I am here to talk about our mission.
The reason we joined the Labour Party.
The values we share in common.
The purpose we have in politics
Call our mission the desire for –indeed, the demand for- social justice
Call it a belief in the values of social democracy or democratic socialism.
Call it an irreversible shift in the balance of wealth, income and power for all.
Call it support for the many and not the few.
Or call it, like Orwell did, in his non-doctrinaire way, simply human decency.
Leaders come and go and I should know.
Individual politicians are here today and gone tomorrow – as I found out.
But our mission is forever: the values that inspire us endure.
We can argue about the small print of a programme and debate its intricacies in the manner of theologians poring over texts and catechisms. Of course that some want to be more concrete and some more vague about our beliefs than others
But when it comes down to it our mission is quite simple: to build a socially just Britain where there is at the least equality of opportunity and fairness of outcomes: equal opportunities for all and unfair privileges for no one.
WHY I AM LABOUR
And that’s why I, like thousands of others, am Labour.
Not just because of this or that current policy, or this personality here or there.
Not just because I still want to defeat my political opponents, although when it comes to the current Conservative Government, that is a good reason.
Not just or even because we see Labour as the party of conscience that challenges special interests.
We are Labour for what I consider a more fundamental reason. As RH Tawney said, political democracy is not a choice between different leaders but between different social objectives. And, in Harold Wilson’s words, Labour is “a moral crusade or it is nothing”. Indeed, at every point in our history, Labour needs to remember we are not just a party with a programme. We are a movement that has a soul.
The Tories revel in being the party of free markets. The nationalists rejoice in being the party of independence. But that’s the difference. Nationalists wake up in the morning thinking about how to advance the cause of independence. We wake up in the morning thinking about how we can advance the claims of social justice.
TEST OF OUR COMMITMENT TO SOCIAL JUSTICE – THE DIFFERENCE WE MAKE TO THE LIVES OF PEOPLE IN NEED
But if the Labour Party is the party of social justice and fairness, then the test of our success as Britain’s party of social justice and fairness can never be an abstract one.
Progress cannot be measured just by the passion with which we hold our ideals or the number of resolutions we pass or meetings we attend to achieve them. It has to be measured by the real difference we make to the majority of people’s lives.
The test of whether we are living up to our ideals for social justice has to be:
- the poor mother and family and whether they are able to rise out of poverty;
- the sick patient and whether he or she is guaranteed the best free health care;
- the insecure pensioner and whether he or she is made more secure, guaranteed dignity in retirement; and
- most of all, because we are for the future, that a vulnerable child left out, left behind and losing out receives the best possible opportunity in education and a better start in life.
Needs that have to be met by a Labour Government that I saw at first hand in my last days as an MP.
A mother desperate for food for her children but unable to get to the food bank because she did not even have the cash needed for the bus fare.
A sick NHS patient who had to pay for some of the equipment his medical treatment required.
A care worker ruthlessly cheated out of the most basic minimum wage.
If by our actions we improve the condition of that one person who is suffering, we have achieved something important. And we must always measure our success by what happens to individual lives – and measure any success not in the abstract but one home, one street and one community at a time. But being Labour we believe that by our actions we can do more and that by taking collective action to improve the life chances and opportunities of millions we can achieve purpose in politics.
And so it is not an evasion of our principles to seek power: our principles require us to seek power as the way to secure social justice.
Politics cannot just be about telling people what is wrong: it has to be showing what we can do to make it right. And for that we need to continuously, relentlessly wholeheartedly strive for the direct support of the people to be in power.
And if as I believe our task is to use the power of the community to advance the interests of the individuals in it so we cannot separate the ends – social justice – from the means – winning popular support through political power to achieve it.
It is a principle of being Labour that we work night and day for a democratic mandate to use power for a purpose.
SEEKING POWER TO HELP OTHERS – A MORAL DUTY
Of course power for its own sake is wrong.
But power for others is a moral duty.
You cannot deliver in power without principles.
