4 July 1948, address to the nation, London, United Kingdom
13 July 1983, House of Commons, Westminster, United Kingdom
I wish initially to address myself to the general question of capital punishment. I think that my position is well known to all hon. Members. For more than 20 years I have been opposed to capital punishment for all crimes of homicide, and I have always voted against it. I intend to do so tonight. My position is not only as strong as it ever was; it has been confirmed in recent years.
For nearly 20 years capital punishment has been abolished in this country. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fylde (Sir E. Gardner), who moved the resolution with great restraint and wisdom, wishes to change the status quo. He and those who support him must prove that it is necessary, in fact vital, to change the status quo. The onus of proof rests with him and his friends. When the House judges the issue and votes tonight, it should ask itself whether the proposer of the resolution and his supporters have proved beyond any shadow of doubt that it is vital to change the status quo.
In my judgment—and I say this with great respect for my hon. and learned Friend whom I have known for many years—he has not proved 'his case. He said quite frankly that he did not intend to rely on statistics. The Home Secretary rightly said the same. If they did, they would have to explain why the increase in homicides began long before the abolition of the death penalty and why the increase in ordinary crimes of violence has been many times greater than the increase in homicides. It is that factor which has produced attention in the public mind. The growth of lesser crimes of violence has been so great that the public has deduced that the only answer is 899 to deal with homicide by capital punishment. That is a confusion in the public mind. A great deal rests upon us to remove that confusion.
My hon. and learned Friend did not introduce the question of retribution and revenge, although it was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I was saddened to hear murmurs in some parts of the House that appeared to support retribution and revenge. Quite frankly, from any moral viewpoint, I find revenge completely unacceptable. I do not believe that it is for the House to decide whether there should be revenge—[Interruption.] If some of my hon. Friends want revenge, I hope that they will say so and also state their position on other issues that they consider require revenge. It is not for the House or for Parliament to decide retribution either. That lies elsewhere at other times. That is why I cannot accept either of the arguments of revenge or retribution.
My hon. and learned Friend said that our purpose must be to secure the safety of the people of this realm to the greatest possible extent. That is the task of Government both externally and internally, and I agree with him entirely. The question at issue is whether the restoration of capital punishment will improve the security of the people of this realm. That issue remains unproven.
My hon. and learned Friend said that that is a matter of judgment. It is. Others would say that it is a matter of instinct—indeed that has already been said—but in my view the judgment, if it is in favour of restoration, is wrong. This is far too great a matter to rest on instinct. We need more substantial reasons than just instinct for changing the status quo.
I come next to the point which in recent years I have found more and more worrying and more and more impressive. I refer to condemnation by mistake. I find it impossible to accept a penalty that is irreversible when it is so apparent that a number of mistakes have been made. One of my hon. Friends said on the radio that if no one else is prepared to hang people he is quite prepared to do the job himself—[HON. MEMBERS: "Which one?"] I ask him a rather different question. Because of his views, is he prepared to be hanged by mistake? I am not asking my hon. Friend to reply on the spur of the moment. I shall let him give due consideration to the problem before he finally makes up his mind.
I wish now to deal with the specific amendments on the Order Paper about the restoration of capital punishment in particular cases. In this respect, I emphasise what was said by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and in great detail by my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary about the Homicide Act 1957. I agree with everything that my right hon. and learned Friend said about that. The Homicide Act 1957 was largely shaped by Viscount Kilmuir as Lord Chancellor. I was involved as the Chief Whip of the Government of the day in trying to bring together those who felt strongly about capital punishment and the abolitionists. The Government wanted to lift the problem out of the constant battle in the House of Commons and try to get public support for a final position. That Act lasted for only eight years. It failed, as the Home Secretary said. It failed because the general public was not prepared to support an Act—nor was the judiciary for that matter—which said that one kind of murderer was worthy of the death penalty and that another 900 kind was not; that if a public figure was shot crossing Trafalgar Square that was a matter for the death penalty, but that if a man poisoned his wife that was a matter between the two of them and did not deserve the death penalty.
There is a basic lesson here about trying to pick out particular aspects of homicide for the death penalty. I believe that the public would quickly say "Yes, if there is to be a death penalty, is not such and such a case also worthy of it?" That is the fundamental argument of principle against trying to select particular aspects of homicide as justifying the death penalty.
If there is to be a selection, I regard the case for the selection of terrorism as the weakest. If murder of the police or prison warders were to be selected, I think that the public would say that those people have a rather better chance of looking after themselves than they, the innocent public. Terrorists present great problems. I think that the Home Secretary is underestimating the determination of terrorists in Northern Ireland and elsewhere, quite regardless of death, to carry through their purposes. Even if one is dealing with Arab terrorists, one finds that very few of them are paid marksmen. If they are paid marksmen, they will weigh up the risks against the penalties. If money is what they want they will take the risk. Therefore, I cannot see that the argument for capital punishment for terrorists is a powerful one.
I come now to the definition of terrorism, the importance of which I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will not underestimate, as he glossed over it this afternoon. If there is to be the final capital penalty for terrorism, there is the problem of judges and juries deciding whether a person is a political terrorist. There has been criticism in the Province of attempts to deal with the IRA on the basis that its members should, when arrested, be treated as political prisoners, and it has been said that that is an immense mistake. Exactly this definition, as has so rightly been pointed out, would have to be made permanently for capital punishment if the amendment were agreed. I do not believe that one can gloss over the issue of defining terrorism or of how a jury and the judge would handle it.
Even more important — as the Home Secretary emphasised—is that there is no hope of returning to jury verdicts in Northern Ireland. One will not persuade a jury to convict if there is the death penalty. My right hon. and learned Friend then referred to a judge and perhaps two assessors. But is the Northern Ireland judiciary in favour of dealing with IRA terrorism by a judge and two assessors? I cannot believe for one moment that the judiciary would accept that. I lived through all the problems of 1970 to 1974 and have been back to Northern Ireland many times since. I know the views of the people there and, leaving aside the impact on the IRA, I cannot believe that our judiciary or the Northern Ireland judiciary would be prepared to deal with these cases with an assessor sitting on each side.
Therefore, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has already said, it is out of the question for practical reasons to apply capital punishment there. But we cannot punish terrorist murderers on the mainland by imposing the death penalty if we do not do so in Northern Ireland. The number of cases here is comparatively few—a few Arab and other terrorists—but from the public's point of view, let alone all the other considerations, it is impossible to deal with an Arab 901 terrorist who shoots the Israeli ambassador in one way but to deal with the same crime differently in Northern Ireland, which most people consider to be the home of terrorism. Amendment (e) therefore is entirely impractical.
I am astonished—I must not say that—I was taken unawares by the fact that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary argued as he did. His argument did not seem to deal with any of the basic problems of making terrorism a separate capital crime. Other European countries have had great problems with terrorism—for example, the Federal Republic of Gennany and the Italian Republic. They have dealt with those problems not by bringing back capital punishment, but in other ways, largely by effective police action and by reducing the status of the terrorists so that they could not gain public support. The same is true of the Netherlands. I do not support the argument that we of all European countries should have to reintroduce capital punishment to deal with terrorism.
I conclude with these points. First, we must consider what changes there have been over the past 20 years. One change has been the immense growth of the media—television, radio and the press — and the almost complete removal of privacy. The media's impact in rousing public feeling on the occasion of an execution would be many times what it was in the days before the abolition of capital punishment. One cannot encourage a deeper feeling for the spirituality of man when he is being influenced all the time by the media dealing with executions in that way. That in itself is a powerful argument against capital punishment.
When one considers what has happened in the few states of the United States that have restored capital punishment, one realises the growth in the influence of the media over the past 20 years. It is seen in the horrifying stories that appear before, during and after an execution, especially when men plead for death, which shows that death is not for them a deterrent. I believe that the impact on people is terrible.
Secondly, I am sure, having listened to these debates for 30 years, that the constant emphasis on capital punishment is preventing us from giving real attention and real resources to the problems of crime in a modern democracy. The Government have done a great deal. At one stage criminals had much greater resources than the police. They had better radio facilities, modern communications, such as the use of motorways and other technical devices as well as more up-to-date firearms. The police have now caught up a great deal. We must recognise that if we really are to tackle the per al problems of the country we must turn our attention to that, instead of automatically saying that the answer is hanging and flogging.
I hope, therefore, that this debate can settle it for this Parliament and for many years to come. If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fylde is right about that — he said that it might be the last time Parliament would vote on the issue—then I warmly support the fact of him having put the motion forward—though I want to see it defeated—I hope for the last time.
I can claim to speak with a certain amount of experience. When one first comes into the House, one faces many pressures in relation to the way in which one should vote. This has therefore become an early test for many of the victors in the recent general election. My 902 career in the House, covering 33 years, has not been entirely without controversy. I think back to debates on Suez, the abolition of resale price maintenance, the European negotiations, the war in the Middle East, the whole reform of the trade union movement and, for more than 20 years, the abolition of capital punishment.
I can say with honesty to every person who has had the privilege of entering the House that, having said clearly where I stood, and having explained to my constituents why I took up the position that I did, they have accepted that as being the right of their Member of Parliament. I hope that that will always be the case. It is the basis of the British constitution; we are not mandated, we cannot be mandated, by a selection committee, by a constituency committee or by the public as whole.
This is the occasion, above all, when we must use our own judgment. I hope that tonight every hon. Member, and particularly new hon. Members, will feel free to use their judgment. I do not believe that the case for the reintroduction of the death penalty has been proved and I therefore urge the House to reject the motion and all the amendments.
7 June 1983 , Glamorgan, Wales
If Margaret Thatcher is re-elected as prime minister on Thursday, I warn you.
I warn you that you will have pain–when healing and relief depend upon payment.
I warn you that you will have ignorance–when talents are untended and wits are wasted, when learning is a privilege and not a right.
I warn you that you will have poverty–when pensions slip and benefits are whittled away by a government that won’t pay in an economy that can’t pay.
I warn you that you will be cold–when fuel charges are used as a tax system that the rich don’t notice and the poor can’t afford.
I warn you that you must not expect work–when many cannot spend, more will not be able to earn. When they don’t earn, they don’t spend. When they don’t spend, work dies.
I warn you not to go into the streets alone after dark or into the streets in large crowds of protest in the light.
I warn you that you will be quiet–when the curfew of fear and the gibbet of unemployment make you obedient.
I warn you that you will have defence of a sort–with a risk and at a price that passes all understanding.
I warn you that you will be home-bound–when fares and transport bills kill leisure and lock you up.
I warn you that you will borrow less–when credit, loans, mortgages and easy payments are refused to people on your melting income.
If Margaret Thatcher wins on Thursday–
– I warn you not to be ordinary
– I warn you not to be young
– I warn you not to fall ill
– I warn you not to get old.
17 February 1998, Westminster, United Kingdom
I finish just by saying this: war is an easy thing to talk about; there are not many people - a - of the generation that remember it. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup served with distinction in the last war. I never killed anyone but I wore uniform. But I was in London in the blitz in 1940, living in the Millbank tower, where I was born. Some different ideas have come in since. And every night, I went down to the shelter in Thames house. Every morning, I saw dockland burning. Five hundred people were killed in Westminster one night by a land mine. It was terrifying. Aren't Arabs terrified? Aren't Iraqis terrified? Don't Arab and Iraqi women weep when their children die? Does bombing strengthen their determination? What fools we are to live in a generation for which war is a computer game for our children and just an interesting little channel for news item.
Every Member of Parliament tonight who votes for the Government motion will be consciously and deliberately accepting responsibility for the deaths of innocent people if the war begins, as I fear it will. Now that's for their decision to take. But this is a quite unique debate. In my parliamentary experience, where we are asked to share responsibility for a decision we won't really be taking, with consequences for people who have no part to play in the brutality of the regime which we are dealing with.
And I finish with this: on 24 October 1945—the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup will remember—the United Nations charter was passed. And the words of that charter are etched into my mind and move me even as I think of them. "We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our life-time has caused untold suffering to mankind". That was the pledge of that generation to this generation, and it would be the greatest betrayal of all if we voted to abandon the charter, and take unilateral action and pretend that we were doing it in the name of the international community. And I shall vote against the motion for the reasons that I have given the house.
The above is the passage that matches the video. The full speech is below:
I have very little time. I want to develop my argument. There are many others who want to speak. 926 I hope that the House will listen to me. I know that my view is not the majority view in the House, although it may be outside this place.
I regret that I shall vote against the Government motion. The first victims of the bombing that I believe will be launched within a fortnight will be innocent people, many, if not most, of whom would like Saddam to be removed. The former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, talked about collateral damage. The military men are clever. They talk not about hydrogen bombs but about deterrence. They talk not about people but about collateral damage. They talk not about power stations and sewerage plants but about assets. The reality is that innocent people will be killed if the House votes tonight—as it manifestly will—to give the Government the authority for military action.
The bombing would also breach the United Nations charter. I do not want to argue on legal terms. If the hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell) has read articles 41 and 42, he will know that the charter says that military action can only be decided on by the Security Council and conducted under the military staffs committee. That procedure has not been followed and cannot be followed because the five permanent members have to agree. Even for the Korean war, the United States had to go to the General Assembly to get authority because Russia was absent. That was held to be a breach, but at least an overwhelming majority was obtained.
Has there been any negotiation or diplomatic effort? Why has the Foreign Secretary not been in Baghdad, like the French Foreign Minister, the Turkish Foreign Minister and the Russian Foreign Minister? The time that the Government said that they wanted for negotiation has been used to prepare public opinion for war and to build up their military position in the Gulf.
Saddam will be strengthened again. Or he may be killed. I read today that the security forces—who are described as terrorists in other countries—have tried to kill Saddam. I should not be surprised if they succeeded.
This second action does not enjoy support from elsewhere. There is no support from Iraq's neighbours. If what the Foreign Secretary says about the threat to the neighbours is true, why is Iran against, why is Jordan against, why is Saudi Arabia against, why is Turkey against? Where is that great support? There is no support from the opposition groups inside Iraq. The Kurds, the Shi'ites and the communists hate Saddam, but they do not want the bombing. The Pope is against it, along with 10 bishops, two cardinals, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Perez de Cuellar. The Foreign Secretary clothes himself with the garment of the world community, but he does not have that support. We are talking about an Anglo-American preventive war. It has been planned and we are asked to authorise it in advance.
The House is clear about its view of history, but it does not say much about the history of the areas with which we are dealing. The borders of Kuwait and Iraq, which then became sacrosanct, were drawn by the British after the end of the Ottoman empire. We used chemical weapons against the Iraqis in the 1930s. Air Chief Marshal Harris, who later flattened Dresden, was instructed to drop chemical weapons.
When Saddam came to power, he was a hero of the west. The Americans used him against Iran because they hated Khomeini, who was then the figure to be removed. 927 They armed Saddam, used him and sent him anthrax. I am not anxious to make a party political point, because there is not much difference between the two sides on this, but, as the Scott report revealed, the previous Government allowed him to be armed. I had three hours with Saddam in 1990. I got the hostages out, which made it worth going. He felt betrayed by the United States, because the American ambassador in Baghdad had said to him, "If you go into Kuwait, we will treat it as an Arab matter." That is part of the history that they know, even if we do not know it here.
In 1958, 40 years ago, Selwyn Lloyd, the Foreign Secretary and later the Speaker, told Foster Dulles that Britain would make Kuwait a Crown colony. Foster Dulles said, "What a very good idea." We may not know that history, but in the middle east it is known.
The Conservatives have tabled an amendment asking about the objectives. That is an important issue. There is no UN resolution saying that Saddam must be toppled. It is not clear that the Government know what their objectives are. They will probably be told from Washington. Do they imagine that if we bomb Saddam for two weeks, he will say, "Oh, by the way, do come in and inspect"? The plan is misconceived.
Some hon. Members—even Opposition Members—have pointed out the double standard. I am not trying to equate Israel with Iraq, but on 8 June 1981, Israel bombed a nuclear reactor near Baghdad. What action did either party take on that? Israel is in breach of UN resolutions and has instruments of mass destruction. Mordecai Vanunu would not boast about Israeli freedom. Turkey breached UN resolutions by going into northern Cyprus. It has also recently invaded northern Iraq and has instruments of mass destruction. Lawyers should know better than anyone else that it does not matter whether we are dealing with a criminal thug or an ordinary lawbreaker—if the law is to apply, it must apply to all. Governments of both major parties have failed in that.
Prediction is difficult and dangerous, but I fear that the situation could end in a tragedy for the American and British Governments. Suez and Vietnam are not far from the minds of anyone with a sense of history. I recall what happened to Sir Anthony Eden. I heard him announce the ceasefire and saw him go on holiday to Goldeneye in Jamaica. He came back to be replaced. I am not saying that that will happen in this case, but does anyone think that the House is in a position to piggy-back on American power in the middle east? What happens if Iraq breaks up? If the Kurds are free, they will demand Kurdistan and destabilise Turkey. Anything could happen. We are sitting here as if we still had an empire—only, fortunately, we have a bigger brother with more weapons than us.
The British Government have everything at their disposal. They are permanent members of the Security Council and have the European Union presidency for six months. Where is that leadership in Europe which we were promised? It just disappeared. We are also, of course, members of the Commonwealth, in which there are great anxieties. We have thrown away our influence, which could have been used for moderation.
The amendment that I and others have tabled argues that the United Nations Security Council should decide the nature of what Kofi Annan brings back from Baghdad and whether force is to be used. Inspections and sanctions go side by side. As I said, sanctions are brutal for innocent 928 people. Then there is the real question: when will the world come to terms with the fact that chemical weapons are available to anybody? If there is an answer to that, it must involve the most meticulous observation of international law, which I feel we are abandoning.
War is easy to talk about; there are not many people left of the generation which remembers it. The right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup served with distinction in the last war. I never killed anyone but I wore uniform. I was in London during the blitz in 1940, living where the Millbank tower now stands, where I was born. Some different ideas have come in there since. Every night, I went to the shelter in Thames house. Every morning, I saw docklands burning. Five hundred people were killed in Westminster one night by a land mine. It was terrifying. Are not Arabs and Iraqis terrified? Do not Arab and Iraqi women weep when their children die? Does not bombing strengthen their determination? What fools we are to live as if war is a computer game for our children or just an interesting little Channel 4 news item.
Every Member of Parliament who votes for the Government motion will be consciously and deliberately accepting responsibility for the deaths of innocent people if the war begins, as I fear it will. That decision is for every hon. Member to take. In my parliamentary experience, this a unique debate. We are being asked to share responsibility for a decision that we will not really be taking but which will have consequences for people who have no part to play in the brutality of the regime with which we are dealing.
On 24 October 1945—the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup will remember—the United Nations charter was passed. The words of that charter are etched on my mind and move me even as I think of them. It says: We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our life-time has brought untold sorrow to mankind". That was that generation's pledge to this generation, and it would be the greatest betrayal of all if we voted to abandon the charter, take unilateral action and pretend that we were doing so in the name of the international community. I shall vote against the motion for the reasons that I have given.
28 March 1979, Westminster, United Kingdom
The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Michael Foot)
The right hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw) was good enough at the beginning of his speech to make a few kindly references to myself. Therefore, it would be churlish if I did not comment upon them. I had intended to start my speech by making a few remarks on the speeches of the representatives of the smaller parties. However, let me say at once to the right hon. Gentleman that I was especially gratified that he quoted—accurately for a change—my words at the Moss Side by-election. So effective were my words on that occasion, and so overwhelming was the force of my argument, that a good Labour Member was returned to the House of Commons. I am not saying that it was entirely due to my words on that occasion, but it shows that the right hon. Gentleman has not picked on the most damning of all indictments against me for what I might have said.
I shall return later to the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady the Leader of the Opposition. First, I should like to refer to some of the extremely important speeches that have been made by representatives of the smaller parties in the House. I do not know whether all hon. Members understand that this is a House in which smaller parties have rights. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I do not know why Conservative Members should jeer so readily. It would be discourteous of me not to reply to those speeches.
I refer first to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Fitt). I am glad that there were a considerable number of hon. Members in the Chamber for my hon. Friend's speech. All those who heard it, whatever their views, would have been deeply moved.
576 My hon. Friend proved again what we on this side of the House have always recognised—that he is a man of great courage and great honour. The House is wise to heed what he says.
I did not agree with everything that my hon. Friend said about the Government and our conduct in Northern Ireland. My hon. Friend is one of my oldest friends in the House, and I believe that when he comes to review everything that he said he will recognise that there were some unjust comments on what has been done by my right hon. Friends. Nevertheless, I respect his speech. Of course, I would have preferred that my hon. Friend could have made a peroration in which he said that he would come into the Lobby with us, but even though that peroration was absent it does not detract from the admiration felt by every hon. Member who heard his speech.
The hon. Member for Antrim, South (Mr. Molyneaux) also speaks for Northern Ireland. He is well aware that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland made a statement just under a year ago on many of the matters that the hon. Gentleman touched on. We are pursuing those policies faithfully and properly. Anyone who reviews what the Government have done in that area cannot doubt the straightforwardness and honesty with which we have approached the problems. I do not believe that the hon. Members who represent Northern Ireland, on both sides of the House, can question what I am saying.
I believe that the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) and his party have made an error in the way that they propose to vote. However misguided the right hon. Gentleman may be if he adheres to his apparent resolution to vote in the Lobby with those who are most bitterly opposed to the establishment of a Scottish Assembly, hon. Members who heard his speech must acknowledge the remarkable allegiance that the right hon. Gentleman commands from his followers. It is one of the wonders of the world. There has bean nothing quite like it since the armies of ancient Rome used to march into battle. It is only now that we see the right hon. Gentleman in his full imperial guise.
Hail Emperor, those about to die salute you. 577 Which brings me to the Leader of the Liberal Party. He knows that I would not like to miss him out. I am sure that I shall elicit the support and sympathy of the right hon. Lady when I say that she and I have always shared a common interest in the development of this young man. If the right hon. Lady has anything to say about the matter, I shall be happy to give way to her. I should very much like to know, as I am sure would everybody else, what exactly happened last Thursday night. I do not want to misconstrue anything, but did she send for him or did he send for her—or did they just do it by billet-doux? Cupid has already been unmasked. This is the first time I have ever seen a Chief Whip who could blush. He has every right to blush. Anybody who was responsible for arranging this most grisly of assignations has a lot to answer for.
That brings me to the right hon. Lady. I have never in this House or elsewhere, so far as I know, said anything discourteous to her, and I do not intend to do so. I do not believe that is the way in which politics should be conducted. That does not mean that we cannot exchange occasional pleasantries. What the right hon. Lady has done today is to lead her troops into battle snugly concealed behind a Scottish nationalist shield, with the boy David holding her hand.
