Leader's speech, Brighton 1987
Neil Kinnock (Labour)
Commentary:This conference followed Labour’s third successive general election defeat on 11 June, and Kinnock pledged a review of Labour policy in its wake. Among the issues that the Party needed to address were increasing home ownership, growing social inequality, and changes to employment patterns. Kinnock then attacked a number of key Thatcherite policies, including the poll tax, privatisation and the failure to tighten sanctions against South Africa.
Comrades, it is at this point in conference, immediately following the merit awards, that I feel that my journey is in vain. When Catherine Griffiths was talking to me there, a South Walean woman, a former district nurse exactly like my mother, she said as she stepped back: ‘I would have made a speech if I could have remembered.’ (Laughter) And I thought, well, Cath, I have the next few minutes and if I do what you have done in the time allotted to you then it will be quite remarkable. (Applause)
Comrades, this conference is dominated by the fact that we meet in the shadow of defeat. Indeed it is that fact which, to all intents and purposes, dominates our agenda, sets our agenda. For we know that out of that defeat we must build victory. We do not therefore go into a period of mourning, for that would be sheer self-indulgence. Instead, we use defeat for its only useful purpose: instruction. We learn from our defeat, and we learn hard enough and deep enough to ensure that it is the last defeat that will be inflicted upon our movement. (Applause)
That need for learning, that need for instruction, is well understood by this party, as you demonstrated in those overwhelming votes on the review yesterday. There are many lessons to learn and we shall learn them. And as we set about the task I think it is helpful in preparing ourselves for that task of review, of assessment, of analysis, of learning, to remind ourselves without any complacency that there were features of that election which we lost that provide us with foundations of confidence. I say again, without complacency, there were features of that election which meant that, yes, we were defeated, but we certainly were not beaten - certainly not like so many of the commentators and anticipators and watchers of the runes and readers of the tea leaves would have had us believe just weeks before that election started.
Amongst those foundations of confidence is the fact, first, that we significantly increased the number of women Labour MPs - not enough, but a firm step in the right direction.
Second, our party achieved the election of our black Members of Parliament, and by that means saw to it that we began to have a multiracial parliament to reflect our multi-racial society. (Applause)
Third, among these foundations of confidence is the fact that we made very substantial gains in Scotland, Wales and the North of England, and the people who supported us there and everywhere else deserve our thanks and have our thanks. And they have this tribute too: all over this country, all over England, Wales and Scotland, we shall not be taking their support for granted. We regard their support as a spur to greater and more successful efforts, not as any excuse for relaxation.
Fourth, in the foundations of confidence, it is also the case that we did have a very good campaign - not just at the levels that received the most attention and publicity, but, in many ways even more importantly, right through the whole of this party. I want to use this conference to thank people throughout the movement for the unprecedented efforts made everywhere - politically and organisationally - to try to ensure that Labour would win and therefore that Britain would win. That campaign gave people throughout this party energy, pride and confidence. And those feelings stay with us even in defeat. That is important: for it is those qualities of energy, of pride, and of confidence that give this party the courage to be candid, the boldness to be honest, with everyone else and with ourselves.
That is the spirit in which we shall undertake this review; and that was the spirit, I believe, in which the conference took its decision yesterday. That review will be thorough. It will spread across the whole field of policy, leaving nothing out. It will ensure that the programme that we develop in this party is directly related to the conditions that we shall encounter before and during and after the next occasion on which we get the chance to bid for power in a general election. For the task of the review is not to adjust our focus on the past: the task of that review is to give us a clear and accurate perception of the future. The question of whether the policies were right or wrong in June 1987 is of course a matter of some interest - indeed, it is a starting point. But the question of whether the policies will be right or wrong for 1991 must be the matter of the most profound and supreme importance. That is the dominant consideration of that review. That is the frame of mind in which we proceed.
