Jump to content

Speech Archive

Leader's speech, Blackpool 1986

Neil Kinnock (Labour)

Location: Blackpool


In April 1986, America launched air strikes on ‘terrorist sites’ in Libya, and a nuclear reactor exploded at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the Ukraine. In this speech, Kinnock attacked the Conservatives’ cuts in public services, and pledged to enact policies to reduce unemployment, encourage foreign investment in Britain, and increase welfare spending. As regards international affairs, Afghanistan was occupied by the Soviet Union, and the war between Iran and Iraq continued to rage. In Chile, General Pinochet’s dictatorship was entering its fourteenth year, while in Nicaragua the US was funding the Contra (anti-communist) forces in their efforts to overthrow the democratically elected Sandinista government. Kinnock condemned the Reagan administration for this, as well as for its failure to promote a robust sanctions regime against South Africa in a bid to end apartheid. A further issue was nuclear disarmament, and Kinnock criticised the idea of the ‘Euro-bomb,’ on the ground that it would violate the commitment to non-proliferation.

Neville, comrades, I always get a little nervous, even though I am immensely gratified by a reception like that, because I am always afraid that those who commentate on the things will add together the minute before and the two minutes after and decided that I did not get as much as David Steel.

Neville, following the act that we have just had from Winnie and from Aubrey only adds an additional 150 per cent to this task. Winnie, a peacemonger, Aubrey, the first maker of jams I have met today that I actually like. (Laughter)

We are meeting, Comrades, in the autumn of this eighth year of Thatcherism - 90 months of Maggie, 90 months in which our society has become more divided than at any time since the second world war, 90 months in which our industry has been devastated as never before, in which our economy has been weakened as never before; and still, after all that, the Prime Minister says that she seeks an other term. Well, she is not going to have another term. (Applause) We and the British people together will definitely see to that. And not all of the creative genius of Mr Jeffrey Archer or the sweetness and sourness of Mrs. Edwina Currie can change that course of events. Not even the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Norman Tebbit, Mr. Punch set to control all the puppets, can change that course of history, for all his scare tactics, which are such proof of a scared party that he chairs.

We have had those years of Thatcherism and we are also, of course, in the sixth year of the coagulation of the Liberals and the Social Democratic Party. At last David Steel and David Owen are finding out that it takes more than fishing trips and Edinburgh Festival visits and French leave to make either a policy or a party. And if they did not know before, they cer­tainly know now, after a Liberal gathering last week which will long be remembered as the Assembly which put the lie in Alliance. (Laughter and applause)

It should not really have come as such a surprise that they voted as they did on defence, on civil nuclear power and on many other things. They did after all have the inspirational experience of being addressed by Dr. Owen at their very first session of the Assembly. To be fair to Dr. Owen, he is unique. He wanted to dominate the Labour Party. He failed in that. He is trying to dominate the Liberal Party. He is going to fail in that too. They do tell me that some Conservatives fancy an association with Dr. Owen. I think he ought to carry a political health warning to political par­ties. (Laughter) In any case, the Conservatives should be cautious. After Mrs. Thatcher, once bitten, twice shy.

As the Tories fade and as the Liberals and Social Democrats falter, this party - our party - is entering its fourth year of recovery and of advance. That recovery has been worked for by people right across the movement, in every part of the movement. In the local authorities where people have had to endure the most crushing pressures and have still fought their way through, in the trade union movement, which has been subject to incessant attacks from every quarter, from unemployment, from the courts, from the prejudice made statute that is so much part of the Tory codes against free trade unionism in this country.

It has been fought for and worked for too by rank and file members right through this party, who have worked as never before to get our mes­sage of jobs and justice to the British people with an effectiveness that we have never shown before.

We have been making that recovery through a unity of purpose with­out which all else would have been absolutely impossible. We have been making that recovery by listening to people, by heeding people, and not straggling behind the lowest pace of opinion, but never wandering away from the main trail either, so far as to lose sight of the main thread of pub­lic opinion.