I must say to the right hon. Lady—and I should like to see her smile—that I am even more concerned about the fate of the right hon. Gentleman than I am about her. She can look after herself. But the Leader of the Liberal Party—and I say this with the utmost affection—has passed from rising hope to elder statesman without any intervening period whatsoever.
I hope that the House will excuse me if I refer to some of the speeches made by representatives of the smaller parties. Although there have been occasional mischievous attacks made on politicians in this House, and sometimes occasionally on myself, I believe that, especially in a Parliament where there is no absolute majority, it is the duty of the Leader of the House to be prepared to enter into conversation with representatives of all parties. What is more, there is not one spokesman or representative of any smaller party in this House who can say that I have misled him on any occasion in any conversation I have had with him. I 578 believe that that process assists the House in transacting its business, and I believe that the House of Commons will come to learn that.
Let me turn to the central theme of the right hon. Lady's speech. She quoted a book which was written by Anthony Crosland, who was a good friend of hon. Members who sit on the Labour Benches. I hope that she will not mind if I quote from a book, published not so long ago, by Reginald Maudling. I do not do this as a taunt, but I believe that it is of major significance to the House in deciding the vote and to the country at large in the more general debate over the coming weeks and months. It concerns a matter of major significance to our country over the past seven or eight years. Mr. Maud-ling wrote of his experience in the Shadow Cabinet: From the start, there was a tendency in the Shadow Cabinet to move away from the Heath line of policy further to the Right: to this I was totally opposed. In particular, I could not support the arguments of Keith Joseph, who was inclined to say that all we had done in the Government of 1970–74 was wrong and not true Conservatism. I totally disagreed with this, because it seemed to me that Keith was fully entitled to measure himself for a hair shirt if he wanted to, but I was blowed if I could see why he should measure me and Ted at the same time. I am sorry that we do not have the assistance of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath). That was just a prelude, and Mr. Maudling continued: I could not help recalling Selsdon Park, and the swing to the Right in our policies which occurred then, and how long it had taken in Government to get back to the realities of life. I feared that the same thing was beginning to happen again. I believe that that is an authentic account of what happened in the Shadow Cabinet when the right hon. Lady, out of passionate conviction, led her party back to the Selsdon Park policies. That is the reality of the matter and the reason why the right hon. Lady has never succeeded in securing full political cooperation with the right hon. Member for Sidcup. There is still a great gulf between Selsdon Park Conservatives and those who learnt, in the words of Mr. Maudling, "the realities of life". That comes from someone with great experience in the 1970–74 Government.
Some of us believe that a major purpose in politics is to ensure that our country shall not again have to live 579 through the situation in the period 1970 to 1974. What the right hon. Lady is proposing, which is confirmed by Mr. Maudling's experience inside the Shadow Cabinet, is retreading that path. Nothing more disastrous could happen to our country, not only in industrial relations, which is perhaps most strongly branded on the public's mind, but in almost all areas. It was part of the Selsdon Park policy to abandon support for British industry, drive us into the Common Market on the most disadvantageous terms, and return to the naked laissez-faire policies of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph). Those are the policies to which the right hon. Lady has led her party. I give her full credit. She does it because she believes in it. She would hardly deny it. Or will she deny it and pretend that on this issue she has some special new policy of her own?
The Leader of the Opposition has not been able to explain very successfully to the House her special policy for dealing with devolution. We have made a proposal, but the Leader of the Opposition said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that she proposed—and I think that this is a fair summary of what she said—talks about talks about talks about talks. That is her proposal for devolution. In fact, I think that my summary of her reply is rather complimentary because what she really proposes is to do nothing at all—[HON. MEMBERS: "Good."] Conservative Back Benchers shout "Good" and the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) shouts louder than anyone, but the Leader of the Opposition has, on the devolution question, torn up all the original policies of her party—the ones on which they fought the last general election—and now she proposes to do nothing. She has no proposals for a Scottish Assembly or any form of devolution or progress in that direction.
If that is her course, she has come round in a big circle. I will not say full circle, because she has never been very much in favour of devolution. She has torn up the proposals that her party put forward in "The Right Approach" not so many years ago. At that time she said: 580 in our view the Union is more likely to be harmed by doing nothing than by responding to the wish of the people of Scotland for less government from the centre. What the right hon. Lady is doing is what she said a few years ago she was not prepared to do.
We believe that if this House says that it will wipe the Scotland Act off the statute book without proper consideration, very serious injury could be inflicted on the United Kingdom and on the Union itself. This House of Commons should pay resepect to the referendum, even if it does not comply with the full requirement of 40 per cent. laid down in the Bill. It was on that basis that we made our proposal to the right hon. Lady and to the other parties. If we win the vote tonight, we will renew these proposals. I hope that every section of the House, whatever its preliminary views on the matter, will be prepared to discuss these issues afresh, otherwise there will be a deep gulf and breach, which will grow in years to come, between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. That would be a highly dangerous development. I hope that Conservatives will have second thoughts on the subject.
In her speech today, the right hon. Lady sought to make us forget what happened in the years of the previous Conservative Government. She also sought to give a very peculiar impression of the kind of legacy the Conservatives left behind for the Labour Government who came to power in 1974. It is interesting to note the things that she did not mention at all. She did not say a word about the balance of payments. I do not know whether she regards that as a matter of any significance. The fact is that the deficit in our balance of payments in the year that she and her right hon. Friends left office was the biggest in our history—even bigger than the deficit that the Tory Party left us in 1964. But of course she wants all that to be wiped away from the public memory. She wants to have wiped away from the public memory also the real figures of the rate of inflation when the Conservatives left office—what is more, a rising rate of inflation. There was a rate of inflation of 14 per cent. in February, with 15 per cent. and more in the pipeline, and a prophecy then of 20 per cent.—
§ Mr. Rost
What about 8.4 per cent.?
§ Mr. Foot
We have heard the old parrot cry from all the right hon. and hon. parrots before, and I dare say that they will utter it again. We shall hear it all through the general election campaign, but it will not alter the fact that the Conservatives left us a rising rate of inflation, zooming upwards, with threshold payments inbuilt to make the rate of inflation continue upwards. That is what they left us, and what we have done is to bring the rate down to less than half what it was when the right hon. Lady and her right hon. and hon. Friends were put out of office. That is another of the major aspects of what has occurred that the Conservatives wish to leave out of the reckoning.
Worst of all, perhaps, the greatest disservice that the right hon. Lady does to the country in the way in which she presents the argument is that she seeks to pretend that all the burdens and problems that we have had to contend with in the past four years—and nobody can say that the storm has not been a fierce one—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] The Conservatives think that there is no storm blowing outside. So ignorant are they of the outside world that they think that there is a storm blowing only here. So incompetent and ill equipped are they to try to put things right that they do not even trouble to know what is happening in other parts of the world.
When my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister goes to conferences to meet the leaders of the United States, Japan and other countries, all that the right hon. Lady and her friends can do in the House is to jeer and sneer as if those were matters of no significance. Moreover, the right hon. Lady does something worse. She says that in some way or other this country has been demeaned in the councils of the world during these past four years. There is no basis for that. It is not what the leaders of the other countries say; it is only what the Leader of the Opposition in this country says. That is not what the other countries have said about the policies that we have advocated at the summit meetings.
Why does not the right hon. Lady say whether she agrees or disagrees with the propositions that we have put at those summit meetings? It is because she wishes to mislead the people of this country into thinking that there is a problem only 582 here, that there is no problem in the wider world. We have had this from the Conservative Party on many occasions before. It has happened so often in our history, and I believe that it will happen again in the coming months when the public go to the polls to decide the issue. The argument must be lifted from the levels where the right hon. Lady would have it to the level of seeing what is happening to our country as a whole. Anyone who looks can see a very different story from the one told by the right hon. Lady today.
It is not the case that we have failed to grapple with all the problems in the past four years. We have started to deal with them, even with the limited power that we have had in this House. We have also, despite all the storms, despite all the setbacks, despite all the hardships, carried out major programmes of social reform at the same time. It is because we were determined to carry out those social changes, those social reforms, those improvements in the social services, despite all the difficulties, determined to share better the wealth produced by this country, even if that wealth was not as great as we wanted to it to be, that we have been able to weather the storm and prepare for other times.
So what will happen? What will once again be the choice at the next election? It will not be so dissimilar from the choice that the country had to make in 1945, or even in 1940 when the Labour Party had to come to the rescue of the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
It was on a motion of the Labour Party that the House of Commons threw out the Chamberlain Government in 1940. It was thanks to the Labour Party that Churchill had the chance to serve the country in the war years. Two-thirds of the Conservative Party at that time voted for the same reactionary policies as they will vote for tonight. It is sometimes in the most difficult and painful moments of our history that the country has turned to the Labour Party for salvation, and it has never turned in vain. We saved the country in 1940, and we did it again in 1945. We set out to rescue the country—or what was left of it—in 1974. Here 583 again in 1979 we shall do the same—[Interruption.]
4 October 1985, Bournemouth, United Kingdom
Thank you. Comrades, Alan, I think you must be all Welsh to give a welcome like that. But wherever you come from, I do thank you and I think movement, the country, will have got that message that you gave them there and then very loud and very clear. There is no mistaking that.
Comrades, before I present my parliamentary report this year, I want to mark the fact that at this Conference we see the retirement of an unusual number of our senior comrades in the trade union movement and also, of course, we have seen this year the retirement of our General Secretary, Jim Mortimer. I want to take this opportunity of paying tribute to all of those people, together with those who are perhaps not so distinguished, for their lifetime of service to this working class movement.
Today, however, we learn with deep sadness that one of those retired friends died this morning. Terry Duffy was blunt, irascible, not always easy to agree with, but as honest as the day was long, and we mourn his death and the fact that he had to endure with immense courage months of a dreadful illness. We send our sincere condolences to his family, and to Terry and to the many others who have made such a contribution to our movement we say thanks for all that they have done.
Comrades, this week in which our Conference meets is the 333rd week of Mrs Thatcher’s government. In this average week in Tory Britain 6,000 people will lose their jobs, 225 businesses will go bankrupt, £400 million will be spent on paying the bills of unemployment, 6,000 more people will be driven by poverty into supplementary benefit; and in this week in the world at large over $10,000 million will be spent on armaments and less than $1,000 million will be spent on official aid; and in this week over 300,000 children will die in the Third World. These are the real challenges that we have to face, at home and abroad. These are the concerns of our nation; they are the crises of our world. These are the problems which we in our party address and must address this week and every other week. Only we will address them this week and every other week, because that is what our party is for.
The Tories do not see things like that. They do not believe that these are great problems of substance at all. They think that all of the woes are simply a matter of ‘presentation’, as they put it. Presentation – that is what their ministers tell each other, that is what their Conference will tell itself next week, that is what the Prime Minister uses to explain everything: it is all a matter of presentation. The unemployment does not really exist, the training centres have not been shut down, the Health Service is safe in their hands: it is all just a matter of presentation. Indeed, they are so convinced of that that they have now got rid of Mr John Selwyn Gummer. He has been sent off to the Ministry of Agriculture, where doubtlessly the expertise that he gained as Chairman of the Tory Party in handling natural fertiliser will come in very handy.
In little Selwyn’s place we have Mr Norman Tebbit, charged with the task, so the newspapers tell us, of explaining the government to the country. The last person to have that commission was Dr Goebbels. Whilst Lord Willie Whitelaw, so the newspapers tell us, retains responsibility for co-ordinating the presentation of government policy. Norman and Willie – surely arsenic and old lace! Still, to give the devil his due, Mr Tebbit has been very frank about his whole function. A few days ago he said: ‘I don’t mind being blackguarded for what we’ve done, but I don’t want to be blackguarded for what we haven’t done.’
He will not mind then if I ask him to take a little time off from commissioning young Tories to litter the streets of Bournemouth and give us a few explanations. Ask him to explain, for instance, how the self-acclaimed party of law and order comes to preside over a record 40 per cent rise in crime in our country in the last six years. How does the declared party of school standards contrive a situation in which Her Majesty’s inspectors can describe the schooling system as ‘inadequate, shabby, dilapidated, outdated’, and then on top of that the Government goads the most temperate of professions – the teachers – into taking prolonged sanctions in the schools they work in? How does the party of the family cut child benefit, cut housing benefit, reduce nursery schooling, turn hundreds of women into immigration widows? How does the party of the family hit the old and the sick by cutting funds in the health and social services? How does the party of the family, indeed of the country and the suburbs, isolate the villages and the suburbs by destroying public transport services? How does the party of the family, above all, so arrange things that this year there is the lowest number of public housing starts in the whole of modern history, the same year in which a Prime Minister makes provision for her retirement with a £450,000 fortress in Dulwich? Is that the mark of the family party?
How is it that the party that promised to roll back the state has arrived at the situation where 1,700,000 more people are entirely dependent on the state because of their poverty during the time the Tories have been in government? How can the party of freedom, the friends of freedom, illegalise trade unionism in GCHQ Cheltenham? How can the party of freedom abolish the right to vote in the Greater London and metropolitan county councils? How can the party of freedom prosecute Sarah Tisdall and Clive Ponting? How can the party of freedom make secret plans to surrender completely the sovereignty of the British people in the event of war? How can the party of freedom do that? That did not happen when the Panzer divisions were at the French coast, when this country was in its most dire jeopardy. The institutions of freedom in this country were maintained. We insist that at tall times of national gravity, at any time of public jeopardy, there is all the more reason for us to sustain the values and the institutions of our democracy in this country. That is what we tell the party of freedom.
How does the party of enterprise preside over record bankruptcies? How does the party of tax cuts arrange that the British people now carry the biggest ever burden of taxation in British history? And how, above all, does the party that got the power by complaining that ‘Labour isn’t working’ claim in the name of sanity that there is a recovery going on, when unemployment rises remorselessly to the point where this Thursday they will record 3.4 million British people registered unemployed even on their fiddle figures? That is an awful lot – 3.4 million – of moaning Minnies, even for the most malevolent Maggie to try and explain away.
They are the paradoxes, they are the inconsistencies, they are the hypocrisies that Norman Tebbit has got to try and explain. No wonder they have given him a professional fiction writer as deputy chairman. But even if Jeffrey Archer was a mixture of the inventive genius of Shakespeare and Houdini and Uri Geller all rolled up into one, he still would not be able to do the trick, because the British people have rumbled. They have rumbled the methods, the motives, the style of the Government. They now understand. The great majority of the British people, including very much those who are not disadvantaged, are now alarmed and ashamed by the way that this Government rules, the divisions it creates, the dangers that it creates in our country. Their concern is recorded in every opinion poll, it is obvious in the statements of clergymen, it is even apparent amongst the soggier elements of the Conservative Party; and the breadth of that concern is evidence of the breadth of decent values and attitudes amongst the British people.
The Government ignores those feelings. They propose no concessions, no changes. All we get is a fleeting visit to what the Prime Minister thinks of as ‘the North’ and we get a Secretary of State for Employment in quarantine in the House of Lords, and then the other response that the Government makes to national crisis is to preach continually that there will be some great miracle of prosperity in some great non-unionised, low wage, tax-dodging, low-tech privatised day that one time will come upon us. It is a myth, mirage, fantasy, and the British people now know that.
They want a government that changes those policies; they want a government that will lift the poor and the unemployed; they want jobs to be generated; and they have demonstrated in overwhelming majorities that they want unemployment and insecurity to be fought by the Government, not used by the Government as the main tool of its economic policies. That is what the British people want. They resent the Tory strategy of fear. They know that fear brings caution, insecurity breeds stagnation. It goes not bring the ‘get up and go’ society that Mrs Thatcher talks about; it brings the ‘keep your head down, hang on to what you’ve got, stay scared’ society. That is what it brings – anxiety. And the penalties of disadvantage do not make confidence or co-operation or strength or stability; they make deference, they make division, they make weakness, yes, and they make conflict too. When tension, division, distrust, racism and idleness are ignited by hopelessness, all of those policies of fear and neglect create chaos in our society and on our streets.
I say that we cannot afford to be ruled by a government that does nothing to combat that lethal mixture of stagnation and strife. We could not afford it at any time, but least of all can we afford it now, when our society must change or decay. We are in that time now, and there must be a better way to face those challenges, those alternatives, than the way that is shown by the Government of Margaret Thatcher.
I believe I know that in this party we do have that better way. I believe we have it because we have the values, the perceptions and the policies that come from democratic socialism. We have the combination of idealism, which stops us throwing in the towel and giving in to he defeatism of toryism, and the realism which makes us buckle down to finding and implementing the answers. That is the essence of what we believe in. That is the combination of idealism and realism that this country needs now. I say to this movement and I say to the country: that combination is more necessary than ever before.
We live in a time of rapidly and radically changing technology. We live at a time of shifts in the whole structure of the world economy; we live at a time of new needs among the peoples of the world and new aspirations among young people and among women – late but welcome new aspirations among half of humankind. In the light of those changes, we need governing policies in this country that can gain change by consent. That will not come from government that bullies and dictates. It will not come from a government that evades changed and dodges the real issues. Change by consent can only be fostered by a government that will deliberately help people to cope with, handle and manage that change. That is the task for us – to promote change in such a way that it advances the people, all of the people.
Change cannot be left to chance. If it is left to chance, it becomes malicious, it creates terrible victims. It has done so generation in, generation out. Change has to be organised. It has to be shaped to the benefit of a society, deliberately, by those who have democratic power in that society; and the democratic instrument of the people who exist for that purpose is the state – yes, the state. To us that means a particular kind of state – an opportunity state, which exists to assist in nourishing talent and rewarding merit; a productive state, which exists to encourage investment and to help expand output; an enabling state, which is at the disposal of the people instead of being dominant over the people. In a word, we want a servant state, which respects those who work for it and reminds them that they work for the people of the country, a state which will give support to the voluntary efforts of those who, in their own time and from their own inspiration, will help the old, the sick, the needy, the young, the ill-housed and the hopeless.
We are democratic socialists. We want to put the state where it belongs in a democracy – under the feet of the people, not over the heads of the people. That is where the state belongs in a democracy. It means the collective contribution of the community for the purpose of individual liberty throughout the community; of individual freedom which is not nominal but real; of freedom which can be exercised in practice because school is good, because the hospital is there, because the training is accessible, because the alternative work is available, because the law is fair, because the streets are safe – real freedoms, real choices, real chances, and, going with them, the real opportunity to meet responsibilities. It is not a state doing things instead of people who could do those things better; it is not a state replacing families or usurping enterprise or displacing initiative or smothering individualism. It is the absolute opposite: it is a servant state doing things that institutions – big institutions, rich institutions, corporate institutions, rich, strong people – will not do, have not done, with anything like the speed or in anything like the scale that is necessary to bring change with consent in our society. That kind of state is the state that we seek under democratic control.
It cannot be done with brutality and it cannot be done with blandness either. That is why the Social Democrats and the Liberals are utterly useless for the purpose of securing change with consent. They are in Polo politics – smooth and firm on the outside and absolutely nothing on the inside. They do not really do anything or say anything to address the real problems. They have just had a fortnight of conferences, most of which they spent talking about themselves and having a sort of a seminar about which David was going to play second fiddle, because we all know which David is going to play first trumpet, don’t we? They cannot be the enablers, for while there are doubtlessly people in their ranks who seek the decent ends of opportunity and production, there is no one there who will commit the means to secure those ends of opportunity and production. That is in the nature of the attitude that they have.
On top of all that in any case all of their aims for the next election are geared to one objective – a permanent, vested interest in instability, a hung Parliament, in which they can be the self-important arbiters of power. That would be contemptible at any time, but at a time when the Government is going to have to get on immediately, urgently, emergently with the task of generating jobs and investment, a strategy which is intent upon horse trading, juggling, balancing and ego flattering is totally contemptible, and the British people should know that.
The Tories meanwhile do not desire enabling ends and plainly will not commit enabling means. In every policy of the Tory government they have shown that their objective is to reduce what we have of an enabling state, what we have of a welfare state, to a rubble of shabby services and lost jobs. Of course they tell us they are not real jobs. Teachers, doctors, nurses, home helps, ancillaries in the schools and in the hospitals, ambulance drivers – they are not real jobs, that is what the Tories tell us. We know they are real jobs. We know they are real jobs because if those jobs are not done, if people are not allowed to do them, the consequent is real pain, real loss of opportunity, real suffering, real misery, yes, and real costs too. That is why they are real jobs, as real as life and death.
We see the Tories’ attitude towards enabling people in the education cuts; we see it in the closure of skill centres and training boards; we see it in the reduction in apprenticeships; we see it in the attempted withdrawal of board and lodging allowances to unemployed youngsters and to the chronically sick who need residences. Above all, we now see the Government’s attitude towards enabling in the proposals made by Norman Fowler in his social security review, which you debated this morning; ‘social security review’ – it would more appropriately be called social insecurity for you and you and you and you. Everybody in this country is going to be disadvantaged if they ever get the chance to implement those policies fully.
In the Labour party we are fighting, and we will go on fighting, those poor law proposals, and as part of that fight early next year we will launch Labour’s freedom and fairness campaign to put the issues to the British people, to give them our alternatives and to show that once again we have real policies for hope to put in place of fear, which is the only Tory policy. Of course hope is cheap; attractive, delightful, but cheap. Help costs money. So in the course of that fight and in our policies for construction and care we have to take full account of the breadth and depth of the ruin made by the policies of eight or maybe even, by then, nine years of applied Thatcherism. The extent of that ruin is awful. Last Wednesday the Association of British Chambers of Commerce reported: ‘Our shrinking manufacturing base and deteriorating trade performance raises a fundamental question about the future of the British economy. How do we pay our way in the world when the oil trade surplus, at present a huge £11.5 thousand million, begins to disappear in the late 1980s. Answers to these questions from economic ministers and senior civil servants have been unsatisfactory.’
Comrades, in the last six years, alone among the major industrial nations, manufacturing production in Britain has actually fallen by 8 per cent; investment in manufacturing production has fallen by 20 per cent; manufactured trade has moved from a surplus of £4,000 million in the last year of the Labour government to a deficit of £4,000 million in the sixth year of the Tory government. In the years since 1979 our economic strength has been eaten away just as surely as if we had been engaged in a war – I put it to this party, I put it to the country, not as a defence, not in any defensive sense whatsoever, but as a salutary fact of life. The Tories have been the party and the government of destruction. If we are to rebuild and recover in this country, this Labour Party must be the party of production. That is where our future lies. It is not a new role for us, but it does require a fresh and vigorous reassertion.