It appears, however, that there are still some who are timid about the idea of ‘review.’ They seem to have ‘do not disturb’ notices hung on their minds. The very activity of examination is described by some as a ‘betrayal of fundamental principles.’ I must say I have a very different opinion of ‘review.’ I believe that after losing three general elections any serious political party that did not undertake the assessment, the review, the examination - and do it honestly - that party would be betraying its principles and its policies and its people. (Applause)
Indeed I have to say that it is from those people who want us to win that the demand for such a review comes. It has not been dreamt up by Tom Sawyer or by Walworth Road or by the party leadership. Everywhere I have been in the last four months in England, Scotland and Wales I have talked to our party members, talked to trade unionists, talked to supporters. And anyone who has done the same in our movement will know that it is they who are asking for the review. That demand does not come from people who are defeatist, panic stricken or suffering apolitical identity crisis. On the contrary, the demand for the review comes from people who are very sure of their political identity, of their ideals, of their principles. So sure, indeed, that they do not think that their convictions will expire like some fragile plant if they are exposed to the light of reality.
These are people who are not afraid to examine, not afraid to think, not afraid to test their beliefs against the realities: because those beliefs were occasioned in the first instance, were rooted, in the realities that they encountered. Indeed, that is the elementary appeal of socialism, that it is related to the realities in which people live their lives. Those people are not the kind of people who would accept, let alone suggest, the discarding of democratic socialist values.
And they are not the kind of people who will accept the advice (widely tendered: some of it malicious, some of it merely hysterical) that we should jettison everything we stood for on 11 June, 1987. Nothing would more deserve the charge of cynicism and nothing would more surely sabotage our credibility than to try to make a bonfire of everything that we asked people to vote for in June of this year. So we won’t be doing that.
And there are two other things that we will not be doing either: we won’t be pursuing the pipe dreams of electoral pacts; and we won’t be chasing the non-existent pots of political gold at the end of rainbow coalitions. We stand for ourselves, with ourselves and our ideals. (Applause)
What we will be doing in that process of review, and the activities related to that and many other campaigns, is to develop the means to further the ends of democratic socialism. We shall further the commitments to community, democracy and justice. And to real individual liberty that does not depend for its exercise on the ability of the individual to pay. We shall further the commitments to individual security and freedom from fear, and the commitment to the spread of opportunity to ensure that all people can achieve whatever ability and effort makes possible for them. They are all living purposes.
So, too, is the commitment to the civil liberties of every citizen: every man, woman and child, regardless of sex or colour or race or creed. For ours is a socialism that does not just recoil from the ugliness of racism or the insult of sexism; it actively engages itself in combating both on all possible occasions. (Applause)
It is a socialism that knows that the natural environment of this world is fragile; that it is perishable; and that it must be safeguarded against the exploitation and carelessness that constantly menaces the very existence of a habitable environment.
And ours is a socialism, too, that knows that whilst the market is an adequate system for deciding the price and availability of many goods and services, the market has not been, is not, and will never be an adequate mechanism for deciding upon the supply or the quality of health care and education and so much else that is fundamental to a decent life. (Applause) The market alone will never be adequate for determining the quantity and quality of investment in science or in the arts. And the market alone will never ensure that flow of investment in machines, people, skills and ideas which is necessary to gain and to sustain long-term economic strength and the employment that comes with it.
Ours is the kind of socialism which believes that the future will not take care of itself... the socialism that holds that preparation for the future cannot be left to the crude short-term calculation of profit and loss, any more than the opportunities and life chances of people can be left just to luck.
They are the values basic to our socialism, basic to the nature of our party. They are the purposes that we want to put into practice. Because these are not declarations, icons or holy relics, these values: they are there as living proposals for the elevation of human kind, the advancement of our whole society. They are there to be put into practice, not into storage. They are the purposes that brought us into this movement and the purposes best able to take us forward in this movement.
And we know that, if we are to get the chance to do that (to go forward, to put the purposes into practice), those purposes will have to be matched to the realities that exist and will exist in the corning years. That is common sense. Anyone that does not think it is should heed the advice of Aneurin Bevan who warned that the socialist must be:
On guard against the old words, for the words persist when the reality that lay behind them has changed. It is inherent in our intellectual activity, that we seek to imprison reality in our description of it. Soon, long before we are aware of it, it is we who become the prisoners of the description. From that point on, our ideas degenerate into a kind of folklore which we as around to each other, fondly thinking we are still talking of the reality around us. We become symbol worshippers. The categories which we once evolved and which once were the tools which we used in our intercourse with reality become hopelessly blunted. In those circumstances the social and political realities we are supposed to be grappling with change and reshape themselves independently of the collective impact of our ideas. We become the creature and no longer the partner of social realities.