But you cannot deliver your principles without power.
In our DNA is not just a commitment to the best values but a commitment to the means of realising these values, the priority of ensuring political power by securing the support of the people.
So we see politics differently from the Conservatives.
For them politics is about that phrase so favoured by writers – the art of the possible.
For us politics has to be more than the art of the possible.
It is making the desirable possible.
But to make the desirable possible, the people of our country have to be persuaded that what they see as “desirable” is popular and it is electable
No short cuts for progressive left , no easy ways out , no quick fixes, , no glib formulas but hard work in a democracy to make the desirable popular and electable.
Now I’m speaking here the day before the ballot papers arrive on people’s doorsteps. True to the prudence we preach, Labour has chosen to send our ballot papers by second class post and save money, so I am speaking before members’ ballot papers begin to arrive on Monday or Tuesday…or Wednesday.
And I’m speaking to you not as someone seeking any position. As I’ve said before, I’m too old to be a comeback kid, too young to posture as an elder statesman – and with no title, and never ever wanting one. I’m speaking as an ordinary member, who, with my wife Sarah, volunteered to knock on doors at the last election, who was so proud that my young sons offered to canvas with me to get our Labour vote out – and as someone who, like thousands of people around the country, has devoted my life to Labour and who loves the Labour Party as if it were part of my family.
And I’m here speaking today because I hope I get it – that I get it about how we feel and where we are.
We are all grieving and we all hurt and, yes, I think I know something about the feelings and the frustrations that you have that come with defeat and rejection.
And I’m here not to attack an individual or to persuade anyone away from their high ideals. In fact I am here to show there is a positive, principled and forward-looking approach to realising our high ideals that neither requires us to be a pale imitation of the Tories nor to retreat into being a party of protest when we have to be more than that: we have to be a party of government.
HEARTS ARE BROKEN
I know you are not just grieving.
Defeat, particularly a second defeat meaning ten years out of office, brings despair, even desolation and demoralisation.
And indeed there is only one word to describe it: we are heartbroken.
But you know one thing that I’ve learned?
There’s one feeling that is an even worse feeling than heartbreak: powerlessness.
To be heartbroken, yes, is terrible but to be powerless to do anything about it is worse.
To see a wrong and not be able to right it.
To witness injustice and not be able to halt it.
To see fellow citizens in pain and not be able to stop the hurt and heal it.
To witness suffering inflicted on the most vulnerable and not be able to relieve it.
To know what needs to be done and not be able to do it.
NOTHING PROGRESSIVE ABOUT BEING POWERLESS
Let me say: there is nothing progressive about being powerless.
If our duty is to find a pathway back to power to advance our priorities – and yet we find that the grouping in the party that Labour electors want to give the most votes to is the grouping they themselves say is least likely to be able to take Labour into power – then I have to ask you to look at the lessons we have to learn from our history.
KEIR HARDIE REJECTED LABOUR BEING A PARTY OF PROTEST AND SOUGHT TO BE A PARTY OF POWER
Later this week I’m being interviewed for a radio programme about the life of a fellow Scot, Keir Hardie, who died 100 years ago next month and who, it is agreed by most people, was the person most responsible for founding the Labour Party we know today.
Keir Hardie formed the Labour Party for one simple reason. There were many protest groups, many debating societies, many campaign groups but that was not enough. He persuaded people to form the Labour Party because he saw the futility of simply protesting as a pressure group and the limitations of being just a debating society or campaigning organisation.
He wanted people on the left to stop talking just to themselves and start talking to the people of the country.
It was not easy to bring people together as he found when opponents tried to prevent him being the first chair of the Parliamentary Labour party in 1906 and he himself said that if he was the leader for the first part of the journey – the birth of the party – he was not necessarily the leader for the next stage of the journey, winning power.
But when he brought the pressure groups, debating societies and yes – importantly – the trade unions together, he did so because he knew the only way to secure social advance was a Labour Party that focused on seeking power at an election.