Over the years our enemies and critics – yes, and a few of our friends as well – have given us the reputation of being a party that is solely concerned with redistribution, of being a party much more concerned about the allocation of wealth than the creation of wealth. It was not true; it is not true; it never has been and all our history shows that – from the great industrial development and nationalisation Acts of the Attlee Government, which gave this country a post-war industrial basis, through to the Wilson Government’s investment schemes and initiatives that brought new life to where I come from, to South Wales, to Scotland, to the North-East, to Merseyside to the new towns of the South-East, right through to the actions of the last Labour Government, which ensured that at least we retained a British computer industry, a British motor industry, a machine tool industry, a shipbuilding industry. We have a long record and need give no apology for being the party of production.
Now in the 1980s we face new challenges in our determination that our country shall produce its way out of slump. There is the challenge of the hi-tech industries, which six years ago had a surplus with the rest of the world and now run a £2.3 billion deficit with the rest of the world, as a result of deliberately depressed demand, withdrawal of research and development and expensive money – the policies of the Tory Government. We have challenges too from the traditional industries, those industries dismissed, written off, by a Tory government that calls them ‘smoke-stack’ industries and really think that Britain’s future is as a warehouse, a tourist trap, with nothing to export but our capital. That is the vision they have of the future – totally impractical, ruinous, not only for our generation but for all those to come.
Through our ‘Jobs in Industry’ campaign, in all our policies, we in this party say to the British people: Britain has made it, Britain can make it and, provided that we give to the workers, the managers, the technicians, the people of Britain the means to make it, Britain will make it in the future if we have a Labour government. Those means that they must have at their disposal are training, research and development, and finance for investment over periods and at prices that producers can and will afford. That is absolutely crucial. Other countries do it, and nobody has yet explained satisfactorily to me how it can be, why it should be, that we have a government and a financial system that believe that Britain can’t do it, Britain can’ make it and in any case Britain shouldn’t make it in the future. We cannot afford that surrender mentality from government. We have got to have a government like those of Japan, Germany, Sweden, France and Italy, which put the real interests of their country first. They don’t talk about competing in the world economy as if it is a game of cricket. They talk about competing and they mean it, so they put their money where their speeches are.
I am not saying that an economy can revive and thrive only with government; I am saying that it is a fact of life in a modern economy that there can’t be any real progress while the policies of a government lie like a great stone across the path of productive manufacturing advance. I am not saying that it can only be done with government; I am saying that the fact of life is that we will not revive and thrive without the active support, involvement, participation of government.
To all those defeatists, the real moaning Minnies of Britain, who say: ‘That’s all very well, but British workers won’t respond, British managers won’t respond’, I say: go to the industries in Britain where modernisation has taken place, some of them foreign-owned, and see how, when people have the means, they can stand their corner with any competing industry in the world. I say too to them: go to where, in Labour local authorities, enterprise boards have been established, bringing together public capital and private capital, bringing together people with common objectives, and see how they succeed in measurement by anybody’s terms. Go and see, where people get the chance, how they take that chance, how they use it, how they use money to make production, how they spend some to make some, how they are determined to make modern things for modern markets, and do it successfully – from handicrafts right across to the frontier technologies.
We won’t accept the defeatism, the surrender mentality. That is why the first priority as the next government of Britain will be to invest in Britain. It has been obvious for decades and disastrously clear since the Thatcher Government took away controls on the export of capital six years ago at Britain is a grossly under-invested country. There is less excuse for that now than ever. The Tories have had more oil money in every month that they have been in government than Jim Callaghan’s government had in a whole year of government. They have spent that money on sustaining unemployment, and even as the oil money poured out on that unemployment, even as it poured in to the Exchequer, the investment money poured out of the British economy altogether.
In the last six years, over £60,000 million of investment capital has left Britain. We need that money – not the Labour Party or the Labour Government: Britain needs that money, if we are to rebuild. That is why we are going to establish our scheme to bring the funds back home where they are needed, so that they can be used for generating employment, development and growth in our economy. We are going to use those funds for long-term loans for the purchase of modern machinery, for research and development, for training. We will ensure that the return paid is comparable to what can be got elsewhere, but the difference will be this: those resources will be here, for the process of investment, for the purpose of creating wealth, for the purpose most of all of generating jobs here in Britain.
We don’t make those arguments for getting and using that money out of any jingoistic or nationalistic motive. What we say is this: we need those policies for we simply cannot afford the level of charity shown by the moneyhandlers of Britain towards our advanced industrial competitors. That charity is too expensive for this country to tolerate any longer. We need that money. We need the money to be able to produce; we need the money to be able to generate those jobs, further development, new investment; we need that wealth to reward people for their effort, for their enterprise; and we need that money and the wealth that it generates to provide the means of properly funding the system of justice and opportunity and care which I call the enabling state.
We need that money to make our way in the world, but there are other ways too in which we must make our way in the world. We must make our way morally as well as economically. For us as democratic socialists there can be no retreat from our duties as citizens of the world. We don’t want to be the worlds policemen, we don’t want to pretend that we are the world’s pastor either, but we must be the friends of freedom; and as people who believe that the great privilege of strength, the great privilege of being strong, is the power which it gives to be able to help people who are not strong, we understand where our obligations are in this world.
If the morality won’t convince people, if the ethics won’t convince people, let the practicalities – the material practicalities – convince them. In this world now we either live together or we decay separately. It is in our material interest to ensure that the supplicants of the Third World are turned into customers and consumers by relieving them of the terrible burdens of interest, by the effectiveness of our aid policies and by assisting in their development. That is a clinical fact stripped of all emotion, and I use it to persuade the falterers. But even to them I say that if you had come with me this year to see the different levels of need in the barrios of Managua and the shambas of Tanzania, in the desert settlements of Kenya and, most of all, in the back streets of Addis Ababa – for I have never seen such destitution – I would not have to tickle you with profit. If you had seen and touched and felt and smelt, you would know where your duty as free people, as people with money, as people with power and strength, really lies in this world. I say to those people that they would want to do all they could to give life and to help people make a life for themselves. They would. That is what the British people showed just on the basis of television pictures, even without the touch on the skin of a starving child. The British people showed it and will go on showing that they feel that putting food in people’s stomachs and putting clothes on people’s backs and putting roofs over people’s heads is our place in the world; and, even more than that, they show they understand that helping people to provide the means to grow their food, to make their clothes, to find their freedom, is our place in the world in this democracy.
Just as it is the duty, the privilege, of the strong to help the weak, so it is the duty of the free to help those across this planet who are oppressed because of their beliefs, the colour of their skin, their sex, their poverty, their powerlessness, their principles. We reach out to them, for we must be the friends of those who are oppressed, those who are made captives in their own lands, in our efforts, right throughout this movement, some announced, some more subtle, to secure the release of refuseniks and so-called dissidents in the Soviet Union, in our support for Solidarnosc, in our aid for the democrats of Chile, in our backing, our solidarity, with the democratically elected government of the Republic of Nicaragua. We stand with them. In all those and in many other ways, in our support for the United Nations, we know that for us as free people freedom can have no boundaries.
Comrades, the Government doesn’t know that. Britain should not have to be dragged, fumbling, stumbling and mumbling, into imposing even the most nominal economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. We should be leading opinion, out of pride in our own liberty and out of the practical knowledge, as we in this movement have counselled for years, that there is only one plausible way that stands the remotest chance of securing peaceful change in South Africa, and that is by the strong imposing of effective economic sanctions against apartheid. Now, when South African businessmen sensibly confer with leaders of the African National Congress, when the United Democratic Front grows bold in its demands for freedom in South Africa and when even the President of the United States of America is obliged to impose embargoes on the apartheid regime, the British government’s excuses and alibis become more lame, more pathetic, more contemptible by the day.
Next month is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. Britain will be stranded, isolated amongst that Commonwealth of nations – rich nations, poor nations, black nations, white nations, north and south – as the only nation that shows any degree of friendship towards apartheid South Africa. We should be taking our place in the world properly, with the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Canadians, and the Zambians, the Tanzanians and those who at the front line have made the most monstrous sacrifices in order to sustain what pressure they can on South Africa.
In taking our proper place in the modern world, rid of all the vanities, the nostalgia for a past whose glory missed most of our people, it is essential that we strip ourselves of illusions; most important, that we strip ourselves of the illusions of nuclear grandeur. Not my phrase – nuclear grandeur, the illusions. That phrase belongs to Field Marshall Lord Carver, former Chief of the Defence Staff. In June he said to the House of Lords: ‘Why do the Government obstinately persist in wasting money on a so-called British independent deterrent? … Our ballistic missiles submarines are not an essential element of NATO’s strategy. Whether they are regarded as an addition to the force assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe or as an independent force, they are superfluous and a waste of money. The essential element is the stationing of United States conventional land and air forces on the Continent; and, in order to persuade the American people that it is right, proper and in their own interests that they should continue to [contribute to the defence of Western Europe], it is essential that we and our fellow-European members of NATO should convince them that we are using our money and manpower effectively to maintain … the capability of our conventional forces … That, my Lords, is the first priority of our defence policy, not illusions of nuclear grandeur.’
I don’t suppose I agree with Field Marshall Lord Carver about everything, but that was a very effective way, from a very effective spokesman, of demonstrating the insanity, the waste, the illusion of Tory Party policy, and demonstrating too the reality and necessity of our complete non-nuclear defence policy to maintain the proper security of our country and alliance. That is our policy, our commitment to the British people, and we will honour it in full.
We want to honour our undertakings in full in every area of policy. We want to say what we mean and mean what we say. We want to keep our promises, and because we want to do that it is essential that we don’t make false promises. That is why we must not casually make promises that are so fanciful, so self-indulgent, so exaggerated that they can be completely falsified by the realities in which we live and the realities that we know we shall encounter. If we do not take that view, if we do make false promises, we shall lose integrity, we shall demonstrate immaturity, we will not convince the people.
Comrades, 463 resolutions have been submitted to this Conference on policy issues, committed honestly, earnestly, and a lot of thought has gone into them. Of those 463, 300 refer to something called the next Labour Government and they refer to what they want that next Labour Government to do. I want to take on many of those commitments. I want to meet many of those demands. I want to respond to many of those calls, in practice – not in words, but in actions. But there is of course a pre-condition to honouring those or any other undertaking that we give. That pre-condition is unavoidable, total and insurmountable, and it is a pre-condition that in this movement we do not want to surmount. It is the pre-condition that we win a general election. There is absolutely no other way to put any of those policies into effect. The only way to restore, the only way to rebuild, the only way to reinstate, the only way to help the poor, to help the unemployed, to help the victimised, is to get the support of those who are not poor, not unemployed, not victimised who support our view. That means, comrades, reaching out to them and showing them that we are at one with their decent values and aims, that we are with their hopes for their children, with their needs, with their ideals of justice, improvement and prosperity in the future.
There are some in our movement who, when I say that we must reach out in that fashion, accuse me of an obsession with electoral politics; there are some who, when I say we must reach out and make a broader appeal to those who only have their labour to sell, who are part of the working classes – no doubt about their credentials – say that I am too preoccupied with winning; there are some who say, when I reach out like that and in the course of seeking that objective, that I am prepared to compromise values. I say to them and I say to everybody else, and I mean it from the depths of my soul: there is no need to compromise values, there is no need in this task to surrender our socialism, there is no need to abandon or even try to hide any of our principles, but there is an implacable need to win and there is an equal need for us to understand that we address an electorate which is sceptical, an electorate which needs convincing, a British public who want to know that our idealism is not lunacy, our realism is not timidity, our eagerness is not extremism, a British public who want to know that our carefulness too is not nervousness.
I speak to you, to this Conference. People say that leaders speak to the television cameras. All right, we have got some eavesdroppers. But my belief has always been this, and I act upon it and will always act upon it. I come here to this Conference primarily, above all, to speak to this movement at its Conference. I say to you at this Conference, the best place for me to say anything, that I will tell you what you already know, although some may need reminding. I remind you, every one of you, of something that every single one of you said in the desperate days before June 9, 1983. You said to each other on the streets, you said to each other in the cars rushing round, you said to each other in the committee rooms: elections are not won in weeks, they are won in years. That is what you said to each other. That is what you have got to remember: not in future weeks or future years; this year, this week, this Conference, now – this is where we start winning elections, not waiting until the returning officer is ready.
Secondly, something else you know. If Socialism is to be successful in this country, it must relate to the practical needs and the mental and moral traditions of the men and women of this country. We must emphasise what we have in common with those people who are our neighbours, workmates and fellow countrymen and women – and we have everything in common with them – in a way we could not do if we were remote, if, like the Tories, we were in orbit around the realities of our society, if, like the Social Democrats and the Liberals, we stood off from those realities, retreated from them, deserted them. But we are of, from, for the people. That is our identity, that is our commitment, that is how much we have in common with the people. Let us emphasise that, let us demonstrate it, let us not hide it away as if it was something extraordinary or evidence of reaction. Let us emphasise what we have in common with the people of this country.
We must not dogmatise or browbeat. We have got to reason with people; we have got to persuade people. That is their due. We have voluntarily, every one of us, joined a political party. We wish a lot more people would come and join us, help us, give us their counsel, their energies, their advice, broaden our participation. But in making the choice to join a political party we took a decision, and it was that, by persuasion, we hoped that we could bring more people with us. So that is the basis on which we have got to act, want to act.
Thirdly, something else you know. There is anger in this country at the devastation brought about by these last six years of Tory government, but strangely that anger is mixed with despair, a feeling that the problems are just too great, too complex, to be dealt with by any government or any policy. That feeling is abroad. We disagree with it, we contend it, we try to give people the rational alternatives, but it exists. If our response to that despair, anger and confusion amounts to little more than slogans, if we give the impression to the British people that we believe that we can just make a loud noise and the Tory walls of Jericho will fall down, they are not going to treat us very seriously at all – and we won’t deserve to be treated very seriously.
Fourthly, I shall tell you again what you know. Because you are from the people, because you are of the people, because you live with the same realities as everybody else lives with, implausible promises don’t win victories. I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council, a Labour council, hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.
I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short-term egos – I tell you and you’ll listen, I’m telling you that you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes. Comrades, the voice of the people – not the people here; the voice of the real people with real needs – is louder than all the boos that can be assembled. Understand that, please, comrades. In your socialism, in your commitment to those people, understand it. The people will not, cannot, abide posturing. They cannot respect the gesture-generals or the tendency-tacticians.
Comrades, it seems to me lately that some of our number become like latter-day public school-boys. It seems it matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game. We cannot take that inspiration from Rudyard Kipling. Those game players get isolated, hammered, blocked off. They might try to blame others – workers, trade unions, some other leadership, the people of the city – for not showing sufficient revolutionary consciousness, always somebody else, and then they claim a rampant victory. Whose victory? Not victory for the people, not victory for them. I see the casualties; we all see the casualties. They are not to be found amongst the leaders and some of the enthusiasts; they are to be found amongst the people whose jobs are destroyed, whose services are crushed, whose living standards are pushed down to deeper depths of insecurity and misery. Comrades, these are vile times under this Tory Government for local democracy, and we have got to secure power to restore real local democracy.
But I look around this country and I see Labour councils, I see socialists, as good as any other socialists, who fought the good fight and who, at he point when they thought they might jeopardise people’s jobs and people’s services, had the intelligence, yes, and the courage to adopt a different course. They truly put jobs and services first before other considerations. They had to make hellish choices. I understand it. You must agonise with them in the choices they had to make – very unpalatable, totally undesirable, but they did it. They found ways. They used all their creativity to find ways that would best protect those whom they employed and those whom they were elected to defend. Those people are leaders prepared to take decisions, to meet obligations, to giver service. They know life is real, life is earnest – too real, too earnest to mistake a Conference Resolution for an accomplished fact; too real, too earnest to mistake a slogan for a strategy; too real, too earnest to allow them to mistake their own individual enthusiasm for mass movement; too real, too earnest to mistake barking for biting. I hope that becomes universal too.
Comrades, I offer you this counsel. The victory of socialism, said a great socialist, does not have to be complete to be convincing. I have no time, he went on, for those who appear to threaten the whole of private property but who in practice would threaten nothing; they are purists and therefore barren. Not the words of some hypnotised moderate, not some petrified pragmatist, but Aneurin Bevan in 1950 at the height of his socialist vision and his radical power and conviction. There are some who will say that power and principle are somehow in conflict. Those people who think that power and principle are in conflict only demonstrate the superficiality, the shallowness, of their own socialist convictions; for whilst they are bold enough to preach those convictions in little coteries, they do not have the depth of conviction to subject those convictions, those beliefs, that analysis, to the real test of putting them into operation in power.
There is no collision between principle and power. For us as democratic socialists the two must go together, like a rich vein that passes through everything that we believe in, everything that we try to do, everything that we will implement. Principle and power, conviction and accomplishment, going together. We know that power without principle is ruthless and vicious, and hollow and sour. We know that principle without power is naïve, idle sterility. That is useless – useless to us, useless to the British people to overcome their travails, useless for our purpose of changing society as democratic socialists. I tell you that now. It is what I have always said, it is what I shall go on saying, because it is what I said to you at the very moment that I was elected leader.
I say to you in complete honesty, because this is the movement that I belong to, that I owe this party everything I have got – not the job, not being leader of the Labour Party, but every life chance that I have had since the time I was a child: the life chance of a comfortable home, with working parents, people who had jobs; the life chance of moving out of a pest and damp-infested set of rooms into a decent home, built by a Labour council under a Labour Government; the life chance of an education that went on for as long as I wanted to take it. Me and millions of others of my generation got all their chances from this movement. That is why I say that this movement, its values, its policies, applied in power, gave me everything that I have got – me and millions like me of my generation and succeeding generations. That is why it is my duty to be honest and that is why it is our function, our mission, our duty – all of us – to see that those life chances exist and are enriched and extended to millions more, who without us will never get the chance of fulfilling themselves. That is why we have got to win, that is what I have always believed and that is what I put to you at the very moment that I was elected.
In 1983 I said to this Conference ‘We have to win. We must not permit any purpose to be superior for the Labour movement to that purpose.’ I still believe it. I will go on saying it until we achieve that victory and I shall live with the consequences, which I know, if this movement is with me, will be victory – victory with our policies intact, no sell-outs, provided that we put nothing before the objective of explaining ourselves and reasoning with the people of this country. We will get that victory with our policies, our principles, intact. I know it can be done. Reason tells me it can be done. The people throughout this movement, who I know in huge majority share all these perceptions and visions and want to give all their energies, they know it can be done. Realism tells me it can be done, and the plain realities and needs of our country tell me it must be done. We have got to win, not for our sakes, but really, truly to deliver the British people from evil. Let’s do it.
Thank you, comrades. Everybody has got the message: we’re not the Liberals or the Tories. Thank you very much.
3 September 1901, Minnesota, USA
Four days after Roosevelt spoke at the fair, President McKinley was shot by an assassin in Buffalo, N.Y. and Vice President Roosevelt became President.
In his admirable series of studies of Twentieth century problems Dr. Lyman Abbott has pointed out that we are a nation of pioneers; that the first colonists to our shores were pioneers, and that pioneers selected out from among the descendants of these early pioneers, mingled with others selected afresh from the old world, pushed westward into the wilderness, and laid the foundations for new commonwealths. They were men of hope and energy; for the men of dull content or more dull despair had no part in the great movement into and across the new world. Our country has been populated by pioneers, and therefore it has in it more energy, more enterprise, more expansive power than any other in the wide world.
You whom I am now addressing stand, for the most part, but one generation removed from these pioneers. You are typical Americans, for you have done the great, the characteristic, the typical work of our American life. In making homes and carving out careers for yourselves, and your children, you have built up this state; throughout our history the success of the homemaker has been but another name for the upbuilding of the nation. The men who with ax in the forest and pick in the mountains and plow on the prairies, pushed to completion the dominion of our people over the American wilderness have given the definite shape to our nation. They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all they have recognized the practical form the fundamental law of success in American life – the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor. We have but little room among our people for the timid, the irresolute and the idle, and it is no less true that there is scant room in the world at large for the nation with mighty thews that dares not to be great. …
Every father and mother here, if they are wise, will bring up their children not to shirk difficulties, but to meet them and overcome them; not to strive after a life of ignoble ease, but to strive to do their duty, first to themselves and their families and then to the whole state; and this duty must inevitably take the shape of work in some form or other. You, the sons of pioneers, if you are true to your ancestry, must make your lives as worthy as they made theirs. They sought for true success, and therefore they did not seek ease. They knew that success comes only to those who lead the life of endeavor. …
No hard and fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force.
It is not only highly desirable, but necessary, that there should be legislation which shall carefully shield the interest of wage workers, and which shall discriminate in favor of the hones and human employer by removing the disadvantages under which he stands when compared with unscrupulous competitors who have no conscience, and will do right only under fear of punishment.
Nor can legislation stop only with what are termed labor questions. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital which have marked the development of our industrial system, create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of state and the nation toward property. …
Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb, “Speak softly and carry a big stick – you will go far.” If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble, and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power. In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting, and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words, his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power.
Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not which prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people. …
This is the attitude we should take as regards the Monroe doctrine. There is not the least need of blustering about it. Still less should it be used as a pretext for our own aggrandizement at the expense of any other American state. But most emphatically, we must make it evident that we intend on this point ever to maintain the old American position. Indeed, it is hard to understand how any man can take any other position now that we are all looking forward to the building of the Isthmian canal. The Monroe doctrine is not international law, but there is no necessity that it should be. …
Our dealings with Cuba illustrate this, and should be forever a subject of just national pride. We speak in no spirit of arrogance when we state as a simple historic fact that never in recent times has any great nation acted with such disinterestedness as we have shown in Cuba. We freed the island from the Spanish yoke. We then earnestly did our best to help the Cubans in the establishment of free education, of law and order, of material prosperity, of the cleanliness necessary to salutary well-being in their great cities. We did all this at great expense of treasure, at some expense of life, and now we are establishing them in a free and independent commonwealth, and have asked in return nothing whatever save that at no time shall their independence be prostituted to the advantage of some foreign rival of ours, or so as to menace our well-being. To have failed to ask this would have amounted to national stultification on our part.
In the Philippines we have brought peace, and we are at this moment giving them such freedom and self-government as they could never under any conceivable conditions have obtained had we turned them loose to sink into a welter of blood, and confusion, or to become the prey of some strong tyranny without or within. The bare recital of the facts is sufficient to show that we did our duty, and what prouder title to honor can a nation have than to have done its duty? We have done our duty to ourselves, and we have done the higher duty of promoting the civilization of mankind. …
Barbarism has and can have no place in a civilized world. It is our duty toward the people living in barbarism to see that they are freed from their chains, and we can only free them by destroying barbarism itself. The missionary, the merchant and the soldier may each have to play a part in this destruction, and in the consequent uplifting of the people. Exactly as it is the duty of a civilized power scrupulously to respect the rights of all weaker civilized powers and gladly to help those who are struggling towards civilization, so it is its duty to put down savagery and barbarism. As in such a work human instruments must be used, and as human instruments are imperfect, this means that at times there will be injustices, that at times, merchant, or soldier, or even missionary may do wrong.
