Leader's speech, 1963
Jo Grimond (Liberal)
Commentary:This conference took place in the run-up to the general election of October 1964 and, with this in mind, Grimond outlined his party’s programme of reforms. These included an incomes policy to ensure the fairer distribution of wealth, parliamentary reform, and a fuller role for Britain in Europe. Other key issues at the time were the Profumo Affair, which for Grimond was symptomatic of the government’s tawdriness and dishonesty, and the situation in Southern Rhodesia. On the latter, Grimond argued that Britain should have begun the process of giving it independence at an earlier stage.
The tone of this assembly has been lively, taut, well-informed, and confident. And I believe that it will finally silence the parrot-cry that Liberals have no policy.
We are now, indeed, accused of the opposite offence, of having too much policy (Laughter). Now nothing we do, I hope, is ever going to please the numerous hostile commentators that there are in this country. It is as foolish to think that they will suddenly be converted to Liberalism as it is to think that the Communists will suddenly take to the free way of life. We used to be told that the trouble with our assemblies was that they groan under the ruthless dictatorship of the executive (Laughter). Fellow delegates, we have made this party, you and I. It has not always been easy, but we have built it up and there are a lot of people in this hall who have come into the Liberal Party and have devoted their money, their energy, their wits to building up their party. And it is your party - my party - and all of our party. We stand for partnership and we mean to practise partnership in this party.
It may be that we should run a different sort of party. Some people do (Laughter). But a Liberal Assembly comes together so that we may together fashion our policy, see each other, talk to each other as equals, take the pulse of the party, and feel the fist of the party when necessary.
We like it like that, and it is our party, and we are going to have it like that.
Now, we are also charged with the new and curious offence of looking critically at the aims and institutions of our country. We do this because we care about our country. We do this because we are deeply aware of the British contribution to the institutions of the civilised world and we do not want to see this contribution cease, and run into the sands of defeatism (Applause).
A new radicalism
In all the great periods of our history, Britain has been not only unafraid of change, she has been in the forefront of change. In the Elizabethan age - and I remind you that there was an Elizabethan age, it was not something invented by the Tory Central Office, rapidly discarded when it did not fit the facts under the Tory Government - it was Spain which wrapped itself in the trappings of outworn prestige and grandeur. It was Spain which refused to change. It was Britain which reached out to the new 16th Century frontiers opened up by the birth of science.
At this Assembly we have hammered out a workmanlike set of proposals for change in Britain. We have said again that people count. We believe in change. We cannot say it too often and we reiterate it at this assembly. It follows that these changes must be brought about by the common will of the nation. But we shall only generate that common will if we can generate some passion behind the projects of our policy. Mr Gladstone said that little is accomplished in politics without passion and it is true. The reforms we propose are not very complicated. They are widely agreed to be necessary, but this country is inert and will only be shaken by passion.
It is typical that reforms that everyone knows to be necessary, and which many other countries have carried out, should in Britain be considered to be absolutely visionary (Laughter). How dare people think that when science is undergoing revolution after revolution, when the whole structure and obligations of government have changed, that it is impossible to change the political institutions by which we run our country? (Applause) How can you suggest, when in the arts and sciences there is this enormous ferment, that politics alone must go on being wrapped up in a polythene bag, being more remote from the ordinary people? (Applause)
Breathing new life into democracy
Dictatorships do not primarily arise from the ambitions of wicked men. Lust for power is very often the symptom of a malaise in the body politic. Dictatorships arise when democracy ceases to serve the interests of the ordinary people. We are on the approaches to the general election. What is going to count for this party in the coming year is not only the clarity and cohesion of its policies. We have got to make those policies live for ordinary people so that they mean something to them. That is the prime task of this party next year.
Can we imbue partnership with life and give it magnetism? Can we make structural reforms inspiring? Can we kindle again in this country the flame of political interest and catch the divine spark which has been so sadly lacking in our public life?
Now partnership is a magnificent ideal, but do not let us delude ourselves. We shall never get everybody to take an active part in political partnership. What we have got to do is to give everyone the opportunity and the chance to take part. We have to create a free society in which even those people who do not feel that they have a place can take part - and can at least give their assent, feeling that they believe in it.
I believe it is possible. I believe we can create a society which people can admire, and to which they can respond. In every great society the citizens have been proud of proclaiming their citizenship. Men would have died rather than deny that they were Athenians or, indeed, citizens of Elizabethan Britain. Banishment from their society was a punishment less dread only than death itself.