His first manifesto for an electable Labour Party – which promised old age pensions, child benefit, votes for women, devolution of power and a living age – was not a betrayal of our principles but the realisation of them, all of which Labour achieved through persuasion of the people and then through government .
Hardie alighted upon what was missing in our make up as progressive forces in our society and he made creating a popular and electable Labour Party his priority not by abandoning the desirable but by focusing on how what was desirable could be made popular and made electable: it was the pursuit of power, yes, and it was for a purpose.
MORAL DUTY TO SEEK POWER TO RELIEVE SUFFERING
Because it was for him and others not just a matter of winning: the urgent need to be electable was itself a moral issue. It was a moral duty that, where we could relieve suffering, we should do so through the pursuit and the use of political power. Think of James Maxton, the Clydeside teacher and MP in the 1920s, 30s and 40s, known as the children’s champion, said to be the one who took the slums into Parliament and made Britain face up to the terrible poverty of the 1920s. While he was from a professional background, he knew at first about poverty. Because of his family’s own poverty his wife died after her child was born. But for all his demand that the Labour Party move faster what did he say when faced with the need to act on poverty? He said: “The capacity for anger – anger against a strong, cruel system – is a necessary part of the socialist make-up. It is that feeling in our hearts that is the basis of revolution. But at the same time as that passionate anger swells up within us, what socialist worthy of the name does not feel in his heart a tremendous pity, a tremendous desire to relieve immediately the sufferings of the victim”.
Think of these words …’ a tremendous pity, a tremendous desire to relieve immediately the sufferings of the victim”, what led him to fight all out for the immediate return of a Labour Government
And he went on “That human love, human sympathy, human understanding is equally an absolute necessity of the socialist make-up. It constitutes the basis of our thought. These two things do not exist apart in different men, some men only feeling the one and some feeling the other. Almost every socialist feels both.”
Yes, his rage at what was wrong made him want to go faster and he never stopped demanding we step up the pace of change, but that “tremendous desire to relieve immediately the sufferings of the victim” required him to make the election of a Labour Government a priority. It was an imperative to use, in these eloquent words of Tony Blair, the power of the community to advance the cause of the individual.
THE OPPORTUNITY NOT JUST TO PROTEST BUT TO SERVE IS WHAT WE SEEK: ONLY BY USING POWER CAN WE BUILD A ‘PLATFORM UPON WHICH PEOPLE CAN STAND’
And so I ask you to think of the legacy of John Smith, speaking on the last night of his life, when he made a plea. It was a privilege – as his close friend – to sit across from him when he made it. “All I ask”, he said – and I will never forget these words – “all I ask is the opportunity to serve”. Not the opportunity to protest but the opportunity to serve and by that, as he explained, he meant: to work as a priority to win the support of the people, to assume the responsibilities of power and to use it to support ordinary families. And we chose him to lead us not because his was the voice that was loudest but his was the strategy that was the best
Yes, politics was not just the art of the possible: it was about making the desirable possible but to make the desirable possible people had to see what we saw as desirable as popular and electable.
And Neil Kinnock, what did he say, in that brilliant, unforgettable appeal that still comes alive nearly three decades later when he reminded us he was the first Kinnock in a thousand generations to go to university? He said his ancestors could not succeed because they needed a platform on which to stand. They had the best values, they had all the talents, they had the determination but they needed what they didn’t have – they needed political power, a Labour Government, to create the platform upon which they could stand. And that required us to give priority to securing power, focusing our energies on winning popular support.
And the world leader that I, my predecessors and you too have admired more than anyone in our lifetimes is Nelson Mandela. I was lucky enough to know Nelson Mandela. Mandela, whose party had been forced to be a party of protest because of repression and denied the chance of power because of apartheid, said, and I quote:
“At the end of the day, the yardstick that we shall all be judged by is one and one only: and that is, are we, through our endeavours here, creating the basis to better the lives of all South Africans?”
