Michael Ancram – 2003 Speech to Conservative Welsh Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Ancram to the 2003 Welsh Conservative Conference on 7th March 2003.


It is an enormous pleasure to be back in Cardiff, once more in Wales again.

Although I only had one year here some years ago as the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales I gained an enormous affection for this country.

I love coming back to Wales, and seeing so many friends. I remember the great devolution battles, the nail-biting referendum campaign. It may be a little politically incorrect to say so now – but then political correctness was never my strongest suit – but we so nearly did it.

That campaign brought out all that was best in Wales on both sides of the argument. I forged friendships across the political spectrum which remain with me today. We fought on all sides for what we believed in.

The only sadness was that so few people bothered to vote.

I believe that here in Wales we are on the brink of a Tory revival.

That hope is down mainly to all of you, who kept faith with our party through the hard and difficult times, never giving up, never ceasing to campaign and always determined to win. You are the beating heart of the Conservative Party in Wales and we owe you a great debt of gratitude for it.

But a revival is not yours to claim credit for alone.

There is our stalwart band of Assembly members under the clear and effective leadership of Nick Bourne, constantly a thorn in Labours side and always ensuring that the Conservative voice is heard loud and clear in Cardiff.

It is the Conservative AM’s who are really making the Assembly work, providing a real opposition and raising the issues that really matter to the people of Wales.

We owe them a great tribute for their fortitude and determination.

And also to Nigel Evans, our Shadow Secretary of State for Wales who makes certain that the voice of conservative Wales reverberates around Westminster and that the interests of Wales are never ignored by the Shadow Cabinet. He is a tower of strength and I thank him too.

We live in troubled times.

Of course we are all troubled by the continuing Iraq crisis. It would be extraordinary if we were not. None of us want war. Some of us have spent significant parts of our lives working for peace, and we must always regard war as a last resort – when there is no better way.

We now face that terrible reality. I still hope and pray that Saddam Hussein will see that he has run out of road and that even at this late date he will fully and proactively comply.

Reluctant or partial compliance of the sort at which he is a past master cannot be enough. Allowing him to buy time is not an option. His attitude must change. If it does not, then I believe the international community must act.

I know there are many questions and many doubts. I understand them and I take them very seriously indeed. I believe the Government should have done much more to answer the questions and to meet the doubts.

Let me share with you my understanding.

The first question is whether Saddam does really pose a risk to international peace and security.

The UN certainly thinks so and has thought so for over 10 years. Under the UN Charter there is one chapter, Chapter VII, which specifically and exclusively deals with threats to international peace and security and which in Article 42 specifically permits the use of military force if necessary to deal with it.

All the 17 UNSC resolutions passed over the last 12 years against Iraq deliberately fall under Chapter VII. Indeed 1441 deliberately replicates the language of Article 42.

Nobody who signed up for it, including France, can be in any doubt as to what it means.

The next question is as to whether the threat is real, present and a danger to us. This is enormously difficult. I am not privy to intelligence information, and there is little direct evidence of such a threat.

I learned however in my time in Northern Ireland the value and importance of intelligence. They are our eyes where we cannot see and our ears where we cannot hear. They evidently have told the PM that the threat is real, present and endangers us.

And even if the smoking gun is not there, the smoke is.

Leave aside the nuclear threat which by all accounts is some way off. Lethal quantities of anthrax and the nerve agent VX were present four years ago. They are easily transported and easily hidden. There has been no convincing explanation as to what has happened to them.

They are relatively simple to deliver either in Iraqi hands or in the hands of terrorists particularly those who are careless of their own lives. And they can be easily developed into even more lethal agents such as pandemic viruses with no antidotes. These are real risks and real threats we cannot ignore.

The third question is why now?

There can never be an absolutely right time. But history teaches us that action delayed or postponed is rarely action avoided; that procrastination, putting off what needs to be done almost always leads to worse challenges later on.

I do believe that if we leave Saddam Hussein armed with WMD now, he will still have to be dealt with later when the risks will almost inevitably be much higher.

He is dangerous now with his weapons only partially developed. How much more dangerous will he be when in due course they are completely developed and deliverable over great distances.