When a man claimed to be a Roman citizen, he identified himself not solely with the victories of the Roman Armies or the material prosperity of the city itself. He identified himself with the public virtues of Rome, embodied in the structure of her Empire and in the systems of law and administration.
A return to civic pride
But who could be proud of an association with the public life of Britain in the last few years? (Loud applause)
Today too many people are backing away from Britain, backing away from their responsibilities to their country. They emigrate. They take pride, not in developing and moulding the civilisation which we have inherited, but in enjoying what is ludicrous and sordid in it, and disclaiming all responsibilities for its ethics or good management (Applause).
Now I beg of you Liberals, identify yourselves with your country! Get closer to it. It is yours - and this backing away, this snide dissociation from the great past and from the beckoning future - it will be the death of this country if it continues (Applause).
But today voluntary banishment from Britain is common. Who can wonder at this? There are things we have got to put right. The decline in our public life is not confined to the Profumo affair. Indeed that affair, though dramatic, is important only as a symptom. Never since Suez has this Government attempted to lead and instruct the people. It has misled and distracted them whenever it can. It is the shoddiness, the lick of the paint on the rotten boards, the lack of candour, the lack of quality in the actions of those who lead us, which makes people contract out of their responsibilities.
If the Government will not face awkward decisions, why should the people? If the Government cling to office at all costs, how can we maintain any values or standards in the country at large?
‘A twentieth century Ruritania’
The ordinary boy or girl too often feels around him a 20th Century Ruritania. They soon learn that to have a title, to have the right background, to know the right people, is more important than to know your job. The British used to laugh at foreign bigwigs loaded with medals, posturing under meaningless titles, prating of prestige and all too often corrupt and decadent. Now no establishment in the world is so much concerned with titles and decorations as is official Britain. Nor is any governing class so concerned with its prestige and anxious about status rating. Underneath all this façade we now know what has been going on.
Now wonder then that there is cynicism about the conduct of our public affairs. This cynicism has lead to a good deal of complacency and a great resistance to change. Suggest even that you change such an obviously unworkable system as the rating system and ‘Oh’, you will have been told, ‘that will be very difficult.’ Yet however difficult it may be to change this system, it would be impossible to devise a tax system so unfair, so punitive to enterprise, so generally unworkable, as the rating system. But in spite of this it continues.
For 100 years, we are told, banks have been sending old bank notes by the million uncancelled to the Bank of England. We know that, when suggestions that this practice was possibly a little dangerous were made, the good old answer came back, ‘What was good enough for our forefathers is good enough for us.’ I dare say that this system will continue. After all, who shall be assured in those classic words ‘it works.’ So far we have only lost £2 million-worth of notes and have had the meagre police force of this country totally distracted from what, to me, are more important tasks. The primary duty of the police is not the protection of property - important though that may be - but the protection of the weaker and older members of the community, from fear and from assault.
Standards in public life
We are now awaiting the report of Lord Denning on, among other things, the state of public life in this country. I ask you to consider this astonishing development. Since when have the people of this country had to call in a High Court judge, however eminent, to carry out a roving commission into the private lives of various individuals, so that we may be informed whether we are behaving ourselves or not?
Ladies and gentlemen, can you contemplate Mr Gladstone requiring advice on this subject? (Laughter) Let us be fair, Mr Disraeli would have laughed himself silly at the idea. Mr Asquith would not have stomached it for a moment. And Mr Balfour would have cut it down with a phrase. As for Mr Churchill, I wonder what he is thinking now? This constant setting-up of inquiries by judges into wholly unjudicial matters is itself conclusive evidence of our failure to equip the Government with the proper machinery for carrying on its business. It is also a sign of a failure by the people of this country to shoulder their responsibilities. It is a failure of democracy to make up its mind about whether its affairs are being conducted to our satisfaction or not.
What is to be the outcome of this report? It is surely unthinkable that evidence taken in private by a process which, as far as I know, is unknown to any judicial system in the world, should be made public. But under what system of law is a court or an individual entitled to pronounce on questions of public conduct without making this evidence public? That is the dilemma we are in.
Now, we shall be told, these reforms may be necessary and perhaps we do need some changes in the way we conduct our affairs, but you must take them slowly; do not rush into things.
‘The wind of change’
If you have read your newspapers this morning, you will have seen the desperate price we are now being called to pay for not having looked ahead, for not having grasped the difficulties when they were manageable, for not having discharged our duty to countries under our control and, later, under our influence.