Years of protest were forced upon him not by choice but by necessity: what, as he said then he was focused on, was what he had always wanted by choice to be focused on : securing power through popular support at the ballot box to change society.
And Mandela taught me one other lesson: in his prison cell he was allowed few possessions But one he managed to acquire was a facsimile of a famous painting by a British artists Frederick Watts called ‘Hope’.
A painting that sends a message that even in the most hopeless situations we had to give people hope and that if we could not give people hope then little was possible.
DON’T DEPRIVE PEOPLE OF HOPE
It is said you can survive 40 days without food, eight days without water, eight minutes without air, but not one second without hope.
And we have to give people hope that things can change.
If they cannot have the realistic expectation – the hope that we will secure a Labour government – and their circumstances can improve then they will question whether to support us.
And what I mean by hope is:
Hope is more than wishful thinking that someday we might win.
It is more than optimism about the possibility someday we can win.
If people are to have hope, they must have the realistic expectation that we are doing everything we can to persuade the majority that we can will and must win power.
For if and when things gets worse – tax credit cuts pushing up poverty, the NHS under even more pressure, public services hit, parts of the BBC privatised, employees’ rights including the social chapter at risk, and the young denied tax credits, housing benefit, the living wage and the chance to own or even rent a home – if then, we cannot give the people who are suffering the hope that we are 100 per cent determined to win their support to get into power to change things, then they will not only feel let down but they will walk away from us.
Of course we know in our hearts that it cannot ever be enough to go on demonstrations to offer condolences to those in distress but we have to be single minded in offering what matters – real hope that we are doing everything to make the desirable possible.
I know you don’t believe it is enough to raise our hands in protest and that we should be reaching out every day to persuade people but we have to convince people that is what we really mean.
I know you don’t really think that the most progressive thing to do is to pass resolutions and then to pass by on the other side because we remain powerless to help people in need but we have to demonstrate that we are fighting every day to get back into power.
As Franklin Roosevelt put it, we may be soft hearted but we succeed when we are hard headed too.
And our Labour councillors know this.
Today they have among the most difficult jobs in the world.
They are in office but too much of their ability to make a difference to people’s lives has been taken away from them. They know that against the odds they are trying to keep Sure Start centres open, against the odds they are trying to develop policies for the crisis in social care, against the odds they are trying to find money for school improvements and against the odds they are dealing with an urgent crisis to meet the demand for housing that they cannot meet without the support of central government to do so or without the realistic hope of a Labour Government soon in the future .
And this is what one of our great leaders Aneurin Bevan found.
BEVAN: FIND WHERE THE POWER LIES
Bevan said it was all about three words: poverty, democracy, property – or, more specifically, what poverty can do through democracy to undo unfair privilege. The second paragraph of his only book, In Place of Fear, is a concise expression of the importance of power to his political life: “A young miner in South Wales colliery, my concern was with one practical question: where does power lie in this particular state of Great Britain, and how can it be attained by the workers.” As one of his biographers has said, Bevan’s life was one long search for power. The famous story is of him walking in Tredegar, when his father pointed out a member of the local Urban District Council as a man who possessed power and Bevan secured election to the Urban District Council. When the clerk to that council explained to him that power had now moved to the county council he was soon elected to the county council but found that he had to go to Parliament, as he did in 1929, to find the source of power. But when he got there he found as he said that power was with the Government and not Parliament. Now he would say, look at the global economy and how even governments need to cooperate across borders to have real power.
BEVAN: DON’T OPT FOR PURITY AND IMPOTENCE
All his life Bevan asked how instead of privilege using democracy to entrench poverty, poverty can use democracy to unwind unfair privilege. And think of this conversation after a Labour election defeat in 1931 between him, Bevan, and his future wife Jenny Lee, who wanted to stay with the ILP as a party of protest: “Why don’t you get into a nunnery” he said quoting Hamlet “and be done with it? I tell you, it is the Labour Party or nothing. I tell you what, your epitaph will be pure but impotent. Yes, you will be pure all right. But remember, at the price of impotency. You will not influence the course of British politics by as much as a hair’s breadth.” And he went on to say: for all its failings, the Labour Party is what we have persuaded the working people of this country to adopt as their chosen means for securing change and we have to get on with it.