We have made the recovery also, in this democratic socialist party, by ensuring that we sustain both our democracy and our socialism. We have not done it in an authoritarian manner. We have done it because we could not allow our democracy to be distorted, we could not allow our generos­ity to be abused in this democratic socialist party. (Applause) We have done it by natural justice to them and, yes, we have done justice to our­selves. In all of that, we have earned new strength by hard work, by effort.

But of course there is more to do. There always is more to do. First, there is no feeling of satisfaction, no threshold of support on which we will rest contented.

It is a fond presumption among a few pundits that we hide ourselves away and do fancy arithmetic to find out what neat arrangement of Tory and Liberal and Social Democratic support will give us the highest number of seats with the lowest number of votes. Well, I can tell them we don’t do that. We are not in that dangerous game; in fact we are not in a game at all. We are in the serious and sustained task of convincing more people, of putting our ideas and our policies and of persuading people to our view. That is the way in which we search for power, not by some roll of the dice, but on the basis of the effort that we are prepared to make to gain the mandate in this democracy. We will go on doing that and we will go on gaining and keeping support from everyone who is prepared to hear our message, everyone who is prepared to give us the democratic chance to show just what we can do.

We have seen of course what others do. We have seen their seven sav­age years; we have seen what they have done to our country. Given declining unemployment in 1979, they have increased it by over 2 mil­lion. Given restored manufacturing investment in 1979, they have cut investment and destroyed capacity so that manufacturing investment is still 20 per cent below the level that it was when they took over. Given a working body of manufacturing industry in 1979, they have lopped off whole limbs of manufacturing industry. Given a stable world trade posi­tion in 1979, they have lost 22 per cent of our share of world trade. Given the fantastic bonus of £50,000 million of oil revenues, they have blown it - wasted it - on the massive bills caused by the unemployment which their policies have generated.

That and much more - so much more - makes them a government unfit to govern. They are rulers who, in Percy Shelley’s words, ‘neither see nor feel nor know, but leechlike to their fainting country cling.’ Leechlike they have increased interest rates and the tax burdens leechlike they have allowed the drain-off of investment capital from this investment-hungry country.

Those rulers, who neither see nor feel nor know, have cut house-building, training, research and development, the Health Service, education. And these are not just attacks on institutions; these are direct attacks on individuals and their liberties, families and their needs. That is what those rules have been doing in their blindness, their stupidity, their malice, in the past seven years. (Applause) And all the time they have been doing that we have heard these strident homilies about Victorian values and about morality. Homilies on the virtues on self-reliance, when mil­lions would like nothing more than to have the rudimentary means to be self-reliant. Homilies on the virtues of thrift, when families in poverty are constantly humiliated as they try to clothe and feed themselves and their children. Homilies on the virtues of responsibility, when the right of those who care for old and sick and disabled loved ones are secured only by the interventions of the European Court, and even then what is given with one hand by the judgment of the court is taken away with the other by a government that denies resources to the carers of this country (Applause)

Mrs. Thatcher says that her policies start with the freedom and well being of the family. When there are 6 million people in this country now so impoverished that they cannot even afford essential items of clothing, when they are 2 million children living in families dependent on supplementary benefit, when one in four families in Britain is living in sub-standard housing, when thousands of homeless families are condemned to the appalling conditions of bed and breakfast accommodation, the Prime Minister lecturers the family, lecturers the country, on morality.

And she has a sort of clone now as Under-Secretary of State for Health Service, who recommended but last week that a high-fibre diet should replace the National Health Service. It reminded me of the Tory lady who in the depression was generous enough to give lectures to families of the unemployed on what nourishing soup they could make with fish-heads, until one woman in the front said, ‘That’s very nice, my lady, but could you tell us who has the rest of the fish?’ (Applause)

We get the lectures on morality when the Silentnight Company, when British Coal, when News International desert their basic obligations to those people who have given them faithful years of service. It is the people outside who are lectured on morality and never those who sit in the office inside. (Applause)

I suppose that the pious sermons and self-righteous homilies from Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Tebbit are easier than facing the real problems, answering the real questions, and there are plenty of those, plenty those real moral questions.