Let us instantly condemn and rectify such wrong when it occurs, and if possible punish the wrong-doer. But, shame, thrice shame to us, if we are so foolish as to make such occasional wrong-doing an excuse for failing to perform a great and righteous task. No only in our own land, but throughout history, the advance of civilization has been of incalculable benefit to mankind, and those through whom it has advanced deserve the higher honor. All honor to the missionary, all honor to the soldier, all honor to the merchant who now in our own day have done so much to bring light into the world’s dark places.
Let me insist again, for fear of possible misconstruction, upon the fact that our duty is two-fold, and that we must raise others while we are benefiting ourselves. In bringing order to the Philippines, our soldiers added a new page to the honor-roll of American history and they incalculably benefited the islanders themselves. Under the wise administration of Gov. Taft the islands now enjoy a peace and liberty of which they have hitherto never even dreamed. But this peace and liberty under the law must be supplemented by material, by industrial development, to the introduction of American industries and products; no merely because this will be a good thing for our people, but infinitely more because it will be of incalculable benefit to the people of the Philippines.
We shall make mistakes; and if we let these mistakes frighten us from work, we shall show ourselves weaklings. Half a century ago Minnesota and the two Dakotas were Indian hunting grounds. We committed plenty of blunders, and now and then worse than blunders, in our dealings with the Indians. But who does not admit at the present day that we were right in wresting from barbarism and adding to civilization the territory out of which we have made these beautiful states? And now we are civilizing the Indian and putting him on a level to which he could never have attained under the old conditions.
In the Philippines let us remember that the spirit and not the mere form of government is the essential matter. The Tagalogs have a hundred-fold the freedom under us that they would have if we had abandoned the islands. We are not trying to subjugate a people; we are trying to develop them, and make them a law-abiding, industrious and educated people, and we hope, ultimately, a self-governing people. In short, in the work we have done, we are but carrying out the true principles of our democracy. We work in a spirit of self-respect for ourselves and of good-will toward others, in a spirit of love for and of infinite faith in mankind. We do not blindly refuse to face the evils that exist; or the shortcomings inherent in humanity; but across blunderings and shirking, across selfishness and meanness of motive, across short-sightedness and cowardice, we gaze steadfastly toward the far horizon of golden triumph.
If you study our past history as a nation you will see we have made many blunders and have been guilty of many shortcomings, and yet that we have always in the end come out victorious because we have refused to be daunted by blunders and defeats—have recognized them, but have preserved in spite of them. So it must be in the future. We gird up our loins as a nation with the stern purpose to play our part manfully in winning the ultimate triumph, and therefore we turn scornfully aside from the paths of mere ease and idleness, and with unfaltering steps tread the rough road of endeavor, smiting down the wrong and battling for the right as Greatheart smote and battled in Bunyan’s immortal story.
24 January 2019, Washington DC, USA
i seldom rise on this floor to contradict somebody on the other side, I have worked very hard over the years to work in a bipartisan way with the presiding officer with my Republican colleagues, but these crocodile tears that the senator from Texas is crying for first responders are too hard for me to take.
They’re too hard for me to take!
When the senator from Texas shut this government down in 2013, my state was flooded. It was under water. People were killed. People's houses were destroyed. Their small businesses were ruined forever. And because of the senator from Texas, this government was shut down for politics.
That he surfed to a second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. That were of no help to the first responders to the teachers, to the students whose schools were closed, with the federal government that was shit down because of the junior senator from Texas.
Now ‘s it’s his business, not my business, why he supports a president who wants to erect a medieval barrier on the border of Texas. Who wants to use Eminent Domain to build that wall. Who wants to declare an unconstitutional emergency to build that wall?
That’s the business of the Senator from Texas. I can assure you, that in Colorado, if a President said he was going to use Eminent Domain to erect a barrier across the State of Colorado, across the rocky mountains of Colorado, he was going to steal the property of our farmers and ranchers to build his medieval wall, there wouldn’t be an elected leader from our state who would support that. The very idea!
Which goes to my final point.. How ludicrous it is that this government is shut down over a promise the President of the United States couldn’t keep! And that America is not interested in having him keep. This idea that he was going to build a medieval wall across the southern border of Texas, take it from the farmers and ranchers that are there, and have the Mexicans pay for it, isn’t true!
That’s why we’re here. Because he’s now saying the taxpayers are going to have to pay for it. That’s not what he said during the campaign. Over and over and over and over again he said Mexico would pay for the wall.
Over and over again.
And now we’re here with a government shutdown over the President’s broken promise, while the Chinese are landing spacecraft on the dark side of the moon., That’s what they’re doing.
Not to mention what they’re doing in Latin America … while we’re shut down. Over a promise he never thought he’d keep and didn’t keep.
There's an old saying among Texas trial lawyers — if you have the facts, you bang the facts. If you have the law, you bang the law. If you don't have either one, you bang the table. We've seen a whole lot of table-banging right here on this floor. The senator from Colorado spent a great deal of time yelling, spent a great deal of time attacking me personally. I will say in all of my time in the Senate, I don't believe I have ever bellowed or yelled at a colleague on the Senate floor and I hope I never do that.”
22 November 1990, Westminster, United Kingdom
On her last day in parliament, Margaret Thatcher was questioned on the widening gap between richest 10% and poorest 10% during her Prime Ministership.
All levels of income are better off than they were in 1979. But what the honorable member is saying is that he would rather the poor were poorer provided the rich were less rich. That way you will never create the wealth for better social services as we have. And what a policy. Yes. He would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich were less rich. That is the Liberal policy. Yes it came out. He didn’t intend it to but it did.
Opposition questioner: The Prime Minister is aware that I detest every single one of her domestic policies…
I think the honorable gentlemen knows that I have the same contempt for his Socialist policies as the people of East Europe who have experienced it (rest of sentence drowned out by cheers). I think I must have hit the right nail on the head when I pointed out that the logic of those policies are they’d rather have the poor poorer. Once they start to talk about the gap, they’d rather the gap be [indicates an everything lower gap]. Not up here [indicates an everybody higher gap]. But that [indicates an everything lower gap]
So long as the gap is smaller, they’d rather have the poor poorer.
29 January 2019,. House of Commons, Westminster, London, United Kingdom
The idea that my constituents are not skilled because they do not earn over £30,000 is frankly insulting.
It is insulting on every level to our care workers, our nurses, our teachers.
There are so many people who do not earn over £30,000.
I really think that that needs to be revisited.
Since I was elected I have met many people who earn way more than £30,000 and have literally no discernible skills, not even one.
I met none before - I thought I had met posh people before I came here, but I had actually just met people who eat olives.
I had no idea of how posh a person could be.
Waitrose is apparently not the marker for being really, really posh.
There is a lovely Waitrose in Birmingham Hall Green; it is the one I like to frequent.
I have not necessarily met such people in this place, although there is a smattering.
I would not let some of those very rich people who earn huge amounts of money hold my pint if I had to go and vote while in the bar.
Because they would almost certainly do it wrong.
12 December 2018, University of Liverpool Central Hub, Liverpool, UK
It’s a great honour to have been invited to give this lecture tonight.
We did not know when we fixed this lecture how critical a week this would be. So, inevitably, I wrote some of this text before knowing how the last 72 hours have unfolded. My remarks are therefore primarily about the lessons we really need to learn from the last 30 months – I might perhaps argue the last 30 years – if we are to emerge the other side of the Brexit process with both our democracy and our economy flourishing.
The stakes could not be higher now. We face the biggest political crisis for at least a couple of generations. The risks are now both a democratic crisis and an economic one.
We just cannot go on as we have been: evading and obfuscating choices – indeed frequently denying, against all evidence, that there are unavoidable choices. And the public will, understandably, not, for a very long time, forgive a political class which, on all sides of the divide, fails to level with it on the choices being made.
This feels a rather unseasonal theme, but as we are approaching Christmas, I thought I would therefore talk about nine lessons we need to draw from the last 2 ½ years, if the next 2 ½ – indeed the next decade – are not to be even more painful.
I wish I could say that I thought these nine lessons were in the process of being digested. Perhaps we do at least have some signs that a genuine debate about types of post Brexit destination, based on something other than complete wishful thinking, is belatedly breaking out.
But the debate in this country – on all sides – continues to suffer from all manner of delusions, fantasies and self-deceptions.
And the debate in the EU on the British question, insofar as there is one, suffers from complacency, fatigue and strategic myopia.
We are in a bad way. And a descent into a deeply troubled and essentially conflictual medium term relationship with the EU, and a deeply divided British politics for a generation, becomes completely inevitable unless we learn these lessons and apply that learning in the next few years.
So here are 9 lessons we need, I think, to learn from the last few years, and the conclusions we need to draw from them.
First Lesson: It has of course to be that “Brexit means Brexit”. I do not mean this facetiously. Well, not primarily, anyway….
I mean that leaving the EU is genuinely a major regime change, with massive political, legal, economic and social consequences.
Being just outside the EU outer perimeter fence – even if that is where we choose to be (which I rather doubt) – is not AT ALL similar to living just inside it. Which, as I have said before, is where David Cameron sought to entrench the U.K. – outside political, monetary, banking, fiscal Union, outside Schengen, and with a pick and choose approach to what used to be the third pillar of justice and home affairs. His was the last attempt to amplify and entrench British exceptionalism WITHIN the EU legal order.
It failed. A majority voted to leave altogether.
And when they did, they were not told that, at the end of the withdrawal phase of the negotiation, there would be another vote on whether they meant it, now that they saw the terms. We can’t rewrite the history of what happened.
And, incidentally, second vote campaigners seem either remarkably coy about whether they want to remain on the terms Cameron negotiated or whether some great new offer will be forthcoming – notably on free movement of people – from EU elites supposedly desperate to give us something now they were not prepared to negotiate with Cameron.
So let me puncture that fantasy first: no such offer will be coming.
If we stayed, we could, contrary to what some allege, keep the existing membership terms.
But that’s not with a promise of improving them. And I have still yet to meet the senior person in any capital who wants to give Member States the right to impose numerical controls on free movement rights.
For every other Member State, without exception, free movement is not at all the same business as external migration.
And THEIR crisis is about external migration. And for them, the British response to that crisis from both the last 2 Prime Ministers – has essentially been: we have an opt-out from that one. What you 27 do via common policies is up to you. We’ll help out with aid in the affected regions.
It still amazes me that virtually the entire British political class still thinks that it’s free movement obsessions are about to be shared in the 27. They aren’t.
BUT…. once you leave the EU, you cannot, from just outside the fence, achieve all the benefits you got just inside it.
First, there will, under NO circumstances, be frictionless trade when outside the Single Market and Customs Union. Frictionless trade comes with free movement. And with the European Court of Justice. More later on that.
Second, voluntary alignment from outside – even where that makes sense or is just inevitable – does NOT deliver all the benefits of membership. Because, unlike members you are not subject to the adjudication and enforcement machinery to which all members are.
And that’s what Brexiteers wanted, right? British laws and British Courts.
Fine. But then market access into what is now their market, governed by supranational laws and Courts of which you are no longer part – and not, as it used to be, yours – is worse and more limited than before.
That is unavoidable. It is not, vindictive, voluntary, a punishment beating, or any of the other nonsense we hear daily. It is just ineluctable reality.
And finally, the solidarity of the club members will ALWAYS be with each other, not with you. We have seen that over the backstop issue over the last 18 months. The 26 supported Dublin, not London. They still do. Nothing the Prime Minister now bids for will change that.
This may be the first Anglo-Irish negotiation in history where the greater leverage is not on London’s side of the table. And the vituperation aimed at Dublin politicians tells one just how well that has gone down with politicians and apparatchiks who had not bothered to work out that this was no longer a bilateral business, and are now appalled to find they are cornered.
Well, just wait till the trade negotiations. The solidarity of the remaining Member States will be with the major fishing Member States, not with the U.K. The solidarity will be with Spain, not the U.K., when Madrid makes Gibraltar-related demands in the trade negotiation endgame. The solidarity will be with Cyprus when it says it wants to avoid precedents which might be applied to Turkey.
I could go on. And on… The Free Trade Agreement talks will be tougher than anything we have seen to date.
Even now, UK politicians, including former Conservative leaders and Foreign Secretaries really seem to think – they even write it – that if we just asserted ourselves more aggressively in negotiations, a typical multi-day, multi-night Summit would deliver them some fundamentally different EU offer.
But the EU is negotiating with us, not as a member, but as a prospective soon-to-be third country. Those glorious, sweaty, fudge-filled Brussels denouements are gone. The Prime Minister is not in a room negotiating with the 27. That’s not how the exit game or the trade negotiation works, or was ever going to.
We need, urgently, on all sides of the spectrum, to start understanding how being a “third country” is different. And the most naïve of all on this remain the Brexiteers who fantasise about a style of negotiation which is only open to members of the club.
We are indeed, a soon-to-be third country and an opponent and rival, not just a partner, now. Again, that is what Brexit advocates argued for. It is time to accept the consequences.
Some of those will be beyond tiresome. And one of them will be that we shall be, like Switzerland, in a state of permanent negotiations with the EU about something highly intractable, on which they may have more metaphorical tanks than us.
Get used to it!
Second lesson: Other people have sovereignty too. And they too may choose to “take back control” of things you would rather they didn’t.
The sovereigntist argument for Brexit, which was one powerful element of the referendum campaign – taking back control of laws, borders and money – is a perfectly legitimate case to make.
If you think the consequences of living in a bloc where the pooling of sovereignty has gone well beyond the technical regulatory domain into huge areas of public life are intolerable for democratic legitimacy and accountability, that is a more than honourable position.
But others who have chosen to pool their sovereignty in ways and to extents which make you feel uncomfortable with the whole direction of the project, have done so because they believe pooling ENHANCES their sovereignty – in the sense of adding to their “power of agency” in a world order in which modestly sized nation states have relatively little say, rather than diminishing it.
They did not want that pooling to stop at the purely technical trade and regulatory domain.
Brexit advocates may think this is fundamental historical error, and has led to overreach by the questionably accountable supranational institutions of their club. They may think that it leads to legislation, opaquely agreed by often unknown legislators, which unduly favours heavyweight incumbent lobbyists.
Fine. There is some justice in plenty of this critique.
Then leave the club. But you cannot, in the act of leaving it, expect the club fundamentally to redesign its founding principles to suit you and to share its sovereignty with you when it still suits you, and to dilute their agency in so doing.
It simply is not going to. And both HMG and Brexit advocates outside it seem constantly to find this frustrating, vexatious and some kind of indication of EU ill will.
We have seen this in both former Brexit Secretaries’ conceptions of how deep mutual recognition agreements should be offered to the U.K., alone of all “third countries” with which the EU deals, and in the initial propositions on both financial services, other services and data.
We saw it with the bizarre – and total non-starter – Schroedinger’s Customs Union FCA proposal of the PM whereby we got all the benefits of staying in a CU whilst leaving it to have a fully sovereign trade policy.
We see it in the constant have your cake and eat it demands which run through every document the European Research Group produce or endorse, and we even see it in the railing against the “subordination to inflexible pooled law of the EU” which Richard Dearlove and others view as intolerable on national security grounds in what the Prime Minister is prepared to sign up to in her proposed deal.
But if by sovereignty we must mean more than purely nominal decision-making power and we mean something about the genuine projection of the UK’s power in a world where autarky mercifully, is not an option, then, as we get into the deeper trade, economic and security negotiations ahead, we are going to need a far more serious national debate about trade-offs.
And the trade-offs are real and difficult. No-one should pretend that all the answers will be great.
To take just one technical example, though it rapidly develops a national security as well as an economic dimension, cross border data flows are completely central to free trade and prosperity – not that you would know it from listening to our current trade debate, which remains bizarrely obsessed with tariffs which, outside agriculture, have become a very modest element in the real barriers to cross border trade.
The EU here is a global player – a global rule maker – able and willing effectively to impose its values, rules and standards extraterritorially.
Before the referendum, we had Brexit-supporting senior Ministers and advisers who should have known better, fantasising about the autonomy we would have to plough our own furrow once sovereignty had been resumed and we were no longer obliged to live under the jackboot of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Sobriety only started to set in in this debate after the referendum, as the implications of a failure on the UK’s part to achieve a so-called “adequacy determination” under GDPR from the EU started to sink in – because corporates across a huge range of sectors started to set them out for Ministers.
But it goes well beyond corporates. Ministers start now to understand that the value of the national security exemption in Article 4.2 of the Treaty on the European Union might have been much easier to defend and enforce when we were in the EU, than it will be from outside.
The same applies to so-called “equivalence decisions” in masses of financial sector legislation. Again, the consequences of failure to achieve such decisions will be the substantial erosion of market access into EU markets by U.K. companies.
What, really, are these “equivalence” and “adequacy” stories about? They are the EU projecting power – it does so quite as well as, probably more effectively than, Washington, in multiple critical regulatory areas – and using its pooling of internal sovereignty to impose its values and standards well beyond its borders.
“Going global”, unless it’s purely an empty slogan, is precisely the ability to project both force and influence beyond one’s borders.
Why does the current U.K. debate on sovereignty leave so many corporate players mystified and cold – and I am not, incidentally, for one minute saying such views outweigh others’?
Because in “taking back control” over our laws and leaving the adjudication and enforcement machinery of what used to be our “home” market, we are privileging notional autonomy over law- making over real power to set the rules by which in practice we shall be governed, since departure from norms set by others when we are not in the room will in practice greatly constrain our room for manoeuvre.
The massive costs of deviation will force large scale compliance with rules set when we are not part of setting them.
The EU will decide, on sovereignty and fiscal stability grounds, that it is intolerable for certain kinds of activity to take place completely outside its jurisdiction. We may hate it, and in many instances, it may be unnecessary and unwise.
What, from the outside, though, can we do about it?
We shall, in practice, struggle to achieve even observer status in the setting of policies which will have a major impact on our national life.
In the next few years, we have to have these debates, openly and seriously, or the public will soon conclude that much of the supposed control they won back was just a simulacrum of sovereignty for some empty suits in Westminster, with the real decisions about their lives still taken elsewhere.
That will not end well for some of the right honourable members for the 18th century.
Third lesson: Brexit is a process not an event. And the EU, while strategically myopic, is formidably good at process against negotiating opponents. We have to be equally so, or we will get hammered. Repeatedly.
One cannot seriously simultaneously advance the arguments that the EU has morphed away from the common market we joined, and got into virtually every nook and cranny of U.K. life, eroding sovereignty across whole tracts of the economy, internal and external security, AND that we can extricate ourselves from all that in a trice, recapture our sovereignty and rebuild the capability of the U.K. state to govern and regulate itself in vast areas where it had surrendered sovereignty over the previous 45 years.
The people saying 3 years ago that you could were simply not serious. And they have proven it. They also had not the slightest fag packet plan on what they were going to try and do and in which order.
Bold, confident assertions, during and in the many months after the referendum that we would have a fully fledged trade deal with the EU ready and in force by the day of exit, and, not only that, rafts of further free trade deals with other fast growing countries across the globe, were just risible when they were made, and have now proven empty bluster.
Likewise, all the breezy assertions that “no deal” would pose no great problems for aviation, for road haulage, for medicines, for food, for financial services, for data and for any number of other areas – for most of which, “WTO terms” are simply not a safety harness.
No number of repetitions of the grossly misleading term “WTO deal” makes it any more real or effective. Its proponents – or most of them – know this full well, incidentally.
This is not because of Establishment remainer sabotage.
It was because these were always fantasies, produced by people who at the point they said this stuff, would not have known a “trade Treaty” if they had found one in their soup.
What we needed to do very early on was to recognise the complexity and inevitable longevity of the exit process, work out our viable options, achieve real clarity about where we wanted to land, having worked honestly through the very tough choices we faced – and still do face – and reconcile ourselves to a serious period of transition.
And also to recognise that there could never, on the part of the remaining Member States, be the appetite to have TWO tortuous negotiations with the U.K. – one to deliver a few years of a transition/bridging deal, the other to agree the end state after exit. One such negotiation is enough for everyone. So transitional arrangements were always going to be “off the shelf”.
Put bluntly, none of this happened. Instead, before much of the serious work to look at where we wanted to land post exit had happened, we locked ourselves into a date certain for the invocation of Article 50.
That duly forfeited at a stroke any leverage over how that process would run. And it gave to the 27, who had, by the morning of June 24th, already set out their “no negotiation without (Article 50) notification” position, the first couple of goals of the match in the opening 5 minutes.
All the people who are now loudest in bemoaning the Prime Minister’s deal were, of course, the loudest in cheering from the rafters as she made this fateful error.
Many are now hastily rewriting history to claim they were always against it. They weren’t, though. I remember it rather well.
“Brussels” is nothing if not really expert at using the tensions in domestic national politics to force precisely the moves it most wants you to make, because they weaken yourposition.
People there were just quietly amused with the adulation the Prime Minister duly got for walking straight into the trap.
One really cannot blame the 27 for playing it as they did. Though one can and should blame them for having had too few serious top level discussions about how they see the relationship with the UK working after exit.
Before the Prime Minister had even turned up for her first ever leaders’ meeting, the combination of that decision to guarantee notification by a certain date and the red lines substance of her first Party Conference leaders’ speech had completely cemented the solidarity of the 27, which has held soundly ever since, on how to kick off and to design the sequencing of the process which has led to where we are today.
It’s about the one first order issue on which the EU27 have since held together in near perfect harmony. If that does not tell you something about this Government’s negotiating prowess, what will?
Anyone who understood the dynamic could read it all in the European Council Conclusions in June, October and December of 2016, and in the words of key EU leaders through the autumn of that year.
The Conference speech and the Lancaster House one which followed it were a gift from Heaven to those in the EU – who were many – concerned that the U.K. might be able to divide and rule and introduce internal tensions within the EU.
These speeches were largely for domestic consumption. But for the subsequent negotiation process, they were, as the saying goes “worse than a crime; they were a mistake”.
But in the total self-absorption of Party Conferences and Westminster, no one was paying much attention to how the EU was patiently constructing the process designed to maximise its leverage.
Even by April, when the first set of so-called Guidelines emerged from the leaders at 27, it was hard to get anyone here to read them. We were, as usual, preoccupied more with the noises from the noisy but largely irrelevant in Westminster, while the real work was being done on the other side of the Channel.
