has been virtually awash in terror: since 1995 there have been twenty one hundred terrorist attacks.
Before September 11th, fewer than twenty had occurred within the United States and only Oklahoma City had claimed a significant number of lives, though we’ve been dealing with this since the early ’80s when over 240 of our Marines were killed by a suicide attack in Beirut.
A Winning Strategy
In the years in which I served as President, we worked very hard to prevent a day like September 11th ever happening. Far more terrorist attacks were thwarted at home and around the world than succeeded, large numbers of terrorists who did commit crimes were brought to justice. We strengthened our defences in chemical and biological areas, we spent more money to protect the nuclear stocks in the former Soviet Union, we dramatically increased our terrorist budgets, we trained several response teams in our largest cities to deal with outbreaks of bio-terrorism. Good people had been working on this a long time but we haven’t completely closed the gap.
We still have much more to do to know that all of our transportation, our water supplies, and our computer networks are secure.
We have more to do to know we have done everything we can to break into terrorist money networks which keep them going.
We have to upgrade and integrate our own information systems so we can keep up with potential terrorists and we have to do more to protect the still massive stocks in the world of chemical, biological and nuclear materials which could become terrorist weapons.
But the larger point holds.
In terror’s long history, it has never succeeded and it won’t this time. The war in Afghanistan will be won shortly, the Al-Qaeda network will be broken up, our defences at home will improve. I can’t say there won’t be more terrorist attacks, there probably will be, but I can say for sure it won’t prevail unless we decide to give it permission and I do not believe we are about to make that decision. Now that brings me to the second point. We’re gonna win this fight – then what? The reason September 11th happened, and it was shocking to Americans, because it happened on our soil, is that we have built a world where we tore down barriers, collapsed distances and spread information. And the UK and America have benefited richly – look at how our economies have performed, look at how our societies have diversified, look at the advances we have made in technology and science.
This new world has been good to us, but you can’t gain the benefits of a world without walls without being more vulnerable. September 11th was the dark side of this new age of global interdependence. If you don’t want to put those walls back up and I don’t think you do, and we probably couldn’t if we tried. And you watch, if you look at some of the recent elections, we’re gonna see some people who try to do that.
And if you don’t want to live with barbed wire around your children and grandchildren for the next hundred years, then it’s not enough to defeat the terrorist. We have to make a world where there are far fewer terrorists, where there are fewer potential terrorists and more partners.
And that responsibility falls primarily upon the wealthy nations, to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens.
Very briefly, what are the main benefits of the modern world?
The global economy; it’s lifted more people out of poverty in the last twenty years than at any time in history. It’s been great for Europe and the United States, in the last few years I was President. It led to huge declines in poverty even as more people were getting rich.
Second, the information technology revolution: when I became President in 1993, there were only fifty sites on the worldwide web – unbelievable – fifty. When I left office, the number was three hundred and fifty million and rising. Even before the anthrax scare, there were thirty times as many messages delivered by email as by the postal service in the United States.
Third, the advances in science. Scientists from the UK and the United States and other countries finished the sequencing of the human genome in a project funded largely with government funds during the time I was President. It was thrilling to me. We’ve already identified the major genetic variances that predict breast cancer, we’re very close on Alzheimer’s and AIDS and Parkinson’s. We’re developing diagnostic tools using something called nano-technology, super-microtechnology that will enable us to identify tumours when they are just a few cells in size, raising the prospect that we will be able to cure all cancers. Researchers are working on digital chips to replicate sophisticated nerve movements in spines, raising the prospect that they will work for damaged spinal cords the way pacemakers do for hearts, and people long paralysed will be able to stand up and walk. There’s no question that quite soon the women in this audience who are in their childbearing years will be able to bring children home from the hospital with little gene cards and life expectancies in excess of ninety years.
And finally, the great blessing of the global age is the explosion of democracy and diversity within democracy. You can argue that those changes make all these other good things possible. This is the first time in history when more people live under governments of their own choosing than live under dictatorships. It has never happened before.