When it is so obvious that a drugs plague endangers young people in our country, why get rid of one in 9 customs officers, why sack 900 customs officers, whose job it is to restrain the importation of drugs? (Applause)

Another question: when it is so obvious that dark streets and labyrinthine housing estates and insecure doors and windows give such freedom to criminals and such terror to people, especially old people, why not invest in repairs and in strengthening and lighting those streets, so that people can enjoy real security and the criminals can be defeated? (Applause)

When violence is such a terrible menace, especially violence against women, why can’t the laws against beating the abuse that already exist be fully and rigorously enacted and enforced in this country? Why can’t that be the case, so that we can free victims from the perpetual fear of the returning brutal husband, so that the guilty can be punished or treated for whatever sickness it is makes a man hit a woman? We will see that those laws are enforced. We will make the investments in security. We will see that the customs officers are there as part of the partnership against the drug menace.

There are other areas too where there are moral questions. When it is clear that thousands of lives could be saved and terrible anxiety and pain relieved by an effective system of cervical cancer screening, by an increase in the treatment of kidney ailments, by the maintenance of med­ical research, why close down the cervical and breast cancer screening facilities? Why make cuts which prevent dialysis and treatment?

Why impose reductions that terminate research programmes and send some of our best young scientists abroad to work in other countries, away from our land, when it is obvious that death rates, mental and physical sickness rates, suicide and family breakdown rates are all much higher amongst the unemployed than they are amongst the employed? Why not fight unemployment as we will instead of simply saying that it is disap­pointing or one of the two great mysteries of our time, as Mrs. Thatcher does?

These people, these Tories, dress up the get-rich-quick society as the opportunity society. They continually represent arrogance and aggression as the only truth of strength. They have dedicated every policy to making the very rich richer and the poor poorer. They flaunt the commercial paradise before the young people of this country, but with unemploy­ment and insecurity at a mass level among the young of this country they inflict a purgatory on the young who have been promised so much. (Applause) With their 40p pensions rise and their cuts in concessionary fares, community care and housing and benefits they daily - these moralists - preach the commandant that teaches us ‘Honour thy father and thy mother.’ That is the morality of this government.

I look at all that and I ask myself, ‘Just where do they get their idea of morality?’, and the British people ask the same question. There is a great grouping in our society which opposes the malice and the meanness of Toryism. There is a huge number which abominates the dual standards and the double-talk sermons. There is in this country - there always has been; there always will be - a moral majority. It is not a narrow, bigoted, self-righteous grouping; it is a broadminded and compassionate group­ing of people. That majority is not sentimental, for it knows that senti­ment is very cheap. That majority is realistic too, for it knows that if its morality is to have tactical effect it must be backed by the material provi­sion provided in justice.

We as democratic socialists make our appeal to that moral majority. It does not expect politicians to deliver heaven on earth. It does expect politicians to work to stop hell on earth. That is what the moral majority demands in this country. (Applause)

Party of that majority would consider themselves well blessed if they had just a roof over their head, if they had a job to go to, if they knew that the colour of their skin inflicted no extra disadvantage on them. They would feel well blessed if they did not have to fear electricity or gas bills with all the tortuous anxiety of poverty. If they could afford a pair of shoes for the children without being fearful of an economic crisis in the family, they would consider themselves to be well blessed.

