Leader's speech, Blackpool 1968
Harold Wilson (Labour)
Commentary:This conference came at the end of a difficult year, which saw the devaluation of sterling and heavy losses for Labour at the local elections. A key theme of Wilson’s speech was the transition from imperialism to a modern industrial society. To achieve this, his government sought to strengthen Britain’s industrial base through a programme of reorganisation and restructuring. Although some of these changes would be painful in the short term, Wilson claimed, they were necessary to increase efficiency and promote job security. Regarding international affairs, Wilson pledged to withdraw British troops from the Far East and the Gulf, which would reduce the defence budget and free up more money for social services. He also spoke about global finance and the recent Basle Agreement, which gave sterling a collective international role.
Madam Chairman, fellow delegates, thank you for what the BBC, if they are true to their usual form, will tonight describe as a hostile reception.
This is the Conference they will look back on and say: ‘That was when Labour came back fighting.’
This has been a rough year for all of us in this movement. A rough year for those who have worked their hearts out in by-elections only to see the Party go down. It has been a year of bitter disappointments in the local elections. We have suffered the loss from our civic life, for a time at any rate, of the services of many hundreds of councillors, with a lifelong record of selfless, work for their local communities.
It has been a year in which an opportunist Opposition, backed by the special interests which support them, have thrown everything at us. Politically, personally, the lot. And in all these months I have not replied. Not yet. I shall choose my time.
But we have come through. We have not lost our nerve and we are stronger for it. We shall need this nerve, this determination, this comradeship, in the period still ahead of us, when all of us know there can be no relaxation, no let-up if we are to achieve all that we have set out to do, and all that will stem from it. One thing; we know now the worst they can do to us. And they know it, too.
The Tories know that time is not on their side. Whatever brave show they put on in Blackpool next week, the truth is that they have already started their cruel post-election inquest on what went wrong.
And the reason they know that time is not on their side is because they have an uneasy and growing fear that Labour has got the measure of the problems - the problems not that your Government only is facing but that Britain is facing. The problems not of four years past, but of forty. The problems of moving forward from Imperialism to a modern industrial society. They can see that a pattern is emerging.
It is precisely because they sense this that only a few weeks ago they made that carefully planned, much heralded act of desperation, their campaign directed to suggest that a final and overwhelming economic crisis was only days away. They must have known that there were many in the City, and still more abroad, who, hearing these warnings and believing them, might well have been led to endanger Britain’s recovery with an artificially induced flight of capital. Not for the first time. Next week here they will parade their patriotism. But it always comes off second-best wherever they see a prospect of party gain.
Labour seeks to unite the nation in support of the policies of change which are needed. The Tory Party seek only to divide and destroy.
Not one word of what they are saying is relevant to the pattern which is emerging and which will be the main theme of this Conference.
The emerging pattern of post-Imperial Britain, of the new Britain in a fast changing world. Change made necessary by the economic sacrifice and disruption caused by two world wars and Britain's sacrifices in those wars. Changes whose roots go even further back to the turn of the century, when Britain lost the industrial primacy which she had won in the age of coal, steel and cotton.
Britain under Clem Attlee’s post-war Labour Government made a brave attempt to reconstruct the economic damage of the war and to begin to come to terms with the post-Imperial world. Under the Tory Government Britain lost her way precisely because the Government of those years failed to recognise the shape of the world that was emerging. Instead of building on the industrial achievements of the post-war Labour Government, all we had was Edwardian nostalgia and drift.
Instead of refashioning an industrial structure that could compete with the new and more dynamic economies of East and West, we lost ground year by year. In those 13 years Britain’s share of world trade in manufactures fell from 21 per cent to 14 per cent - by a third.
Over the same years the Tory Government’s refusal to come to terms with the facts of our world position meant that our overseas Government expenditure, mainly defence, got out of control.
In 1959 overseas Government spending was £270 million. The year we took over, 1964-5, it was £477 million. Over £200 million more. And still rapidly rising.
Their achievement was this - to narrow and weaken our economic base at home while widening the superstructure of military commitments abroad which their ever-weakening base had to support. The economic strength that Britain can put forward can never be greater than what Britain’s industry can produce and sell.
While they neglected Britain’s industry, they gloried in the role of world policeman and world bankers. They neglected every chance to reduce our sterling balance and the vulnerability of sterling as a reserve currency. They borrowed short in order to lend long because doctrinaire financial imperialism and the prestige of the City demanded they lend long.