That is why I recommend the common sense of realising that we direct and we relate our values, principles and purposes to the realities of our condition, and not to where we would like to be - or to some imagined environment that has yet to be created, indeed yet to be perceptible in the longest possible term. We, in our time, face the challenge of the social realities spoken of by Bevan. We are not daunted by them - such a mood would ill befit any socialist.
The social realities that we face are the realities of increasing home ownership: the realities, too, of less housebuilding and of growing homelessness. We face the fortunate reality of earlier retirement and of longer life for an ever larger proportion of the population; and we also face the grim reality of poverty and isolation that so frequently still accompany old age. We face the reality of many more people owning a few shares; and the reality alongside it of increasing poverty, of low pay and growing inequality and division. We face the reality of the change in the pattern of work from mass production manufacturing to high-tech custom production; and, alongside that, too, the reality of under-investment in science and in skills. They are just some of the mixed realities already here or in very firm prospect for the early 1990s – a time in which our economy can no longer rely on the bounty of oil, and there is nothing else left to privatise.
These are just some of the realities we face. They are the realities of a changing economy, a changing society, and they are the realities of a changing electorate too. They present their own fresh challenges, they make their own demands on our candour. If this movement pretends, for instance, that a few million more people owning a few shares each will not make any difference to their perception of their economic welfare then this movement will be fooling itself. Of course, we know that those scattered shares do not make any real difference at all to the structure of economic ownership in our country. They do not make any difference at all to the structure of economic power in our country. But, equally, we know that they do make a difference to their owners’ personal economic perceptions. That is a matter of fact. And the result of it is that our policies are going to have to take account of that reality, and of a number of others.
Of course, again, not everyone appears to be willing to listen to that, to understand that. In the past few days I have heard such a recognition of the changing realities described as ‘retreat,’ ‘defeatism,’ ‘pandering to yuppies.’
It is not a retreat from anything, and it is not pandering to anybody. It is simply understanding the hopes and the doubts, expectations and reservations of people who are not necessarily young, not particularly mobile and who, in any event, did not vote Labour. They are frequently people - not yuppies - who live in the kind of places and work in the kind of jobs that would qualify them for any certificate of working class authenticity that any comrade wanted to award. And they did not vote Labour last time or the time before.
Many throughout this movement know them. They know them from their own work, their own families, their own neighbourhood, their canvassing and their campaigning. And those people pose direct questions to us as a socialist movement: they pose questions to us a socialist movement with its direct relationships with trade unions, as a socialist movement that made its appeal across the broad spread of society, that never had any inclination to try and pick and choose who it would like to vote for it. Those people face us with challenges; and we have to recognise those challenges.
Ron Todd made the point with deadly accuracy just a couple of months ago when he asked: ‘what do you say to a docker who earns 243400 a week, owns his house, a new car, a microwave and a video, as well as a small place near Marbella?’ ‘You do not say,’ said Ron, ‘let me take you out of your misery, brother.’ (Laughter and applause) When he asked that question, Ron Todd was not suggesting that we trail along in the wake of something called popular capitalism - he was facing a fundamental question for our party with admirable candour that I would recommend universally. It is a question which we must all face if we are going to have an effective response to the changes taking place in our society.
Of course, it is not really a very new question. I remember when I first faced it. It was not last June. It was not in 1983. It was after the 1959 election. I was 17 and had worked very hard during that election down in the Monmouth constituency. I was devastated, as was the whole movement, not just by defeat but by the scale of our defeat. And I, like just about everyone else in the movement, was asking for explanations of the defeat because it had not felt as though it was going to happen.
Amongst the most prominent of those explanations, both in the movement generally and indeed in the annual conference that reviewed the election in that year of 1959, was the assertion that a major reason for our failure in that year, the failure against Macmillan, was something called the Affluent Society. You could hear that everywhere. It was made to sound like a curse. Part of me actually wanted to believe that explanation - it was an easy explanation that had a certain appeal to someone who was convinced that socialism was fundamentally, primarily, a cause that existed to help the underdogs, the downtrodden.