And the two of them – Bevan and Lee – went on with other great leaders to fight for and make with Clement Atlee the Labour Government of 1945 into the greatest reforming government the British people have ever had, putting principles into practise in power
In the words of Bevan himself, at the beginning of the 1945 general election campaign: “We have been the dreamers, we have been the sufferers, now we are the builders.”
And that is what he wanted to be remembered for: as a builder, not just a dreamer, and never again the sufferer.
Not longing for a life of noble protest about a future that out of office he was powerless to create but determined, as his priority, to be in government building the future. And he could only do it by making sure we sought power to enact our principles..
LABOUR GOVERNMENT OF 1945 PUT PRINCIPLES INTO PRACTISE
No one can doubt that we needed not just principles but power to achieve a free and universal NHS, the first in the world – compassion in action. Protests could help, but if we were never to return to a world where nurses had to leave patients to run charity flag days to raise vital funds for vaccinations of children, protest was not enough: we needed to be in power to create the first National Health Service, making healthcare free on the basis of citizenship and need rather than the payment of fees or insurance premiums.
No one can doubt that we needed to focus on winning power to create a Welfare State – power used for a purpose. That we needed to focus on winning power to create the National Insurance Act, National Insurance Injuries Act and the Factories Act – power used for a purpose. Introducing health and safety and social security, not least for those workers left injured or disabled at and by work – power used for a purpose.
The Children Act 1948, the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, the creation of National Parks, independence for India, and the start of decolonisation – power used for a purpose.
And of course Atlee was attacked for selling out, for putting power before principle, but his government showed power need not be won at the expense of principle, and he showed it could not be won without a focus on winning and without unity to win.
So we have been through these arguments before.
ANGER NOT ENOUGH
Anger is not enough.
We need to have a credible, radical, sustainable, electable alternative.
And so having principles and having power cannot be opposites.
They are inextricably bound to each other.
It is one of our principles – not an evasion of our principles – that we must seek to secure power for social justice.
And sadly if we fail to do all we can to end poverty through political action, we become the people who instead of ending poverty fail to end it.
And if we tell people we are doing what we cannot do – to win power on their behalf – we don’t liberate the poor, but end up exploiting the poor.
ABLE IN OPPOSITION TO DEMONSTRATE AGAINST UNEMPLOYMENT AND POVERTY BUT NOT ABLE TO ERADICATE UNEMPLOYMENT AND POVERTY
I can tell you of my own experience.
For 18 years from 1979 – and for 14 of them as an MP – I attended marches, walked on demonstrations, spoke at rallies, including a rally of one million people on the march for the right to work. But despite all the marches and demonstrations – I was there with Jimmy Reid, John Smith and Donald Dewar on the Right to Work march in 1982 – we were virtually powerless.
Don’t tell me that demonstrations are a superior alternative to power. When the Tories entered government in 1979, unemployment stood at 1.3 million. 18 years later it was more than 2 million. When they entered government, 1.2 million children lived in poverty. When they left, it was 4.2 million. When they arrived 20 per cent of pensioners were considered poor and by the end of the decade 40 per cent were poor – each change that had to be and was reversed by Labour. And remember too: when they left power, inequality measured by the Gini co-efficient was almost 50 per cent worse.
And I lived through the miners’ strike when, because we were out of power, a Tory government moved the relief of poverty from the social security office to the soup kitchen and surcharged my own local authority simply for helping mothers and children in distress.
NATIONAL MINIMUM WAGE NOT A MISTAKE
And so look at 1997.
Yes we made mistakes.
We would not be human if we did not make mistakes.