Of course, there are millions who do not live in that condition of pen­ury and many of those - I meet them - are not themselves impoverished or insecure. But they still say to me, ‘We are not badly off, but we can’t get our Mam into hospital’; ‘We are not badly off, but with two younger children at home we just haven’t got the room to accept the daughter and the son-in-law. They can’t come and live with us’; ‘We are not badly off, I am working, my husband is working, but our 20-year-old has never had a job and our 16-year-old is leaving school this year and doesn’t know where to start looking for a job’ - people in security them­selves but surrounded by all the evidence and all the pressures of insec­urity which comes over their own doorsteps.

There are millions too who are not even affected at that range by the problems, but who consider that we need a government which will try to use policies which begin to attend to those material needs and fulfil those moral obligations. They want a government which does not preach the pious sermons of Maggie’s morality but practises the policies of provi­sion. They want a government which will back up its morality by policies, by determined effort to operate policies of investment, of production, of growth, of employment.

We, indeed only we, will provide that government for Britain, and in doing that we will be guided by four basic facts of our condition.

First, there is no prospect of a sustainable reduction in unemployment
in this country unless we can attain stable, long-term economic growth.

Secondly, there is no possibility of long-term growth and resilient prosperity for the British economy without a major development of British manufacturing industry.

Thirdly, the length of our relative economic decline and the way in which it has deteriorated and has been accelerated and intensified in the last seven years presents our country with a new set of strategic problems to which there must be a new set of strategic answers.

Fourthly none of the major social, commercial, industrial or employ­ment problems that we face is self-correcting. The market will not look after those problems; it can only worsen those problems. (Applause) If they are to be overcome, systematic planned action must be taken by gov­ernment, and it must be taken in concert with all the participants in the economy, to construct the framework of the educational, economic, tech­nical and social condition within which this economy can thrive again.

We have to operate on a new agenda and we need new instruments, new policies, for that strategic change. We have to combat slump now and simultaneously foster the structure of change necessary to stop and to reverse the long-term deficiencies and decline which pre-date even Mrs. Thatcher's rule.

On that new agenda is our new two-year programme to combat unemployment and bring unemployment down by 1 million, by generat­ing jobs that need to be done for people who need to do them in a country which needs them to be done - jobs in construction, jobs in cleansing our environment, jobs in training people, caring for people.

And on that new agenda too there is our five-years, medium-term employment strategy, which has the objective of laying the foundation of steadily expanding investment and employment. And then, at the same time, the implementation of a 10-year planning horizon which is essential to provide the continuity of development, which takes proper account of the change in the pace and the scale of technology, of trade, of employ­ment, so that we are not caught, without warning or overwhelmed with our change in the way successive generations have been.

For all those reasons it is essential that investment finance is returned to this country and retained in this country. (Applause) That is why we shall introduce our capital repatriation scheme. If we were to leave it just at that, it is possible that the money would be in Britain but would not be used for the maximum benefit of our country in any coherent fashion at all.

Other countries, indeed our most successful competitor countries, have institutions which provide the necessary coherence in allocating funds for investment and growth, and we need such an institution too. That is why we are establishing the British Investment Bank, to give investors the dual advantage of investing in Britain and getting a rate of return that compares with what they could get elsewhere. Some of those funds will be taken up by companies large and small which have in exis­tence worthwhile and specific investment ideas.

In other cases we need finance to restructure and to modernise, to create and to nurture new industries. It is for that reason that we will be establishing British Enterprise as a holding company engaged in putting social ownership into practice through taking shares or complete prop­rietorship of enterprises which are critical to growth and investment in our country. That system of social ownership embraces activity from small co-operatives to municipal enterprises and right through to the major utility corporations like British Telecom which, in the strategic interests of this country, must come back into full social ownership.

The purpose of a practical programme is to produce our way to sustain­able recovery, to sponsor new technologies, to strengthen consistent research and development, to promote our export trade and to provide employment. Comrades, I have said it before, I will say it again and again and again: we must literally make our way to recovery, produce our way to recovery, sell our way to recovery in the world. For there is no other way we can fully earn the living that we want for ourselves and for our children. That has got to be understood, and there are some other factors that have got to be understood too.