Britain, which has a very proud record at the United Nations, has been forced for the third time to cast her veto, and for the third time this had been upon a matter which rightly or wrongly, will be interpreted throughout Asia and Africa as being a matter in which white supremacy is in conflict with the just aspirations of the coloured people.
We are in this dilemma because, first of all, we failed to bring up Southern Rhodesia and other parts of Africa, to bring up the Africans, to be able to discharge their own affairs. We did not give them sufficient education. We did not begin early enough to lead them to self-government. We have failed further because, when Liberals again and again pointed out that the policy of trying to enforce a federation on Central Africa was bound to fail, unless it had the consent of the people concerned, we could get no Tory to listen to obvious sense or to look at the obvious dangers ahead (Applause).
The Prime Minister talked about the wind of change. There was, after the war, a man - and not an ignoble man - called General Mikhailovitch. He disappeared. And as he went he spoke these immortal words: ‘The gale of the world has blown me away.’ This is not a wind of change. This is a gale. Now, Liberals have said that there is a clear obligation on this country, before we hand over authority to Southern Rhodesia, to use our utmost influence and ability to ensure that the franchise of that country is widened and to maintain the Armed Forces of the Crown in the hands of the Imperial Crown.
I do not believe we can get out of this situation without difficulty now. But I do believe it is a tragedy, from which we must learn, that we should be casting our veto at the United Nations in the face of African aspirations for decency. It is a tragedy, as Mr Mark Bonham Carter has said, if the impression left on Sir Roy Welensky should be that he cannot trust the British Government. I believe it is a tragedy that at this moment, when our record is so good, we should be brought up against this sort of situation by failure to act in time.
Now, unless we can get people to identify themselves with their institutions and their country, and unless we can get them to take notice in time, we can say Goodbye to the chances for the ordered reforms for which Liberals stand.
What should citizenship of Britain mean today? What should we create here to which people would assent, so that people will be able to say, ‘I lived in the Sixties and Seventies and, for all my life, I shall be proud of the public life of my country’? What can we do to restore that confidence, that optimism, to draw people once again into their country’s affairs and give back power to the decent, hard-working, general British citizen? I will tell you what I think British citizenship should mean.
First, that this country gets its role in the world right. To begin with, it should be the proud boast of everyone who is entitled to claim citizenship of our Commonwealth, that they can come to this country freely, and walk its streets, as Britons (Loud applause). Secondly, few things have been more inimical to the true development of Britain than the attempt to keep up as a nuclear power with the U.S.A. and Russia, while neglecting the opportunity to play a constructive part in Europe. We lost Europe through delay. We lost Europe through failure to look into the future. Europe still needs Britain, and Britain, Europe. We must be prepared to take a political initiative. We must allay the justifiable European suspicions that we still do not yet realise that the Channel tunnel will soon be a reality.
Secondly, it should mean that a citizen should have a clear political choice put before him. I have never denied that there is a place in any democratic system for Conservatism. But equally any healthy country must - and especially is this true today - have placed before it clear leadership on the progressive side of politics.
It is monstrous that so little information should be supplied to the public about politics. The simplest and most obvious thing is for a television edition of Parliament daily. The next thing which is needed is that Parliament and the press, acting on behalf of the public, should be allowed to probe into the recesses of where decisions are taken, and to be informed how our civil service works and where it needs improvement.
There is considerable friction between Press and politicians and that is right - that is right. And, if you doubt it for one moment, look at the fate of the Daily Herald. The House of Commons and the Press have a great interest in common. They stand, if you like, for the non-Establishment against the Establishment. They have a common interest in finding out how things are done. And whatever criticism you may make of the Press of this country, it discharges that obligation. As a politician I have said again and again that, however critical or indeed beastly it may be to politicians, it gives publicity to politics and without that publicity the House of Commons would die (Applause).
At this Conference we have put forward radical proposals for the reform of Parliament, the executive and the civil service. I wonder if, indeed, Liberals appreciate just how radical those proposals would be, and how vital they are to the creation of a more satisfactory Britain.
If, for instance, you set up specialist committees in Parliament to take part in the decision-making process of government, you will fundamentally change the nature of Members of Parliament. I am quite sure that neither the Labour Party, nor the Tory reformers, understand or welcome this. It is not a question of providing some more desks and pay for members, but it is a question of expecting them to do a new job to participate in the managerial side of government, and to supervise the direction of such things as the nationalised industries.