But a National Minimum Wage – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
The New Deal, £5 billion paid for by a tax on the privatised utilities, giving two million young people a job – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Sure Start – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
The first global climate change act piloted through in Government by Ed Miliband was not a mistake
Guaranteed maternity leave, guaranteed paternity leave, four weeks’ paid holiday – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Two million pensioners and two million children lifted out of poverty by tax credits – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
£200 winter fuel payment, free TV licences, free local bus travel for over-60s and free eye tests – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Raising international aid from £2 billion to £8 billion, and taking the steps that brought aid expenditure from 0.26 per cent to 0.7 per cent of GNI – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
85,000 more nurses, 32,000 more doctors 30,000 more teachers and waiting times for NHS operations halved – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Free nursery places for three and four-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Introducing the Disability Rights Commission – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Scrapping Section 28 and introducing Civil Partnerships – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Banning fox hunting – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
Free entry to national museums and galleries so that even the poorest citizen in the land could have access to our best culture – power used for a purpose – was not a mistake.
And despite what some critics say, pursuing a Keynesian policy, yes supporting people financially through a recession to avert a depression – and as a result coming through the worst world recession with half the unemployment, half the bankruptcies and half the mortgage repossessions of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s recessions – that was not a mistake.
And it’s no mistake now to fight, to win, to be a party of government and to use the power of government to change lives. To build a better life for people, whether it be costed practical affordable policies candidates for leader have for universal childcare and a new mission to tackle poverty; policies to support a right to training or a job for young people; policies to mute the discriminatory and vindictive attacks on workers’ rights including workers’ rights to the European social chapter; policies for lifelong learning and a policy not just for an improved national health service but for a new a national care service for the elderly. Policies, all of them, to use power for a purpose, creating the best pathway for the return of a Labour Government.
For we know that when we are out of power or when power is used for its own sake and not to pursue the ideals of social justice, people are unemployed, children go hungry, public services are degraded, and old people live out their lives without hope or comfort.
But when we are using power for a purpose, people have jobs, security, decent health care, good education and better prospects for the future.
LABOUR GRAPPLING WITH INSECURITIES OF GLOBALISATION
So why does it seem so difficult?
Why are we not just heartbroken but in turmoil?
Of course it is in part because we fear we are out of power for at least 10 years at the very time when we feel the nation needs not neo-liberalism but progressive policies. And it’s in part because we are grieving because we have lost an election we hoped Ed Miliband would win.
But I think I am right in saying we are in turmoil and torment more than at any time since the war, more than at any time since we lost three elections in the fifties, and more than when we lost four elections before 1997, for a bigger reason: the bigger picture is that across the whole of Europe and America there is a wave of discontent a turning away from traditional parties as people try to grapple with, to come to terms with, to meet and master what threatens to overwhelm us – the speed and the scale of global change, said to be ten times faster and a hundred times bigger than anything we saw in the previous industrial revolution, what some compare to a runaway train.
You can see the insecurity people feel as a result of just one aspect of globalisation – the global flow of people – and they know too that the flows of capital, goods and services which once were within national borders, have now become global flows threatening the companies we work for, threatening the jobs we do, threatening the incomes we are used to and threatening the prospects for our children. Globalisation is leaving people insecure, uncertain, and unmoored; it is uprooting people’s lives and the impact of globalisation not as a theory but directly on our lives is making many of us angry. I saw a banner at a US demo saying “worldwide campaign against globalisation.”
And we know that change will speed up. Jobs from clerks and typists to boilermakers and perhaps even radiologists – even part of the work even of doctors and lawyers – will in time give way to computerisation and digitalisation and someone has written that the names of the jobs of the future are ones we haven’t even heard of, names as obscure and comical as drone dispatcher, quant analyst and robot polisher.
And the reflex reaction is to want to bring control back home – as nationalist movements in Scotland, Catalonia, Belgium, Greece and elsewhere demand.
That seemingly runaway train is making people turn not just to nationalism but to protectionism, anti-immigrant isolationism and other forms of extremism.