I do not believe we have a right to pass this lethal buck to those who will come after us.

None of us underestimate the importance of the UN in this matter. While a second or more accurately eighteenth resolution may not strictly be necessary, there is no doubt in my mind that the credibility and acceptability of any action will be strengthened by the maximum international support.

We watch with concern and interest Hans Blix’s report to the UNSC today.

One thing is certain. The daft concept of a unified European foreign policy, the abiding dream of those who would build a politically united Europe, has been clearly shown up on the Iraq issue for the banality it is and has always been.

I only hope the lesson has come early enough for us to learn.

There will almost inevitably be feelings of destabilisation throughout the Gulf. We would be naive not to understand how much of a running sore the unresolved problem of Israel/Palestine is.

If we are to demonstrate that this is not a war against Islam we would do well to emulate President Bush’s recent speech when he called for progress on the achieving of two states west of the Jordan, a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state, the ending of settlement activity, the establishment of a genuine ceasefire, and a return to talks.

We must urge both sides to seize this opportunity.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear. We do not give the PM our support in this matter of Iraq lightly.

It does not come easily to me to support him. How much easier it would be to play the cynical Liberal game of facing in all directions at the same time. Tempting. But wrong, and we will not be drawn down that less than honourable path.

The Liberal Democrats behaviour has been despicable. They have even outdone their own usual low standards in the way they have responded.

Hostile to Saddam, sympathetic to Saddam. For firm action, against firm action. For the UN route, against the UN route. Claiming to be consistent when their only consistency has been their inconsistency. Charles Kennedy has made the Grand Old Duke of York look like a paragon of decisiveness.

We will support Tony Blair on Iraq as long as he does what is right because it is right to do so. We will not play the political game at the expense of the national interest and doing what is right.

But that is as far as we will support him.

Where he’s plum wrong and behaving dishonourably as he has on Gibraltar we will oppose him. And not only will we tell him he is wrong as he seeks to sell out the British sovereignty of the people of Gibraltar. We will continue to make it clear that we will not be bound by any agreement with Spain that does not have the wholehearted and freely given consent of the people of Gibraltar. And as we saw in November that is about as likely as the survival of a snowball in hell.

We will stand by the people of Gibraltar and their rights to remain British. We will not betray them.

And then there is Zimbabwe. I can hardly mention that country without feeling a profound sense of shame in how Britain under the lily-livered leadership of a government transfixed by its post-colonial guilt has abandoned that once great land.

I got into Zimbabwe for a day last summer. What I saw was one of the most depressing experiences of my life.

Millions of people facing starvation alongside productive farmland, which had once been the breadbasket of Southern Africa lying, unfarmed with last year’s harvest lying rotting in the fields.

I found farmers illegally evicted from the land which many of them had bought with Mugabe’s assurances after independence. I found displaced black farm workers harassed by ethnic cleansing every bit as nasty as Kosovo starving and frightened in the woods. I was told of the state organised violence, the torture, the rape, the murder.

I met representatives of the proud Matabele tribe who feared genocide by starvation at the hands of Mugabe. I saw democracy and the rule of law being destroyed, and all this at the hands of the vile despot Mugabe.

President Chirac of France may not mind embracing this bloodstained figure. I would not give him the time of day. I along with millions of Zimbabweans just want to see him gone.

As I left Zimbabwe one hollow eyed displaced black farm worker grasped my hand and said simply “Don’t let the world forget us”.

I won’t, but our government has shown every intention of doing so.

They resisted our calls for targeted sanctions until they were too little too late. They have now even connived in the manipulation of those sanctions to allow Mugabe into Paris three weeks ago.

They have failed to enlist the UN into monitoring food distribution in Zimbabwe. They twisted and turned on the cricket world cup issue desperately seeking to walk by on the other side.

Tony Blair who told the world that it was his moral duty to act in Zimbabwe has visited everywhere in Africa but Zimbabwe and has deliberately ducked mentioning Zimbabwe at world summits where to do so might have made a difference.

That is why I am ashamed. Tony Blair’s abandonment of the people of Zimbabwe who look to us in their hour of need shames us all. I will fight for Zimbabwe on behalf of our party until something is done.