In October 1964 we took over the role of world policeman with an intolerable rate of overseas military expenditure; just as we took over under-equipped fighting services stretched beyond endurance to meet Duncan Sandys’ ill-defined commitments. And equally in 1964 we took over the role of world banker, a 1914 role in a world where because of two wars we had lost the assets and the investments which half a century earlier had made the role practicable.
Britain was facing a double problem; first, the vulnerability deriving from a weak industrial base. And, secondly, combined with that, an excessively committed sterling position. Our predecessors shirked it - hoped it would go away by pretending it wasn’t there. We faced up to it. By 1966 we had reduced the balance of payments deficit from over £800 million to £89 million. But, even so, our vulnerability because of sterling’s reserve role and the vast accumulation of sterling balances drove us into a crisis.
That was what our inheritance meant; four years have shown the emerging pattern of what we have done to deal with it.
It is the mark of a Labour Government that we distinguish between the short-run measures, which may often have to be harsh, on monetary and fiscal management, and the more fundamental measures of industrial reconstruction which are the basic determinants of our economic strength.
I do not need to remind this Conference that in Swansea four and a half years ago I warned about the short-term measures which would have to be taken, to enable a Britain, not yet master of its own affairs, to meet the economic storms to which we were so vulnerable. The measures of July 1966 - the only response a Government could make to the strike of capital we were facing. The fiscal measures in Budget after Budget, high interest rates, credit squeeze. The economy measures I announced last January covering every aspect of Government expenditure from defence to the social services. An incomes policy which by the very nature of things requires statutory backing.
No responsible Government could have acted otherwise. No Conservative Government would have had the guts.
Your Government will take full note of everything that was said in yesterday’s debate. I am proud of the fact that we could have a debate like yesterday’s. That this mature Labour Movement could debate issues so deep and so fundamental without for one moment losing sight of the basic comradeship that has brought all of us here. I was not surprised at any of the views expressed. When the decisions were taken by the Government which were so strongly attacked yesterday my colleagues and I knew and sensed what every delegate who spoke yesterday was feeling.
None of us have changed. We were debating policies that are unpopular but which we believe to be necessary and right. If because of the views expressed yesterday we were now in midstream to abandon those policies, there is no-one here who would respect us for such a decision. To abandon now the policies that we believe to be right would be just as cowardly and in the long run as destructive of this Party as to have shirked bringing them in.
All these short-term measures, distasteful as they are, had to be taken while the basic measures of industrial reconstruction were taking effect. And we had warned that those industrial measures would take time. But whatever measures we have had to take even against these overwhelming difficulties, they have been tempered by compassion.
Everything we had to do was necessary while our industrial measures were being given time to work.
That is what I warned this movement about in July and what I have to warn you against today. We know, and every objective commentator on British industry knows, even the Tories know, that while we need many months more of resolute economic measures, increasingly our long-run industrial policies will deliver dividends in exports and economic performance which, provided only we hold firm, will produce their own political dividend. What I was warning the movement about in July, and I do it again today, is any weakness or lack of resolve which will enable the Tories to garner, to reap, the fruits of the industrial reconstruction we are putting through with such pain and at such cost.
In presenting last year’s Parliamentary Report, I summarised the progress of the Government in restructuring and modernising British industry.
We began our frontal attack on the problems of British industry on the day we took office. The results are now beginning to come through. And they will come through in increasing measure next year and into the Seventies.
It has taken time. The industrial controversies of 1964, 1965, even last year, have receded into the past. And, as the Tory speeches gather dust, their authors would like to forget they ever made them.
There were those early gibes about the establishment of the Ministry of Technology, which was even then saving and then building up a distinctive, indigenous British computer industry, and planning the reconstruction of machine tools, ship building, microelectronics, and the heavy electrical industry, among others.
All the work of those days is bearing fruit today in export order after export order, headlined almost daily in the financial and industrial press. Before the last election, throughout the election and after the election, our opponents fought to prevent the establishment of the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation. Now they praise it. They scoffed at the enquiries we set up into industry after industry - enquiries which I promised you at Brighton two years ago would be followed by action. The whole structure of the shipbuilding industry has been revolutionised on a high productivity, low cost basis, no longer losing orders but gaining them from the rest of the world.