Yet the problems that give birth to nationalism can’t be solved by nationalism and in an interdependent world the problems that give rise to isolationism and protectionism cannot be solved by isolationism and protectionism. The problems such as pollution and financial instability can only be solved by matching national action with global cooperation.
What has been compared to a runaway train that is out of control and uncontrollable is not so much a crisis for the right – who will always say let free market forces rip and that there is no alternative to that – but a challenge and crisis for the left which has for one hundred years placed its faith in pulling the levers of state power at a the level of the nation state when in contrast we now find that we cannot deal with climate change, financial instability, growth, trade, poverty, inequality and tax evasion without coordinated global action.
And so with the world quite different from 1945 and 1997, so the policies have to be different from 1945 and 1997. New times cannot be addressed just with the old methods.
I don’t reject old ideas simply because they are old. When George Bernard Shaw published his proposals for a command economy, and Michael Foot said they were twenty years out of date, Shaw replied: yes he had published these proposals 20 years ago but as he wrote them they were 50 years ahead of their time.
The problem is not just that the policies presented as new are simply new labels like the people’s QE for old ideas. The problem is that that proposals for a command economy fail to recognise that ‘the commanding heights’ now include education, knowledge and information and that even what are said to be the commanding heights of finance towering over the lives of British working people are not just owned and controlled in Britain but in America, Europe, Japan, Korea and China.
And, if as I have argued, we have to build not just new national economic policies but progressive alliances for global cooperation. If we are to end financial instability and build growth, trade and jobs And even more so if we are to tackle climate change and, yes, address the poverty and inequality which hurts the poorest countries, we need cooperation beyond borders.
And if I m right that we need global alliances then don’t tell me – and I speak as someone who has devoted my time volunteering to help others find an end to the poverty of the poorest people in the poorest parts of the world – that we can do much for the poor of the world if the alliances we favour most are with Hezbollah, Hamas, Hugo Chavez’s successor in Venezuela and Vladimir Putin’s totalitarian Russia. By failing to build alliances elsewhere, I say we will not be helping the poor of the world out of poverty but condemning the poor of the world to continued poverty.
And Europe? Are we saying that we the people of Britain, we – progressive voices in the country which stood up to fascism in Europe, helped defeat totalitarianism in Europe, refused to have any truck with anti-Semitism in Europe and have persistently stood up against racism in Europe – are ready to abandon European cooperation, our membership of Europe just at the time when with our progressive ideas we should be taking the lead in Europe’s fight against illiberalism, totalitarianism, anti-Semitism, racism and the extremisms of prejudice and discrimination on grounds of colour, creed and sexuality in every form.
So, yes, righteous anger is no substitute for having the right answers.
A protest vote against unfairness is no substitute for policies that make for fairness.
Once again we have to apply enduring values to new times, the new world.
WHAT KIND OF PARTY?
And the test for our mission is also about what kind of party we create. I welcome all new members who want a Labour government. But more than that, because we have always believed that cooperation and fellowship is at the heart of the solidarity between people we favour, that cooperation and fellowship means talking to people who don’t yet agree with us and not just people who agree with us. It means we are members who want to persuade non-members of the value of getting a Labour government. And that means our Labour Party cannot be a club or a clique: it has to be a crusade. And when we use the word ‘movement’ it means we have to be always reaching outwards, widening, broadening deepening our support, conversing and cooperating not just with those who agree with us but with those whom we have to persuade.
And we have to recognise something else: we do best when we speak for all working families.
NEVER GIVE UP ON THE BRITISH PEOPLE
Most people are not ideologues.
They are not dogmatists.
They don’t tie themselves to rigid doctrines.
But what we share in common is that there are millions of us across this country who feel, however distantly, the pain of others today; who believe in something bigger than ourselves; who cannot easily feast when our fellow citizens go hungry to food banks; who cannot feel at ease when our neighbours, in hock to payday lenders, are ill at ease; who cannot be fully content with poverty pay and zero-hours contracts when around us there is so much discontent.