I want that because I believe the functions of government have changed enormously in the last fifty years, that it is now doing all sorts of positive jobs, and has extended its range immensely. And if democracy is to answer the purposes of the people - and I know of no other role for it - it has got to bring democracy into the discharge of these new roles of government which have grown up in the last twenty years.
Pursuing the general good
Equally, when this party calls for change it does not simply mean change in general, and the maintenance of the status quo in particular. That is what has so bedevilled the effort to stop inflation in this country. Everyone is against rising prices in general, but all in favour of bigger wages and higher prices for their own goods in particular (Laughter). We do not mean, when we demand a new transport system, that every branch line is going to be kept open. Our reforms are based on the need for greater participation, the association of people and their representatives in a system of government which will answer the problems of today.
But, once again, let me give you a warning. If this is to be effective, a clear distinction must be drawn between those questions in which dissent is inevitable and proper, and those in which agreement should be inevitable. There are issues which must be brought to a conclusion before participation can take place.
The world around us is a difficult and, in many ways, a savage place. The people of East and West Berlin are divided by a wall - one of the harshest divisions in history. They are more conscious of loathing, than of any participation with, the Communist oppressors of Eastern Germany. Negro children taken under escort to the schools in Alabama cannot be very conscious of any participation with the white society in which they live. Surely there is no greater tragedy of our times than that children who feel no scintilla of colour should be drawn in to bear the burden of their fathers’ and their mothers’ failures. They reflect, however, this basic division in the human race. In South Africa and all through the world there are many questions which have to be solved before you can have participation.
In this country, there are still groups of lower-paid workers left behind in the general surge forward who have the right to dissent from the easy platitudes of the affluent society. And above all in human affairs there is a natural friction between the governors and the governed. We felt the beginning of it in this hall yesterday (Laughter and applause)
This friction is very often essential to freedom and, in their justifiable emphasis on participation, Liberals must not forget that freedom lies at the root of Liberalism and freedom often entails dissent and opposition. You must not be afraid to dissent from what is evil, and it often entails opposition as well.
Thirdly, to be satisfactory, a society must feel some confidence in the distribution of its wealth. In this town ten days ago, the Trades Union Congress were wrapped in a serious debate about an incomes policy. Two years in Edinburgh I said that an incomes policy was inevitable in this country. We have made known our proposals for this in our pamphlet ‘Opportunity Knocks.’ We believe both that capital wealth should be more widely shared, and that the salaried workers and those in the public services should be more adequately rewarded. As for industry, apart from giving the worker a share of the profits, we believe that the state should give a lead to industry by fixing minimum wages and indicating a maximum for wages, salaries and profits, leaving room within these limits for bargaining over exact wage rates. As far as profits are concerned, our proposals for free competition and consumers’ protection, and the steps to curb speculation in land, should keep them in check. But of course profits must be brought into the general purview. If the public welfare is ignored by firms, then sanctions in the form of extra taxation should be applied. These proposals are related to a detailed programme for job-training, consultation and the more skilful use of manpower in industry. We stretch out our hands to the unions who are going our way. The forces of progress in the movement must feel the support of all progressive opinion. But an incomes policy will only be accepted in conditions of economic expansion.
Fourthly, we have made our proposals for the reform of parliament, the executive and the civil service. But these proposals must be completed by reforms of the legal system.
But first a word about the police. I hear people at this assembly criticising the police. Now there may be things wrong with the police. They, too, may need their organisation overhauled. But do not, I beg of you, let it go out from this Assembly that we are critical of policemen and policewomen (Applause). I have, over the experiences of the last twenty years, formed a high regard for decency, and there is no more decent body than the police of this country. If any of you get into trouble you may pray that you fall into the hands of the British police and not some of other police forces in the world.
They are not very well paid. There are not too many of them. They are loaded with a multitude of jobs and they are put into some pretty exasperating circumstances.
Equally, when we say we require the reform of the Civil Service, let me pay my tribute to the people who run the Post Offices, National Assistance and the Labour Exchanges of this country. They all do a decent job. They do it with humanity and with devotion; and, while we want to change the Civil Service, we are deeply conscious of the inheritance of a dedicated, incorrupt, hardworking Civil Service which we have from our forefathers.
Reforming the legal system
Now a word about the reform of the legal system. Here I speak with some affection for the system, because I was trained as a barrister. It needs reform, under three heads. First, the reform of the penal system, about which we have been talking this morning. When I compare some of the sentences awarded for offences against property, and sometimes on demonstrators, with the sentences which are often given to people who beat their children half dead, I wonder just whether we have our priorities in punishment quite right.