We will not walk by on the other side. And we will continue to harry this government at every opportunity and in every possible way to live up to their responsibilities and act.

And we will oppose them on Europe. How many of you here are aware of what is happening in Europe at this time?

How many of you know that despite their promises to the contrary this wretched government of ours is about to raise the white flag of surrender on crucial areas which will decide whether we become a European superstate or not?

How many of you know that the firm intention of those charged with recommending the future shape of Europe is a legal personality which is the first prerequisite of a European state, a fully fledged constitution complete with legally enforceable fundamental rights which is the second prerequisite, and the subjugation of our foreign and defence policy to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice which is the final prerequisite.

These together form the Rubicon between the original and acceptable concept of a Europe of Nations, a partnership of sovereign states, and a European political union which ultimately must sound the death knell of the bottom-up Europe which alone in practical terms makes sense.

I am both horrified at the speed in which this alternative Europe is being developed. And this government who originally told us that they would resist such moves to the death are now busy preparing the ground for the shameful volte-face and the despicable surrender.

Parliament with its overwhelming government majority probably can’t stop it. But it must be totally against the spirit of the unwritten British constitution that basic sovereignty can in this way be surrendered without the democratically expressed consent of the British people.

That is why I have demanded a referendum before any treaty embodying such surrender is ratified.

I cannot see how a government which allowed 26% only of the people of Wales in a referendum radically to alter the constitution could now refuse a referendum which will decide whether we accept the surrender of our basic sovereignty or not.

We will campaign vigorously for a referendum before surrender.

Failure to grant one would be the final demonstration of the contempt in which this government hold the democratic wishes of the British people.

Let me make this clear. We are not anti-Europe. Nor have we ever been. We believe in a Europe built from the bottom up – as was always originally intended.

We believe in a partnership of sovereign nations within which the single market is completed, directives are framework rather than specific, there is far greater parliamentary accountability over Euro-decisions, where we cooperate on matters of mutual interest, but where we accept and indeed value our differences and retain our basic rights of self-determination.

This is the theme for the constructive bottom-up Europe which we believe not only offers a constructive and viable Europe for the 21st century but also provides an urgent anti-dote to the government’s surreptitious policy of imposing an integrated Europe upon us.

We have a constructive position. We must make sure it is understood.

My foreign affairs portfolio covers much of what I have wanted to say today. But as an old political warhorse with nostrils flaring at the first whiff of cordite, with elections in the air I cannot fail to mention the open goal with which we are currently faced and of which we must take advantage.

New Labour has failed. Their much-vaunted pledges are in tatters. They have failed on health, they have failed on education, they have failed on pensions, on law and order, on asylum, on tax and on the economy.

They set their own targets and they have failed, not only themselves but us as well. They are suddenly a derelict government, a government with no purpose, no honour and no answers.

I am sick and tired of living in a Britain that is being inexorably undermined by a Government that has lost its way. I am sick and tired of a government that has lost all sense of pride and which has settled for the second rate.

I am sick and tired of a government that can no longer – if it ever could – distinguish truth from spin.

I am sick and tired of a government to whom people don’t matter, to whom the family doesn’t matter, of a government that seeks to make us ashamed of our history, our traditions, our culture, our currency and now of our very Britishness.

I unashamedly, unequivocally, and unchangeably believe in Britain and all within that concept which has in the past made is great and can make us great again. I long for a Britain where people matter again.

I long for a Britain where the family matters again as a symbol of stability in an ever-changing world. I long for a Britain where values matter again, where standards once more count for something, and where personal responsibility is once again a goal to be aimed at.

I long for a Britain where it is worth doing the right thing again; worth working hard, worth saving, worth playing a part in one’s community, worth supporting those less able to fend for themselves, and worth respecting the law.

I long for a Britain where I can be proud of my country without being called extremist, proud of our history without being labelled anachronistic, and proud of our national character without being branded a bigot.

I long for a Britain where truth matters again.

I long for a Britain where freedom means what it says rather than what political correctness tells it to mean. I long for a Britain in which quite simply I can believe again.