These are people we must persuade. And we can persuade them of our values – and it is about persuasion – that it is not anti-wealth to say that the wealthy must do more to help those who are not wealthy; it is not anti-enterprise to say that the enterprising must do more to meet the aspirations of those who have never had the chance to show that they too are enterprising; and it is not anti-market to say that markets need morals to underpin their success.
And it is not antipatriotic to say that when the Tory party are deliberately dividing our country – setting English nationalism against Scottish nationalism north against south London versus the regions, and too often middle income Britain set against the poor – this country desperately needs a Labour Party that can call for unity.
And so this is the challenge: we cannot ask people to choose between their families’ interests and the wider good. We have to show that their economic prosperity and the country’s prosperity advance when they advance together and we have to demonstrate that progress need not be one person or family or community having to advance at the expense of others but all of us making progress, the whole nation moving forward as one.
THE LESSONS I HAVE LEARNED
And so in conclusion there are five lessons I have learned from 18 years of opposition, between 1979 and 1997, 13 years of government between 1997 and 2010 and now already five more years of opposition.
First our principles demand of us that we seek power to help people in need.
Second we have to always listen to and learn from the public, always look outwards talking to them and never looking inwards just talking to ourselves, and that the Labour party is at its best when it speaks for the whole country.
Third we don’t win if we just work out our anger against the global change happening around us. It is not enough to be anti-globalisation: we have to show how global forces can be controlled in the interests of working families, work out our answers and the alternatives and, as John Prescott once said so powerfully, apply modern values in a new setting.
Fourth the Labour Party must give people realistic hope – that it can form a government to bring about the change. I repeat: making what we want – the desirable – possible means making the desirable popular and electable.
OUR VOTE CANNOT BE JUST FOR US BUT TO HELP OTHERS
And finally there’s another final lesson I have learned
Our vote is rightly in private but it cannot just be a private act. It is about a public service.
What I mean is this: If you believe the purpose of politics is to deliver social justice, I think we know that we cannot just cast our vote for what makes us feel good. It has to be for what makes a difference.
Put bluntly, when we vote we have to think of using our vote not for ourselves but for the poor, the deprived, the left out, the left behind, all of whom desperately need a Labour government. What Ghandi said in the last century is relevant today: “Before you do anything, stop and recall the face of the poorest most helpless destitute person you have seen and ask yourself, Is what I am about to do going to help him?”
VOTING A PUBLIC DUTY,OUR VOTE A SACRED TRUST
And so let us see our vote not as a protest vote but as a public duty and a scared trust
A public duty discharged by people who believe that the Labour party exists to serve and ask themselves how that can best be done.
And a sacred trust – the fate and future of Labour that has been put in our hands held by us in trust, held by us in trust for all who need a Labour Government and not just to advance the progress of the Labour Party but to ensure it can discharge its future responsibilities.
I’m not asking you to vote for the status quo, for no change, or just for a repeat of the policies of 1997 that we know have to be updated for a world of 2020.
But let us recall the final words of Bevan, said on his deathbed when he was visited by Michael Foot:
“Never underestimate the passion for unity in the party and never forget that it is the decent instinct of people who want to do something.”
The decent instinct of people who want to do something, to do some good, to do things for others.
Labour is the greatest instrument for social progress this country has ever had.
Labour is the biggest force for fairness the people of this country have ever invented.
Labour is at its most successful the best emancipating force to fight prejudice discrimination and intolerance
And so let us dream dreams.
Hold to our high ideals.
See politics as making the desirable possible.
But we dare not forget – let us never forget – that our obligation is to make our dreams come true, our ideals real and the desirable deliverable.
Understand we seek power for a purpose.
Know that to win power we have to win the people.
And follow what Bevan called that decent instinct to do something that will help the lives of people most in need.
These are the stakes and I ask you to vote for a Labour Party that will listen, be able to lead our country and once again in office make better the life of the people of this land.