Then I draw your attention to the recruitment to the legal profession. The trades unions in this country are constantly under attack for restrictive practices. This speech now requires some courage as I look around on the platform. But the restrictive practices of the most reactionary union fade into oblivion compared with the restrictive practices of the Bar (Applause).
Not only is the profession of Barrister and Advocate in this country, through the operation of our schools and educational system, largely confined to the upper-income groups, but it insists upon maintaining a closed shop which would be the envy of the most black-hearted tycoon or the most reactionary Trades Unionist. If anyone wants to take a Barrister off his circuit he has to pay an extra fee and engage in a supernumerary junior. Talk about the plumber’s mate! (Laughter) Nor have most legal offices and chambers begun to modernise themselves, or sought to make access to the law cheaper.
Most important, there is a growing divorce between the people and the law in this country. Nobody gets involved in civil action if they can avoid it. If they do, they may find themselves engaged in litigation of unknown cost, conducted in archaic and unintelligible language so that you cannot find out what is going on. And at the end of it all they may have more judges on their side than against them, and lose the case.
It is an axiom of British law that not only should justice be done, but should be seen to be done. It is also a justifiable boast of the British that the judiciary are independent of the executive. But the office of the Lord Chancellor is a standing negation of this. He is both a leading politician and head of the judicial system. The Attorney is put into a most difficult position when he has to appear before tribunals which may affect the reputation of the Cabinet. And further, the use of High Court judges in political matters under no satisfactorily established procedures is liable to be damaging to the whole standing of the judiciary. Liberals have pressed that at least the procedure of tribunals ought to be altered and brought up-to-date. In its present form it is not only inefficient as an enquiry, but it often does great damage to innocent individuals. We also say that the Judiciary and the legal profession must be drawn from all the nation, it must be equipped to deal with cases where the individual is in conflict with the executive, and must be seen to be absolutely free from any contact with, let alone subservience to, the Executive.
I do not want to put too much stress upon a single remark or take it out of its context, but there was a judge in one case who suggested that duty to the State over-rode every other duty (Cries of ‘Shame’). I am bound, as a citizen of this country, to dissent from that remark (Applause).
The Conservatives will not set about the reforms necessary to give us a Britain of which we can be proud - this is abundantly clear from the record of the last 13 years. They have had their chance. They have failed to take it.
The failure of Labour
But what of Labour as the alternative? It is true that Labour are still primarily representative of one section of the people only. It is true that they have tied round their necks a shopping list for the nationalisation of further industries. But what to my mind are more damaging to the credibility of the Labour Party as a progressive alternative in this country are two other criticisms.
First, their failure to grasp the importance of just this structural reform which Liberals have stressed, and without which we shall never get the right decisions carried into effect. You have only to read the recent debate on the reform of Parliament to see that those most complacent about our Parliamentary system are to be found in the Labour Party. How are you to get the reform of industry from a party so intimately concerned with industrial vested interests? We know, from the experience of those who have lived for long under Labour local authorities, that progress in the Liberal sense is not by any means always to be found under Labour local government.
Secondly, the country has a right to know where Labour stands on many wider issues than nationalisation. It was made quite clear a year ago, in this town, by Mr Gaitskell that they were opposed to this country joining Europe. Since then the Labour Party have shown no appreciation of the need for a British initiative in Europe. And, in home policy, what is their attitude towards the private enterprise system? They have lost all moral belief in Socialism. You will search in vain for any mention of nationalisation or socialism in the by-election addresses of Socialist candidates. Yet they do not seem eager to improve the competitive system. This country cannot afford a government which is evasive on this issue.
To my mind we have got to make up our mind how we are going to run the economy in this country and, as far as I am concerned, the largest sector of it will be run by private enterprise. We have got to help and foster that sector, to make it efficient, assist it, and do so in the name of the people as a whole. But the Labour Party personify that most disastrous attitude. They do not want to abolish the private enterprise sector, but at the same time they will not associate themselves with it.
Punching above our weight
As I regard this Conference as focused on the future, I will finish by giving you your marching orders for the campaign which will not open when Parliament is dissolved, but which is opening now, this autumn, and will not end until polling day at the General Election. We have in recent by-elections polled more votes than the Tories. We have produced before you at this Conference men of higher calibre than many Tory Ministers.