We have begun the great march back to power. The door to victory stands gaping before us. Whether we go through depends on us alone.

We will need self-confidence. We will need courage and determination. Above all we will need self-belief. We will need to work together as one, loyal to each other, true to our leader Iain Duncan Smith, and committed to victory.

Such an opportunity may not come easily again. We owe it to our country to send this rotten, duplicitous, venal, self-seeking and self-promoting lot packing.

Your chance will come earlier than ours, in a few weeks time, and there is not a minute to waste. Remember what they have done to Wales – the broken promises, the betrayed trust, and the dashed expectations.

It is time for us to say be gone, to take them head on and show them up for what they are. And then to sweep them into the rubbish tip were they belong. Have strength, have conviction, have hope. Go out and win.

Michael Ancram – 2003 Speech to Conservative Spring Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Ancram to the 2003 Conservative Spring Conference on 15th March 2003.


This session has inevitably centred on Iraq. It has been a serious debate. Iain Duncan Smith set the scene for us. Bernard Jenkin and Caroline Spelman have enlarged upon it.

It has also rightly ranged wider.

We must never forget the war against international terrorism. The Chairman reminded us of the horrors of September 11 last year. We must continue to work with the international community to hunt down the terrorists and to ensure that they have nowhere to hide.

We welcome the recent arrests in Pakistan even if they are only the tip of the iceberg.

We have seen from recent alerts in Britain that the threat to us is real.

The first responsibility of government is the protection of its citizens. We will ensure that the Government does not take their eye off this ball.

Iraq however is the immediate priority. I make no excuse for returning to it again.

Of course we are concerned.

None of us want war. Some of us have spent significant parts of our lives working for peace. War must always be the last resort – when there is no better way of achieving what must be done.

That sad reality now stares us in the face. I still pray that Saddam Hussein will finally see that he has run out of road, and that even at this late date he will disarm.

His attitude has to change. If it does not, then the international community must act.

There are many questions and doubts. I take them very seriously. I believe the Government should have done much more to answer the questions and to meet the doubts from the outset.

They have not. So let me share with you our view.

Does Saddam really pose a risk to international peace and security?

The UN certainly thinks so – and has done so for the last 12 years.

All 17 resolutions passed against Iraq fall under Chapter VII of the UN Charter which specifically and exclusively deals with threats to international peace and security and in Article 42 specifically permits the use of military force if necessary to deal with it.. Indeed Resolution 1441 deliberately replicates the language of Article 42.

Nobody who signed up for it, including France, can be in any doubt as to what it means. They knew at the time they signed, and they still know it now.

So is that the threat a danger to us? There may be no obvious smoking gun yet. But I learned in Northern Ireland the value and importance of intelligence advice. They are our eyes where we cannot see and our ears where we cannot hear. They have told the PM that the threat is real, present and endangers us. We would be unwise to seek to second-guess them.

And even if the smoking gun is not there, there is certainly smoke is.

There is the further evidence produced in written form by Dr Hans Blix a week ago. It lists a blood-chilling number of unaccounted for weapons and biological and chemical stockpiles. Tonnes of anthrax and the nerve agent VX were present four years ago. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, we can only assume that they are still there. Today’s Iraqi letter at first sight seems once again a propaganda device, too little and too late.

These weapons are simple to use either in Iraqi hands or in the hands of terrorists, particularly those who are careless of their own lives. They can be easily developed into even more lethal agents. They are easily transported and easily hidden.

These are the real risks and real threats we cannot ignore.

So why now?

There can never be an absolutely right time. But history teaches us that action delayed or postponed is rarely action avoided; that putting off what needs to be done almost always leads to worse challenges later on.

If we leave Saddam Hussein armed with WMD now, he will still have to be dealt with later when the risks will almost inevitably be much higher and the dangers infinitely greater.

I do not believe we have a right to pass this lethal buck on to those who will come after us. It would be contemptible, and as Conservatives must never tread that dishonourable path.

We support efforts to achieve a Second Resolution to implement Resolution 1441 within a given timetable. But a second resolution is not, and has never been, a legal prerequisite for military action.