But those very expertly crafted Guidelines led completely inexorably to the December 2017 agreement. And the substance of that, in turn, led equally inexorably to all the elements of the deal now on the table which has caused the furore. The battle on sequencing which the then Brexit Secretary declared to be the battle of the summer of 2017, was actually long since lost before he started fighting it.
Anyone who expresses their outrage about the outcome only now is either feigning the level of indignation, or was just not paying attention 12, 18 and 24 months ago, when it mattered.
And because the U.K. had given no serious thought to the question of transitional arrangements until it was too late – precisely because of the fantasies propagated that this would be one of the easiest “trade deals in human history” and all would be definitively tied up legally by exit day – by the time they actually did focus, London was urgently begging for what is now pejoratively termed the “vassal state” transition, precisely because it knew that it could not be ready for a post Brexit equilibrium state by March 2019.
All the EU had to do was to ensure that the transition hinged off a Withdrawal Treaty containing a permanent legal all-weather backstop, and it knew that the U.K. had no alternative but to sign such a Withdrawal Agreement.
No amount of bold, but empty, talk about “no deal” being better than a “bad deal”, however oft repeated at whatever level of Government, made the slightest difference to the 27’s assessment of the negotiating reality: the U.K. needed much more time, and failure to get it would be much worse for it than all alternatives.
As I have said before, I am all for knowing your “best alternative to a negotiated deal” – your BATNA – in all negotiations. You have to know whether you can walk out, and be very sure you understand what could happen if you do, and what you can do to mitigate all downsides.
But if you are emitting all sorts of signals which indicate that you know you cannot, don’t bluff. It just makes you look weak, not strong, and it fools no one.
Those who were suckered into doing, or cheering, the wrong thing in the negotiation at the wrong time for the wrong reason, and duped themselves and others into thinking it would all be extraordinarily simple, cannot acknowledge that of course.
So the narrative has be of “Betrayal” by a remainer elite who sabotaged the “no deal” plans. It is the emerging British equivalent of the Dolchstosslegende – the stab in the back myth – which, post Versailles, the German military – Hindenburg and others – propagated to blame the Weimar civilian elite for having betrayed a supposedly undefeated army.
But the efficacy of “no deal” preparations depends massively, as we are now – very belatedly again – hearing, on what others do, not just on UK actions.
And if you set yourself a ludicrous, unachievable deadline for a complete regime change, don’t be shocked that others use the pressure of the clock and the cliff edge to dictate the shape of Brexit.
It is, in the end, the total absence of a serious realistic plan for the process of Brexit as well as a serious coherent conception of a post Brexit destination, which has delivered this denouement to stage 1 of what will be, whether Brexit proponents like it or not, a much longer process.
For the next stage, we need much less self-absorption, a vastly clearer, less self-deceiving understanding of the incentives on the other side of the table, and a less passive approach to the construction of the process. We need serious substance not plausible bullshit.
We already see in the Withdrawal Agreement the clear signs that, having succeeded with its negotiating plans in this phase, the EU will repeat the clock and cliff edge pressures in the run up the next U.K. election, knowing it can and will exact concessions as the deadline looms. But walking away to a “no deal” outcome, managed or not, does not escape that pressure.
One can of course blame the EU for overdoing their success in ordering the whole negotiations, though this has rather the flavour of blaming Mo Salah for banging in a hat- trick and not stopping at 2.
Has EU tactical negotiating acumen turned into a strategically myopic blunder, because they have overegged it and won the first leg too emphatically? Or can our brave lads recover in the second leg if only they are finally led by a boss who just has enough “belief”?
I think the football metaphors are best stopped there. Except to say that I thought the days when we had persuaded ourselves that we would win a tournament if we could just exhibit more “passion” than the opponents had gone.
It really helps, in a negotiation, actually to know what you are doing and be stone cold sober about the real interests of the other players.
Fourth lesson: it is not possible or democratic to argue that only one Brexit destination is true, legitimate and represents the revealed “Will of the People” and that all other potential destinations outside the EU are “Brexit in Name Only”.
The public voted – in huge numbers – and the majority voted to “leave” and not to “remain”. That much is clear. But people were not asked to give their reasons for voting “leave” or “remain”, and they were multifarious on both sides.
For decades, some of the staunchest standard bearers of the case for leaving the post Maastricht Treaty EU have made the case for staying in the so-called Single Market, remaining a signatory to the EEA Agreement but leaving the institutions of political and juridical integration of the Union.
I have spent years reading eurosceptic tomes – plenty of them very well argued, whether you agree with them or not – arguing that Maastricht, amplified by subsequent Treaties, represented the wrong turn in European integration, and that what we needed to do was to return to the essential mercantile ideas behind the internal market project and jettison U.K. adherence to the rest.
For many people I have talked to, especially outside the metropolitan elite circles who obsess about post Brexit models, that sense of “we only ever joined a Common Market, but it’s turned into something very different and no-one in authority down in London ever asked us whether that is what we wanted” is actually probably the closest to capturing their reasons for voting “leave”.
One can’t now suddenly start denouncing such people as Quisling closet remainers who do not subscribe to the “only true path” Brexit. Let alone insist on public self-criticism from several senior politicians on the Right who themselves, within the last few years, have publicly espoused these views, and praised the Norwegian and Swiss models, the health of their democracies and their prosperity.
In an earlier lecture, I described Brexitism as a revolutionary phenomenon, which radicalised as time went on and was now devouring its own children. This current phase feels ever more like Maoists seeking to crush Rightist deviationists than it does British Conservatism.
To be clear, this is not an argument for an EEA model as opposed to the current proposed deal. I have no time here to rehearse the arguments either for or against this version of Brexit. I have plenty of reservations about the merits for the U.K. of an EEA destination, dating from my Treasury days. It’s no doubt more appealing if you run agriculture and fisheries policy.
Though I have just as many reservations with the proposal on the table. I also deplore the way in which the substance of all the models is constantly distorted by those who do not understand them – opponents and proponents – and then have given them a few days’ thought – in a panic.
My real objection is to the style of argument espoused both by the pro “no deal” Right and by Downing Street which says that no other model but their own is a potentially legitimate interpretation of the Will of the People – which evidently only they can properly discern.
Both fervent leavers and fervent remainers as well as No 10 seem to me now to seek to delegitimise a priori every version of the world they don’t support.
As for the Prime Minister’s proposed model, the entire EU knows that where we have now reached derives from her putting the ending of free movement of people well above all other objectives, and privileging as near frictionless trade in goods as she can get over the interests of UK services sectors.
They are unsurprised by the former but surprised – sometimes gleefully by the latter, as it seems to point precisely to a deal skewed in their favour.
We have essentially sacrificed all ambition on services sectors in return for ending free movement, sold the latter as a boon (when amongst other things, it clearly diminishes the value of a UK passport), and presented the former as a regaining of sovereignty, when it guarantees a major loss of market access in much our largest export market.
Well, by all means argue for it. I fully accept that control of borders – albeit with much confusion about the bit we already have control over, but year after year fail, under this Government, to achieve any control of – was a central referendum issue.
But don’t argue it’s the only feasible Brexit. Or that it’s an economically rational one.
Of course the EU side will now back the Prime Minister in saying it is. They have done a great deal for themselves and they want it to stick. Who can blame them?
Fifth lesson: If WTO terms or existing EU preferential deals are not good enough for the UK in major third country markets, they can’t be good enough for trade with our largest market.
You cannot simultaneously argue that it is perfectly fine to leave a deep free trade agreement with easily our largest export and import market for the next generation, and trade on WTO terms because that is how we and others trade with everyone else…
….AND argue that it is imperative we get out of the EU in order that we can strike preferential trade deals with large parts of the rest of the world, because the existing terms on which we trade with the rest of the world are intolerable.
If moving beyond WTO terms with major markets represents a major step FORWARD in liberalising trade, then deliberately moving back to WTO terms from an existing deep preferential agreement – which is what the Single Market is – represents a major step BACKWARD to less free trade. You really can’t have it both ways.
Well, when I say “you cannot” argue this, clearly many can and do. But it is well beyond incoherent.
It is fine and legitimate to argue that – especially in the current obvious absence of an ability to drive forward major multilateral trade liberalisation at a time when the US has manifestly ceased to be interested in it, and may indeed be setting about deliberalising trade, undermining the World Trade Organisation and regretting having allowed China into it – the UK should aim at a global lattice work of bilateral and plurilateral free trade deals.
It is equally legitimate to argue, as I mentioned earlier, that you only want free trade deals which stop well short of the intrusion on national sovereignty which Single Market harmonisation and mutual recognition via supranational legislation, adjudication and enforcement entails.
As long as one also recognises that all trade deals inevitable erode and trammel one’s sovereignty to some degree – often to a significant degree.
Binding international commitments to opening each other’s markets – on goods, services, government procurement, whatever – seriously limit one’s capacity to regulate sectors of the economy as one might ideally see fit.
Genuinely free global trade actually seriously trammels national sovereignty. Hold the front page.
Indeed, the greatest reason to be a passionate free trader – which I am – is surely precisely that: it curtails the ability of myopic politicians to erect barriers to commerce in the name of sovereignty and national preference against non-national producers.
This is why our current debate on sovereignty and “taking back control” is often frankly so bizarre. It is just comical listening to Right wing populist politicians claiming they are avid free traders and simultaneously saying that one of the purposes of taking back control is to be able to rig domestic markets / competitions in favour of British suppliers / producers.
Protectionism is always someone else’s sin, of course.
And the Tory Party has been through these – decades-long – spasms before. Joseph Chamberlain’s Tariff Reform and Imperial Preference campaign, as loudly pious, nationalist and messianic as many today, led all the way through to his son Neville’s protectionist legislation of the early 1930s which helped worsen a post financial crisis economy. Sound familiar?
A post Brexit Britain which is committed to openness and free trade will need first of all to run hard to stand still, as 2/3 of UK exports are currently either to the EU or to countries with whom the EU has a preferential trade deal, which we shall have first to try and roll over.
Market access into the EU WILL worsen, whatever post exit deal we eventually strike. And the quantum by which our trade flows with the EU will diminish – and that impacts immediately – will outweigh the economic impact of greater market opening which we have to aim to achieve over time in other markets, where the impact will not be immediate but incremental.
As the country debates its future trade policy in the next stage of negotiations both with the EU and with other sizeable markets it needs honesty from politicians that trade agreements take a long time.
That even if every one we aspire to were completed, this will have a really very modest impact on overall UK economic performance.
And that every version of Brexit involves a worsening of the UK’s trade position and a loss of market access to its largest market. As we strive to limit the extent of that worsening, public debate will have to be serious about what the real trade-offs are. Because the EU will be quite brutal in teaching us them.
Meanwhile, before we have even left, we have seen, in the last 2 ½ years, the most anaemic boost to UK net trade triggered by ANY major sterling devaluation since World War 2. For politicians not completely blinded by their own rhetoric, the warning signs for the UK economy as we worsen our trade terms with the Continent are there to see. Again, public debate needs to be based on the realities, not on fantasy. Or the reality will soon catch up with us.
Sixth lesson: the huge problem for the UK with either reversion to WTO terms or with a standard free trade deal with the EU is in services.
This is, perhaps, less a lesson of the last 2 ½ years than the curious case of the dog that has largely failed to bark so far. But it will bark in the next few years. And again, the public needs to be aware of the big trade-offs that are coming next…or resentment when the next set of climbdowns begins will be off the scale.
So far, both during the referendum and since, the trade debate has been dominated by trade in goods, tariffs issues and some discussion of the impact on manufacturing supply chains of departing the Single Market and Customs Union.
I don’t want to be excessively unkind here, but politicians find goods trade and tariffs more graspable than services trade and the huge complexities of non tariff barriers in services sectors. They rarely grasp the extent to which goods and services are bundled together and indissociable. They even more rarely grasp how incredibly tough it is to deliver freer cross border trade in services which, by definition, gets you deep into domestic sovereignty questions in a way which makes removing tariff barriers look
And they even yet more rarely grasp that, however imperfect they think EU attempts at internal cross border services liberalisation, anyone who has negotiated with the US, China, India, Japan or sundry others can tell them why far-reaching market-opening services deals are few and far between.
As the Prime Minister gradually backed away from her original red lines, as she realised she would imperil large tracts of UK manufacturing if she persisted with it, the position softened on quasi Customs Union propositions. Hence the constant howls of betrayal from those who thought October 2016 and Lancaster House mapped the only true path to Brexit.
Her only way to seek to sell this politically – so far with very little sign of success – was to talk boldly about greater autonomy and divergence in services regulation.
The reality, as I say, is that UK services’ industries needs have been sacrificed to the primary goal of ending free movement.
And post exit, and post the end of any transitional arrangement, it is UK services exporters who will face the starkest worsening of trade terms because of the substantial difference between how far services trade is liberalised under even the highly imperfect European services single market, and the very best that is achievable under any other form of free trade or regional agreement on the planet.
Yet it is in services sectors where the U.K. currently has a sizeable trade surplus with the EU, whereas in manufactured goods we have a huge deficit.
For all the imperfections of the Single Market, services trade between Member States is, in many sectors, freer than it is between the federal states of the US, or the states in Canada. The US Government is unable, even if it were willing, to deliver on commitments in many areas in international negotiations, just as it cannot bind its states on government procurement, on which many federal states are as protectionist as it gets.
Not that one ever hears a squeak on this from those who rail at EU protectionism.
But the extent and type of cross border free trade that exists in the Single Market, ceases when you leave. A very large proportion of cross border services trade conducted outside the Single Market only happens because firms have offices physically established in the countries to which they are exporting.
So we know already that cross border supply will diminish pretty radically post exit, and that ease of establishment of legal entities and ambitious deals on the temporary free movement of workers and on the mutual recognition of qualifications will be central to trying to sustain trade flows in much colder conditions, to limit the impact on the U.K. economy.
But a substantial hit on the balance of trade and on the public finances of substantial relocations out of the UK’s jurisdiction is guaranteed, because we have rendered the best mode of supplying services across borders far harder.
The implications are obvious. And again the public is not being told of them. Because the fiction has to be maintained – at least until a first deal is done – that there will be no sort of preferential free movement terms for EU citizens.
We stagger on, constantly postponing the long promised White Paper on immigration post Brexit.
And after it eventually does get published, we know that, in reality, once the FTA negotiations truly get under way, and reality bites on the UK side, the policy, like so many others in the last 30 months, will simply disintegrate in the face of negotiating imperatives.
The EU already knows that the UK will, under whoever’s Premiership, be prepared to pay a heavy price to maintain better access to business, legal, consultancy, and financial services markets than other third countries have, to date, achieved via standard FTAs. Why? Because that’s an economic imperative for a country which has world class services capability, but needs market access.
That EU leverage will be deployed in the years ahead and it will be used to enforce deals on issues like fisheries, on which again referendum campaign commitments will be abandoned in the teeth of reality.
Those saying this now will of course get the ritual denunciations for defeatism, lack of belief, treachery and whatever.
But just give it 2 more years. The Brexiteers, the strength of whose case to the public always resided, as I say, in saying to the public that their leaders had mis-sold them on what the EU was becoming, have now done their own mis-selling. And they are in the middle of the painful process of discovering that, as trade terms worsen on exit, which they denied would happen, they will, under economic duress, have to let down the very communities to whom they promised the post Brexit dividend.
That penny is dropping. Just very slowly.
Seventh lesson: Beware all supposed deals bearing “pluses”.
The “pluses” merely signify that all deficiencies in the named deal will miraculously disappear when we Brits come to negotiate our own version of it.
As the scale of the humiliation they think the Prime Minister’s proposed deal delivers started, far too late, to dawn on politicians who had thought Brexit was a cakewalk – with the emphasis on cake we have seen a proliferation of mostly half-baked cake alternatives. They all carry at least one plus. Canada has acquired
Besides “Canada +++” or SuperCanada, as it was termed by the former Foreign Secretary, we have Norway +, which used to be “NorwaythenCanada” then became “Norwayfornow” and then became “Norway + forever”. And now even “No deal +”, which also makes appearances as managed no deal” and “no deal mini deals”.
What is depressing about the nomenclature is the sheer dishonesty. The pluses are inserted to enable one to say that one is well aware of why existing FTA x or y or Economic Area deal a or b does not really work as a Brexit destination, but that with the additions you are proposing, the template is complete.
We even have the wonderfully preposterous sight of ex Brexit Secretaries alleging that the very Canada + deal they want has already been offered by Presidents Tusk and Juncker and that all that needs doing is to write this as the destination into the Political Declaration.
But let me tell you, as someone dealing with both at the outset of this process: what the EU Institutions mean by Canada + is not remotely what ex Brexit and Foreign Secretaries and the Institute of Economic Affairs scribes mean by it. The title page is the same; the contents pages are different.
Not for nothing did an unkind Brussels source label Boris Johnson’s plan A+ ( another + of course), Chequers 3.0.
It is, as he might have put it, “an inverted pyramid of piffle”. And aside from containing a wish list an understandable wish list – of things that are not actually present in Canada’s EU deal, it does not solve the backstop
“No deal+” is brought to us courtesy of all the people who told a great free trade deal would be struck before we even left because the mercantile interests of key manufacturing players in Member States would prevail against the pettifogging legalistic ivory tower instincts of the Brussels ayatollahs.
Forgive me for pointing out that, as some of us forecast well over 2 years ago, it did not turn out like that. And that the Brussels theologians exhibited rather more flexibility than the key Member States when it came to the crunch.
And that not a peep was heard from the titans of corporate Europe. Except to back very robustly the position in capitals that the continued integrity of the Single Market project was vastly more important to them than the terms of a framework agreement with the U.K. A position which won’t change during the trade negotiations ahead either.
The “no deal + “ fantasy is that if we just had the guts to walk away, refuse to sign the Withdrawal Agreement with the backstop in it, and withhold a good half of the money the Prime Minister promised this time last year, capitals, suddenly realising we were serious, would come running for a series of mini deals which assured full trading continuity in all key sectors on basically unchanged Single Market and Customs Union terms.
I don’t know what tablets these people are taking, but I must confess I wish I were on them. It will be said of them as it was said of the Bourbons, I think: “they have learned nothing and they have forgotten nothing”.
The reality is that if the deal on the table falls apart because we have said “no”, there will not be some smooth rapid suite of mini side deals – from aviation to fisheries, from road haulage to data, from derivatives to customs and veterinary checks, from medicines to financial services, as the EU affably sits down with this Prime Minister or another one.
The 27 will legislate and institute unilaterally temporary arrangements which assure continuity where they need it, and cause us asymmetric difficulties where they can. And a UK Government, which knows the efficacy of most of its contingency planning depends, to a greater or lesser degree on others’ actions out of its control, will then have to react – no doubt with a mixture of inevitable compliance and bellicose retaliation.
We already see the next generation of fantasies out there, and it’s now just a matter of time before a Tory leadership contender offers them publicly as the Houdini act.
A suite of very rapid legal mini deals, accompanied by the existing Withdrawal Agreement deal on citizen’ rights, the complete dropping of the backstop, and only paying the remainder of the 39billion cheque when the mini deals have turned into the miraculous Canada (with lots of pluses) deal.
All of which must happen in months. But of course…
To which the EU answer will be a calm but clear “Dream on. You still want a transition? All existing terms and conditions apply. And when it comes to any FTA – deep or shallower – “nothing is agreed till everything is agreed” – and that still includes the fish”.
They may put it slightly more politely. But not much, in the circumstances.
And to anyone who tells me – and we’ll hear plenty of it in the coming weeks, I assure you – “but the EU stands to lose access to London’s capital markets and their companies will suffer unless they do our quick and dirty “no deal” deal”, I think I would just say “even the last 30 months have evidently still not taught you how the EU functions: try again in another 30…”,
If we lurch, despite Parliament wishing to avoid it, towards a “no deal”, with delusions it can be “managed” into a quick and dirty FTA, that will not end happily or quickly.
I am in no position to second guess those who have to try and model the macro effects of such a scenario. No developed country has left a trade bloc before, let alone in disorderly fashion, and let alone one which has become a lot more than a trade bloc.
But I do fully understand the legal realities. And because so-called “WTO rules” deliver precisely no continuity in multiple key sectors of the economy, we could expect disruption on a scale and of a length that no-one has experienced in the developed world in the last couple of generations.
The complacency that such things cannot and would not ever really happen in modern economies is staggering. Mercifully, it is not shared in either Whitehall or the Berlaymont. But these are outcomes which proper political leadership is about both understanding, contingency planning against – and avoiding.
Markets continue to react, or have until this week, as if something must turn up and that “no deal” is a virtually unimaginable scenario for politicians professing to be serious, to contemplate. That risk has therefore been seriously underpriced for a year or more, because we are dealing with a political generation which has no serious experience of bad times and is frankly cavalier about precipitating events they could not then control, but feel they might exploit.
Nothing is more redolent of the pre First World War era, when very few believed that a very long period of European peace and equilibrium could be shattered in months.
Eighth lesson: you cannot, and should not want to, conduct such a huge negotiation as untransparently as the U.K. has. And in the end, it does you no good to try.
At virtually every stage in this negotiation, the EU side has deployed transparency, whether on its position papers, its graphic presentations of its take on viable options and parameters, its “no deal” notices to the private sector to dictate the terms of the debate and shape the outcome.
A secretive, opaque Government, hampered of course in fairness by being permanently divided against itself and therefore largely unable to articulate any agreed, coherent position, has floundered in its wake.
It is a rather unusual experience for the EU – always portrayed as a bunch of wildly out of touch technocrats producing turgid jargon-ridden Eurocrat prose up against “genuine” politicians who speak “human” – to win propaganda battles. Let alone win them this easily.
But, in fairness, bruising experiences over recent decades as it has had to cope with demands for vastly greater transparency in its conduct of trade policy (which has moved from being the theatre of technocrat nerds to being the hottest topic on the planet – precisely, as I say, because trade negotiations cut to the heart of sovereignty and identity questions as soon as they encroach on “domestic” regulation) have forced Brussels to up its game.
Failure to do so would mean losing all public support for driving trade liberalisation and signing trade deals – which, whether U.K. politicians wish to believe it or not, is what the EU does more of than any other trade bloc on the planet at the moment.
There is absolutely no chance of doing deals with Japan, Canada, the US or Mercosur – or indeed, the UK when that moment comes – unless you can explain comprehensibly to your publics what is in it for them.
The battle for free trade policies – always difficult in the US – has, after all, gone rather convincingly backwards in both major US parties in the last 20 years. I am tempted to say it’s only much of the Tory Eurosceptic Americanophile Establishment which appears not quite to have noticed that.