But what are the burdens of the twenty first century? They are also formidable.
Global poverty – half the people on earth are not part of that new economy I talked about. Think about this when you go home tonight. Half the people on earth live on less than two dollars a day. A billion people, less than a dollar a day. A billion people go to bed hungry every night and a billion and a half people – one quarter of the people on earth – never get a clean glass of water. One woman dies every minute in childbirth. So you could say “don’t tell me about the global economy, half the people aren’t part of it, what kind of economy leaves half the people behind?”
Second big problem, the global environment. The oceans that provide most of our oxygen are deteriorating rapidly. There’s a huge water shortage. I already said a quarter of the people never get any. It could change everything about how we grow food and where we live. And finally global warming; if the climate warms for the next fifty years at the rate of the last ten, we’ll lose whole island nations in the Pacific that will be flooded by the rising water table as the South Pole and the North Pole get smaller. We will lose the Everglades in America that I worked so hard to save, we will lose fifty feet of Manhattan island – prime real estate – gone. But more to the point there will be millions of food refugees created, more terror, more destabilisation. But you could argue that long before we have to worry about global warming, we will be consumed by the rise of global epidemics accelerated by the breakdown of public health systems across the globe. This year, one in four of all the people on earth who die, will die of AIDS, TB, malaria and infections related to diarrhoea. Most of them, little kids that never get any clean water. If you just take AIDS alone we have forty million AIDS cases, that is 8,200 people a day dying. Thirteen million orphans. We’re projected to have a hundred million AIDS cases by 2005. If that happens, it will be the biggest epidemic since the plague killed a quarter of Europe in the fourteenth century. And it will destabilise countries and a whole lot of young people around the world will say “well, I’m HIV positive, I’ve got a year or two to live, why shouldn’t I go out and shoot up a bunch of other people?” It’ll look like one of those Mel Gibson road warrior movies in a lot of countries if we have a hundred million AIDS cases. And lest you think it’s an African problem, the fastest growing rates of AIDS are in the former Soviet Union, on Europe’s backdoor.
The second fastest growing rates of AIDS in the Caribbean on America’s front door. My wife represents a million people in New York state from the Dominican Republic alone. The third fastest growing rates of AIDS and the largest number of cases outside South Africa are in India, the world’s biggest democracy. And China just admitted they have twice as many cases as they thought: they had a 67% increase last year, and only 4% of their adults know how AIDS is contracted and spread.
And finally, one of the big burdens of the modern world is high tech terrorism – and a lot of people knew it before September 11th. The marriage of modern weapons to ancient hatreds: Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the Balkans, East Timor, the Middle East or – until, God bless them, the people of my ancestors, the Irish, did the right thing – Northern Ireland. Don’t you think it’s interesting that in the most modern of ages, the biggest problem is the oldest problem of human society – the fear of the other. And how quickly fear leads to distrust, to hatred, to dehumanisation, to death. So we now live in a world without walls that we have worked hard to make.
We have benefits, we have burdens, we have to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens. Very briefly, let me mention some specifics.