Now I do not mean to indulge in any personal criticism, but in all seriousness - if you look around, you have before you Lord Ogmore, who has already discharged in the most difficult circumstances some of the highest tasks which the body politic can place upon any man. There is at this moment a contest going on for the succession to the leadership of the Tory Party. Does anyone doubt that had, by some impossible chance, Mr Frank Byers been a member of the Tory Party, that his name would have been canvassed alongside Mr Maudling, Mr Macleod, Mr Heath and anyone else you like to name in that party? (Loud applause) And if the Prime Minister is going to lay his relations on the line - well, I back mine against his! (Laughter and applause)
We have lately had two Ministers of Education, Sir David Eccles and Sir Edward Boyle. Now Sir Edward in my view is a brave and able man, and I see nothing wrong in saying that about him, when he has come under public criticism for a courageous act, whether you agree with it or not. But Sir Edward, I feel sure, would not claim to be better informed about education, or to be a better presenter of the educational case, than Mr A.D.C. Peterson whom we have here at this Assembly (Applause).
I could go on to mention Professor Fogarty, Professor Wheatcroft and others who have come to this rostrum. I make no wild or extravagant claim when I say they are men of equal ability, character, dedication and force to any you will find in public life today. To my mind, it is foolish to indulge too much in personalities in politics, and in particular to say that people are not fit for office. The one thing you could be certain there would be agreement about in any Tory gathering before the war, was that Mr Winston Churchill was totally unfit for office. It had nothing to do with his opinions. It was considered by the Tories that his judgement and his personal qualities made him unfit to serve this country, and efforts were even made to put up a National Liberal to get him turned out of his constituency. Let that be a lesson to us, and to those who learn from history.
We shall have over 400 candidates in the field at the election. Our hat, as Lord Ogmore said, is in the ring, but there are many people who are genuinely puzzled by the effect of the Liberal campaign. Some of them may still be tempted to vote Tory or even to join the Tory Party for the sake of keeping Labour out. I ask them to reflect on the fate of those who have done this over the last 40 years. There have been plenty of rats to leave the sinking ship, but the ship has gone on and the rats have sunk (Applause).
‘Towards the sound of gunfire’
There are no more miserable spectres in our political life than the numerous varieties of National Liberals absorbed in the Tory Party. They have done that party no good. They have done politics in this country little good, and advanced the cause of Liberalism not one title. That makes us all the more welcoming to the converts who are coming back. I welcome old members like Sir Frank Medlicott, the former M.P. for Brighton, Kemptown - I say, come and join us, come and join the march forward.
It may be that the brothers of the prodigal son were a little harshly treated but there is respectable authority for welcoming back the prodigal sons.
The people of this country, as I have said, are entitled to have politicians who stand up and tell the people what they mean. They are entitled to have politics in which the parties stand for some principle and, without that, you will never have healthy politics in this country.
One thing is certain about this election. Great interest is going to be fixed on the number of votes cast for Liberal candidates and the number of candidates returned. Even if there is not a Liberal Government, the temper of whatever government there is going to be will be validly affected by the public support given to the Liberal Party. If you want an example of how effective a Liberal vote can be, only consider the result at Orpington. Not even the crackest shot in the Tory Party has ever bagged six Cabinet Ministers with one barrel! (Loud applause)
If we return after the election with a solid block of Liberals in the House of Commons, even if we do not hold a majority, we shall be able to influence the whole thinking of the country and attitude of whatever party may be in power. We have made it clear that we intend to use that influence. As the election approaches we shall not shirk the battle, nor shall we be diverted by the great volume of criticism which we hope will pour down upon us (Applause).
War, delegates - war has always been a confused affair. In bygone days, the commanders were taught that when in doubt they should march their troops towards the sound of gunfire. I intend to march my troops towards the sound of gunfire (Loud applause). Politics are a confused affair and the fog of political controversy can obscure many issues. But we will march towards the sound of the guns.
Our Government, for too long, has pretended not to see what it does not like. It has put the telescope to its blind eye in a very un-Nelsonian mood, so it can say that there is no enemy in sight. But, delegates, there are enemies, there are difficulties to be faced. There are decisions to be made. There is passion to be generated. The enemy is complacency and wrong values and inertia in the face of incompetence and injustice. It is against this enemy that we march (Applause). We are not alone. The reforms which we advocate are inexorably written into the future. We move with the great trends of this century. Other nations have rebuilt their institutions under the hard discipline of war. It is for Liberals to show that Britain, proud Britain, can do this as a free people without passing through the furnace of defeat (Loud applause).