To be clear, this is not an argument that by applying lipstick to the pig of the Chequers proposal, or the proposed deal now on the table, the course of history would have been changed. You can’t redeem a bad deal by advertising on Facebook.
But the negotiation process, politically, in and beyond Parliament, had to be different from the outset. And it will have to be different at the next stage. You can’t possibly run one of the largest and most complex trade negotiations on the planet, and leave most supposed insiders, let alone a much wider public, in the dark about the extremely difficult choices we shall face.
At extremely sensitive stages negotiators of course have to disappear into a “tunnel”, to have any safe space in which to explore potential landing zones. That is inevitable.
But this Government has repeatedly failed to explain to a wider audience what the real constraints and trade-offs are in arriving at the sort of landing zone the Prime Minister views as some combination of desirable and unavoidable.
Ninth lesson: real honesty with the public is the best – the only – policy if we are to get to the other side of Brexit with a healthy democracy, a reasonably unified country and a healthy economy.
The debate of the last 30 months has suffered from opacity, delusion-mongering and mendacity on all sides.
The Prime Minister’s call for opponents of her deal to “be honest” and not simply wish away intractable problems like the backstop, which was always, and will remain, a central question in any resolution of the issue, is reasonable enough.
I have talked briefly already of the quite extraordinary “cakeism” in the various options in the table.
And at the extremes we have the “no dealers” quite happy to jump off the cliff, lying openly about the extent to which WTO rules provide a safety net if we did, and producing fantasy “managed no deal” options which will not fly for the reasons I have set out.
And the “people’s voters”. I confess I deplore the term itself: they want a second referendum with remain on the ballot – for which one can make a case, given the dismal place we have now ended up, and given possible Parliamentary paralysis, but must surely understand the huge further alienation that would engender amongst those who will think that, yet again, their views are being ignored until they conform.
And even yesterday morning I listened to a Shadow Cabinet Member promising, with a straight face, that, even after a General Election, there would be time for Labour to negotiate a completely different deal – INCLUDING a full trade deal, which would replicate all the advantages of the Single Market and Customs Union. And all before March 30th. I assume they haven’t yet stopped laughing in Brussels.
Too much of our political debate just insults people’s intelligence and just suggests that every facet of Brexit you don’t like is purely a feature of only the Prime Minister’s version of it, rather than intrinsic to leaving.
I dislike plenty of the Prime Minister’s deal. It’s obviously a bad deal. But given her own views and preferences, her bitterly divided Party and the negotiating realities with the other side of the table, I can at least understand that she is on pretty much the only landing zone she could ever reach.
Those aspiring to a radically different one owe us honest accounts, not pipedreams, of how they propose to get there, and the timescale over which they will.
But the dishonesty of the debate has, I am afraid, been fuelled by Government for the last 2½ years.
It took ages before grudging recognition was given to the reality that no trade deal – even an embryonic one – would be struck before exit, and that no trade deals with other players would be in place either.
Even now, though, the Prime Minister still talks publicly about the Political Declaration as if it defined the future relationship with some degree of precision, and defined it largely in line with her own Chequers proposal, when it simply does neither.
It is vague to the point of vacuity in many places, strewn with adjectives and studiously ambiguous in a way that enables it to be sold as offering something to all, without committing anyone fully to anything.
Any number of different final destinations are accommodable within this text, which was precisely the thinking in drafting it, to maximise the chances of it being voted through, when all the EU side was really determined to nail now was within the Withdrawal Treaty: rights, money and the backstop.
For the same reason – the desperate inability to acknowledge that it was going to take very many years to get to the other side of the Brexit process – we have had the bizarre euphemism of the “implementation period” after March 2019, when there is precisely nothing to “implement”, and precisely everything still to negotiate.
I dislike the “vassal state” terminology, but anyone can see the democratic problem with being subject to laws made in rooms where no Brit was present and living under a Court’s jurisdiction where there is no British judge.
And if we are to avoid the backstop coming into force, we are now going to end up prolonging the transition, because the FTA won’t be done by the end of 2020, and the EU well knows the
U.K. won’t be keen on cliff jumping in the run up to an election.
We have had the several bizarre contortions over trying to invent a Customs proposal which enabled us to escape the Common External Tariff but still derive all the advantages of a quasi Customs Union. Even the all U.K. backstop proposal has ended up being called a temporary Arrangement, when we all actually know it to be a temporary Union, as nothing else could fly under WTO rules. But the U word is too toxic for polite company evidently.
On the backstop itself, it was obvious, reading the December 2017 Agreement document from outside Government that this must lead inexorably to where we have now reached.
There was no other endgame from that point. Which was why, a year ago, I started telling corporates they were really seriously underestimating the chances of a “no deal” outcome.
But we got sophistry, evasions, euphemisms and sometimes straight denials at home, whilst in the EU, the PM and senior Ministers several times appeared to be backsliding on clear commitments as soon as they saw draft legal texts giving effect to agreements they had struck.
That deepened the distrust and if anything hardened the EU’s resolve to nail the issue down legally. And, from the apoplectic reaction to the Attorney General’s advice, which elegantly stated the totally obvious, you can now rather see why.
There is no point in my speculating here precisely on what might now get manufactured and its legal status. The EU is always very adroit at such exercises in solemnly reframing things which have already been agreed in ways that make the medicine slip down.
But however they re-emphasise their intention, which I believe, that the backstop should not be permanent, it is the very existence of it in conjunction with the cliff edge which will dictate the shape of the trade negotiations.
We may well now be beyond the point at which any clarification Declaration or Decision can sell.
And if we are, it’s largely because the whole conduct of the negotiation has further burned through trust in the political class.
That, in my view, should force a fundamental rethink of how the next phase is conducted; whether this deal staggers, with some clarification, across the line in several weeks time and we go into the next phase with the cards stacked, or whether we have a new Prime Minister who attempts to reset direction, but will find, as I say, that whatever reset they attempt, rather a lot of the negotiating dynamics and parameters remain completely unchanged.
Either way, my final lesson is that we shall need a radically different method and style if the country is to heal and unify behind some proposed destination.
And that requires leadership which is far more honest in setting out the fundamental choices still ahead, the difficult trade offs between sovereignty and national control and keeping market access for our goods and services in our biggest market, and which sets out to build at least some viable consensus.
I would like to end with a quote which seems to me to be particularly appropriate on this day, at this time. This famous speech is made by a King who has gained power, still holds it, but whose enemies are now openly attacking him. He can no longer find the meaning in the success he has won, or even in life itself. In a compelling image he speaks of life, and in particular of the part he has played in life as: “a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his time upon the stage. It is a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
The time to lose ourselves in stories has ended. Our politicians can no longer get away with strutting and fretting or with sound and fury. It’s time to wake up from the dream and face the facts.
3 February 2008, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA
We can vote as we believe. And we can do that because that is what the struggle was for. That was what the struggle was for. You know, after Iowa, there were some women who had the nerve to say to me, "How could you, Oprah? How could you? You're a traitor to your gender."
That's how I feel. I was both surprised by that comment and insulted. Because I've been a woman my whole life, and every part of me believes in the empowerment of women. But the truth is, I'm a free woman. I'm a free woman. I'm a free woman. I'm a free woman. And being free means you get to think for yourself, and you get to decide for yourself what to do. So, I say I am not a traitor. No, I'm not a traitor. I'm just following my own truth, and that truth has led me to Barack Obama. Oh, yeah. The truth has led me to Barack Obama. And I, too, look forward to the day when I will vote for a woman for this office, and this election has proven that that is possible.
But for me, when you have a man like Barack Obama, who says, as Toni Morrison said, did you all see what Toni Morrison said? Toni Morrison says, "In thinking about the strength of the candidates," I'm going to quote her here. She says, "I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion, that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity, and a rare authenticity, Barack exhibits something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race, or gender, and something we don't see in any other candidate.
That something," she said, "is creative imagination. Which, coupled with brilliance, equals wisdom. And wisdom is a gift. You can't train for wisdom. You can't inherit wisdom. You can't learn wisdom. You can't get wisdom in the workplace. Barack Obama has the gift of wisdom."
And then, this election has just brought out the best in folks, 'cause I heard from some narrow-minded folks who said I was just voting for him because he was black. And I say, that too was insulting to me. Don't play me small. I'm not that small. I'm not that small. Don't play me small. I would never vote for anyone based on gender or race. I'm voting for Barack Obama not because he's black, I'm voting for Barack Obama because he's brilliant.
7 September 2018, Urbana-Champaign, Illonois, USA
Hello, Illinois! I.L.L.! I.L.L.! Okay, okay. Just checking to see if you’re awake. Please have a seat, everybody. It is good to be home. It’s good to see corn, beans. I was trying to explain to somebody as we were flying in, that’s corn. That’s beans. They were very impressed at my agricultural knowledge. Please give it up for Amari, once again, for that outstanding introduction.
I have a bunch of good friends here today, including somebody who I served with who is one of the finest senators in the country, and we’re lucky to have your senator, Dick Durbin, is here. I also noticed, by the way, former governor Edgar here, who I haven’t seen in a long time, and somehow he has not aged and it was great to see him.
I want to thank everybody at the U of I system for making it possible for me to be here today. I am deeply honored at the Paul Douglas award that is being given to me.
He is somebody who set the path for so much outstanding public service here in Illinois. Now, I want to start by addressing the elephant in the room. I know people are still wondering why I didn’t speak at the 2017 commencement. The student body president sent a very thoughtful invitation. Students made a spiffy video, and when I declined, I hear there was speculation that I was boycotting campus until Antonio’s pizza reopened. So I want to be clear. I did not take sides in that late-night food debate.
The truth is, after eight years in the white house, I needed to spend some time one on one with Michelle if I wanted to stay married. And she says hello, by the way. I also wanted to spend some quality time with my daughters, who were suddenly young women on their way out the door. And I should add, by the way, now that I have a daughter in college, I can tell all the students here, your parents, they cry privately. It is brutal. So please call. Send a text. We need to hear from you. Just a little something.
Truth was, I was also intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices and new ideas.
Truth was, I was also intent on following a wise American tradition of ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices and new ideas.
We have our first president, George Washington, to thank for setting that example. After he led the colonies to victory as General Washington, there were no constraints on him, really. He was practically a god to those who had followed him into battle. There was no constitution. There were no democratic norms that guided what he should or could do. And he could have made himself all-powerful, could have made himself potentially president for life.
Instead, he resigned as commander in chief and moved back to his country estate. Six years later, he was elected president. But after two terms, he resigned again and rode off into the sunset.
The point Washington made, the point that is essential to American democracy, is that in a government of and by and for the people, there should be no permanent ruling class. There are only citizens, who through their elected and temporary representatives, determine our course and determine our character.
I’m here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us as citizens of the United States need to determine just who it is that we are. Just what it is that we stand for. And as a fellow citizen — not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen — I’m here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on it.
Now, some of you may think I’m exaggerating when I say this November’s elections are more important than any I can remember in my lifetime. I know politicians say that all the time. I have been guilty of saying it a few times, particularly when I was on the ballot. But just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different. The stakes really are higher. The consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire.
And it’s not as if we haven’t had big elections before or big choices to make in our history. Fact is, democracy has never been easy, and our founding fathers argued about everything. We waged a civil war. We overcame depression. We’ve lurched from eras of great progressive change to periods of still, most Americans alive today, certainly the students who are here, have operated under some common assumptions about who we are and what we stand for.
Out of the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution and the Great Depression, America adapted a new economy, a 20th century economy, guiding our free market with regulations to protect health and safety and fair competition, empowering workers with union movements, investing in science and infrastructure and educational institutions like U of I, strengthening our system of primary and secondary education, and stitching together a social safety net. All of this led to unrivaled prosperity and the rise of a broad and deep middle class and the sense that if you worked hard, you could climb the ladder of success.
Not everyone was included in this prosperity. There was a lot more work to do. And so in response to the stain of slavery and segregation and the reality of racial discrimination, the civil rights movement not only opened new doors for African-Americans but also opened up the floodgates of opportunity for women and Americans with disabilities and LGBT Americans and others to make their own claims to full and equal citizenship.
And although discrimination remained a pernicious force in our society and continues to this day, and although there are controversies about how to best ensure genuine equality of opportunity, there’s been at least rough agreement among the overwhelming majority of Americans that our country is strongest when everybody’s treated fairly, when people are judged on the merits and the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the way in which they worship God or their last names. And that consensus then extended beyond our borders.
And from the wreckage of world War II, we built a post-war architecture, system of alliances and institutions to underwrite freedom and oppose Soviet totalitarianism and to help poorer countries develop. American leadership across the globe wasn’t perfect. We made mistakes. At times we lost sight of our ideals. We had fierce arguments about Vietnam and we had fierce arguments about Iraq. But thanks to our leadership, a bipartisan leadership, and the efforts of diplomats and peace corps volunteers, and most of all thanks to the constant sacrifices of our men and women in uniform, we not only reduced the prospects of war between the world’s great powers, we not only won the Cold War, we helped spread a commitment to certain values and principles like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.
And even those countries that didn’t abide by those principles were still subject to shame and still had to at least give lip service to the idea, and that provided a lever to continually improve the prospects for people around the world. That’s the story of America. A story of progress, fitful progress, incomplete progress, but progress. And that progress wasn’t achieved by just a handful of famous leaders making speeches. It was won because of countless acts of quiet heroism and dedication by citizens, by ordinary people, many of them not much older than you. It was won because rather than be bystanders to history, ordinary people fought and marched and mobilized and built, and yes, voted to make history.
Of course, there’s always been another darker aspect to America’s story. Progress doesn’t just move in a straight line. There’s a reason why progress hasn’t been easy and why throughout our history every two steps forward seems to sometimes produce one step back. Each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals, that all of us are created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, the ideals that say every child should have opportunity and every man and woman in this country who’s willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support a family and pursue their small peace of the American dream, ideals that say we have a collective responsibility to care for the sick and the and we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bounty, the natural resources of this country and of this planet for future generations — each time we’ve gotten closer to those ideals, somebody somewhere has pushed back.
The status quo pushes back. Sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely, if wrongly, fearful of change. More often it’s manufactured by the powerful and the privileged who want to keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because it helps them maintain the status quo and keep their power and keep their privilege. And you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments.
It did not start with Donald Trump. He is a symptom, not the cause. He’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been fanning for years, a fear and anger that’s rooted in our past but it’s also born out of the enormous upheavals that have taken place in your brief lifetimes.
By the way, it is brief. When I heard Amari was 11 when I got elected and now he’s like started a company — that was yesterday!
But think about it. You’ve come of age in a smaller, more connected world where demographic shifts and the wind of change have scrambled not only traditional economic arrangements but our social arrangements and our religious commitments and our civic institutions. Most of you don’t remember a time before 9/11, when you didn’t have to take off your shoes at an airport. Most of you don’t remember a time when America wasn’t at war or when money and images and information could travel instantly around the globe. Or when the climate wasn’t changing faster than our efforts to address it.
This change has happened fast, faster than any time in human history. And it created a new economy that has unleashed incredible prosperity, but it’s also upended people’s lives in profound ways. For those with unique skills or access to technology and capital, a global market has meant unprecedented wealth. For those not so lucky, for the factory worker, for the office worker, or even middle managers, those same forces may have wiped out your job or at least put you in no position to ask for a raise, and as wages slowed and inequality accelerated, those at the top of the economic pyramid have been able to influence government to skew things even more in their direction.
Cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans, unwinding regulations and weakening worker protections, shrinking the safety net. So you have come of age during a time of growing inequality, a fracturing of economic opportunity. And that growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country. Regional, racial, religious, cultural. And made it harder to build consensus on issues. It made politicians less willing to compromise, which increased gridlock, which made people even more cynical about politics. And then the reckless behavior of financial elites triggered a massive financial crisis.
Ten years ago this week a crisis that resulted in the worst recession in any of our lifetimes and caused years of hardship for the American people. For many of your parents, for many of your families. Most of you weren’t old enough to fully focus on what was going on at the time, but when I came into office in 2009, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. 800,000. Millions of people were losing their homes. Many were worried we were entering into a second great depression.
So we worked hard to end that crisis but also to break some of these longer term trends. The actions we took during that crisis returned the economy to healthy growth and initiated the longest streak of job creation on record. And we covered another 20 million Americans with health insurance and cut our deficits by more than half, partly by making sure that people like me who have been given such amazing opportunities by this country pay our fair share of taxes to help folks coming up behind me.
And by the time I left office, household income was near its all-time high, and the uninsured rate hit an all-time low, poverty rates were falling. I mention this just so when you hear how great the economy is doing right now, let’s just remember when this recovery started. I’m glad it’s continued, but when you hear about this economic miracle that’s been going on, when the job numbers come out, monthly job numbers and suddenly Republicans are saying it’s a miracle, I have to kind of remind them, actually, those job numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016 and -- anyway. I digress.
So we made progress, but -- and this is the truth -- my administration couldn’t reverse 40-year trends in only eight especially once Republicans took over the house of representatives in 2010 and decided to block everything we did. Even things they used to support.
So we pulled the economy out of crisis, but to this day, too many people who once felt solidly middle class still feel very real and very personal economic insecurity. Even though we took out bin Laden and wound down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, got Iran to halt its nuclear program, the world’s still full of threats and disorder that come streaming through people’s televisions every single day. And these challenges get people worried and it frays our civic trust and it makes a lot of people feel like the fix is in and the game is rigged and nobody’s looking out for them.
Especially those communities outside our big urban centers. And even though your generation is the most diverse in history with a greater acceptance and celebration of our differences than ever before, those are the kinds of conditions that are ripe for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s dark history of racial and ethnic and religious division. Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time.
And in a healthy democracy, it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call out the bigots and the fear mongers and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature.
But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void.
A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold and demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems. No promise to fight for the little guy, even as they cater to the wealthiest and most powerful. No promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability and try to change the rules to entrench their power further. They appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all. Sound familiar?
I understand this is not just a matter of Democrats versus Republicans or liberals versus conservatives. At various times in our history, this kind of politics has infected both parties. Southern Democrats were the bigger defenders of slavery. It took a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, to end it. Although it was a Democratic president and a majority Democrat Congress spurred on by young marchers and protesters that got the civil rights act and the voting rights act over the finish line, those historic laws also got passed because of the leadership of Republicans like Illinois’s own Everett Dirksen. So neither party has had a monopoly on wisdom.
Neither party has been exclusively responsible for us going backwards instead of forwards. But I have to say this because sometimes we hear a plague on both your houses. Over the past few decades, it wasn’t true when Jim Edgar was governor here in Illinois.
But over the past few decades, the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican party. This Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign finance laws to give billionaires outside influence over our politics. Systematically attacked voting rights to make it harder for young people and minorities and the poor to vote. Handed out tax cuts without regard to deficits. Slashed the safety net wherever it could, cast dozens of votes to take away health insurance from ordinary Americans, embraced wild conspiracy theories like those surrounding Benghazi or my birth certificate, rejected science, rejected facts on things like climate change, embraced a rising absolutism from a willingness to default on America’s debt by not paying our bills to a refusal to even meet much less consider a qualified nominee for the supreme court because he happened to be nominated by a Democratic president.
None of this is conservative. I don’t mean to pretend I’m channelling Abraham Lincoln now, but that’s not what he had in mind, I think, when he helped form the Republican party. It’s not conservative. It sure isn’t normal. It’s radical. It’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those who back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country. It’s a vision that says the few who can afford high-price lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions set the agenda, and over the past two years, this vision is now nearing its logical conclusion.
So with Republicans in control of Congress and the White House, without any checks or balances whatsoever, they’ve provided another $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to people like me who I promise don’t need it and don’t even pretend to pay for them. It’s supposed to be the party supposedly of fiscal conservatism. Suddenly deficits do not matter. Even though just two years ago when the deficit was lower, they said I couldn’t afford to help working families or seniors on medicare because the deficit was in existential crisis. What changed? What changed?
They’re subsidizing corporate polluters with taxpayer dollars, allowing dishonest lenders to take advantage of veterans and consumers and students again. They’ve made it so that the only nation on Earth to pull out of the global climate agreement, it’s not North Korea, it’s not Syria, it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia, it’s us. The only country. There are a lot of countries in the world. We’re the only ones.
They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB.
Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened? Their sabotage of the affordable care act has already cost more than 3 million Americans their health insurance, and if they’re still in power next fall, you better believe they’re coming at it again. They’ve said so. In a healthy democracy, there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency, but right now there’s nothing. Republicans who know better in Congress, and they’re there, they’re quoted saying, yeah, we know this is kind of crazy, are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny or accountability or consequence, seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work.
And by the way, the claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the president’s orders, that is not a check. I’m being serious here. That’s not how our democracy’s supposed to work. These people aren’t elected. They’re not accountable. They’re not doing us a service by actively promoting 90% of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this white house, and then saying, don’t worry, we’re preventing the other 10%.
That’s not how things are supposed to work. This is not normal. These are extraordinary times. And they’re dangerous times.
But here’s the good news. In two months we have the chance, not the certainty, but the chance to restore some semblance of sanity to our politics. Because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and abuse of power. That’s you. You and your vote. Look, Americans will always have disagreements on policy. This is a big country. It is a raucous country.
I happen to be a Democrat. I believe our policies are better and we have a bigger, bolder vision of equality and justice and inclusive democracy. We know there are a lot of jobs young people aren’t getting a chance to occupy or aren’t getting paid enough or aren’t getting benefits like insurance. It’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day let alone retirement.
So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage, they’re running on good new ideas like medicare for all, giving workers seats on corporate boards, reversing the most egregious corporate tax cuts to make sure college students graduate.
We know that people are tired of toxic corruption and that democracy depends on transparency and accountability, so Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns, but on good new ideas like barring lobbyists from getting paid by foreign governments.
We know that climate change isn’t just coming. It’s here. So Democrats aren’t just running on good old ideas like increasing gas mileage in our cars, which I did and which Republicans are trying to reverse, but on good new ideas like putting a price on carbon pollution.
We know in a smaller, more connected world, we can’t just put technology back in a box. We can’t just put walls up all around America. Walls don’t keep out threats like terrorism or disease. And that’s why we propose leading our alliances and helping other countries develop and pushing back against tyrants.
Democrats talk about reforming our immigration system so, yes, it is orderly and it is fair and it is legal, but it continues to welcome strivers and dreamers from all around the world. That’s why I’m a Democrat. That’s a set of ideas that I believe in. But I am here to tell you that even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy, even if you believe in more libertarian economic theories, even if you are an evangelical and our position on certain social issues is a bridge too far, even if you think my assessment of immigration is mistaken and the Democrats aren’t serious enough about immigration enforcement, I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned with our current course and should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government.