If we invest in production and provision, and we will, and if we restore and extend social and personal services, and we will, and if pay better pensions and help the poor and the disabled, and we are going to, then what we have got to make sure of is that the extra demand that we sponsor does not all go on the purchase of foreign finished goods. (Applause) For if it were the case, that it was actually making jobs not in Britain but in Japan and in Germany, then the effort will have been kindly but it won’t have been very constructive. It would be stimulating, but the result would not be very substantial.

Secondly, and equally crucial, if those different policies of growth under a different government of growth were to bring rises in capital costs or in labour costs beyond what could be absorbed by efficiency, beyond what could be tolerated by purchasers, then the chance of significant development and increasing employment would be wiped away.

There is in this country now a great reservoir of injustice and impati­ence, which has been built up and is still building in these years of Thatcherism. I know that. You know that. We can empty those reser­voirs of injustice by deliberate and persistent policies and by sticking to our strategy, but if we tried to do it in any other way than by persistence, by being systematic and by sticking to our strategy, if we simply tried to open the floodgates, then the prospect of renewal and recovery would be washed out.

That is why we are not going to do that. We cannot. We will not. And our decisions about those things will not be governed by obedience to convention or to some fancy idea of political virility. Those decisions are governed by reality, guided constantly by the determination to generate jobs, to rebuild industry, to re-establish justice in our country. And those decisions, those policies, will operate best and most fruitfully in partner­ship with trade unionists and with managers who understand that if we were to try to do everything at once we would end by doing nothing at all. That is why our priority for jobs, for growth and for fighting poverty must be strict and straight, and it must be sustained. That is how it will be. Whilst the speed may vary, because it would be ridiculous to assume that somehow we inoculated ourselves against the realities of the move­ment and the marketing which we must sell to the world, the director of those policies, of those decisions, will unerringly and unreservedly be towards economic recovery and structural change all the time.

That is the reason for establishing our new instruments of the British Investment Bank and British Enterprise. That is the reason for our approach to social ownership. We need to ensure that the right money is in the right places, available to people who want to make, to invest and to employ.

Like any family or any business or any country we are going to have to raise money in order to invest in the means of making wealth. Some of the money will come as we cut unemployment, some of the money will come through the repatriation scheme and some of it we shall borrow, and what we have to borrow is about an extra two per cent of the total income of this country.

Despite the fact that she is the greatest borrower in British history, Mrs Thatcher is constantly saying that she won’t do that, she won’t borrow. She won’t increase borrowing by that extra two per cent of national income in order to fund development. She says she won’t do that because she is not prepared to leave the burden of debt to our children. That is very touching. Or at least it would be touching if it wasn’t so cruelly obvious that Mrs Thatcher is prepared to leave our children with a legacy of decay and decline right through our society. (Applause)

Somehow she doesn’t care that the result of not spending is increasing unemployment now and a guarantee of future unemployment, future under-employment, future under-investment, yes, future under­development in our country. It is one thing to say to your children, since she is so concerned about the children, ‘I leave you with the house and the remainder of the mortgage to pay after my days.’ That is the prudent way, that is the careful way. It is another thing altogether to say to your children, ‘Because I wouldn’t pay the mortgage, I will leave you nowhere to live after my days.’ That is the Thatcher option. That is the impru­dent, careless way.

We Socialists, conscious of the fact that we cannot and do not serve just one generation, conscious that each generation depends upon another, that one generation inherits in the very course of its preparation for the next generation, that there is this continual thread of dependence be­tween the generations of human beings, we Socialists always try to leave this place a little better than when we found it, and that attitude is not confined just to our own country.

It is a definition of our view of the world. It is a perception which is more necessary now than it has ever been, for in our one world the dan­gers know no boundaries. Famine spreads like a contagion. The poisons of pollution spread with the winds and the tides and become more noxious, more dangerous all the time. Terrorism and warfare impose the rule of fear upon millions of people across this globe. People of so many coun­tries face the crises of insecurity, inequality, injustice and exploitation. Throughout our world aggression and oppression and starvation kill peace, and they kill people and they kill hope and they kill freedom.