We therefore will support whatever action – in conformity with international law – is necessary to remove Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

There is another aspect we should not ignore.

There are inevitably feelings of destabilisation throughout the Gulf. We should not underestimate how much of a running sore the unresolved problem of Israel/Palestine remains.

If we are to demonstrate that this is not a war against Islam we must support President Bush in his call for real progress on achieving two states west of the Jordan, a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state, and the ending of settlement activity.

We must applaud his decision yesterday to publish the long-awaited ‘road-map’ to achieve this. We must add our weight, and press an ending of violence and a resumption of talks.

And as Caroline Spelman has said we must not lose sight of our obligations to help Iraq get back on its feet once this is all over.

We support the Prime Minister on Iraq. That support is not unconditional. Nor does it come easily. How politically tempting it would be to ride public opinion and oppose. It would also be dishonourable, irresponsible and wrong.

As have been the Liberal Democrats throughout this crisis, facing in all directions at the same time. Their behaviour has been despicable. It has even outdone their own usual low standards.

Hostile to Saddam at one moment, sympathetic at another. For the UN route last September, against the UN route in February, back in favour of it now. Against military action yesterday, apparently morally supporting it to day. What will his position be tomorrow?

He claims to have been consistent, when their only consistency has been their inconsistency. Kennedy makes the Grand Old Duke of York look like a paragon of decisiveness.

The Liberal Democrats are the ‘weather-vaners’, swinging with every shift of the popular wind.

Well we will not take that easy and dishonourable path. We will support Tony Blair on Iraq as long as he is acting in the national interest and is doing what is right.

But that is as far as we will support him.

Where he’s wrong as he has been on Gibraltar we will oppose him. We will stand by the people of Gibraltar and their rights to remain British. We will not betray them. And nor should the Prime Minister even for a moment think that he can trade Gibraltar’s sovereignty tomorrow for Spain’s support today

And then there is the government’s desertion of Zimbabwe. I cannot help feeling a profound sense of shame at how Britain under the lily-livered leadership of a government transfixed by its post-colonial guilt has abandoned that once great land.

Tony Blair told us that it was his moral duty to act in Zimbabwe. In practice he has done nothing.

On the cricket world cup he disgracefully tried to walk by on the other side. I hope he felt ashamed in the face of the courage of the Zimbabwean cricketers Andy Flower and Henry Olongo in their black arm-banded protest on the field against what is being done to their land. I salute those two brave cricketers.

Tony Blair may have abandoned the people of Zimbabwe in their hour of need. These two brave men did not. And nor shall we.

And we will oppose this Government on the future shape of Europe.

How many of us here are really aware of what is happening in Europe at this time?

How many of you know that the firm recommendations emanating from those charged with recommending the future shape of Europe are:

– a legal personality which is the first prerequisite of a European state,

– a fully fledged constitution complete with legally enforceable fundamental rights which is the second prerequisite,

– and the subjugation of our foreign and defence policy to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice which is the final prerequisite?

These together form a Rubicon between the original and acceptable concept of a Europe of Nations – the Europe we joined – and a European political union which ultimately will sound the death knell of our rights of self-determination.

I am horrified at the speed in which this Europe is being developed. Ministers who originally told us that they would resist such moves are now busy preparing the ground for a shameful volte-face and a despicable surrender.

Sadly Parliament with its overwhelming government majority can’t stop it. But it must be totally against the spirit of the unwritten British constitution that basic sovereignty can in this way be surrendered without the democratically expressed consent of the British people .

That is why I have demanded, and demand again today, a referendum before any treaty embodying such surrender is ratified.

Let me make this clear. We are not anti-Europe. We believe in a Europe built from the bottom up, with power flowing from the nation states – as was always originally intended.

We believe in a partnership of sovereign nations within which the single market is completed, where directives are framework rather than specific,

– where there is far greater parliamentary accountability over Euro-decisions, where we retain our own currency,

– where we cooperate on matters of mutual interest, but where we accept and indeed value our differences

And where we retain our basic rights of self-determination not least on Foreign policy and defence.

We must now go out and fight for this Europe as a genuine option.