The motor industry has been reorganised with Government help and today faces the prospect of a greater security based on a spectacularly stronger export position. We are now in process of creating an electrical industry complex which will enable us to meet on equal terms the giants of Europe and even of America. The aircraft industry - it seems a long time since the aircraft employers paid their workers a day’s wages and chartered trains to come and demonstrate in what some commentators were pleased to liken to the hunger marches of the past. Last week’s headlines splashed the words of their own trade association - £800 million of export orders this year. The Rolls Royce American aero-engine order; the largest export order in Britain's history, and designed to be a forerunner of still larger contracts.
In the atomic energy industry, the fundamental reorganisation announced by Tony Wedgwood Benn a few weeks ago. A reorganisation designed to ensure that Britain’s research lead in the civil uses of atomic energy can be matched by a corresponding success in sales of multi-million-pound nuclear reactors abroad. Here again we are creating what five years ago at Scarborough we planned to create. Great new science-based industries with public enterprise not only providing the science base but participating through a major shareholding in the industry which is being created to exploit the results of that research.
The three great new import-saving aluminium smelters foreshadowed in my speech last year, now given the green light in three development areas - English, Scottish and Welsh. Computers - the industry the Tories were allowing to die, now under I.R.C. sponsorship a great £100-million complex. The most powerful computer complex outside America, now poised for an aggressive export sales campaign in the markets of the world in contrast to countries not very far away which tamely allowed their industries to submit to the American invasion.
These examples I have given are part, but only part, of the far wider emerging pattern in Britain’s science-based industrial revolution. And all of this could have been started not in 1964 but ten years earlier if we had not then had a Government whose industrial posture was unconcern and abdication. Men who were prepared to wash their hands and see British industry decline in relation to that of almost every other advanced industrial country. Men who left vital industrial decisions to the haggling of the market place and the clamour of take-over bidders whose motive was not, as I.R.C. are insisting in the mergers of today, greater industrial efficiency but the exploitation of some under-valued piece of property or tax manoeuvre. Even today, four years after, they have not learned. Our conception of a powerful, streamlined modern industrial base. Their leadership - look at last week’s speeches - seem incapable of raising their eyes above the level of a tooth and claw price war in a street-corner shop.
I know that industrial reconstruction on such a scale causes grave anxieties amongst many here as we see new industrial giants developing in private industry. Yes, many of them as a result of deliberate Government purpose. Where industrial reconstruction leading to larger integrated units creates greater industrial efficiency based not only on size but on an associated management revolution, the Government believe that this process should be not only tolerated but actively encouraged. I emphasise the motive of efficiency and export power, in contrast to those takeovers whose motive is purely financial and bears no relation to efficiency. And particularly in contrast to those where, after a perhaps unwholesome series of financial manoeuvres, the industry concerned is left saddled with an insupportable burden of financial commitments.
This is why; following the totally inadequate consultation which attended the GEC/AEI merger, I insisted in the House of Commons on a code of conduct providing for full consultation. Barbara’s department took charge of this and published the new agreed code this summer - effective in the case of GEC/English Electric.
So far, I have dealt with reorganisation in what are predominantly growth industries. Reorganisation means change and change is painful We are a Party of change and because of this we have always put in the forefront the measures needed to ease the effects of change on those most likely to be hurt. The Government took early action through redundancy payments, wage-related benefits, a rapid extension of industrial training facilities and in other ways, so that as industrial reorganisation gathered speed, those least able to defend themselves could be protected.
Most of the industries to which I have referred, most of those where industrial restructuring is taking place, are growth industries. That restructuring, whatever the short-term painful effects, is the best means, through increasing our competitive power, of providing real security for workers in the future. Restructuring is the condition of growth, and growth is the condition of job security, not for these industries alone but for Britain. I remind this Conference of what Barbara said, dealing with these matters in her speech on Sunday at the Eve of Conference demonstration, when she said that the question was not how many would lose their jobs if mergers took place, but how many more would lose any hope of a job if we were not pressing on with the restructuring of industry.
It is the industries where change is associated with contraction which create the biggest human and social problems. The railways, the coal and cotton industries and, in certain sectors, steel, are industries where rapid technological change means redundancies; where, in very many cases, there is little prospect or re-employment within the industry.