Afghanistan is still occupied by an invading empire, Iran and Iraq are still engaged in a merciless war of fanaticism. In Chile, Pinochet tramples into his 14th year of dictatorship and the people of Nicaragua are strug­gling to keep their infant democracy alive against the attacks of terrorists armed and funded by the government of the United States of America. (Applause)

Those people of Nicaragua must look at pictures of the 4th of July celebrations and wonder what it can be that makes the United States of America, the great democracy, itself born in revolution, finance evil people to murder the innocent of Nicaragua. What makes them do that? They must ask themselves, as we ask, ‘How can a President who is so rightly the enemy of terrorism, as any sane person is, sponsor the ter­rorism of the Contras in Central America?’

In friendship and in frankness we say to the United States, ‘It is wrong to arm the Contra forces. It is wrong to try and squeeze the life out of that poor country of Nicaragua. It is wrong even in your own terms in the USA.’ For it is clear that if Nicaragua ever went into any form of partnership with the Soviet Union, it will have been pushed there by poverty and not pulled there by desire. (Applause) If Nicaragua did become a Russian outpost, the reason would lie in the White House and not in the Kremlin. That is why we say in friendship and in frankness to our fellow democ­racy in the USA, ‘Treating near-by nations as neighbours is one thing; treating those countries as if they were bits of your backyard is another thing altogether.’

Long ago in the United States of America and elsewhere the human race decided that it was wrong for one person to try to own another per­son. Long ago in a revolutionary war in 1776 they decided in America and elsewhere that it was wrong for one country to try to own another country, and what was right in America and between America and Britain in 1776 and what was right about our view of Russia and the Eastern Euro­pean countries in 1946 is surely right about the USA and Nicaragua in 1986. (Applause)

Just as it is wrong for one country to seek to impose its ownership on another, so it is wrong for one race to impose its domination on another. That is why apartheid is so wrong. That is why apartheid must be ended. Apartheid truly is a crime against humanity. And while it remains, none of the people of South and Southern Africa will be truly free, no one in the white minority will know real security, no one in the black majority will know anything resembling real liberty, no one in the neighbouring countries will be able to live in real security. That is why we want to hasten the day of change to a democratic South Africa, and the lever which we have long ago chosen for that purpose is strict and strong sanctions against South Africa - (Applause) - They are the only practical means of trying to promote an end to apartheid that is not soaked in the blood of millions.

Such sanctions are of course resisted by some. Mrs. Thatcher, Herr Kohl, President Reagan refuse to promote a regime of robust sanctions. The excuse that they offer for refusing to impose the implacable pressures that are necessary against apartheid is that such pressure, such sanctions would be immoral because they would inflict upon the poor further wounds of suffering and destitution.

I hear the President, I hear the Prime Minister, I hear the Chancellor and I hear different voices too. I hear louder voices. I hear voices of great­er authenticity and greater authority upon the business of the future of the people of South Africa. It is the voice that comes straight from that bitter and bleeding land of South Africa and it does not come from the high-faluting politicians or people in hotels or air-conditioned suites. That voice I hear from South Africa comes from the townships and it comes from the homelands and it comes from the Churches and it comes from the trade unions. (Applause) It comes from Nelson Mandela in prison, it comes from Archbishop Tutu in his palace. (Continuing applause) It is the voice that says, in the words of Chief Albert Uthuli ‘Shorten the day of bloodshed, impose those sanctions, aid us in our efforts to end apartheid and oppression.’