First we have to reduce global poverty and increase the economic empowerment of poor people. We know how to do this and it doesn’t cost that much money. Last year we had this phenomenal global effort to reduce the debt of the poorest countries in the world, with everybody from the Pope to Bono to Jesse Helms for it. Usually when everybody’s for something, there’s something wrong with it; in this case there wasn’t. You can only get this debt relief if you put the money into education, healthcare or development. The results have been stunning. Just give you one example: Uganda took their debt relief savings and in one year doubled primary school enrolment and cut class size. We ought to do more of that. America funded, when I was President, two million micro-enterprise loans in poor villages around the world, I’ve been to African villages where the local village treasurer would show me his pencilled notes to prove that he had taken all the money that he thought I had personally sent to him and loaned it out in an efficient way to create a market economy in his village. We should do more of that. The great Peruvian economist, Hernando de Soto, has told us something we should have recognise a long time ago, which is that poor people in the world already have five trillion dollars in assets in their homes and businesses but they’re worthless to them except to live in or use, because they can’t be collateral for loans. Why? Because they’re outside the legal systems in their country. Many of them live in shacks with no addresses, no title, no access to a court that would validate the title. Many of them run businesses that would literally take more than a year to legalise. I’ve seen the map of Cairo, I tell you, if you went to Cairo tomorrow and opened a bakery and handled it in the normal fashion, it would take you over five hundred days to complete all the government paperwork to legalise your bakery. So de Soto is going through the works trying to rationalise the business laws and rules and make it cheaper for people to have legal businesses than to pay the taxman to look the other way. And then trying to organise the property system so people can legalise their homes so poor people can get credit, because they have collateral. The key in a market economy, both personal advance and national economic growth. We gave him a little money when I was President, we ought to do more of that. We in the rich countries ought to open our markets to poor countries. Last year, in my last year as President, we opened our markets more to Africa, to Vietnam, to Jordan, to the Caribbean. In less than a year we increased our purchases from some African countries by a thousand percent. It didn’t hurt the American economy, but it sure helped theirs. The same argument goes for education. In a poor country – and AIDS, keep in mind, is largely a poverty disease – in a poor country one year of education is worth about 10% increase in income. There are a hundred million kids who never go to school. Part of our problem in Afghanistan and in the Muslim world is all these kids who couldn’t go to public schools so they went to madrassas where they were indoctrinated instead of educated, not because their parents were radical: their parents couldn’t afford to send them to school. Now, we could send all these kids to school. Two examples: Brazil is the only poor country in the world that has 97% of its kids at school. You know how – they pay mothers, not fathers, mothers, in the poorest 30% of the families, if they send their kids to school, every month, up to forty five dollars a month. It increases the family income up to 30%, 97% going to school. Last year I got three hundred billion dollars to provide a nutritious meal to children in school but only if they would come to school to get it. You know how many people you can feed all year long in poor countries for three hundred million dollars? Over six million. And, you ought to see where we’ve done this, enrolments are exploding, people are coming in. We ought to send those kids to school. The same argument applies to healthcare. Kofi Annan just won the Nobel Peace Prize – richly deserved – for promoting peace. He knows if we have a hundred million AIDS cases, we’ll have more war, and he asked us for ten billion dollars to fight AIDS, TB, malaria and other infectious diseases. America’s share would be a little over two billion dollars, Britain’s share would be a little under a half a billion dollars. We ought to give it to him. Look, we can turn this AIDS thing around.
It, to me, is the most frustrating of all problems. We’re gonna have medicine because of the South African drug case being settled. Uganda cut the AIDS death rate in half in five years with no medicine. Brazil cut it in half in three years with prevention and medicine. I have been in health clinics all over the world, I’ve seen kids in remote African villages doing plays to talk about AIDS but AIDS has been around twenty years. Last year I talked to world leaders who were friends of mine who told me they really couldn’t talk about AIDS because after all, there’s all this cultural resistance. How many people have to die before your cultural resistance melts? So we’ve got to pay for it. Now you can say that the same argument applies to global warming except it’s the only area we’ll actually make money out of. There is a trillion dollar market today in alternate energy sources and presently available energy conservation technologies that will create jobs in Europe, in America, in the developing world and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We’re being hurt by denial there.
Now, the other stuff will cost money. It will cost money but I can tell you this, it’s a lot cheaper than going to war.
We will spend far more to pick up the pieces of destroyed lands and shattered lives if we do not do these things.
We will spend much more. We’re spending – America – about a billion dollars a month in Afghanistan, that’s as cheap as a war gets.
We will never fight a conflict for less than a billion a month. For twelve billion dollars a year, we can pay America’s share of all those initiatives I just mentioned and have money left over. So I urge you to think about that.