Indeed when this current crisis is over there will be much restructuring to be done, much weakness to be repaired – on Europe, on Nato and on the UN. We will have a crucial role to play in all of these exercises. We must be ready.

And while Iraq inevitably preoccupies us, we must make sure that it does not allow this wretched government to get away with it on other international or European fronts.

And we will do so as part of that wider campaign to see this discredited bunch on their way.

New Labour has failed. Their much-vaunted pledges of standing up for Britain and their ethical foreign policy are now in tatters. They have not only failed domestically. They have failed in the international arena as well.

They are a derelict government, a government with no purpose. A government that should go.

I am sick and tired of living in a Britain that is being inexorably undermined by a Government that has lost its way.

I am sick and tired of a government that has lost all sense of national pride and which settles for the second rate.

I am sick and tired of a government that seeks to make us ashamed of our history, our traditions, our culture, our currency and our very Britishness.

As Conservatives we believe in Britain. We long for a country where people matter again, where values and standards once more count for something.

We want to be proud of our country without being called extremist, proud of our history without being labelled anachronistic.

We long for a country where freedom, nationally and internationally, means what it says rather than what political correctness tells us it means.

We are starting the march back to power.

We will need self-confidence. We will need self-belief. Above all we will need to work together as one, loyal to each other, and true to our leader Iain Duncan Smith.

We owe it to our country to send this rotten Government packing.

It is time for us to take them head on. The surrenderers in Europe, the betrayers of trust in Zimbabwe and of loyalty in Gibraltar. And the destroyers of national pride here at home. It is time they were gone.

Our resolution must be clear. To have strength, to have conviction, to have hope. To stand firm in defence of our national interests. And when this crisis is over, to go out and win.

Valerie Amos – 2003 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made to the 2013 Labour Party Conference held in Bournemouth. The speech was made by the then International Development Secretary, Valerie Amos, on 1st October 2003.



Let me start by welcoming the work of the Britain in the World Policy Commission.  It has been a model for other commissions, and I am pleased to be moving the Commission’s consultation document.

This afternoon’s debate has once again shown the passion and commitment of our movement, the Labour movement, for a fair, equal and just world.

I am the daughter of immigrant parents.  I was born in Guyana and came to this country when I was nine.  I remember what it felt like:

– being separated from family and friends – the sense of loss for things familiar;

– gradually becoming conscious of being different – my accent, my skin colour;

– but there was also the excitement of being somewhere new.

Adjusting was tough – even in the warmth of a secure and loving family.

So I understand from personal experience what others talk about in the abstract.

My parents came here because of the opportunities – although they never dreamed that their daughter would be the first black woman and one of only two black members of a British Cabinet.  They are proud of what I have achieved.  But it would not have been possible if the fight for equality and social justice was not at the heart of the Labour movement.

Iraq has created many divisions within our party.  Because we share a belief in two things that seem to contradict: both of them important, and both of them morally justifiable.  First, we want to fight oppression and work to liberate those who are oppressed – and second, we share a passionate belief that war only happens when politics has failed.

I have not heard a single argument that says the people of Iraq should not be liberated – and we have all watched in horror and disbelief as the bodies of three hundred thousand human beings – more than the population of Nottingham – have been uncovered in mass graves.

I understand the concerns of those who were against the war.  I visited Basra and Baghdad in July.  I know that we have a lot to do, and since then the security situation has got worse.  But whatever side of the Iraq debate you stand on, we have a common purpose – we want the people of Iraq to enjoy a brighter future than they did under Saddam Hussein, and we want power handed back to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible.  We will not walk away from the people of Iraq.

It has been a difficult year.  But there have been successes too.

In Rwanda just nine years ago, thousands turned on each other, hacking each other to death in the most appalling genocide – and we felt powerless.  The international community, to its shame, did nothing.

In August, Rwanda held presidential elections.  They could not have done it without our support.

In Kenya, a country famed for its corruption, we saw in January a peaceful, democratic change in government.  Every child now promised a free primary school place.  And you would have been moved, as I was, to see classes of fifty or more children eager to learn, some walking five miles or more to school; others going without food – but there, present, and keen.  We funded that.