It should not be Democratic or Republican. It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents. Or to explicitly call on the attorney general to protect members of our own party from prosecution because an election happens to be coming up. I’m not making that up. That’s not hypothetical.
It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don’t like. I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people. It shouldn’t be democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray.
We are Americans. We’re supposed to stand up to bullies. Not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad.
I’ll be honest, sometimes I get into arguments with progressive friends about what the current political movement requires. There are well-meaning folks passionate about social justice who think things have gotten so bad, the lines have been so starkly drawn, that we have to fight fire with fire. We have to do the same things to the Republicans that they do to adopt their tactics. Say whatever works. Make up stuff about the other.
I don’t agree with that. It’s not because I’m soft. It’s not because I’m interested in promoting an empty bipartisanship. I don’t agree with it because eroding our civic institutions and our civic trust and making people angrier and yelling at each other and making people cynical about government, that always works better for those who don’t believe in the power of collective action.
You don’t need an effective government or a robust press or reasoned debate to work when all you’re concerned about is maintaining power. In fact, the more cynical people are about government, the angrier and more dispirited they are about the prospects for change, the more likely the powerful are able to maintain their power.
But we believe that in order to move this country forward, to actually solve problems and make people’s lives better, we need a well-functioning government. We need our civic institutions to work. We need cooperation among people of different political persuasions. And to make that work, we have to restore our faith in democracy. We have to bring people together, not tear them apart. We need majorities in Congress and state legislatures who are serious about governing and want to bring about real change and improvements in people’s lives. And we won’t win people over by calling them names or dismissing entire chunks of the country as racist or sexist or homophobic.
When I say bring people together, I mean all of our people.
This whole notion that has sprung up recently about Democrats needing to choose between trying to appeal to white working class voters or voters of color and women and LGBT Americans, that’s nonsense. I don’t buy that. I got votes from every demographic. We won by reaching out to everybody and competing everywhere and by fighting for every vote. And that’s what we’ve got to do in this election and every election after that. And we can’t do that if we immediately disregard what others have to say from the start because they’re not like us, because they’re white or they’re black or they’re man or a woman or they’re gay or they’re straight.
If we think that somehow there’s no way they can understand how I’m feeling and therefore don’t have any standing to speak on certain matters because we’re only defined by certain characteristics, that doesn’t work if you want a healthy we can’t do that if we traffic in absolute when it comes to make democracy work, we have to be able to get inside the reality of people who are different, have different experiences, come from different backgrounds. We have to engage them even when it is frustrating. We have to listen to them, even when we don’t like what they have to say.
We have to hope that we can change their minds, and we have to remain open to them changing ours. And that doesn’t mean, by the way, abandoning our principles or caving to bad policy in the interests of maintaining some phony version of civility. That seems to be, by the way, the definition of civility offered by too many congressional Republicans right now. We will be polite so long as we get 100% of what we want and you don’t call us out on the various ways we’re sticking it to people. And we’ll click our tongues and issue vague statements of disappointment when the president does something outrageous, but we won’t actually do anything about it. That’s not civility. That’s abdicating your responsibilities. But again, I digress. Making democracy work means holding on to our principles,
having clarity about our principles, and then having the confidence to get in the arena and have a serious debate. It also means appreciating progress does not happen all at once but when you put your shoulder to the wheel, if you’re willing to fight for it, things do get better. And let me tell you something, particularly young people here.
Better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the white house. Better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country. Not perfect, better. The civil rights act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people. Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, well, you know, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting, no point, that makes no sense. You can make it better. Better is always worth fighting for. That’s how our founders expected this system of self-government to work. Through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and evidence and proof, we could sort through our differences, and nobody would get exactly what they wanted, but it would be possible to find a basis for common ground. And that common ground exists.
Maybe it’s not fashionable to say that right now. It’s hard to see it with all the nonsense in Washington. It’s hard to hear it with all the noise. But common ground exists. I have seen it. I have lived it. I know there are white people who care deeply about black people being treated unfairly. I have talked to them and loved them, and I know there are black people who care deeply about the struggles of white rural I’m one of them. And I have a track record to prove it. I know there are evangelicals who are deeply committed to doing something about climate change. I’ve seen them do the work.
I know there are conservatives who think there’s nothing compassionate about separating immigrant children from their mothers. I know there are Republicans who believe government should only perform a few minimal functions but that one of those functions should be making sure nearly 3,000 Americans don’t die in a hurricane and its aftermath.
Common ground is out there. I see it every day. It’s just how people interact, how people treat each other. You see it on the ball field. You see it at work. You see it in places of worship. But to say that common ground exists doesn’t mean it will inevitably win out.
History shows the power of fear and the closer that we get to Election Day, the more those invested in the politics of fear and division will work -- will do anything to hang on to their recent gains. Fortunately, I am hopeful because out of this political darkness, I am seeing a great awakening of citizenship all across the country. I cannot tell you how encouraged I’ve been by watching so many people get involved for the first time or the first time in a long time. They’re marching and they’re organizing and they’re registering people to vote and they’re running for office themselves.
Look at this crop of Democratic candidates running for Congress and governor, running for the state legislature, running for district attorney, running for school board. It is a movement of citizens who happen to be younger and more diverse and more female than ever before, and that’s really useful. We need more women in charge. But we have first-time candidates. We have veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. Record numbers of women. Americans who have previously maybe didn’t have an interest in politics as a career but laced up their shoes and rolled up their sleeves and grabbed a clipboard because they, too, believe this time’s different. This moment’s too important to sit out.
And if you listen to what these candidates are talking about in individual races across the country, you’ll find they’re not just running against something, they’re running for something. They’re running to expand opportunity and running to restore the honor to public service. And speaking as a Democrat, that’s when the Democratic party has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people. When we led with conviction and principle and bold new ideas. The antidote to a government controlled by a powerful few, a government that divides is a government by the organized, energized, inclusive many. That’s what this moment’s about. That has to be the answer.
You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can’t opt out because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert. This is not Coachella. We don’t need a messiah. All we need are decent, honest, hard-working people who are accountable and who have America’s best interests at heart. And they’ll step up and they’ll join our government, and they will make things better if they have support.
One election will not fix everything that needs to be fixed. But it will be a start. And you have to start it. What’s going to fix our democracy is you.
People ask me, what are you going to do for the election? No, the question is what are you going to do? You’re the antidote. Your participation and your spirit and your determination, not just in this election, but in every subsequent election and in the days between elections. Because in the end, the threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Trump or the current batch of Republicans in Congress or the Koch brothers and their lobbyists or too much compromise from Democrats or Russian hacking. The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism.
Cynicism led too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on Election Day. To all the young people who are here today, there are now more eligible voters in your generation than in any other, which means your generation now has more power than anybody to change things. If you want it, you can make sure America gets out of its current funk. If you actually care about it, you have the power to make sure what we see is a brighter future. But to exercise that clout, to exercise that power, you have to show up. In the last midterm elections in 2014, fewer than one in five young people voted.
One in five. Not two in five or three. One in five. Is it any wonder this Congress doesn’t reflect your values and your priorities? Are you surprised by that? This whole project of self-government only works if everybody’s doing their part. Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter. I’ve won states in the presidential election because of 5, 10, 20 votes per precinct. And if you thought elections don’t matter, I hope these last two years have corrected that impression.
So if you don’t like what’s going on right now, and you shouldn’t, do not complain, don’t hashtag, don’t get anxious, don’t retreat, don’t binge on whatever it is you’re bingeing on, don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment, don’t put your head in the sand, don’t boo. Vote. Vote. If you are really concerned about how the criminal justice system treats African-Americans, the best way to protest is to vote. Not just for senators and representatives but for mayors and sheriffs and state legislators.
Do what they just did in Philadelphia and Boston and elect states attorneys and district attorneys who are looking at issues in a new light, who realize that the vast majority of law enforcement do the right thing in a really hard job, and we just need to make sure all of them do. If you’re tired of politicians who offer nothing but thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting, you’ve got to do what the parkland kids are doing. Some of them aren’t even eligible to vote yet. They’re out there working to change minds and registering people. And they’re not giving up until we have a Congress that sees your lives as more important than a campaign check from the you’ve got to vote.
If you support the #metoo movement, you’re outraged by stories of sexual harassment and assault, inspired by the women who have shared them, you’ve got to do more than retweet a hashtag. You’ve got to vote. Part of the reason women are more vulnerable in the workplace is because not enough women are bosses in the workplace. Which is why we need to strengthen and enforce laws that protect women in the workplace, not just from harassment, but from discrimination in hiring and promotion and not getting paid the same amount for doing the same work. That requires laws, laws get passed by legislators.
You’ve got to vote. When you vote, you’ve got the power to make it easier to afford college and harder to shoot up a school. When you vote, you’ve got the power to make sure a family keeps its health insurance. You could save somebody’s life. When you vote, you’ve got the
power to make sure white nationalists don’t feel emboldened to March with their hoods off or their hoods on in Charlottesville in the middle of the day. 30 minutes. 30 minutes of your time. Is democracy worth that?
We have been through much darker times than these. And somehow each generation of Americans carried us through to the other side. Not by sitting around and waiting for something to happen, not by leaving it to others to do something, but by leading that movement for change themselves. And if you do that, if you get involved and you get engaged and you knock on some doors and you talk with your friends and you argue with your family members and you change some minds and you vote, something powerful happens. Change happens. Hope happens. Not perfection, not every bit of cruelty and sadness and poverty and disease suddenly stricken from the Earth. There will still be problems, but with each new candidate that surprises you with a victory that you supported, a spark of hope happens.
With each new law that helps a kid read or helps a homeless family find shelter or helps a veteran get the support he or she has earned, each time that happens hope happens. With each new step we take in the direction of fairness and justice and equality and opportunity, hope spreads. And that can be the legacy of your generation.
You can be the generation that at a critical moment stood up and reminded us just how precious this experiment in democracy really is, just how powerful it can be when we fight for it, when we believe in it. I believe in you. I believe you will help lead us in the right direction, and I will be right there with you every step of the way. Thank you, Illinois. God bless you. God bless this country we love.
2 September 1945, Ba Dinh Square, Hanoi, Vietnam
All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This immortal statement was made in the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America in 1776. In a broader sense, this means: All the peoples on the earth are equal from birth, all the peoples have a right to live and to be happy and free.
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, made at the time of the French Revolution, in 1791, also states: “All men are born free and with equal rights, and must always remain free and have equal rights.”
Those are undeniable truths.
Nevertheless, for more than eighty years, the French imperialists, abusing the standard of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity, have violated our Fatherland and oppressed our fellow-citizens. They have acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.
Politically, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.
They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Centre and the South of Viet Nam in order to wreck our country’s oneness and prevent our people from being united.
They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly massacred our patriots. They have drowned our uprisings in seas of blood.
They have fettered public opinion and practised obscurantism.
The have weakened our race with opium and alcohol.
In the field of economics, they have sucked us dry, driven our people to destitution and devastated our land.
They have robbed us of our ricefields, our mines, our forests and our raw materials. They have monopolised the issuing of banknotes and the import and export trade.
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to extreme poverty.
They have made it impossible for our national bourgeoisie to prosper; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.
In the autumn of 1940, when the Japanese fascists invaded Indochina to establish new bases against the Allies, the French colonialists went down on their bended knees and opened the doors of our country to welcome the Japanese in.
Thus, from that date, our people were subjected to the double yoke of the French and the Japanese. Their sufferings and miseries increased. The result was that towards the end of last year and the beginning of this year, from Quang Tri province to the North of Vietnam, more than two million of our fellow-citizens died from starvation.
On the 9th of March this year, the French troops were disarmed by the Japanese. The French colonialists either fled or surrendered, showing that not only were they incapable of “protecting” us, but that, in a period of five years, they had twice sold our country to the Japanese.
Before the 9th of March, how often the Viet Minh had urged the French to ally themselves with it against the Japanese! But instead of agreeing to this proposal, the French colonialists only intensified their terrorist activities against the Viet Minh. After their defeat and before fleeing, they massacred the political prisoners detained at Yen Bai and Cao Bang.
In spite of all this, our fellow-citizens have always manifested a lenient and humane attitude towards the French. After the Japanese putsch of March 9, 1945, the Viet Minh helped many Frenchmen to cross the frontier, rescued others from Japanese jails, and protected French lives and property. In fact, since the autumn of 1940, our country had ceased to be a French colony and had become a Japanese possession.
When the Japanese surrendered to the Allies, our entire people rose to gain power and founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
The truth is that we have wrested our independence from the Japanese, not from the French.
The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which have fettered them for nearly a century and have won independence for Viet Nam. At the same time they have overthrown the centuries-old monarchic regime and established a democratic republican regime.
We, the Provisional Government of the new Viet Nam, representing the entire Vietnamese people, hereby declare that from now on we break off all relations of a colonial character with France; cancel all treaties signed by France on Viet Nam, and abolish all privileges held by France in our country.
The entire Vietnamese people are of one mind in their determination to oppose all wicked schemes by the French colonialists.
We are convinced that the Allies, which at the Teheran and San Francisco Conferences upheld the principle of equality among the nations, cannot fail to recognize the right of the Vietnamese people to independence.
A people who have courageously opposed French enslavement for more than eight years, a people who have resolutely sided with the Allies against the fascists during these last years, such a people must be free, such a people must be independent.
For these reasons, we, the Provisional Government of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam, solemnly make this declaration to the world:
Viet Nam has the right to enjoy freedom and independence and in fact has become a free and independent country. The entire Vietnamese people are determined to mobilize all their physical and mental strength, to sacrifice their lives and property in order to safeguard their freedom and independence.
3 June 1875, Oxford Union, Oxford, UK
Three and half years ago, when they were urging us to go in, oh what a campaign it was!
You’ve got to get in to get on” was the slogan of that day. Five or six pounds a week better off for Britain if we can only get in to the Common Market. All the goodies were spread out, and Donald Stokes of Leyland buying one page advertisements saying, “all we need is a great domestic market of 250 million and we will sweep Europe!”
And do you know what has happened? And this is the one significance of the trade figure – I’m not arguing – who cares about the actual details of the size of it – that doesn’t matter. It’s the trend! The trend!
Three years ago, four years ago, we were almost in balance with the Common Market in this country.
What’s happened since? 500 million down in 72′. 1000 million in 73′. 2000 million in 74′. Running now at the rate of 2400 million this year! Don’t you see what that’s going to do to the prosperity of this country! You can’t go on borrowing that.
When you add to that the burdens I mentioned a moment ago, and we under grave threat! We’re in peril at the present time, and the country must know.
Therefore, now what do they say? What is the message that comes now? No longer to tell the British people about the goodies that lie there. No longer that. That won’t wash – will it? Because the evidence will no longer support it.
So the message, the message that comes out is fear, fear, fear.
Fear because you won’t have any food.
Fear of unemployment.
Fear that we’ve somehow been so reduced as a country that we can no longer, as it were, totter about in the world independent as a nation.
And a constant attrition of our moral.
A constant attempt to tell us that what we have and what we had as not only our own achievements, but what generations of Englishman has helped us to achieve, is not worth a damn.
The kind of laughter that greeted the early references that I made that what was involved was the transfer of the whole of our democratic system. Not a damn!
Well, I tell you what we now have to face in Britain, what the whole argument is about. Now that the fraud and the promise has been exposed.
What it’s about is basically about the moral and the self-confidence of our people. We can shape our future. We are 55 million people. If you look around the world today, and you listen to Gough Whitlam and his 14 million Australians. He trades heavily with Japan – and I’m very fond of the Australians – but do you think that he’s going to enter into a relationship with Japan, which gives Japan the right to make the laws in Australia?
Do you think Canada, 22 million of them, and to the south a great and friendly nation – yes, they are – but do you think Canada is going to allow its laws to be written by the 200 million people in some union in America? No, no – of course not.
The whole thing is an absurdity! And therefore I urge you, I urge you to reject it. I urge you to say ‘No’ to this motion! And I urge the whole British country to say ‘No’ on Thursday in the referendum!
Here is the full debate
I am very fortunate to be called this early. I apologise to my right hon. Friend—my old friend—but 93 other Members are still waiting to be called, so if he will forgive me, I will not give way.
The Conservative Governments in which I served made very positive contributions to the development of the European Union. There were two areas in which we were the leading contender and made a big difference. The first was when the Thatcher Government led the way in the creation of the single market. The customs union—the so-called common market—had served its purpose, but regulatory barriers matter more than tariffs in the modern world. But for the Thatcher Government, the others would not have been induced to remove those barriers, and I think that the British benefited more from the single market than any other member state. It has contributed to our comparative economic success today.
We were always the leading Government after the fall of the Soviet Union in the process of enlargement to eastern Europe, taking in the former Soviet states. That was an extremely important political contribution. After the surprising collapse of the Soviet Union, eastern and central Europe could have collapsed into its traditional anarchy, nationalist rivalry and military regimes that preceded the second world war. We pressed the urgency of bringing in these new independent nations, giving them the goal of the European Union, which meant liberal democracy, free market trade and so forth. We made Europe a much more stable place.
That has been our role in the European Union, and I believe that it is a very bad move, particularly for our children and grandchildren, that we are all sitting here now saying that we are embarking on a new unknown future. I shall touch on that in a moment, because I think the position is simply baffling to every friend of the British and of the United Kingdom throughout the world. That is why I shall vote against the Bill.
Let me deal with the arguments that I should not vote in that way, that I am being undemocratic, that I am quite wrong, and that, as an elected Member of Parliament, I am under a duty to vote contrary to the views I have just given. I am told that this is because we held a referendum. First, I am in the happy situation that my opposition to referendums as an instrument of government is quite well known and has been frequently repeated throughout my political career. I have made no commitment to accept a referendum, and particularly this referendum, when such an enormous question, with hundreds of complex issues wrapped up within it, was to be decided by a simple yes/no answer on one day. That was particularly unsuitable for a plebiscite of that kind, and that point was reinforced by the nature of the debate.
Constitutionally, when the Government tried to stop the House from having a vote, they did not go to the Supreme Court arguing that a referendum bound the House and that that was why we should not have a vote. The referendum had always been described as advisory in everything that the Government put out. There is no constitutional standing for referendums in this country. No sensible country has referendums—the United States and Germany do not have them in their political systems. The Government went to the Supreme Court arguing for the archaic constitutional principle of the royal prerogative—that the Executive somehow had absolute power when it came to dealing with treaties. Not surprisingly, they lost.
What about the position of Members of Parliament? There is no doubt that by an adequate but narrow majority, leave won the referendum campaign. I will not comment on the nature of the campaign. Those arguments that got publicity in the national media on both sides were, on the whole, fairly pathetic. I have agreed in conversation with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union that he and I can both tell ourselves that neither of us used the dafter arguments that were put forward by the people we were allied with. It was not a very serious debate on the subject. I do not recall the view that £350 million a week would be available for the health service coming from the Brexit Secretary, and I did not say that we going to have a Budget to put up income tax and all that kind of thing. It was all quite pathetic.
Let me provide an analogy—a loose one but, I think, not totally loose—explaining the position of Members of Parliament after this referendum. I have fought Lord knows how many elections over the past 50 years, and I have always advocated voting Conservative. The British public, in their wisdom, have occasionally failed to take my advice and have by a majority voted Labour. I have thus found myself here facing a Labour Government, but I do not recall an occasion when I was told that it was my democratic duty to support Labour policies and the Labour Government on the other side of the House. That proposition, if put to Mr Skinner in opposition or myself, would have been treated with ridicule and scorn. Apparently, I am now being told that despite voting as I did in the referendum, I am somehow an enemy of the people for ignoring my instructions and for sticking to the opinions that I expressed rather strongly, at least in my meetings, when I urged people to vote the other way.
I have no intention of changing my opinion on the ground. Indeed, I am personally convinced that the hard-core Eurosceptics in my party, with whom I have enjoyed debating this issue for decades, would not have felt bound in the slightest by the outcome of the referendum to abandon their arguments—[Interruption.] I do not say that as criticism; I am actually on good terms with the hard-line Eurosceptics because I respect their sincerity and the passionate nature of their beliefs. If I ever live to see my hon. Friend Sir William Cash turn up here and vote in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union, I will retract what I say, but hot tongs would not make him vote for membership of the EU.
I must move on, but I am told that I should vote for my party as we are on a three-line Whip. I am a Conservative; I have been a decently loyal Conservative over the years. The last time I kicked over the traces was on the Lisbon treaty, when for some peculiar reason my party got itself on the wrong side of the argument, but we will pass over that. I would point out to those who say that I am somehow being disloyal to my party by not voting in favour of this Bill that I am merely propounding the official policy of the Conservative party for 50 years until 23 June 2016. I admire my colleagues who can suddenly become enthusiastic Brexiteers, having seen a light on the road to Damascus on the day that the vote was cast, but I am afraid that that light has been denied me.
I feel the spirit of my former colleague, Enoch Powell—I rather respected him, aside from one or two of his extreme views—who was probably the best speaker for the Eurosceptic cause I ever heard in this House of Commons. If he were here, he would probably find it amazing that his party had become Eurosceptic and rather mildly anti-immigrant, in a very strange way, in 2016. Well, I am afraid that, on that issue, I have not followed it, and I do not intend to do so.
There are very serious issues that were not addressed in the referendum: the single market and the customs union. They must be properly debated. It is absurd to say that every elector knew the difference between the customs union and the single market, and that they took a careful and studied view of the basis for our future trading relations with Europe.
The fact is that I admire the Prime Minister and her colleagues for their constant propounding of the principles of free trade. My party has not changed on that. We are believers in free trade and see it as a win-win situation. We were the leading advocate of liberal economic policies among the European powers for many years, so we are free traders. It seems to me unarguable that if we put between us and the biggest free market in the world new tariffs, new regulatory barriers, new customs procedures, certificates of origin and so on, we are bound to be weakening the economic position from what it would otherwise have been, other things being equal, in future. That is why it is important that this issue is addressed in particular.
I am told that that view is pessimistic, and that we are combining withdrawal from the single market and the customs union with a great new globalised future that offers tremendous opportunities for us. Apparently, when we follow the rabbit down the hole, we will emerge in a wonderland where, suddenly, countries throughout the world are queuing up to give us trading advantages and access to their markets that we were never able to achieve as part of the European Union. Nice men like President Trump and President Erdogan are impatient to abandon their normal protectionism and give us access. Let me not be too cynical; I hope that that is right. I do want the best outcome for the United Kingdom from this process. No doubt somewhere a hatter is holding a tea party with a dormouse in the teapot.
We need success in these trade negotiations to recoup at least some of the losses that we will incur as a result of leaving the single market. If all is lost on the main principle, that is the big principle that the House must get control of and address seriously, in proper debates and votes, from now on.
I hope that I have adequately explained that my views on this issue have not been shaken very much over the decades—they have actually strengthened somewhat. Most Members, I trust, are familiar with Burke’s address to the electors of Bristol. I have always firmly believed that every MP should vote on an issue of this importance according to their view of the best national interest. I never quote Burke, but I shall paraphrase him. He said to his constituents, “If I no longer give you the benefit of my judgment and simply follow your orders, I am not serving you; I am betraying you.” I personally shall be voting with my conscience content, and when we see what unfolds hereafter as we leave the European Union, I hope that the consciences of other Members of Parliament will remain equally content.
November 1962, White House, Washington DC, USA
This was deliverered a few days after the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved on 28 OIctober 1962.
In these difficult days in the life of our country, I know every American is going to ask what he can do for his country.
Not everyone can serve in our armed forces, or in our national government, but there is one thing that we all can do.
And that is to demonstrate our faith in democracy and our strong belief in freedom.
Next Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day.
I hope every American will vote. Will vote for the candidate and party of his choice, but vote!
In that way we can indicate to our country, to people our around the world who look to us, how strongly we value our freedom, how strongly we believe in democracy, how much we desire to indicate our faith in our country.
Tuesday November 6th. I hope all Americans will participate in the great process of democracy by voting.
In these difficult days in the life of our country, I know every American is going to ask what he can do for his country.
Not everyone can serve in our armed forces, or in our national government, but there is one thing that we all can do.
And that is to demonstrate our faith in democracy and our strong belief in freedom.
Next Tuesday, November 6th is Election Day.
I hope every American will vote. Will vote for the candidate and party of his choice, but vote!
In that way we can indicate to our country, to people our around the world who look to us, how strongly we value our freedom, how strongly we believe in democracy, how much we desire to indicate our faith in our country.
Tuesday November 6th. I hope all Americans will participate in the great process of democracy by voting.
7 December 1991, USS Arizona Memorial, Honolulu, Hawaii. USA
Thank you, Captain Ross. Thank you, sir. To our Secretary of Defense and our Chairman of our Joint Chiefs; members of our Cabinet; distinguished Governors here; and so many Members of the United States Congress; Admiral Larson; members of our Armed Forces, then and now; family and friends of the Arizona and Utah; fellow veterans. Thank you very much for that introduction, Don, and thank you all for that welcome.
It was a bright Sunday morning. Thousands of troops slept soundly in their bunks. Some who were awake looked out and savored the still and tranquil harbor.
And on the stern of the U.S.S. Nevada, a brass band prepared to play "The Star Spangled Banner." On other ships, sailors readied for the 8 a.m. flag raising. Ray Emory, who was on the Honolulu, read the morning newspaper. Aboard California, yeoman Durell Connor wrapped Christmas presents. On the West Virginia, a machinist's mate looked at the photos just received from his wife. And they were of his 8-month-old son whom he had never seen.
On the mainland, people listened to the football games on the radio, turned to songs like the "Chattanooga Choo-Choo," comics like "Terry and the Pirates," movies like "Sergeant York." In New York, families went window-shopping. Out West, it was late morning, many families still at church.
At first, to the American sailors at Pearl, the hum of engines sounded routine, and why not? To them, the idea of war seemed palpable but remote. And then, in one horrible instant, they froze in disbelief. The abstract threat was suddenly real.
But these men did not panic. They raced to their stations, and some strapped pistols over pajamas, and fought and died. And what lived was the shock wave that soon swept across America, forever immortalizing December 7th, 1941. Ask anyone who endured that awful Sunday. Each felt like the writer who observed: "Life is never again as it was before anyone you love has died; never so innocent, never so gentle, never so pliant to your will."
Today we honor those who gave their lives at this place, half a century ago. Their names were Bertie and Gomez and Dougherty and Granger. And they came from Idaho and Mississippi, the sweeping farmland of Ohio. And they were of all races and colors, native-born and foreign-born. And most of all, of course, they were Americans.
Think of how it was for these heroes of the Harbor, men who were also husbands, fathers, brothers, sons. Imagine the chaos of guns and smoke, flaming water, and ghastly carnage. Two thousand, four hundred and three Americans gave their lives. But in this haunting place, they live forever in our memory, reminding us gently, selflessly, like chimes in the distant night.
Every 15 seconds a drop of oil still rises from the Arizona and drifts to the surface. As it spreads across the water, we recall the ancient poet: "In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair against our will comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." With each drop, it is as though God Himself were crying. He cries, as we do, for the living and the dead: men like Commander Duncan Curry, firing a .45 at an attacking plane as tears streamed down his face.
We remember machinist's mate Robert Scott, who ran the air compressors powering the guns aboard California. And when the compartment flooded, the crew evacuated; Scott refused. "This is my station," he said, "I'm going to stay as long as the guns are going." And nearby, aboard New Orleans, the cruiser, Chaplain Forgy assured his troops it was all right to miss church that day. His words became legend: "You can praise the Lord and pass the ammunition."
Captain Ross, right here, then a warrant officer or was it a chief, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism aboard Nevada that day. I salute him, the other Congressional Medal winners with us today, wherever they may be also.
For the defenders of Pearl, heroism came as naturally as breath. They reacted instinctively by rushing to their posts. They knew as well that our Nation would be sustained by the nobility of its cause.
So did Americans of Japanese ancestry who came by the hundreds to give wounded Americans blood, and the thousands of their kinsmen all across America who took up arms for their country. Every American believed in the cause.
The men I speak of would be embarrassed to be called heroes. Instead, they would tell you, probably with defiance: "Foes can sink American ships, but not the American spirit. They may kill us, but never the ideals that made us proud to serve."
Talk to those who survived to fight another day. They would repeat the Navy hymn that Barbara and I sing every Sunday in the lovely little chapel up at Camp David: "Eternal Father, strong to save, Whose arm hath bound the restless wave . . . O hear us when we cry to Thee, For those in peril on the sea."
Back in 1942, June of '42, I remember how Henry Stimson, the Secretary of War, defined the American soldier, and how that soldier should be, and I quote: "Brave without being brutal, self-confident without boasting, being part of an irresistible might without losing faith in individual liberty."
The heroes of the Harbor engraved that passage on every heart and soul. They fought for a world of peace, not war, where children's dreams speak more loudly than the brashest tyrant's guns. Because of them, this memorial lives to pass its lessons from one generation to the next, lessons as clear as this Pacific sky.
One of Pearl Harbor's lessons is that together we could "summon lightness against the dark"; that was Dwight Eisenhower. Another, that when it comes to national defense, finishing second means finishing last.
World War II also taught us that isolationism is a bankrupt notion. The world does not stop at our water's edge. And perhaps above all, that real peace, real peace, the peace that lasts, means the triumph of freedom, not merely the absence of war.
And as we look down at -- Barbara and I just did -- at Arizona's sunken hull, tomb to more than 1,000 Americans, the beguiling calm comforts us, reminds us of the might of ideals that inspire boys to die as men. Everyone who aches at their sacrifice knows America must be forever vigilant. And Americans must always remember the brave and the innocent who gave their lives to keep us free.
Each Memorial Day, not far from this spot, the heroes of Pearl Harbor are honored. Two leis are placed upon each grave by Hawaiian Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. We must never forget that it is for them, the future, that we must apply the lessons of the past.
In Pearl Harbor's wake, we won the war and, thus, the peace. In the cold war that followed, Americans also shed their blood, but we used other means as well. For nearly half a century, patience, foresight, personal diplomacy helped America stand fast and firm for democracy.
But we've never stood alone. Beside us stood nations committed to democracy and free markets and free expression and freedom of worship, nations that include our former enemies, Germany, Italy, and Japan. This year these same nations stood with us against aggression in the Persian Gulf.
You know, the war in the Gulf was so different: different enemy, different circumstances, the outcome never in doubt. It was short; thank God our casualties mercifully few. But I ask you veterans of Pearl Harbor and all Americans who remember the unity of purpose that followed that momentous December day 50 years ago: Didn't we see that same strength of national spirit when we launched Desert Storm?
The answer is a resounding "yes." Once the war for Kuwait began, we pulled together. We were united, determined, and we were confident. And when it was over, we rejoiced in exactly the same way that we did in 1945 -- heads high, proud, and grateful. And what a feeling. Fifty years had passed, but, let me tell you, the American spirit is as young and fresh as ever.
This unity of purpose continues to inspire us in the cause of peace among nations. In their own way, amidst the bedlam and the anguish of that awful day, the men of Pearl Harbor served that noble cause, honored it. They knew the things worth living for but also worth dying for: Principle, decency, fidelity, honor.
And so, look behind you at battleship row -- behind me, the gun turret still visible, and the flag flying proudly from a truly blessed shrine.
Look into your hearts and minds: You will see boys who this day became men and men who became heroes.
Look at the water here, clear and quiet, bidding us to sum up and remember. One day, in what now seems another lifetime, it wrapped its arms around the finest sons any nation could ever have, and it carried them to a better world.
May God bless them. And may God bless America, the most wondrous land on Earth.
A few seconds of Mr Hawke weeping through the speech, courtesy of ABC.. We have not sourced embeddable version of whole speech.
9 June 1989, Canberra, Australia
For more than a month now, the eyes of the world have been on China.
We witnessed a massive rallying of people in Beijing and Shanghai and heard the powerful expression of their will in the cause of democratic reform.
We were inspired by the idealism and courage of youth the peaceful determination of students to create a better future, and the support that rallied around their cause from throughout Chinese society.
Our spirits were buoyed by the optimism of their vision and, no matter how far we were from the events in Tian'anmen Square, our hearts were with them.
Then last weekend, our optimism was shattered as we watched in horror the unyielding forces of repression brutally killing the vision of youth.
Unarmed young men and women were sprayed with bullets and crushed by tanks. Innocent people were shot and beaten in the streets and in their homes.
incredibly despite the horror and the risks, we have witnessed acts of indescribable bravery on our television screens: A lone man standing in front of a row of tanks, the strength of his will stalling the might of armour as it rolled down a Beijing street.
Young people confronting lines of armed troops, not in anger, but in disbelief that an army could unleash force on its own people with such cruelty.
Thousands have been killed and injured, victims of a leadership that seems determined to hang on to the reins of power at any cost -at awful human cost.
We meet here to mourn this tragedy and to share the grief of those who have lost members of their families, their loved ones and their friends, and to express our profound sympathy to the Chinese-Australian community that has expressed its outrage at the massacre in Beijing.
We meet here to show our support for the Chinese people and to reaffirm our commitment to the ideals of democracy and freedom of expression that they have so eloquently espoused.
And we meet here reflecting on the very future of China, which in recent years had built up so much goodwill in the international community of nations, which had already come to play such a welcome and constructive role in our region, and which promised to do so much more.
It is my sincere hope and, indeed, my resolute conviction, that the values and aspirations of those who have been so brutally repressed over the past week will eventually triumph, that the death and suffering will not have been in vain, that the path of reform and modernisation will be renewed.
We all pray that moderation will eventually prevail, so that a new and better China can rise from this carnage, a China that befits the courage and determination of its people.
I call on the Chinese Government to withdraw its troops from deployment against unarmed civilians, and to respect the will of its people. To crush the spirit and body of youth is to crush the very future of China itself.
Prime Minister Hawke offered more than 20,000 humanitarian visas to Chinese students studying in Australia. Their families were also invited to Australia. Cabinet papers reveal that Mr Hawke made this decision without consulting Cabinet.
25 August 1988, Parliament House, Canberra, Australia
In 1988 on the election trail, Opposition Leader John Howard said that it was possible historian Geoffrey Blainey was right, that it was quite legitimate to suggest Australia was being 'Asianizated' and to limit Asian immigration. Howard failed to retract this stance until he saw just how unpopular it was. Prime Minister Hawke responded in the House.
Resolution: That this House-
(1) acknowledges the historic action of the Holt Government, with bipartisan support from the Australian Labor Party, in initiating the dismantling of the White Australia Policy;
(2) recognises that since 1973, successive Labor and Liberal/National Party Governments have, with bipartisan support, pursued a racially non-discriminatory immigration policy to the overwhelming national, and international, benefit of Australia; and
(3) gives its unambiguous and unqualified commitment to the principle that, whatever criteria are applied by Australian Governments in exercising their sovereign right to determine the composition of the immigration intake, race or ethnic origin shall never, explicitly or implicitly, be among them.
Prime Minister Hawke's speech
One of the great and rare distinctions of Australian political leadership in the last generation has been its bipartisan rejection of race as a factor in immigration policy. This has been a triumph of compassion over prejudice, of reason over fear, and of statesmanship over politics. Twenty-two years ago my Party, the Australian Labor Party, disowned its own historic white Australia policy, and the Government led by Harold Holt, to its everlasting credit and honour, abolished the white Australia policy and began to dismantle the administrative machinery of discrimination.
This motion is before this House today because that great and rare distinction has been put in jeopardy by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Howard)-the inheritor of the role, but not the mantle, of Holt, Gorton, McMahon and Malcolm Fraser. I say this most sincerely to the Leader of the Opposition: this motion has not been brought forward in any attempt to drive him into the ground. It is not, because if he would retract his position then, as far as this side of the House is concerned, what has happened would be regarded as an aberration and would be forgotten. We would be pleased and proud to re-embrace once again an unqualified bipartisanship on this important issue.
Let us look at the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. On 1 August, in regard to Asian immigration, he said:
I do believe that if in the eyes of some in the community it - Asian immigration - is too great, it would be in our immediate term interest and supportive of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little, so that the capacity of the community to absorb was greater.
On 12 August the Leader of the National Party of Australia (Mr Sinclair) said that the figures showed that there were too many Asians coming into the country. On 9 August Senator Stone said:
Asian immigration has to be slowed. It is no use dancing around the bushes.
On 15 August, he also said that it will require a reduction in the excessively high proportion of immigrants from Asia. Those statements remain unretracted. The position of the Leader of the Opposition on 17 August was as follows:
I do not intend to alter one inch the stand that I have taken . . . I do not intend to alter my position on this issue.
The paragraph shuffling in the Party meeting last Monday has not changed anything. If, according to the Leader of the Opposition, in the eyes of some in the community Asian immigration is too great, he believes it would be in our immediate term interest and supportive of social cohesion if it were slowed down a little. The Leader of the Opposition maintains that position and, as I say, the paragraph shuffling of last Monday enables him to maintain that position. That has broken the tradition. It has broken the practice of the past and the Leader of the Opposition knows it, his colleagues know it, every commentator in the community knows it and, significantly, every Asian leader knows it.
He has not only broken the traditions of his predecessors but also unfortunately he has broken his own strongly asserted position in this House. Almost four years ago to this very day, on 23 August 1984, the Leader of the Opposition spoke on this issue and he pleaded eloquently for bipartisanship. On 23 August 1984 he advised that just two weeks previously he had successfully moved, with an overwhelming majority of the New South Wales convention of the Liberal Party, a motion on this issue. The Hansard shows that, speaking of that motion, he said:
It recalled amongst other things, that past coalition government policies were built upon a non-discriminatory approach to immigration and a level of intake and a pace of change. During that debate, which was reported fairly extensively by the media, I expressly rejected the proposition that the Liberal Party should take a stand against Asian immigration. I supported the policies of the former coalition Government which were humanitarian and liberal in the true sense of the word. We were prepared to take, with the Labor Party's generous support, people from war-torn parts of South East Asia.
Importantly he said:
We were prepared to persuade people around Australia to accept that policy.
In the course of his contribution-an eloquent contribution-he referred properly to the need to avoid any suggestion of racism. Those were eloquent words of the Leader of the Opposition in his then capacity in this House nearly four years ago to this day. He said that he and those around him were prepared to persuade the people of Australia. Implicitly in his statement he recognised the unfortunate truth; that is, that there is prejudice in this country on this issue. No sensible person can deny that. But he said then that the task of leadership was to persuade the people of Australia. But now, rather than leading, rather than-in his own words-persuading people around Australia to accept the principled and the unqualified position of his predecessors against any suggestion or possibility of discrimination, and instead of accepting that responsibility of leadership, he has unfortunately become the follower of the lowest common denominator.
Let me make it clear-and I want the Leader of the Opposition to know this-I do not accuse him of racism or of being a racist. In a sense, sadly, I make the more serious charge, I make the more damning indictment, of cynical opportunism, in a cynical grab for votes. His polling shows that there is this prejudice in the community and he has unleashed within his coalition and within the wider community the most malevolent, the most hurtful, the most damaging and the most uncohesive forces. Far from `one Australia' he has guaranteed a divided Australia. Far from guaranteeing one Australia, he has guaranteed a divided Australia; a hurtfully divided Australia.
One of the most disquieting aspects of the Liberals' new confected policy on immigration is their slipshod and deceptive use of the English language. When the Liberals initiated the breach of bipartisanship, their language, for all its ugliness, was clear cut. No-one could doubt that the Leader of the Opposition meant what he said when he explicitly called for a slowdown in Asian immigration. Nobody could doubt the meaning of the Leader of the National Party of Australia when he said that there were too many Asians coming into Australia. Senator Stone was clearly understood when he said that the excessively high proportion of immigrants from Asia should be reduced. But now the Opposition is operating under what I referred to as the policy by code word. Now the Opposition refers to changes in the composition of the immigration flow `to protect social cohesion'. Let me make it crystal clear that we in the Government repudiate the Opposition's position. We repudiate it on moral grounds and we repudiate it on grounds of this nation's economic self-interest. This is one of those occasions when moral and economic interest coincide.
Let me deal briefly with the moral issue. I can do it in terms of some of the recent language that has come from the Leader of the Opposition and others. Honourable members will recall that honourable members opposite in talking recently about a great Australian referred to the fact that he was an atheist. Presumably, they were implying for themselves, as they are properly and legitimately entitled to do, that they embraced the virtues of the Christian position. If there is one fundamental aspect of the Christian position, it is the belief and faith in the fatherhood of God. There is one thing which follows as a matter of logic and faith from that position; that is the belief in the brotherhood of man. Any suggestion of antagonism or discrimination on the grounds of race repudiates and is repugnant to that fundamental position. Let me say, for those who do not in any formal sense embrace the Christian position but who are driven by the compulsion of compassionate humanism, that belief in the brotherhood of man is just as fundamental.
To make the point of the morality of the issue, let me ask every member of this House to think of those 350,000 Asian born Australians together with their Australian born sons and daughters. I just ask honourable members to think of them. I have been in close contact in the last three weeks with representatives of community organisations. I am saddened beyond measure by the acute anguish and fear that has been engendered in the community following the statements of the Leader of the Opposition. Today we heard my colleague the Minister for Immigration, Local Government and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Holding) give further evidence, eloquently, of that. If the Leader of the Opposition doubts that his remarks have had any adverse impact on these people I say to him: talk to these kids in their schools; talk to those who have received hate letters in the mail over the last three weeks; talk to the people whose homes and cars have been attacked; talk to those who have been forced to read disgusting graffiti about themselves; and talk to those proud Asian Australians who have been here for many generations and who now feel they are seen as some sort of threat to the social cohesion of the country of which they are proud.
Like all members of this House, today I received a communication from the Uniting Church in Australia. I will read it. I knew nothing about its preparation. The letter stated:
The national Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia is strongly opposed to the use of race or country of origin as a criterion in the selection of migrants to Australia. We believe it is ethically unacceptable to use such criteria.
The offence and pain caused to Australians of Asian origin by the debate of the past month is very serious.
On behalf of the Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia, I urge you to take a strongly moral and principled stand on the issue and to support the motion to be introduced today by Mr Hawke in support of an absolutely non-racial policy.
That letter is signed by John P. Brown, Acting General Secretary of the Uniting Church in Australia.
I turn quickly to the economic implications of what has happened. Honourable members will know that, following the period when we were in economic recession at the beginning of the 1980s, we have turned increasingly to seek enmeshment of the Australian economy in that of the world's most dynamic and economically fastest growing region. It is clear that to do anything to turn our backs on or to prejudice our relations with that region would be against the economic interests of this country.
It is critical that we keep in mind the extent of Australia's economic ties with Asia. Five out of the top ten export markets of this country are in Asia. Half of our national annual exports are now sold to Asian countries. Some $17 billion per year-the national income equivalent of $1,000 for every Australian man, woman and child-goes in exports to Asia. India, China and Hong Kong have been the three fastest growing of our major export markets over the last five years. Japan is our largest export market. Our exports to China and Hong Kong have leaped by over 300 per cent in the last years. In the area of foreign investment, which we know is critical to this country, Asian investment in the Australian economy is worth around $35 billion. It is now similar to that from the United Kingdom and twice that from the rest of the European Economic Community. Asia is critical to the future of our fastest growing industry, tourism. One in four of our international tourists now comes from Asia.
Let me refer to some of the early signs that already make apparent the damage that has been done by what has been initiated by the Leader of the Opposition. Professor Helen Hughes, a regional economic specialist and a member of the Fitzgerald Committee to Advise on Australia's Immigration Policies, has suggested that Australia could already have lost billions of dollars in contracts in South East Asia. We are aware of the comments of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. This is confirmed by a cable received only yesterday from our High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur which suggests that the money we could lose as a result of the debate could run into billions of dollars. Our important business migration program is being put at risk because three out of four business migrants in 1987-88 came from Asia, bringing three-quarters of a billion dollars into this country with them. The cable from Kuala Lumpur emphasised that if it is believed that racism is resurgent in Australia, intending migrants will take themselves and their money elsewhere. I will quote from the cable. It stated:
They don't read the fine print in political statements but act on the basis of an impression of the overall situation.
Those are the clear signs of the damage that has already been wreaked upon this country by the statements of the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the National Party and Senator Stone. The Leader of the Opposition and those supporting him have underrated, indeed insulted, the decency and intelligence of the Australian people. The Leader of the Opposition has repudiated one of the proud traditions of the Australian Liberal Party. In the process, I believe that he is rending the fabric of the Liberal Party. That is a matter for the Liberal Party, but the Leader of the Opposition is not going to rend the fabric of this great Australian society. That is a matter for me and for the Australian Parliament.
The remarks by the Leader of the Opposition and of his colleagues remain unretracted and publicly unrepudiated. This motion provides the opportunity for repudiation and retraction. The motion asserts that this Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, speaking on behalf of the people of Australia, repudiates explicitly, and by any implicit process of paragraph shuffling, the concept or suggestion that discrimination against any race has or will have any place in the immigration policies or the domestic policies of this great Australian nation.