The next point I want to make very briefly is that we can do all these things and there are some countries in which it will make no difference. There are changes that poor countries have to make within that make progress possible. For example, it’s no accident that most of these terrorists come from countries that aren’t democracies. If you never get to take responsibility for yourself, and you’re never required to take responsibility for yourself, then countries are like people, you’re kept in sort of a state of permanent immaturity where it’s quite easy to convince you that your distress is caused by someone else’s success. It’s no accident that Jordan is the most stable country in the Middle East. Ten years ago, King Hussein basically made a social compact with all elements of society including fundamentalist Muslims and he said “here are the powers I will give up, here are the powers that Parliament will get, anybody can run, anybody can serve, but here’s what you cannot do to destroy the fundamental character of our society” and it has worked. So here’s a country that’s majority Palestinian, quite poor, quite young, and in a dicey position geographically, still chugging along partly because the people have some way of taking responsibility for themselves. Same thing is true in Iran: the government’s very anti-Western, but the people aren’t, in part because they have real elections and real votes, and the only time that real democracy is thwarted is when their own people do it, so they don’t blame us.
So we should be advancing democracy and human rights and once a country makes a decision to be more open and free, we should help them be more successful. Elections are only part of the job.
And finally we have to be in this debate in the Muslim world. I think we have demonstrated that America’s not the enemy of Islam. I was the first President ever to recognise the feast of Eid al-Fitr every single year at the end of Ramadan, to bring in large numbers of Muslims to consult in the White House. One of the best things President Bush has done in this whole mess is to go almost immediately to a mosque and meet with Muslim leaders after September 11th and then to break the fast of Ramadan in the White House with a meal, to illustrate that we have six million Muslims in America who are pursuing their faith and doing well. But most Muslims in the rest of the world don’t know it. There are some other things they don’t know.
They don’t know five hundred Muslims died on September 11th, a direct violation of the Koran and Sharia law, to deliberately kill other Muslims.
They do not know that the last time the United Kingdom and America used military authority was to protect the lives of poor Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo.
They do not know when eighteen American soldiers died in 1993 in Somalia – in that raid, Mr Bin Laden loves to brag about, he brags about how he helped train the Somalis to kill the Americans, but he never tells you what the Americans were doing there. They were part of a United Nations peacekeeping force, asked by the United Nations to go arrest Mohammed Adid because he, Adid, had murdered twenty two of our fellow peacekeepers, all Pakistani Muslims.
They do not know that before I left office, I recommended and Israel accepted, but the PLO rejected, the most dramatic peace proposal for a comprehensive fair peace in the Middle East to give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank in Gaza and protect Muslim and Palestinian religious and political equities on the Temple Mount, the Haram al-Sharif. They don’t know any of that. Now that’s maybe our fault, but we’ve got to get into this debate and we have to fight. And let me say it’s a debate, you know as well as I do, not just in the Middle East. But there are people in this country and in my country who are sympathetic with the terrorists. We had an Afghan mosque in New York City, where on September 12th, the Imam was a stand-up guy and he got up there and said “this terrorism is terrible, it is wrong, it is immoral, it is a violation of Islam.” But a minority of his congregation walked out and started worshipping in the parking lot
So this is a fight we have to make everywhere which brings me to my last point, and the most important thing of all – although it may sound naïve to you.
What this is all about is that simple question: which will be more important in the twenty first century – our differences or our common humanity?
This encounter we have had with the Taliban and Mr Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda and all the debate that has filled the airwaves since, has given us a picture of this debate and of the very different ideas we have about the nature of truth, the value of life, the content of community. Like fanatics everywhere throughout history, these people think they’ve got the truth, and if you share their truth, your life has value. And if you don’t, you’re a legitimate target, even if you’re just a six year old girl who went to work with her mother at the World Trade Centre on September 11th. That’s what they think. And they really believe it, like fanatics everywhere. They think to be in their community, you have to look like them, think like them and act like them and they know people will stray every now and then, so they pick a few people to beat the living daylights out of those who stray. Now most of us believe that no-one has the absolute truth. Indeed, in our societies, the most religious among us sometimes feel that most strongly because we believe as children of God, we are by definition, limited in this life, in this body, with our minds. That life is a journey toward truth, that we have something to learn from each other, and that everybody ought to have a chance to make the journey. So for us, a community is just made up of anybody accepts the rules of the game, everybody counts, everybody has a role to play, everybody deserves a chance and we all do better when we work together. Now, that’s what this is about. This is not complicated.