And the Democratic Republic of Congo.  A rich country which has been raped of its resources.  Where ethnic violence left millions dead, and effectively divided the country in three.  Now, a new national government holds out the prospect of peace at last.  We helped to secure that fragile peace.

But there is still so much to do.  And we know that the greatest long-term challenges that we face are the global challenges.

What of the millions of people struck down in their prime by AIDS, above all in Africa – so that a country like Malawi, a country that needs to be able to invest in the future, loses more teachers to AIDS each year than there are new ones qualifying?

What of the millions who live in states beset by crisis, where their most basic needs go unmet and their own governments fail in their responsibility to protect them?  And what of the millions of refugees who are displaced and lose their homes, their livelihoods?

It is because of the plight of these millions of our fellow human beings that our strong moral purpose – our commitment to equality, and to social justice – is today more important than ever before.

I want to re-state my personal commitment to halving poverty and hunger in the world by 2015.

To reducing drastically the number of mothers that die in childbirth – and to an equally dramatic increase in the number of infants surviving to their fifth birthday.

To have halted – and begun to reverse – the sheer horror of HIV, TB and the other infectious diseases that needlessly destroy so many lives.

And to providing education for every single child of primary school age in the world.

These, and the other United Nations goals for development, are at the front of my mind every day.  Why? – because we can change things.  Through what we do as individuals and what we do as governments. I not only believe in justice and equality – I want us to deliver it.  That’s what my upbringing has taught me.  That’s what being part of this party has taught me.

Africa remains at the top of my list of priorities.

There is a terrible risk of Africa sliding back – and I will not allow Africa to be left behind.  We have doubled spending on Africa since 1997.  Twenty three heavily indebted poor countries in Africa have already qualified for debt relief – and Britain has offered one hundred per cent debt relief to every one of these countries where debt was owed to the UK.

Above all we must fight the needless scourge of HIV-AIDS.  AIDS is not just a health issue.  It kicks away the foundations of societies by affecting people in their prime of life.  People who are needed as parents – as workers – for the future of their countries.

Second, I want to end the scandal of unfair trade.

The average cow in Europe is allocated two dollars a day in subsidies – when two point eight billion people have to live on less.

To build on the alliance between the Labour movement and the Trade Justice Movement.

To fight for a fair deal for small and family farmers.  And to get this trade round – a development round – back on track.

And thirdly, I want the challenges of the global environment to be seen above all as a development issue.  We know that we are consuming the world’s resources at nearly double the levels the earth can sustain – and that these levels will have to fall if we are to survive.

We know that environmental problems always hit the poor hardest.  But it is more than this.  Because if there is a finite amount of resources to go round, we must ensure that the poorest countries and individuals in the world receive a fair share of global resources.

And we have the tools for the job.  My department is recognized around the globe as a world class organization – a department created by Labour.  And Clare Short played an invaluable role in that.

By 2005, the amount we spend on aid will reach four point five billion pounds a year.  Under the Tories, the proportion spent on development was halved.  With Labour, we are on course to double it.  So let no one tell you that all parties are the same.

Of course, Britain cannot do it alone.  We must work in partnership with other countries, and with international institutions – especially the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the IMF and World Bank.

The world is going through a period of massive transition. Last time there was a shift on this scale, it was the industrial revolution.  In that cradle, the left was born – with its outrage that the poor should feel so much of the pain of industrialization, yet taste so few of the benefits.

Now, we are at a new moment of transition, to a fully global society – a world with no islands.  And again, we are called to act against injustice and inequality.  Our historic mission has not ended.  It has just begun.

Dealing with the world’s inequalities is not just a matter of morality – it has become a matter of plain and simple self interest and survival.

But I ask you to support our work not because it is self interest, but because it is the right thing, the moral thing and the just thing to do.

Leo Amery – 1940 Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of a speech made in the House of Commons by Leo Amery on the 7th May 1940 criticising the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The speech was considered important in the subsequent downfall of Chamberlain and his replacement as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill.