But the other part of me could not really believe that as an explanation. The idea that the Affluent Society, or at least that part of it which I knew, was a bad thing, was contradicted by the evidence of my own eyes – indeed all the experiences of my own living. I could not see for the life of me how it could be that the neighbours’ cars that were starting to appear in the street, the wall-to-wall carpeting, the washing machines, the televisions and the first foreign holidays to which the working class were getting access, could somehow be a disadvantage - how could it be anything but a very good thing for the people like my family who had never known anything like that before? And so I could not bring myself to believe that this affluent society had thrown such a shadow as to obscure socialism.
I knew that that improvement did not have much to do with Harold Macmillan. I knew where it had come from: people doing lots of very hard work, working overtime, so that they were able to get these things. I could not see either, how those advances were contradictory to the socialism which I believed, and still believe, is about ordinary people getting on: ordinary people having a better life, ordinary people being able to consume more and choose more, and gain greater comfort and opportunity and security. I could not see how socialism was in collision with that. But I was perplexed.
I did what I always did on such occasions when I had these fundamental questions (and you are entitled to do it at any age, but most particularly at that age), I went to see an old socialist in Tredegar, Oliver Jones, and asked him whether there was a collision between affluence and socialism. He told me: ‘there is no collision between affluence and socialism – I have been striving for both all my life.’ (Laughter and applause) And then he went on to say in words that were unforgettable: ‘the point is, you see, that if socialism has got to wait for want, then socialism will wait for a very long time. And it will be right for socialism to wait for a very long time: because if it needs misery to give it majority, God forbid we have the misery.’ (Applause)
He was absolutely right, wasn’t he? And it meant then and it means now that democratic socialism has to be as attractive, as beckoning and as useful to the relatively affluent and the relatively secure as it is to the less fortunate in our society who are frequently referred to (in a phrase which I have always thought of as patronising and complacent) as our ‘natural vote.’ I do not know what that is – I have never known what that is. Any citizen in this democracy who has the right to exercise the franchise is a citizen to whom we should and could be able to make an appeal. (Applause) That attractiveness and usefulness of democratic socialism should not be difficult for anyone confident about their socialism to be able to demonstrate. It is not a great challenge.
Take the docker of whom Ron spoke, or many others like him earning a little more or a little less. Those kind of people are comfortable, secure, satisfied with decent conditions, and the best of British luck to them. But even with those wages, even with that security, even with that comfort, he is still not able to give the comprehensive care, the special housing, the sheltered accommodation, the support with transport, that his ageing mother and father might need. Even with those wages he is still not getting enough to enable him to meet the price of the schooling for his children, even more so if they wanted to continue into further education or go on to university. And still with those wages, he is not able to ensure that he and his family could meet their full medical needs without worry, especially if there happens to be in that family (as so frequently and tragically is the case) someone with a chronic or crippling illness or disease.
Those are the factors. The way in which the old and the sick are looked after; the kind of serenity people have when they are absolutely sure that they have access to high-quality medical facilities; the unbounded opportunity that we want for our children to ensure that their education should not be cramped by having a price tag attached o it They are the real assets, and they are the things which condition the quality of life throughout the whole of society. They are the factors which determine the full abundance of life and the real extent of security. And they have something else in common. They are all assets which must be collectively supplied if they are to be there without fail, regardless of the changes of economic fortunes of an individual or the ability to pay.
That commitment, systematic and ready to make that collective provision, cannot come from the current government - or anyone like it - that is guided by hostility to that collective provision. As a matter of doctrine, as a matter of dogma, in the place of that collective provision they want to install a system that makes access to all those assets of care and opportunity increasingly dependent upon the ability to pay. It is a very cheap and a very nasty view, with very expensive and very nasty results. And yet it is presented as a ideological new broom, a compelling doctrine, a grand and radical scheme. A Big Idea taking its place alongside all the great political philosophies. It is called Thatcherism, the Big Idea.
But what is this Big Idea? How is it attuned to the realities, how does it stand up to the examination of real circumstances? How, for instance, does the Big Idea address the real problems of a generation of children who will meet greater challenges in their future as citizens and workers than any generation has ever known before? Well, the Big Idea responds to that reality and the responsibilities for that generation by making such cuts in education investment as to put education spending as a proportion of our GNP lower than that of any comparable economy.
What has the Big Idea got for the inner cities? It has a galaxy of initiatives, programmes, task forces and schemes – in fact it has everything except money. The Big Idea, applied to the inner city, is that you put one pound of programme money in for every nine pounds that you take out in rate support grant from the inner cities. That is the Big Idea. (Applause)
The Big Idea cuts investment in house building by three quarters in eight years. And the Big Idea now requires the imposition of a poll tax - a tax which has no connection with ability to pay, which punishes families which have dependent sick or aged relatives or dependent grown up children at home, which costs a fortune to administer and which tears up the roots of local democracy. That is the Big Idea.
And then there is the jewel in the crown of this great new intellectual and ideological force. The jewel in the crown of the Big Idea: privatisation. The sell-off system which is supposed to be the engine of popular capitalism, but which turns out to be a scheme for changing great public monopolies into great private monopolies by means which ensure that some small investors get a little slice of gain and a few very big investors get great slabs of additional wealth and the power that goes with it.
Private monopolies cannot deliver an efficient telephone system, but are excellent, brilliant, magnificent as a means of handing over major British assets to foreign asset holders. A scheme of privatisation which turned Jaguar Cars into an American-owned company, a scheme of privatisation which is turning Rolls Royce into a Japanese concern, a scheme of privatisation which is just about to turn British Petroleum into anything but British.
Now of course we have another of the ideologues, John Moore. He has the big idea: ‘to move people away from dependency,’ as he put it, ‘and towards opportunity.’ It sounds very attractive, does it not, opportunity? My father used to say that he was brought up in an opportunity society – boundless opportunities, opportunities everywhere you looked. And he said that the only thing that made him as one of seven children go down the pit at 14 was sheer bloody-mindedness! (Applause) Move away from dependency towards opportunity – it does sound like a good idea. Nobody likes the status of dependence. The human taste is always for self reliance: indeed, that is a major, basic reason for our advocacy of socialism, to be able to extend that self reliance so that people do not have to be dependent.
But our way of doing it of course, is to end dependence by trying to end need. Mr Moore works from the other direction. He intends to end dependence by ending provision: teaching people to fly by pushing them off the roof – that is how he wants to end dependence! (Applause) And that is his Big Idea: you are on your own. What a brilliant new idea! What a forceful and compelling way to have our society ruled.
Can the Big Idea attend to the real basics? That should be very easy for such a great scheme. Can it, for instance, attend to the very rudimentary requirements of old and poor people to keep warm in the winter? No, it can’t. Not because of any malevolence or meanness, you understand, but because these saintly enemies of dependence would simply not want to demean frightened and freezing old people with the status of being ‘dependants.’ They are kindness themselves, you know, these ideologues of the Big Idea.
And the Big Idea is not just applied at home. The same small mindedness applies abroad too. For when asked to tackle any of the great issues of menace to the environment, of racial oppression, of want in the world - that Big Idea turns in upon itself and shrinks into selfishness.
It is a Big Idea that will not join in any of the international initiatives to combat the poisoning of the land, the sea or the air.
It is a Big Idea that will accommodate and appease apartheid and refuse to tighten sanctions to squeeze down on that regime on the grounds, as the prime minister puts it, of morality. Morality, when the object of those sanctions should be a government of apartheid that is allowing the imprisonment, torture, beating and killing of children who are said to threaten their apartheid state in their protests against it. (Applause)
It is a Big Idea that cuts the aid budget in half and turns its back on the people of the world who need some extra help to enable them to make their way out of the misery of poverty, insecurity and starvation. How can anything so empty of responsibility, so empty of generosity, of decency, be thought to be a big idea?
But there are big ideas around. I'll tell you who has got a really big idea. Gorbachev and Reagan, Shevardnadze and Shultz, they have a Big Idea. They have a really big idea. Their Big Idea is to secure the withdrawal of intermediate nuclear forces and then to embark upon significant reductions in strategic nuclear weapons. Now that is what I call a really big idea. (Applause)
That is a major purpose: but too major, it would appear, for this government in Britain; and that is why they have tried to block every stride in all the progress made since Reykjavik, laying across the path of progress all the time. Friendly visits to Washington, little nips into Europe, speeches from the Berlin wall, speeches that collide with those who have the Big Idea. George Shultz, the American Secretary of State, when challenged that the removal of intermediate weapons would not bring about a vast reduction in the nuclear stockpiles on each side, said that that was true. But, he said: ‘We have to start somewhere.’ (Applause) Within days, the response of the mistress of the Big Idea is not to say, ‘yes, let us make a start, let us see what we can get and how far we can mutually go.’ It is to say, in her words: ‘It has gone far enough.’ What a Big Idea.
But of course she is wrong. Because the patent fact about the attitude of the superpowers is that they consider that the progress has not gone far enough. And we, like the huge majority of humanity, agree with them entirely in that view, that the progress has not gone far enough. There is a long course yet to run. We welcome the fact that the process will continue, and, as it continues, will change and improve the condition of common security in this world. Not only in the nuclear sphere, but in securing the ending of chemical weapons and the reduction and balance of non-nuclear conventional forces. We welcome that process.
And because of the continued assertions on both sides of a real will to proceed, we can look forward to that improvement in common security. That is why we will work to ensure that we have policies that are capable of dealing with the changed conditions of the 1990s in a way that will enhance the prospect of removing reliance on nuclear weapons of any description.
In that, and in many other ways, we shall review our policies. Those reviews will take their direction and their inspiration from the values of compassion and concern. They will show our commitment to Britain and the British people. They will be sharpened on the realities: including the salient fact of life that - if we are to achieve our ambitions of proper care, of full opportunity, of defeating poverty and disadvantage - we must implement policies to make our economy more competitive, more efficient, more productive. That is essential, for without it we could not fulfil our contract to generate jobs, or to meet social needs, or to modernise and multiply the essential services of health and education.
Of course, all of our enemies and, yes, some of our friends give the impression that we are hostile to those ideas of efficiency and competitiveness – just as we are said to be antagonistic to personal good fortune, to private industry and to a lot of other things. But if any of that were the case, why is it that so many of our members and supporters are buying their houses, so many of our members and supporters are making personal pension arrangements, and undertaking many other activities to secure proper protection for themselves and their families? If we really had those hostilities, why would so many Labour councils (to their eternal credit) show such initiative and expend such energy on attracting and retaining and working in partnership with so much private industry? If we really had that opposition to efficiency and competition, why would so many of our trade union colleagues scourge management for under-investment, for inadequate provision for training, for poor sales promotion and marketing activities?
The truth is, is it not, that so frequently and so rightly, when we get the chance to improve the material well-being of our families, our communities, our colleagues in this movement, we take that chance. And we are right to do so. When local councillors of this party can win industrial development for their areas, they do it. When trade unionists can secure the advantage of the members of their union by more efficient performance, they do it. There is no concession of ideals in that. Certainly there is no corruption of the values of socialism or its purposes. There is nothing to apologise for: indeed, they are personal and collective achievements, by socialists, for socialist purposes.
So - instead of tolerating the insults of our enemies, or accommodating the indulgence of a few of our friends, that we are, or somehow should be, antagonistic to material advance - we would really be better employed telling the truth about ourselves, employed best of all in ensuring that we preach what, in reality, we are practising. And then perhaps we would get some credit for it where credit is due.
That is the spirit in which we will review and renew our economic policies to ensure that we develop the strategy necessary to meet our economic and social goals. That is our purpose; and we shall accomplish it. And then we shall promote it. And we shall promote it in ‘years not weeks.’ That, of course, must be our well-developed habit in every area.
In the last few months I have heard the phrase ‘years not weeks’ very frequently. I needed no persuasion. For, as it happens, I had the chance - indeed the duty - to say it first: elections are won in years, not weeks. I did not just have the chance and the duty to say it on the night of our election defeat in June of this year, but I actually said it in the plainest possible terms, as some of you may recall, from this very platform when you elected me leader four years ago: ‘elections are won in years, not weeks.’ (Applause) Many listened, many understood, many applied it; and they have worked to win for ‘years, not weeks’ right throughout this movement.
That is why, in the last four years, we have been engaged in continual campaigning: the NHS campaign; the Freedom and Fairness campaign; the Investing in People campaign; the Jobs and Industry campaign; the Modern Britain in a Modern World campaign; and a host of other campaigns at national and local level. All for the purpose of trying to secure an advance in years and not in weeks.
And there were many who understood that the need to work ‘for years not weeks’ applied not only to the obligation of campaigning in this party, but to conduct in this party as well. They understood that we would be judged not only by the substance of policies or the quality of campaigns, but also by the way in which we acted as people and as a party. Now, in the wake of our third election defeat, there can be very few, if there be any at all, who do not comprehend the need to be convincing in all three of those areas: policy; campaigning and conduct. All three, and we forget them at our peril. (Applause)
And to maintain all three will require self-discipline. The self-discipline of not promising so much that the promise is destroyed by incredibility. The self-discipline of understanding the implications of action. Not just for the term, not just in the immediate situation, but for the standing of the whole movement, wherever that action is taken. The self-discipline of ensuring that every word, every deed, every statement, every action, is related completely to the task of achieving victory. The self-discipline of accepting that in everything that each of us, individually and collectively, says and does, we work in the clear and certain knowledge that we address many people who still need to be convinced if they are to make the shift to supporting us - people who need to be certain that their trust in our common purpose and in our common sense is fully justified.
None of that means speaking of our socialism behind cupped hands. None of that self-discipline and sacrifice means bowing down to prejudice or injustice. It does not mean putting away our initiatives and it does not mean forgetting our inspirations. Recognising those requirements of a serious, sensible, socialist movement is not defeatism, nor is it a retreat from convictions. On the contrary, recognising it and applying it is the precondition of the victory which we need to get the power to put those convictions into effect. (Applause)
That is not a plea for self-discipline. I am not pleading at all. Because the people who need us are not pleading. The people who need us are demanding - demanding that we conduct our affairs, run our movement, meet our responsibilities to each other and to the community. And meet those responsibilities in such a way as to continually demonstrate those qualities of vitality, purpose and unity which brought us such credit during the election campaign.
When that demand for unity is made, I anticipate the question: ‘unity on whose terms?’ And the answer is, on the terms of the people who support us and would like to support us. For serious socialists, for serious democrats, that is not much to ask. And if anyone doubts the need for that self-discipline, for that unity, then they had better just remind themselves of the price that is paid for indiscipline and disunity. It is not paid by those who are locked in combat, it is not paid by those who have an interesting exchange, it is not paid by those who thrive on division. The price is paid by the people of Britain. And it is paid most by those who need most: those who need the schools and the homes, those who need the hospitals, those who need chances for themselves that can only be built on the foundations of a just society and a, strong economy. The price for division and disunity is paid most of all by those who attract our greatest concern, those who most need our help, those who most depend upon our success. We cannot let them down, we must not let them pay that price again.
And that is why we review. That is why we reassess. That is why we regroup. They are acts of rededication to our principles and our purposes, and to policies that are attuned to the realities in which people live. They are the acts of a party that is not satisfied with the luxury of opposition nor attracted by the purity of powerlessness. They are the acts of a party that cannot live on constant diets of resolutions condemning and motions deploring and statements opposing, when it wants the power to do things. (Applause)
It is the act of rededication, the act of a party that knows that it will offer nothing to the British people if it contents itself with gestures that will be ignored, bluffs that will be called and illegality that will be ruthlessly punished. (Applause)
Review, reassessment, regrouping are the acts of a party that wants power to decide, power to influence, power to govern in a way that can advance the condition of our fellow human beings. We seek the opportunities of that power and accept the obligations of that power. Of course they will impose pressures and impose burdens. But ask anyone in this movement: who is not prepared to accept such responsibilities? Whether they want this party to achieve victory, or whether they will settle for being members of a party that can offer the British people nothing but sympathy? A party that will do little more than attend the funerals of hopes and of communities and of industries, a party of permanent condolence senders. I do not think that that is what this party and its members want for themselves or accept for themselves. (Applause)
Comrades, four years ago when you elected me leader I told you that there must be no activity in this labour movement superior to that of defeating Toryism. I meant every word. I meant no activity superior to that task of defeating Toryism. I say it again. I know that there are now many more people in this movement who not only understand that to be desirable but regard it as essential and act upon it all the time.
That is now the spirit in the labour movement in its overwhelming majority. And because that is the spirit, it makes us fit to fight. It makes us fit to win. And it will make us fit to govern. (Prolonged applause)