This is the Labour Party. We will form the Labour Government. We will answer that call for sanctions from the people of South Africa. Well will impose those strict and stringent and comprehensive sanctions. And with the people of South Africa we shall overcome. We shall overcome apartheid with those people and we shall overcome the instability and the terror of Southern Africa as we go about that. We shall take common action in common cause for common good. That is necessary in so many areas, and that fact is now more obvious to more people than ever before.

In this year of 1986, a prophet of that fact, who gave us much more than his prophecies, was killed in his own capital city, out for an evening with his wife. This year we lost my dear comrade and a friend of the world, Olav Palme, a man who gave his intellect to the best possible employment, which is providing practical solutions to the practical problems of humanity. Olav was killed, and the memorial that we have to erect to him as to demonstrate that his instruction about the community of interest across the boundaries of the world has not been lost on this generation and that we work for his objectives in his memory. It is necessary more than ever before.

Within two weeks of April of this year two events, thousands of milles apart, originating from entirely different sources, came together to for an equation in the minds of millions of people in this country and throughout the rest of the world. The bombing of Tripoli and the explosion at Chernobyl demonstrated in the starkest possible way the fragility of our world, the interdependence of its countries and peoples; the need to understand new realities and to provide new responses for our survival depends upon it ultimately. Those responses include the question of defence of our country and our system of values.

I hold it to be self-evident that it is the first duty of any government to ensure the security of the country over which it governs, especially if the government is elected by democracy. That duty does not change in an age, and we will discharge that duty fully, for this is our country and we defend our country, as we always have. (Applause)

Meeting obligation requires that we defend ourselves effectively by land, sea and air and that we participate properly in the Alliance of which we were full and firm members.

We will fulfil that obligation, and that is amongst the most prominent of reasons for implementing a non-nuclear defence strategy. (Applause) For it is now plainly the case that, by pursuing a nuclear-dependent defence policy, the present government is diminishing the conventional defence of our country.

The Ministry of Defence documents - the so-called towpath papers, which were published three weeks ago - give the consequences of the Trident programme as being just for the Navy - not for any of the other services, just for the Navy: major reductions in our conventionally armed submarine fleet, a 20 per cent stretch in the lifetime of our service fleet and a new wave of privatisation in the defence sector like the indefensible and dangerous sell-off of the royal dockyard in Devonport, with all the job losses that that will involved. Not only does that mean that the gov­ernment is failing to meet the defence needs of Britain. It also means that, because of that increased dependence on nuclear weapons, because of that diminished dependence on conventional arms, the nuclear threshold is lowered. There is no enhanced security for our country in that. There is only increased jeopardy for our country.

That is why we say that at this time of choice the alternatives before the British people are very clear. One alternative is a Tory policy which, in the very act of building up nuclear armaments at ruinous cost, erodes conventional defence and adds to nuclear danger without enhancing in any way national security for Britain. The other alternative is our policy, a policy which responds to the realities, ends the nuclear illusions and properly meets the conventional defence needs and duties of our country. They are the real alternatives, although until a short time ago Dr. Owen, Mr. Steel and parts of the press would have sought to persuade us that there was a third alternative - the so-called Euro-bomb.

Apart from the fact that it is overwhelmingly rejected as an option by the British people, it is an option without substance, the product of a weekend break in Paris, which had as its function a patching up of a wide­ning crack in the defence positions of the SDP and the Liberal Party. If it ever was in any way feasible, it would mean fingers on the nuclear trig­ger and a great hole torn in the whole idea and treaty arrangements of non-proliferation. It would mean highest jeopardy at lowest security at maximum cost. It would not influence friends, it would not impress potential enemies, it would not buy us a seat at any disarmament confer­ence or give us essential control over the life and death decisions that affect our country.

They call it the Euro-bomb. They call it the minimum deterrent, when it could kill 60 or 70 million people. They can call it those names as long as they like, but in reality it would not be increased security; it would be the entente terminale. (Applause) It has nothing to do with protecting our country or our continent and everything to do with the attempt of the Lib­eral and SDP leaders to conjure an illusion of a policy out of a delusion of grandeur. No wonder they were rejected.