The Government realise what this means both for individuals and for whole communities, many of them in remote areas. That is why in the case of coal we have provided machinery for thorough consultation at national, regional and local level. That is why the Coal Industry Act of last year makes provision on an unprecedented scale at a cost of £133 million to soften the impact of economic change. For example, for redundant men over 55, for whom other work is not available, it provides three years’ guaranteed income equal to 90 per cent of their previous take-home pay.
That is why we have insisted on expanding the facilities for training both in our rapidly extended Government Training Centre programme and in Government assisted training within industry. Government training centres alone - there are today three times as many in operation as there were five years ago when the Tories had been 12 years in office. But we still need more places, particularly for retraining those who have lost their jobs through industrial change. Last year emphasised that all we are doing in industrial training will be wasted if we cannot end the local trade union obstruction to the employment of men who have been trained in new skills.
That is why, too, we have over the past year produced still more powerful incentives to aid regional development with new, unprecedented help for the new Special Development Areas - areas where, because of the closure of a colliery, because of remoteness from other industrial centres, an intolerable rate of unemployment results.
In my speech a year ago, I referred to regional development as Britain’s new frontier. It is not for me today to set out in detail all the further actions we have taken. Let me give you one fact. Special - discriminatory - assistance to the development areas this year, including the additional investment grant differential is running at £250 million compared with about £150 million last year, and a mere £18 million in the last year of the Tories.
A streamlined, powerful, efficient, industrial base in Britain - that is what the British people are building with the aid of the policies I have just described. But this industrial reconstruction, while it is an essential condition for putting Britain right, cannot succeed unless our people are prepared to accept Britain’s new role in the world for the later 1960s and the 1970s. This is not easy. It has not been easy for any of us to readjust to the new situation. Two years ago I told this Party that never again would Britain engage in any war, other than self-defence, except on a basis of collective security. Our whole defence policy has been based on the rejection of unilateral, go-it-alone, do-it-yourself, military adventures, the rejection equally of Suez imperialism, and the delusion of the so-called independent deterrent.
Reshaping of our defence commitments began as soon as we took office; it has been a continuing process, culminating in this year’s defence accounts. As part of the comprehensive statement on Government expenditure which I announced in January, I made clear that following the evacuation of Aden, our defence planning would be based on a withdrawal of all our forces from our principal Far Eastern bases and from the Persian Gulf, to take effect by the end of 1971. I said further that we recognise ‘that our security lies fundamentally in Europe and must be based on the North Atlantic Alliance.’
I do not intend to anticipate today the debates they will be holding next week on our firm announcement to withdraw from the Far East and the Gulf. On the one hand, the official leadership is committed by speeches from Canberra to Cornwall to the proposition that we have to spend hundreds of millions maintaining a phantom military presence in the Middle East and Far East. While even the right wing Guru from Wolverhampton recognises that you cannot promise the country sweeping cuts in Government expenditure while pouring hundreds of millions into maintaining in the Far East a military establishment which is increasingly irrelevant to Britain’s emerging role in the modern world.
Defence, then. And if even with the strengthening of the industrial base which we are achieving, we can no longer afford the role of world policeman, equally we can no longer afford the role of world banker.
I have told you how the prestige policy of borrowing short and lending long has made Britain vulnerable to the shocks of world capital movements, even when our trade and industrial base was improving. Last year a crisis in the Middle East led to financial turbulence and panic withdrawals of sterling balances. The rapid improvement in our balance of payments was halted and this was a major factor in driving us to devaluation. In 13 years they were increasing not only Britain’s military overstretch, but also our monetary overstretch. We have sought consistently for a revolutionary change in world finance. This is now beginning to show results. If there can be no defence policy for Britain except on a collective basis, still more is this true of Britain’s overseas currency position. We are all members one of another. The lessons for all of us in the sterling area, and, more widely for the world financial community, have been underlined by the Basle Agreement.
Monetary chauvinism is as out of date for Britain as military chauvinism. Following Basle, we now have a collective international role for sterling. And we must go on from there. Our economic role in the world depends much more directly on the efforts we ourselves make to put our house in order.
Your Government accepts this challenge. And again I repeat, we shall hold firmly on the course that the Government has set. We shall expect the full support of this movement in carrying this through.
And we have the right to ask for this. Because, while our industrial reorganisation and our financial reorganisation have had of necessity to be a slow and painful process, there is one part of our policy, and a part very close to the hearts of the members of this movement, on which we have gone ahead of the schedule we put to the British people in 1964.
The economic strength we are earning the hard way is being built up not for the purpose of statistical satisfaction, not even for economic independence; it is the necessary condition of still further social advance here; and of our aid to hungry nations overseas. That is what socialism means. Speeches and resolutions will not earn that advance. Only work - and the painful processes of change.
Last year I gave Conference the figures for each of the social services, showing the tremendous increase in the resources the Government had by that time made available compared with the last full year of our Conservative predecessors.
In the year since then, expansion has continued in every area of the social services. In that year - I take the latest figures - we have completed an all time record of almost 420,000 houses. In that year we have completed an all time record figure of 821 primary and secondary schools and over 375,000 school places. Remember the Tory 1964 election posters ‘-Sh! Don’t tell the Labour Party the Conservatives are chalking up 10 new schools a week.’ Now over this past year we have been building not 10 schools a week, but practically 16. Sh! The Conservatives don’t want to know.
Again in that year we have invested another all time record figure of £109.7 million in hospital building, providing for a record number of modern hospital beds. In that year we have completed a record number of health centres. Three times last year’s completions.
In human terms again this autumn we shall have some 203,000 students starting a new term at university; 111,000 starting a new term at colleges of education and 205,000 students starting a new term to study advanced courses at colleges of further education. We are, in 1968, ahead of the Robbins’ target for the number of full-time students in higher education for 1971. (Flashback to Scarborough 1963)
Again, the best available figures show that in our hospitals we had 130,000 whole-time nursing and midwifery staff, 23 per cent more than four years ago. This means, just as much as our all time record hospital building programme, better treatment, better comfort for the sick.
In cash terms, the retirement pension, widow’s pension, flat rate unemployment and sickness benefits, have all been raised to a new record level of £4 10s. per week for a single person and £7 6s. for a married couple. Supplementary benefits, raised in October last year, go up again next week. The extended provision for rate rebates, for families in greatest need, comes into force today. To relieve what has now become the greatest problem of poverty in the country, the problem of large families, family allowances next week will stand at 18 to 20 shillings per week, against 8 to 10 shillings a year ago.
I know family allowances are unpopular with very many of our people. I know that payment of family allowances is subject to widespread criticism and even more widespread misrepresentation. But if you accept that the duty of the community is to eliminate poverty, then we cannot turn aside from this great problem of poverty in our families.
This is why we have acted. Explain it. Stop apologising. Stop defending. We have a duty to the least privileged in our community. We have to do what is right simply because it is right.
In January, the Government’s action to curb rising rates of expenditure from defence to the social services has, I know, caused great concern to every delegate here. Deeply repugnant decisions had to be taken, desirable and urgent reforms postponed. But to say that, and feel it, does not mean, in the words I hear so often, that we have cut the social services. We have not. What we have done is to restrain the rate of future increase. But this year’s expenditure on the health and welfare service is planned at £38 million more than last year, over 50 per cent above the last year of the Tories. Next year it is planned to rise by a further £63 million; and it is planned to go on rising. This year’s expenditure on education is running at a rate of £77 million more than last year, and next year it is planned to rise by a further £93 million, with further rises in later years. Expenditure on social security is £176 million above last year and next year it is planned to rise further.
Last year I compared our total expenditure on the social services with our total expenditure on defence. After the January decisions, the social services will be rising and defence expenditure will be falling still more sharply than we planned a year ago. Today, for every hundred pounds we are spending on defence, we are spending £364 on the social services. Next year for every hundred pounds we are spending on defence we shall be spending £376 on the social services: This proportion will grow year by year.
You have made clear, at every level in the Party, your feelings about one or another of the January measures. That is the right of every member of this Party. That is why we are a great movement. Having done that, now it is equally our duty to go out and proclaim our achievements. (Yours, too, if I may say so)
For they are great achievements and they are your achievements. These figures of financial provision, of bricks and mortar, and hospital beds and school places are the munitions of the social revolution. Year by year they represent an emerging pattern of an approach to social problems and social need which is based on priorities, inevitably changing priorities.
We inherited a great problem of poverty we were pledged to eradicate. We began where that poverty was then most severe, but now the priorities are changing as we are finding resources to deal with the problem I have spoken of, the problem of large families. As we move from one area of the social services to another, from flat rate to earnings-related benefits, this is to be crowned by the plan which will soon be put before the country, the completion of our comprehensive review of social security, our great plan for National Superannuation, yes, the end of the Tory swindle.
Changing priorities in education. The urgent provisions we had to make for primary schools and for better teacher training facilities. Education is opportunity and, year by year, we are tackling on a priority basis those problems, from slum schools to shortage of teachers which deny opportunity. But, more clearly than ever, is emerging the great guarantee of educational opportunity - the widespread adoption of comprehensive education.
Changing priorities in housing over four years. Freedom from eviction, fair rents. More houses built to let. The attack on the slums. Option mortgages and 100 per cent mortgages for lower income families wanting to own their own homes. And as we come to terms more and more with the inherited problem of the slums, growing provision for a new priority - the improvement of older but structurally sound houses.
Our socialism is not measured in material progress only. When, before 1964, we charted the path that Britain would follow under a Labour Government, we spoke of a new concept of freedom, the broader freedom without which social democracy
would be meaningless. Freedom from contempt, the enhancing of the dignity of man.
This is the only answer to the violent society. We in the Labour movement oppose the importation of violence; equally we oppose the importation of authoritarianism to meet that violence. Some public figures provoke the one, and then invoke the other to deal with it.
This problem of violence has become a world problem. It is associated in many countries with a swing to the right. Only the forces of reaction, it is urged, have the will and the ruthlessness to stamp out the cult of violence which their words and policies have incited.
The words of the Swedish Prime Minister at our demonstration on Sunday are the answer. An answer not in words only, but backed by one of the greatest election victories in his country’s history.
We shall meet the appeal to reaction here in Britain as Swedish Social Democracy has met it, not by complacent assertions that it can’t happen here, but by asserting our faith that social grievances require social solutions - by positive social action by the State. By what, the Swedes in their election called the Strong Society.
We reject equally the apostles of authoritarian violence on the one hand and negative violence on the other. Both are essentially and profoundly anti-democratic. Both seek to destroy. The Conservatives at home and abroad seek to destroy the defences we have built for the weak against those who abuse economic and social power. The nihilists in their despair seek to destroy the very fabric of organised society.
We assert that the challenge of violence can be met only by a strong community responsibility to protect the individual against the insolence of economic and social power.
We are the Party of human rights. The only Party of human rights that will be speaking from this platform this month. Human rights: this has been the central theme of this Government’s actions from the day we took office. In my first speech as Prime Minister I got embroiled with the Tories over Smethwick. In our first international statement, we issued, in the strongest terms, a warning against racial extremists in Rhodesia - a warning of what we should have to do when faced with an outbreak of racial extremism in Rhodesia - a warning on which we had to act - followed by the assertion of the six principles on which we stood and on which we stand.
For the struggle against racialism is a world-wide fight. It is the dignity of man for which we are fighting. If what we assert is true for Birmingham, it is true for Bulawayo.
Last May Day, I said that this moral law was equally binding whether we were talking of Birmingham, England, or Birmingham, Alabama. But this is not a moral law that is binding in respect of race alone. It is binding for all issues involving freedom and democratic institutions.
If ever there were a condemnation of the values of the Party which forms Her Majesty’s Opposition, it is the fact that the virus of Powellism has taken so firm a hold, at every level; that last April those who sought to disembarrass themselves of the man felt constrained to claim that they were not dissociating themselves from his doctrine but only from his phraseology. That it was all a matter of words. That was April. In September even the words didn’t matter any more.
Four years, then, have seen an emerging pattern. Britain’s response in terms going far beyond money and materials, to the challenge of a world which is rapidly changing, to the challenge presented by the fact that Britain’s role in that world has changed. It is a response marked by the qualities which history will ascribe to this Government - resolution and determination in economic recovery and reconstruction, even if this has meant standing firm against deeply cherished attitudes of the past. In economic affairs and more widely the quality of resilience and a willingness to accept change, indeed whatever the short-term costs, to harness change to our purposes. Above all the quality of compassion and concern, the concern for the material wants of those here and amongst us and throughout the Commonwealth and yet wider; and, transcending material wants, concern for the right and dignity of men as individuals.
These emerging themes were based on predetermined principles. And within those principles a strategy which has meant responding to changes in the nature of the problems we have had to face. We have never been afraid to learn from our own experience, even though the lessons have, sometimes, been bitter. The Conservatives have shown, and predictably will show here again at Blackpool next week, that they have learnt nothing even from their own experience; that this rapidly changing world - a world of excitement and opportunity as well as challenge - is a world they shrink to enter. Not only are they unable to appreciate the basic character of the problems that have to be solved, they have not even grasped yet what the problems are. We shall hear nothing from Blackpool next week except an attempt to solve the problems of yesterday by the methods of the day before yesterday.
We here can see the emerging themes of our comprehensive attack on the problems which we have inherited. Behind the themes, the strategy for the future. There is no party political strategy. There is only the strategy for Britain.
And the strategy for Britain means continuing to pursue the economic policies that are necessary, regardless of popularity, whatever the pressures, until we are paying our way and have achieved independence. At the end of the road, Britain will reap all the dividends from the industrial change which at such pain, at such cost, we are forcing through. This industrial change is the economic miracle of which independent commentators were beginning to write and speak in the spring, the commentators whom I quoted at Newtown.
I warned then at Newtown that if we were to let up now, if we allowed anything our opponents did to cause us to lose our nerve, it is they, and not we, who would reap the fruits of all we have done. I said then, I repeat today, that is not going to happen. I quoted the words of Nye Bevan - words spoken from the Opposition front bench - when he said that the Tories were reaping the fruits of the trees we had planted. It has been a backbreaking job planting those trees. I intend to see they are not going to gather that fruit a second time.
And this means we continue in the policies the Government have laid down. For today, as for four years, we have to face the conflict between what is right in the long-term and what is necessary in the short-term.
The short-term measures we have taken, first in defence of the pound, and now to make devaluation work; the long-term measures towards the restructuring of industry and the initiation of an incomes/prices policy; these measures have been devoted in the first instance to working with the system we have inherited. What we have yet to see are the results of the changes in the system which we have set in train, particularly those directed to broadening and modernising the industrial base on which our whole economic future depends.
For three of these four years we were engaged in the battle to defend the pound. It was right to fight that battle, and for a great part of that fight our rapidly diminishing deficit suggested that it could be won. Had we won it, we could have restored what had not been bequeathed to us, independence and freedom of action, at less cost to the lower-paid workers and those who in the past have always paid the price of economic crisis.
Every devaluation in other countries has meant a heavy price for those least able to defend themselves. This is why we never regarded it as an easy way out when siren voices were pressing it upon us as a panacea for all our problems. It has not been an easy way out. The need for stricter control of expenditure, public and private, is greater than ever. The need for a sane, planned prices and incomes policy is greater than ever. Above all the paramount need for increased productivity is greater than ever.
Everything for which we have fought before devaluation we are fighting for now. Our policy is the same policy pursued with more drastic means. Devaluation was no easy way of dealing with our problems. It meant inevitable sacrifices and inequalities - sacrifices and inequalities we have fought by special measures to protect those relying on social security and to protect the larger families on lower incomes. To accept the logic of a free-for-all economy, a free-for-all in wages would mean that the lowest paid would suffer.
For we came to power to put the balance right. The balance between those who suffered and those who gained in the Tory free-for-all. The balance between private and public expenditure.
We have gone through a great deal together in defence of everything we stand for, against everything they are capable of throwing at us. But we have come through. And we are now on the attack again.
I have set out the task of this Party, as we go forward from defence to attack. It is the job of every member of this Party to join with their Government in defending the bastions we have won from those who would seek to drive us out for their own gain. It is for every member of this Party to join us in attacking the false and empty doctrines of those who, having failed the nation, now seek to exploit the problems of change in order to get back into power to control the destinies of a nation whose problems they do not understand.
How many of our members, bewildered by the barrage of misrepresentation, have even failed to defend us against the attacks of an unscrupulous Establishment? But it is not a defensive posture for which I ask. I charge you now to go over to the attack, yes, attack them on all the things we have had to do to strengthen the economy, attack them above all on the positive things we have done, which they have opposed, and which even now they are seeking to undermine - not least the programme of social advance of these last four years, but indeed the Welfare State itself.
For us clearly the emerging pattern shows us the way forward. It is still not an easy way nor shall we offer you an easy way. It is still not a time for complacency and over-confidence, but we are now setting out on the decisive year. A year in which what we all do can decide the future of this movement, the future of this country. Let us hammer out together the way forward for this crucial year.
Let others divide. We have something to fight for, something that is worth all the attacks, worth all the toil, worth all the work we still have to do. The future of Britain and the future of our children. A future for which we must go out and fight, a future which fighting we shall win.