The people that want to kill us over our differences do so because they think their life doesn’t matter except insofar as they are different from and better than others. Those of us who are trying to change ourselves and change them, we think our common humanity is more important and if we could just live up to its potential, the world would be a better place. And which side wins will shape the twenty first century.
What do you think is more important? The answer is easy to give, but very, very hard to live. Think about this as you go home tonight.
Think about how important your differences are to you.
Think about how we all organise our lives in little boxes – man, woman, British, American, Muslim, Christian, Jew, Tory, Labour, New Labour, Old Labour, up, down – you know, everything in the world. I like red ties, I got a blue shirt on, you laugh about it, think about everything you define yourself by. Our little boxes are important to us. And indeed it is necessary, how could you navigate life if you didn’t know the difference between a child and an adult, an African and an Indian, a scientist and a lawyer? We have to organise that, but somewhere along the way, we finally come to understand that our life is more than all these boxes we’re in. And that if we can’t reach beyond that, we’ll never have a fuller life. And the fanatics of the world, they love their boxes and they hate yours. You’re laughing, that’s what this is all about.
And it’s easy to give the right answer but it’s hard to live.
When I was my daughter’s age, just about to embark on my great adventure in England, just before that Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, two of the heroes of my youth, were murdered by their fellow Americans for trying to reconcile the American people to each other. Gandhi, the greatest spirit of the age, murdered, not by an angry Muslim but by a fellow Hindu because he wanted India for the Muslims and the Jains and the Sikhs. And the Jews and the Christians. Sadat – murdered not by an Israeli commando, but by a very angry Egyptian – a member of the organisation now headed by Bin Laden’s number two guy – an angry Egyptian. Because how could he be a good Egyptian or a good Muslim because he wanted secular government in Egypt and peace with Israel, though he got the desert back. And one of the people I have loved most in my increasingly long life, Yitzhak Rabin, was murdered not by a Palestinian terrorist, but by a very angry young Israeli Jew who thought he was not a good Jew or a good Israeli because he wanted lasting peace for Israel through the recognition of the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians for a homeland. And that guy who murdered him got exactly what he wanted – he derailed and delayed the peace process and let it be swarmed and mauled by all those people who were under the foolish illusions that their differences matter more than the fact that they are all the children of Abraham.
So that’s what I want you to think about. It’s great that your kids will live to be ninety years old but I don’t want it to be behind barbed wire. It’s great that we’re gonna have all these benefits of the modern world, but I don’t want you to feel like you’re emotional prisoners.
And I don’t want you to look at people who look different from you and see a potential enemy instead of a fellow traveller. We can make the world of our dreams for our children, but since it’s a world without walls, it will have to be a home for all our children.
Clement Attlee (Labour)
The main purpose of Attlee’s speech was to introduce Labour’s manifesto for the 1951 general election. During its 18 months in office, Labour had continued to build up the NHS, while Britain was starting to reap the benefits of the nationalisation programme. Labour was also committed to a controlled economy, which Attlee claimed was a pre-requisite for co-operation with other nations. Such co-operation was evident in Britain’s support for the UN in dealing with Korea, as well as for the Atlantic Treaty on defence. However, Britain was facing a number of challenges, among which were rising prices and the problem of equal pay, and Labour pledged to tackle them in its manifesto.
May I thank you for your very kind and generous welcome. My duty this afternoon is to introduce to you the Labour Party Manifesto for the Election of 1951. We shall discuss it during the next few days and others of my colleagues on the Executive will be speaking to you on various points, so my task is to give you a general introduction to the Manifesto and to commend it to you.
We open this Manifesto by saying that we are proud of our record. We have nothing to apologise for and we go into this Election full of confidence. It does not seem a long time ago since the 1950 Election. That Election was a remarkable achievement. It is rare for a post-war Government to survive a General Election in the atmosphere that follows a great war. There are inevitably many hardships, many individual grievances, which would perhaps tend to make people think, ‘Let us have a change’ and the idea ‘Let us have a change’ seems to be about the only thing the Tories are putting forward at this Election. But the electors showed a remarkable constancy. We had lost no by-election in the previous four and a half years. We came back with a majority, but a small one. And remember, at that Election we told the people the truth. We did not promise them lower income tax, reduced taxation and greater benefits for everybody. We asked them, as an educated electorate, to face the facts of the situation; and that, again, is what we are doing in this Election.
During those eighteen months of the 1950 Government we broke another record. For a Government with a small majority to get through eighteen months with no major defeat, with an Opposition thirsting for power, is quite unprecedented. Governments have lasted a long time on a small majority previously, but that was because the Opposition did not want to come in. Our Opposition has neglected no opportunity of trying to defeat the Government. And I want, here and now, to pay a high tribute to the Labour Members, of the 1950 Parliament. They have shown great loyalty, great constancy, great endurance. Many of them have attended the House at great personal sacrifice and at great risk; and I should like here to pay a tribute to one who, through illness, cannot be here today, and that is our great Chief Whip, Willie Whiteley.
In this year we lost a great man, a great Labour leader, the outstanding Trade Unionist of his generation, a man who contributed an immense amount to the winning of the war and the greatest Foreign Secretary we have had – Ernest Bevin. I should like to pay my tribute to another great servant of his country and of our Movement, Stafford Cripps. He wore himself out in devoted service and we all rejoice that his health is being restored. We hope to welcome him back.
Our work during those eighteen months has been difficult and necessarily not very spectacular, but I should like to say to all of you that there has been no halt in Labour’s advance. Some people take a superficial view and think of our advance as signalised mainly by the passing of particular Acts of Parliament. The real measure of our advance must be taken in looking at what has been done in the field of administration, as well as of legislation. What has been occurring during the eighteen months has been the implementation of the great measures that we passed in 1945. You can pass great measures like our Health Act, the nationalisation of coal or of gas, or of electricity, but that does not mean that within a few weeks or months you are going to see a complete change in that service or industry. You can only begin the change, and it takes a great deal of time working it out.
The National Health Service has been steadily built up, but it is only recently that we got the full report of one year’s activities. In the mines we had to overtake the neglect and mismanagement of decades. On the railways you had the same thing. During these eighteen months great improvements have been made. I would pay a tribute to what has been done by the members of the boards, by the managements and, above all, by the workers in those industries. I shall never forget the appeal that I made in the spring to the miners for extra work. It was not an appeal to their cupidity, it was to their patriotism and their sense of social service, and the response in which they gave us the extra coal we needed was a signal example of the new spirit that you get where there is work for the community.
Of course, the Opposition say nationalisation has failed. It has not failed. They say nationalisation was due to an ideological prejudice. Nothing of the sort. Our nationalisation measures were essential for the reconstruction of the country. The fact that they were in Labour’s programme only shows the prescience of Labour in knowing what the times required. I recall very well Sir John Anderson’s words: ‘In the case of the Bank of England, Transport, Cable and Wireless, Electricity and Coal the onus of proving the need for socialisation may not unreasonably be held to have been discharged.’ No one expected that we could reap the full benefit of those changes in a few short months. It takes time to work the economy, it takes time even to work the new spirit that is required – and that applies to some of the personnel in those industries who have not yet got the new spirit.
These eighteen months have been marked by great progress; but it is progress that must be judged by remembering what the difficulties are. If Len Hutton goes in to bat for England and bats for three hours for 50 or 60 runs it may be an enormously creditable achievement on a very sticky wicket. We have had to bat on a very sticky wicket and great progress has been made. That progress must not be stopped by these great undertakings passing under the control of a Government whose members do not believe in the principle on which they were erected. That principle was the organisation of the economic resources in the interests of the whole of the people.
During those years we have had the incessant work of planning. There are a few eccentrics in the House of Commons who do not believe in planning at all. They believe you can go back to laissez faire. There are others on the opposite side who believe in planning, but their objectives are different from ours. I assure you that a government in a modern state must plan the internal affairs of the country and must join with others in planning for a world society, because conditions in the modern world are such that you cannot plan in isolation.
We are constantly in touch with our friends of the Commonwealth. Only last week there was a conference of Economic Ministers. We are constantly planning in the United Nations with other nations, because we cannot make progress without co-operation with other nations. Experience has shown that to have effective co-operation you must have control over your own economy. There have been Governments that have rashly abandoned controls, gone to their electors, told them they must give up controls, and they have met themselves coming back; they have had to put back the controls that they rashly abandoned. In our Government we achieved a very great success through the co-operation of all the Ministers and the country, but in particular this is connected with the name of Stafford Cripps.
The people of Britain under the leadership of the Labour Government did a great work in reconstructing our viable economy and dealing with that difficult problem of the balance of payments. It was a great disappointment that, just as we were beginning to see daylight, we were forced to embark on rearmament.
It is right that in our Manifesto we should give the first place to peace. Peace is a thing that we all desire, but peace does not come about through wishful thinking. Peace is not just a negative absence of war; peace means that you get rid as far as you can of the causes of war.
We have taken our stand through very many years, through good or ill, on support for the rule of law. That other great Foreign Secretary of ours, Arthur Henderson, laid down the lines on which we have acted. Throughout we have supported the United Nations and when the challenge came in Korea we unhesitatingly went in with other members of the United Nations Organisation representing the democratic forces of the world. We realised that Korea was a test case we realised that armed aggression had arisen once more in the world and we accepted the logic of the situation, as a matter of responsibility, first of all to our own people and secondly to the whole of the free world.
It is common practice of our opponents to try and run down Britain in the eyes of the world and to say that we have lost our influence. It is quite untrue. We hold a unique place. From our geographical position we are a vital link between Europe and the New World. From our position as a leading member of the Commonwealth we bring together nations in all the continents and in particular we unite in one great association the nations of Asia as well as of Europe. Thus Britain has great experience.
It is not our fault that the world is divided. We do not wish to see a great gulf between East and West. We have done everything we can to bring them together. We stand ready at any time to meet and deal with the people on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The fault is on their side of the net. They have only to make a real response, a response not only in words but in actions, to be able to get rid of this cloud of suspicion. But we have been forced by their attitude to build up a great non-aggressive treaty of defence, the Atlantic Treaty, and we have had to make our contribution to that.
We worked out how much that contribution would be. We had to hold a balance all the time between the necessary support for armaments and the support of a viable economy in this country. That programme is going forward. We realised that sacrifices would be necessary, but it was essential, if the world is to be free from fear, if we are to get an accommodation of relations with the other side of the Iron Curtain. I believe that there should be adequate strength in the freedom-loving nations. We do not like having to spend a great deal on arms, but we have to recognise the mentality of the people with whom we deal, who have a materialist philosophy and think in terms of strength.
We get a lot of criticisms of our foreign policy. If we act independently we are told we ought to have consulted other people. If we consult other people we are told we are being subservient. The fault is always ours, never the other people’s. In foreign affairs you have got to work with other people and you cannot just lay down your policy and expect everyone to accept it. Believe me, it is a hard life being a Labour Foreign Secretary!
We keep a steady course and we have a steady people. That is an essential in a world where there is a good deal of nervousness and where it is easy for people to yield to hysteria. We shall keep on that steady course. We support the United Nations; when disputes arise we take them to the United Nations, as we did in the case of Albania, as we have done in the case of Persia.
I am always hearing voices raised clamouring for what they call a strong foreign policy. What does ‘a strong foreign policy’ mean? People who use that phrase are living in the past; they are thinking of Lord Palmerston. Those days have gone for ever. But because we support the rule of law it does not mean that our policy in any case has been weak and vacillating. It does mean that everywhere we do the utmost we can by negotiation.