Of course in recent days there have been some other intervening voices from outside Britain. Some of the language has been lurid, but it has been repudiated. It has been made clear that it is not the representative voices of the attitude of the administration - at least, not representative of the American administration but representative perhaps of the current British administration. The reports are of the Tories asking for a particu­lar element in the United States of America to help combat our defence policies in this democracy. The conclusion is plain. The interventions that we have heard in recent weeks are not so much the product of Ameri­can anxiety as a result of Tory alarm at the fact that we are defeating them and we are going to beat them in the next general election. And they will pull any dirty tricks they can in order to try and prevent that?

The attitude of the American administration shows a great deal more common sense and common interest than the Tory attitude. It arises from the knowledge that if a member of the Alliance of these democracies were to seek to subordinate the policies of a democratically elected allied gov­ernment, it would be invalidating the very principles of democracy and sovereignty which NATO exists to defend and always has existed to defend. (Applause)

There is another reason for that common sense and common interest. It is that here in Britain and in our territories elsewhere across the world, there are installations which are critical to the defence and intelligence needs of the United States of America, from the early warning system at Fylingdales to the submarine-watching system in Pembrokeshire; from GCHQ to Cyprus; from Hong Kong to Edzell in Scotland. They are essential facilities for the national interests of the United States and the collective interests of the NATO Alliance.

We do not propose for one moment, and we never have proposed for one moment, that those facilities should be withdrawn from the Ameri­cans, for they are our allies and we honour the Alliance. But it does demonstrate that we play and will continue to play our part in providing security for the American people, and no United States government will sacrifice that essential link in their security.

In all of these matters modern men and modern women, whatever their office, whatever their status, whatever their country, whatever their poli­tics or lack of politics, face the fact that the terrible existence of nuclear weapons puts us in a condition unknown to any previous generation of humankind. We are the first generation in history to have to deal with those weapons, the first generation in history to have to deal not just with the weapons of horror which inflict such dreadful death and suffering during wars but with the existence of weapons of total obliteration. That gives us different challenges and requires different responses. The know­ledge must not make people panic; hysteria is not the response. But it must mean that people face that fact of the existence of weapons of oblit­eration and how we control, reduce and abolish them squarely and hon­estly.

I face those questions as the leader of this party who works to become the democratically elected leader of this country. I face those facts too as an adult, as a citizen and as a father. I tell you in no casual spirit, no bravado, that like most of my fellow citizens I would if necessary fight and die, fight and lay down my life for my country and what it stands for. I would fight and die for my country, but I tell you I would never let my country die for me. (Applause)

In everything we do in this party in every part of it we refuse to submit to the idea that the present and future are beyond control. We will not bow down to the defeatism that says that our economy is so badly wounded that it is incapable of renewal. We will not succumb to the defeatism that says that the tensions and dangers and the poisons of the world are so great as to make conflict and contamination inevitable.

We look at the weaknesses of our country and we look at the menaces to humankind and we say that inasmuch as these conflicts and dangers are made by human hand, so they can be unmade by human hand. Just as these horrors are made by human error, so they can be unmade by human effort.

That is not a blind attitude. It is not lightly put. It is not evidence of innocence. On the contrary, it is the starkest reality of all. For we either surrender to hopelessness or we stand and fight against it. For us as democratic socialists there is no real choice. We stand and we fight against hopelessness. It is fundamental to our socialism. It is essential to the case that we put to the people of this country, and it is our country: we have nowhere else to go and we have nowhere else that we want to go. (Applause) That is the investment that we make in it. This is our living space. It is the living space that we want to leave secure, prosperous, just and free to our children. That is the reason why we ask the people of this country to give us democratic power, and it is because we ask for those reasons that they will elect us to that democratic power. (Standing ova­tion)

Back to top

Home | About | Resources | Contact Copyright © British Political Speech 2017 | Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy