Leader's speech, Brighton 1991
Neil Kinnock (Labour)
Commentary:Since the last conference, John Major had replaced Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative Party. This was Kinnock’s last speech as Party Leader, in which he contrasted the failures of the Conservatives with the achievements of European nations. He accused the government of failing to provide adequate pre-school education, invest sufficiently in technological research and development, and modernise the economy to enable Britain to compete in the single market of the European Community. Labour would promote economic success by investing in both people and the economy, which would not only help Britain out of the current recession, but also enable it to stay out of recession in the future.
Comrades, thank you very much. Tom, comrades. Well, somebody is blowing the whistle and I think even the Prime Minister can hear it. (Applause)
Could I, before I open my speech, thank you very much Tom for quoting from Idris Davies. Idris said, ‘He that forgets his history lives in the slough of slavery.’ I think that will prove to be instructive when people recall the last 12 years because we are here today and we will fight through these coming months, as we now understand it to be, to change history and lift the burden from the people of our country. (Applause)
This morning I went to see Jo Richardson. She is in good spirits and is making a good recovery and she sends her love to all of you and her thanks for the marvellous messages of support and love that have come from this conference. Jo is an inspiration and with a little bit of luck she will be back with us tomorrow in order to wind up on the debate. Let us hope that will be the case. (Applause)
Conference, what a year it has been for the Conservatives. They started it by losing their leader and ended it by losing their nerve. Last night it became evident that Britain has a government that is afraid of the people. I want to tell the Conservative Party this: ‘You can postpone people's choice but you will not change the people's verdict. You can run but you cannot hide.’ (Applause)
If I may coin a phrase, what we are seeing is a government, a British government, scuttling round the press handing out rumours through its own ministers. Well, I tell them this, they cannot play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s lives. The people will hold them to account. The Prime Minister cannot even bring himself to make a candid public statement, telling the people that he is running away from their judgement and trying to prolong his fingernail grip on power. It will do him no good; worse, it does this British democracy no good when a government manipulates in this fashion. It must be ended, and Labour will end such a system. (Applause)
The people of Britain want a government that puts the country first, not the party first and they will get that with a Labour government, for that is what this party wants. It wants our country rebuilt again, our country bold, audacious and just again. We will put the country first. We are ready, fit to serve and able to lead Britain to a better future. We have the policies that the people want. We have a fine team for government, indeed we have the best team for government, of that there is no doubt and we have been building support in every contest. (Applause)
In this last year we have continued our successes in local government elections. There are now more Labour councillors and more Labour councils in Britain than there ever have been in history. We have continued our successes in Parliamentary by-elections, particularly in that spectacular victory in Monmouth and in that unique contest in Walton. Militant, squeezed into the open, were soundly beaten by democratic socialists, and they always will be beaten by democratic socialists. (Applause)
Comrades, we have earned our support and we shall earn our victory by addressing the real needs of the people of our country. By looking at a future instead of reaching for the past, by being positive.
The Tories have done the opposite. They fought the European elections in 1989 relying entirely on negatives and name calling. They lost. In the local elections last year and this year they relied on negatives and name calling. They lost. They will be relying on negatives and name calling again in the General Election and they will lose again. As my father used to say, ‘The best answer to dirty play, boy, is score a goal.’ We are going to score a goal. (Applause)
Comrades, one of the main reasons why they will lose and deserve to lose, is that they are stale and sour. They have no fresh directions, no fresh approaches to offer to the British people. After years in which the Tories have put Britain at the bottom of the league for growth, bottom of the league for investments, bottom of the league for jobs, they still have no policies for building and keeping strong economic recovery.
With one million people on hospital waiting lists, 150,000 homeless families and the highest recorded crime rate in British history, they still have no policies to make our country more fair, more secure. After 12 wasted years, if you want to see their monuments, look around you. Even worse, if you want to see their future, look around you. It is clear from everything they say and everything thing that they do that a fourth term of Tory government would mean more of the same. A fourth term of Tory government would mean at least two more years of poll tax, the tax which could be, should be - and when we are elected will be - abolished immediately. (Applause)
A fourth term of Tory government would mean years more of under-funding for schools and under-investment for training. It would mean years more of moving the National Health Service into the market. More years of Toryism would mean years more of falling behind our neighbours and competitors in Europe. It would mean years more on the recession roundabout.
If the Tories kept power their policies would again take our country through the rise in credit finance consumption, the rise in deficits, the rise in debt, in inflation, in interest rates and then bring the return to recession and rising unemployment all over again. We know that would happen because they are doing now, in their second recession, exactly what they did in their first recession. By following the same policies they would get the same result, a third recession.
The Tories are a government in blinkers, hoping that the British people are wearing blindfolds. They hope in vain. People see what is happening in their own country. They live with the realities and the people of Britain want fresh direction, they want new approaches.
People look at the state of our economy, 1000 businesses a week going bankrupt, 3000 people losing their jobs every week, redundancies, closures, in the south as well as the north, the east and the west, in high tech industry, in high street shops, they see all that and they live with all that and they say, ‘It has to change.’ People look at the state of our society and they look at our neighbours in the rest of the European Community. They see the high standards of training, the quality of child care, the investment in public transport and they ask, ‘Why not here, why not here in Britain?’ The answer is, it can change, we can do it here with a Labour government and I say that with certainty because we shall be doing here in Britain what others have done and are doing in more successful economies. We shall be investing in economic strength as others do and we shall be providing a climate for investment as others do. That is the foundation of the standards of living and the continuing economic vitality in other Community countries. Their provision for pensioners, for training, for child care, for education and transport and health does not come out of huge levels of taxation. It does not come out of higher levels of public expenditure. It comes from sustained economic success. Success that has been built because year on year they have invested more in their people, invested more in their economy. They have planted wealth to grow wealth. That is what we must do. Those governments, socialist, conservative, coalition governments, whatever else separates them, share a sense of responsibility. They know it is the prime duty of any modern government, certainly any modern democratic government, to create conditions for business to succeed and for individuals and communities to thrive.
Britain needs a government with a sense of purpose that will provide the country with a new sense of direction. That is the way for Britain to catch up, to compete, to give of its best and to get the best. We will form such a government and our purpose in government will be to help to create a modern industrial economy so that the whole of the country is mobilised to gain and to maintain prosperity.
We will help to create a modern industrial economy, to compete and to succeed in the single market of the European Community. We will invest just as our competitors do, year on year, continually, strategically.
That is the way, not just to help Britain out of recession in the short term, it is the way to enable Britain to stay out of recession in the long term.
We will do that with practical policies. We will be providing tax incentives to companies so that they bring forward new investment in plant and machinery. We will begin a phased release of the £6 billion held by local authorities that they have got from the sale of council houses. The Tory government forbids them to use that money. (Applause) We will get on using it to build homes. We will use it to bring the construction industries out of recession. We will modernise our transport system by mobilising private as well as public investment.
Last week the French Railways Corporation, SNCF, issued a bond in the London money market to raise money to invest in the French high speed rail network, but the Tory government will not let British Rail do the same to get investment in British railways. We will change that. If the French can do it for France, we can do it for Britain and we need it in Britain. (Applause)
It is with practical policies like those that we will begin to build sustained strength in the economy, lasting prosperity for our country, and we will be doing more to foster the development of manufacturing industry - still, after all the devastation of the Tory years, responsible for more than 50% of our income from export, still the basis of strength in a service economy.
Economic success in the 1990s and in the new century will be built on innovation, on new products and new processes. Economic success will be built on converting scientific inventiveness into competitive industrial production. The Tory government refuses to recognise that. In the last 10 years they have cut the share of public support for research and development. The result is that for every public £1 spent in Britain on discovering and developing new technologies for industry, £1.50 is spent in Italy, £2 is spent in France, £2.35 in Germany. There just is not any comparison even though we face the same challenges in a testing world.
After 12 years of this government the Department of Education and Science estimates that by the mid-1990s Britain will be short of 3000 qualified technology teachers and 2000 chemistry teachers.
Other research forecasts serious shortages of maths and physics teachers. What a way to enter a new phase of the technological age and the same goes, of course, to teachers of modern languages and indeed in many other areas, where the skills and talents and interests of children need the nourishment of qualified teaching.
All of that would be shameful at any time in any advanced country but it is all the worse in Britain, where the capacity to invent has been and still is so very strong. Everyone knows that British scientists invented the first steam engine, the first electric motors, generators and transformers, radio, television, the first jet engine, the first cardiograph, penicillin, the first computer. The list goes on. It is a glorious list. A list worthy of great pride. But what is much more important to our generation than that pride in what is past, is the fact that the genius of scientific inventiveness is still strong in Britain today. The transputer, fibre optics, the catalytic converter, the body scanner, clean coal technologies, liquid crystal display, holograms, microwave technology - just a few of the epoch-making modern achievements of today’s British scientists.
These are the sort of discoveries that change the whole way in which things are made across the world. They change and shape our lives, but the tragedy is that so many of those modern products, developed from the brilliance of contemporary British scientists, are not made here. Not made in Britain. They are taken and developed by overseas firms, turned into manufactures made elsewhere and then sold back to us as finished or part-finished goods. Invented in Britain but made abroad. It is resigning the future.
We have got to change that. We have got to do everything possible to ensure that the products invented in Britain are developed in Britain, made in Britain, sold to the markets of the world from Britain. I make that not as any nationalistic argument but I do say that, when we have these remarkable assets of genius we really should be able to convert them into production in the jobs, in the success, in our own country. That is what we should be doing. (Applause) We should be making, indeed we have to make, Britain into an innovation-driven economy and we will do it.
We will do it with sustained research funding, we will do it with a Ministry of Science, we will do it by establishing technology trusts modelled on the success in Germany and Japan. We will be linking research in universities and polytechnics with business and industry. An innovation-driven economy needs a tax system and economic policies which promote sustained investment. It needs monopolies and mergers regulations that promote competition and safeguard company programmes of research and development. We shall make those changes. An innovation economy, above all, needs increases in the quality and the quantity of human skills. The most valuable resource of the country, our only truly renewable resource, is the talent and imagination of our people. Fostering those abilities is essential to personal opportunity, personal prosperity and personal liberty and it is vital to national economic, social and cultural well-being.
The present government refuses to face up to that fact. Bribes are offered to opt out. Money is lavished on city technology colleges, league tables are introduced, when what is really needed is not league tables but laboratory equipment, modern classrooms and qualified teachers to work in those classrooms. (Applause)
Kenneth Clarke, saying why he thought he had to have league tables last week, said that what happened inside schools was a mystery. Well, we know why it is a mystery to Kenneth Clarke, he does not use those schools. (Applause)
I tell you what is the real mystery. It is how a government, in 12 years, collects unprecedented assets, revenues from North Sea oil, the sell-off of public resources, the highest tax bill in British history and still manages to cut expenditure on education by £3 billion. That is a mystery. (Applause)
Why has he been doing all that? Training is cut, research is cut, capital and revenue support for schools is cut, support for colleges is cut. Clearly, our country cannot hope to succeed with such policies.
That is why, as you heard from Jack Straw and Tony Blair yesterday, we have set out and we will implement new directions in education and training. We are going to make proper commitment to primary schools. We are going to improve the National Curriculum so that every student can combine academic and vocational subjects. We are going to make post-16 provision that will take us towards the standards achieved elsewhere in the European Community. We are going to develop the higher and adult education system, so that all people who can take advantage of it can do so to bring out the best in themselves, right throughout their lives. Yes, and we will be expanding and improving pre-school education too. (Applause) That should be basic to any modern society so that children can learn and parents, especially their mothers, can earn.
If anyone does not understand why it is so important, perhaps I can tell you an everyday story by way of explanation. It is the story of a four year-old child, of a father with an industrial disease which meant that he had to travel long distances for specialist treatment and of a mother with training but without anyone to look after the child because the family was a lengthy bus journey away. What saves that family from living on unemployment benefit? A nursery school. A nursery school with good facilities and qualified teachers 10 minutes away from home.
The nursery school that I went to 45 years ago, the nursery school that meant that my father could get his treatment and then eventually get back to work, the nursery school that meant my mother could return to nursing and serving the community, a nursery school enabling and transforming the lives of a whole family. That is the reason for pre-school education. (Applause)
That was 1946. Frank was talking about ‘old codgers.’ It put me in my place, didn’t it? Now, in 1991, standards of that kind really should not be too much to ask in a modern country, should they? (Applause)
In the rest of the European Community, it is taken for granted. 88% of three to five year-olds in Italy get pre-school education. 95% in Belgium, 95% in France. In Britain just 40% of under-fives get pre-school education and but for the efforts of Labour councils up and down the country, the figure would be a fraction of that. (Applause)
That has got to change and with a Labour government it will change, so that we can reach those European standards and give children and parents in Britain the same chances and the same security.
Comrades, incentives to invest, proper commitment to education and training, modern transport, scientific and industrial innovation: these are the new directions that Britain needs to build long-term competitiveness and lasting prosperity. These are the new directions that Britain must take to succeed in the European single market and the movement towards economic and monetary union that lies beyond that. These are the changes that are coming in Europe. We must be ready for them. If we lag, we lose, yet again.
That is why we are determined to put Britain into Europe’s first division and we have the policies to do it. That is the basic difference between ourselves and the Tories. We will actively engage in building that productive strength, building the strength of our country and unlike any other government in the European Community, the Tories turn away from that duty.
Of course, when some of the more glib commentators consider our programme - the training, the investment incentives, transport policies - they say it is not exciting, it is not adventurous. Not adventurous! If passengers could be certain to travel on fast, clean trains, have a seat - there is a revelation - and arrive on time, that would be an odyssey of delight, not just an adventure. (Applause)
Not adventurous, when a British breakthrough in science can find British finance, be developed and turned into production in British factories, using British design teams, creating jobs in Britain and exports for Britain. I think that is quite enthralling. Not adventurous, when a 27 year-old miner, whose livelihood has collapsed around him because of his redundancy, gets good training, a marketable skill, a job, wages, choices, the confidence of knowing that he can care properly for his family. That is a real adventure. (Applause)
At the same time, a 35 year-old housewife, who stayed at home and brought up the children, back in the labour market but very unsure of her skills, gets decent training and becomes a qualified technician, with the income, status and opportunity that goes with it. That is a real-life adventure.
It transforms people’s lives and the result of all of the advances of this kind, multiplied across the nation, would make a well-equipped country, a country that welcomes the adventure of the future because the people have the skills, the industries have the investment, to face the challenges with confidence.
Confidence, of course, is more than a matter of job opportunities, vital though they are. It is also a matter of security, and security comes in many forms and from many sources.
People need the security of knowing, for instance, that the environment in which they live, the water they drink, the food they eat and the air they breathe, are all safe. In a complex modern society, in a contaminated world, that safety can only be achieved if governments are active and vigilant, if governments give the people the power to be active and vigilant and if governments and people work together to protect and to improve the global environment. It is for that reason that our environmental policies are centred on government accepting its obligations to protect and promote sustainable development and on citizens being given the right in law to ensure that those obligations are fully met.
Confidence, security, is also a matter of knowing that if things go wrong and they do go wrong for people, it does not mean they plunge into poverty. That is why we will overturn the Tory policies which have spread poverty and dependency to 10 million people in Britain, including two and a half million children, one in five of Britain's children in poverty under this government. We are going to work to end child poverty. We will begin immediately by restoring the value of child benefit and we will, of course, also be combating child and family poverty by introducing the national minimum wage. (Applause)
Confidence and security come from knowing that when people retire they will get a pension that permits them to enjoy life and not just to exist and we will be starting to make that advance by raising pensions by £8 and £5 and making other improvements. (Applause)
Confidence and security come from knowing that you can rely on a high quality National Health Service, free when you need it, whoever you are, wherever you live. Confidence and security. (Applause) That security is cherished by the British people. That is why they regard the National Health Service to be their most precious public asset and it is the reason why in the Labour Party we are determined to support it, strengthen it and ensure that it thrives as a people's service.
In stark contrast the Tories want to take the National Health Service to pieces, to hand it over to the market, to make it a creature of contracts and commerce. The difference between us could not be greater. Labour will modernise the National Health Service. The Tories privatise the National Health Service. That is the difference. (Applause)
Of course they protest that they will not, but that means that they either do not understand or they will not admit to understanding the dynamic of the process that they have already started. Their hospital opt-outs will create, and are intended to create, a health service consisting of trading units. Their GP contract system will create and is intended to create, a market place of haggling doctors, ‘buying and selling patients,’ as the Chairman of the British Medical Association put it. In each case, the ability of private purchasers to buy advantage in a market system - because that is what a market system means - will mean increasing dependence by the NHS on the sale of treatment. That will happen whether patients are buying treatment as a matter of preference or whether they are buying it in desperation as free health care shrinks and the queues get longer. That is the way that the deck is stacked. You diminish the standard by under-funding. You further isolate it by introducing a market system and eventually people who have every faith in the health service and no intention of buying, are goaded by pain and anxiety into becoming customers instead of just being patients. (Applause)
The process is called privatisation. There are some areas of the health service which a privatised system would not really want, of course. Long-term care of the elderly in hospital. The care of the psychiatrically ill and community care really have not got much of what could be called profitable potential. Accidents and emergencies -well, we have expert testimony there. The managers of the Royal Liverpool University Hospital Trust ‘marketing plan’ advise that ‘emergency admissions are relatively unattractive from a commercial viewpoint.’ Yes, that is the plan they put out. Who can want a health service to be run according to judgements like that, a commercial viewpoint? (Applause)
The doctors, nurses and health workers, they do not want it. The patients and the public do not want it. None of those people, the people who provide the health service, the people who use the health service, they have not demanded the Tory changes. The only demand for these changes has come from a government determined to ram the market system into every corner, every nook and cranny, of national life and of public service and the British people do not want the market system rammed into every corner of the public services. (Applause)
At the next election the British people will be deciding whether they keep the National Health. Service or whether they lose the National Health Service. Those who vote Labour will be voting to build up the NHS. Those who vote otherwise will be voting to break up the National Health Service. (Applause).
Many people, including Conservatives, do not want that but they must be advised that is the true choice and measure their vote accordingly. When people vote Labour, they will be voting to stop the opt-outs, they will be voting to put an end to the cuts and closures. They will be voting for the practical policies of preventative medicine.
When people vote Labour they will be voting for the introduction of a comprehensive system of care in the community, with the funds ring-fenced so that they all go directly to the elderly infirm and the chronically sick and disabled, being cared for in the community. In voting Labour the British people will also be voting to ensure that the full revenues from economic growth are used year on year to meet the needs of the whole nation and not to favour the few. That is Labour's policy and is the people’s priority. We know and the nation knows that providing for the treatment of the sick, caring for the old and giving full opportunities to the young must come before any tax cuts. (Applause)
That is the order of priorities of the British people, the sense of purpose of the British people, but it is an order of priorities and sense of purpose that the Tories have not shown and will never follow.
The reductions that they have made in top-rate taxes since 1988 alone have already cost £10 billion. Now they are planning to cut another billion off inheritance tax. A country whose health service has to have raffles and fun runs to buy basic hospital equipment cannot afford giveaways like that to the best off in our country. (Applause)
Comrades, all the time it is the people in the middle and the people at the bottom, who pay for the tax cuts for the very few at the top. That is why the tax burden in Britain, the tax burden on the whole country, the tax burden on the average family, is higher than it was in 1979, higher than it has ever been in peace time.
The Tories have always had an open-ended tax system and the open end is spelt VAT. Whenever they have been under pressure they have hoisted VAT. They did it when they came to power, they did it earlier this year, when they plunged into the poll tax crisis and they would do it again if they ever got the chance. That is the Tory way, everybody pays higher tax. We believe that in a civilised society the best off minority must pay their fair share to meet the needs of the majority. That is not the politics of envy, that is the ethics of immunity, the ethics of society. (Applause)
It is the course that we choose and the course that the British people want. In following that course we will not be spending what the country cannot afford. We will not borrow for consumption and we will not increase the tax contributions of the huge majority of the people. We think that people pay enough tax already and we also believe that a government that has to work within the limits pledged to the electorate must be a more efficient government. We will pay for better public services by growth and by ending Tory waste. We will pay for better public services by getting better value for public money.
Value for money, that is what you get when you stop wasting £18 million of tax payers’ money every day propping up the poll tax. (Applause)
Value for money is what you get when you stop wasting £500 million paying accountants and administrators to privatise the National Health Service and not an extra bed to show for it. Value for money, that is what you get when you stop wasting £6 billion of taxpayers’ money trying to bribe people out of the State Earnings-Related Pensions Scheme. Value for money, that is what you get when you build homes instead of paying huge bills for bed and breakfast in hostels for the homeless, week in week out, month in month out, year in year out. (Applause)
Value for money is what you get when you start to collect the £5 billion in taxes lost every year because of evasion. That is what a value for money government will do. It is what a Labour government will do.
Discharging the duties of government obviously goes beyond managing the money of the country, vital though that is. For democratic government, it extends to strengthening the democratic powers and rights of the people. We shall do that and we shall do it by decentralising the government and by empowering the people of Britain. We will introduce a freedom of information Act. (Applause)
We will increase accountability by ensuring that everyone everywhere can vote in elections for part of their council every year. We are going to reform the House of Lords, improve the legal aid system, introduce devolution, first to Scotland and then progressively and with consent to Wales and to the regions of England. (Applause)
We will enact our Charter of Rights, backed up by a complementary Bill of Rights. We are going to make these and other changes because our party and our people recognise and respond to the need for stronger safeguards for personal and civil rights and responsibilities in Britain.
In making changes we are dealing in a practical and progressive way with the essential questions of how our country is ruled and whether the system of rule serves the changed and changing needs of the nation. These are the actions of a confident and liberating party. A party that believes that the duty of democratic government extends to enabling the people and to giving extra vitality to democracy.
You proved that again in this conference last year when you voted to establish the working party on electoral systems. The decision was taken in recognition of the fact that this is a serious issue of debate, that it must be addressed with the fullest and widest public information and that it is about the basic questions of the quality and strength of representation and government and not about the tactical jostling of parties and politicians. That is what the issue is about. It is the right way to approach democratic change and that is how we will approach it in government.
Comrades, change is most certainly needed. In these last 12 years the centralisation of government power has been intensified. There has been a continual effort to politicise the Civil Service and to subordinate government employees. Local democracy, whether run by Labour, Conservative or anybody else, has been seriously eroded. Political patronage has been used on a prodigious scale. Official secrecy has been increasingly used for the protection of government interest and not for the protection of the public interest. (Applause)
In these last 12 years women, the majority of our country, have lost rights under the law, not been granted in any way at all an advance to real equality under the law. All that has happened and is happening in a modern country with deep democratic roots. It has not produced efficiency and competence in government. It has produced arrogance, incompetence, shiftiness, waste in government and it has proved that many civil and individual rights which we thought to be basic and unbreakable in Britain have, in reality, been fragile. We need to safeguard against that fragility. That is why in government we will make constitutional change to give new potency to democracy and to promote good government in our democracy. We will strengthen freedom here by adding to it and as we do that we must also nurture the freedom growing elsewhere by actively supporting it.
The need to do that and the opportunity to do that increased beyond measure six weeks ago when the drunken conspirators in the Kremlin were defeated. The world became a different place and it changed for the better again last Friday, when President Bush announced his fresh initiative for disarmament on an unprecedented scale. Britain must be part of that progress. (Applause)
We must be part of the new negotiations on verifiable disarmament and we should be doing everything possible now, straightaway, as a Labour government will, to bring in the other nuclear powers, to halt and reverse proliferation and to secure agreements to end testing of nuclear devices. (Applause)
That is the active role that we should be taking in the world and we have got to be part of the efforts to ensure that progress is sustained in the Soviet Union too.
The course of action that we must take is clear. I offer you this statement as a guide, ‘I often hear the question, how can the West help us today? My reply is as paradoxical as the whole of my life has been. You can help us most if you help the Soviet Union on its irreversible but immensely complicated road to democracy.’ They are the words of President Havel of Czechoslovakia speaking to the United States Congress last year. Nothing could be more articulate, nothing could be more persuasive about the need to give active support to the development of democracy and change in the Soviet Union and those words of a former victim of Soviet oppression, a great democrat, a man of unsurpassed humanity, Vaclav Havel. We must help to make that advance to democracy and economic security and we must help to ensure that it is stable and peaceful and since disarmament is central to economic progress in the Soviet Union our aid must be linked to that. As Oleg made clear on this platform on Monday, that is what the democrats of the Soviet Union and its Republics want us to do and we must not let them down.
Our help will feed the roots of freedom and just as it will contribute to the economic and political security of the people of the Soviet Union and its former satellites, so it will be an investment in our own wellbeing. As the massive resources that have been dedicated to the Soviet military system are diverted to civil production, we in the West can increase our peace dividend. We must use it to build economic strength. We must use it as an industrial dividend, a production dividend, a jobs dividend, an investment dividend, so that any peace dividend that we get in our generation is an enduring source of wealth and not merely a short-term bonus that has to be used for paying redundancy and unemployment benefits. We can make it that source of continual wealth for expenditure on the social priorities and the development of our country, if we use that dividend properly for the purpose of investment to advance our economy.
We certainly need that economic strength in Britain. We need it for Britain and we need it in order to help to combat poverty in a world in which a silent emergency of starvation is killing countless thousands of children and women and men every week. Nothing, not even the historic changes in Eastern Europe and the potential for famine and turmoil in the Soviet Union, nothing must be allowed to obscure the suffering of the countless destitute millions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. (Applause)
To those who will not concern themselves with those tragedies, I simply say, if mercy does not move you then concern yourselves with the condition of humanity for your own sake. The misery of the poor today could, in this interdependent world, become your cataclysm tomorrow. Unless the free and affluent countries play their full part in the conquest of poverty, that poverty will eat away at prosperity, security, stability, even liberty itself. We are democratic socialists. In our own society we know that the rights of the individual depend upon the actions of the community. The actions to establish and maintain the political, economic and social freedom. The same is true of the world.
Just as in our own society we know that opportunity for the individual depends upon the way that the community acts together, so we know that is true for the whole world and that is why we say, act together to combat poverty, for in doing so we add to the wealth of all. Act together to defeat ignorance, for in doing so we add to the knowledge of all. Act together to cure and prevent disease, for in doing so we promote the health of all. Act together to protect the environment, for in doing so we all become safer. Act together to stop war, for in doing so we all profit from peace. Act together as a world, one humanity. (Applause)
Friends, in our country and for the sake of our country, it is time for a new direction, time for a government with a sense of real national purpose. As we approach the year 2000, we the British people have to decide how we are going to mark the end of the millennium and the beginning of a new age. Is it to be with nothing much more than a New Year’s Eve party? Are we going to be able to greet the year 2000 as a fair and free society, a strong and productive economy, a confident and creative people? If that is the future that we want and it is, it must be prepared for with determination, vitality, vision. Only we will do that. Conservatives never will. The democratic socialism that we believe in is, above all, about enabling people to get the best out of life by putting the best into life. Its purpose is to ensure that people are prepared for the future, able to control their own destiny. Conservatism, especially British Toryism, is above all about letting the future look after itself, about letting people fend for themselves, whether they are able to or not.
Now is the time for change from their way. Time to build Britain's industrial strength, time to make our National Health Service modern and secure, time to raise the standards of our skills and schools, time to create a cleaner, safer environment. It is time to start transforming Britain from the country it has become to the country we know it can be.
It is time for that change. It is time for Labour. (Prolonged applause)
You really are marvellous people, honestly. I tell you, in these last couple of weeks when the odd criticisms floated past my eyes, the people who have really communicated how they feel and what they want for the country have been the kind of people who are here, only many, many more. People in the Labour Party, people outside the Labour Party, ordinary people, who have said that we cannot go on like it has been and we need a lead to take us into the future and that has been the best form of encouragement that Glenys and I could ever have sought. Thank you for all of that.
Now, I will tell you, this idea of extended ovation is something of a novelty in our party but singing is not. How about if we get up and sing a song which is not only a great hymn of progress but also, in our case, is a forecast of an absolute racing certainty. ‘We shall overcome.’ (Singing) (Prolonged applause)