Rearming has inevitably meant an increase in world prices. The fact is that if (as we do), we desire a rise in the standard of living in the world, particularly in all those areas that have had such a raw deal in the past, inevitably we increase the pressure of demand on available supply. Our policy at home has done that. Take electricity: there is a tremendous demand on our electrical resources. Why? Because so many more of our people want to use this amenity. There is a tremendous demand on the telephones unsatisfied. I can remember being Postmaster-General in 1931, and inaugurating a campaign to get people to have telephones. Why was there not that demand then? Because the masses of the people could not afford them.
Therefore, you must not be surprised that there are these rising prices. They can only be met in the long rim by increased production in the world. We have been following a policy of abundance. The other way that was tried between the wars was a policy of restriction, of grinding down the demands of the people, with the result that in the 30’s you had what they called a crisis of abundance, because there were things that no one could buy. We do not want to see the clock put back to that kind of thing. The answer is: increase production and meanwhile we must try and follow out a policy of fair shares.
As a result of my visit to Washington last December we have been trying to deal with raw materials on an international basis, trying to get fair shares. At home here, too, we work on a policy of fair shares. Wherever there is this increase of demand and this shortage of supply there are the profiteers opportunity. You will see set out in our Manifesto additional measures that we want to take to deal with those who profit out of the nation’s needs.
We have already sheltered our people very largely by such things as food subsidies and price control. We are going ahead with such things as fruit and vegetable marketing; restriction of dividends; public ownership wherever it is necessary and desirable; and the policy of redressing the inequalities of wealth, the policy of getting a greater distribution of wealth.
Only a few years ago Wales was in danger of losing an enormous proportion of its population, of becoming derelict. Today Wales is a land of hope and a land of achievement. We have the same thing in Scotland, not only in the industrial belt but in the highlands and islands. You have the same thing in the countryside of Britain. Before the war there was increasing disequilibrium between town and country and here, too, you had those depressed areas. All that has gone and you see today a more prosperous countryside than we have ever had before. You have had a Government that has not only looked at the countryside as a means of producing food, but as part of our great national heritage of beauty. We are now cleaning up some of the mistakes of the past and we are throwing open the beauty of our country to all our people. Under the heading of Social Justice in our Manifesto we draw this contrast between the past and the present, but we are not satisfied with the present; we are pressing on for the future. As I said, the rate of our progress is conditioned by circumstances.
We as a Government are always faced with multitudinous demands, all desirable in themselves. They are pressed by different groups of people and it is good that there should be this enthusiasm. But the task of a Government is to make a decision on priorities and it is not an easy choice. You see some set out in our Manifesto. There is the problem of equal pay. We want to do it, but we have to find a time when we can do it. All these things must be conditioned by circumstances; we must make decisions on priorities.
The crucial question of this Election, on which every elector must make up his or her mind, is this: What kind of society do you want? We know the kind of society we want. We want a society of free men and women – free from poverty, free from fear, able to develop to the full their faculties in co-operation with their fellows, everyone giving and having the opportunity to give service to the community, everyone regarding his own private interest in the light of the interest of others, and of the community; a society bound together by rights and obligations, rights bringing obligations, obligations fulfilled bringing rights; a society free from gross inequalities and yet not regimented nor uniform.
Our opponents, on the other hand, regard the economic process primarily as the giving an opportunity to the individual to advance his own interests; community interests, national interests, are regarded as a hypothetical by-product. Their motto is: ‘The world is my oyster; each one for himself.’ The result of that policy can be seen by all. There was the army of the poor; there were the slums; there was beautiful Britain defiled for gain; there were derelict areas. The fruits of our policy can be seen in the new fine generation that is growing up, in the new houses – because we have done a great work in housing. You hear only of the people who are not satisfied. The people who are snug in a Council house do not write to you about it.
The fact is that a very remarkable job has been done under great difficulties. You see our new towns, you see our smiling countryside. I am proud of our achievement. There is an immense amount more to do. Remember that we are a great crusading body, armed with a fervent spirit for the reign of righteousness on earth. Let us go forward in this fight in the spirit of William Blake:
I will not cease from mental strife,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Leader’s speech, Scarborough 1951
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