May I say that I agree wholeheartedly with what just fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) as to the responsibility of the Opposition in playing a constructive part at this critical moment? The whole of Parliament has a grave responsibility at this moment; for, after all, it is Parliament itself that is on trial in this war. If we lose this war, it is not this or that ephemeral Government but Parliament as an institution that will be condemned, for good and all. I fully realise that this is not an easy Debate. There is much that ought to be said which cannot well be said in public. After listening to some of the speeches to-day, not least the profoundly impressive speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth (Sir R. Keyes), it seems to me that the whole of recent events—not only in Norway, but the whole conduct of the war up to date—calls for searching inquiry, not for one stray private sitting, but for a series of private sittings in which all that Members of Parliament can contribute of their private knowledge should be put into the common stock and frankly discussed.

Meanwhile, even to-day there is plenty that can be said, that ought to be said, and that must be said frankly; for there are no loyalties to-day except to the common cause. This afternoon, as a few days ago, the Prime Minister gave us a reasoned, argumentative case for our failure. It is always possible to do that after every failure. Making a case and. winning a war are not the same thing. Wars are won, not by explanations after the event but by foresight, by clear decision and by swift action. I confess that I did not feel there was one sentence in the Prime Minister’s speech this afternoon which suggested that the Government either foresaw what Germany meant to do, or came to a clear decision when it knew what Germany had done, or acted swiftly or consistently throughout the whole of this lamentable affair. I am not going to discuss the reasons for the actual evacuation. They may well have been conclusive in the circumstances. But the circumstances should never have arisen; and it is the story of those events—of the decisions, of the absence of decisions, of the changes of decisions which brought about those circumstances—which call for our inquiry and raise many questions which have yet to be answered.

We were told by the Prime Minister on 2nd May that all except a relatively small advance guard of the Expeditionary Force which was earmarked for Finland had gone elsewhere and that the ships had been taken for employment for other purposes. Even the small, inadequate nucleus that was kept in being had no transports except warships. Why was this done? For months we had been aware that the Germans had been accumulating troops and transports and practising embarkation and disembarkation against somebody. It is perfectly true that they could spare the ships better than we could. But was there any reason which would make us believe that they were sending the men elsewhere? Obviously the danger was there and might develop into actuality at any moment. The Prime Minister suggested that we could not know which of many objectives it might be. Surely we had some good reasons for suspecting which one it might be. The Finnish war had focussed the interest of the whole world on Scandinavia. Within a week of its termination the Prime Minister declared, speaking of Norway and Sweden, that the danger to them—from Germany—”stands upon their very doorstep.” The Altmark affair had before that showed clearly the illegal uses which Germany was prepared to make of Norwegian neutrality. What is more, within a few days of that statement we ourselves decided deliberately to challenge Germany over her use of Norway’s territorial waters. All the world knew that that was the main theme of the deliberations of the Supreme War Council which met, I think, on 28th March. To make that perfectly clear to the whole world, including Germany, the Prime Minister said, on 2nd April: “We have not yet reached the limit of our effective operations in waters close to the German bases.” That was sufficient warning. On 8th April we laid our mines.

What did we expect to follow? Did we know Hitler and his merry men so little as to think that their rejoinder would be slow or half-hearted, or that it would follow the lines of “too little and too late” with which we have been so familiar here? However, it was not a question of a German rejoinder at all, but of Germany making our half-hearted intervention an excuse for measures far greater in scope and far more daring than we seem even to have envisaged. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was congratulating ourselves upon Hitler’s strategic folly in going to Norway. Does he realise that, from the moment we were in the war, Admiral Raeder insisted that this time the German Navy could not afford to be confined to the existing German coastline, but that, for the purposes of his air and submarine warfare, he must have not only egress from the Baltic but the whole of the indented, deep-water coastline of Norway?

I understand that information as to this reached our Departments early in January. Was that aspect of the strategic situation considered? Again, it was known everywhere that Hitler had designs on Scandinavia. Was it not obvious that the first stroke must be directed against Denmark and Norway, not only because they were weaker, but because once Hitler had seized them, Sweden was automatically within his power without the need for conquest? I would ask another question: Is it not a fact that the most direct warnings of Germany’s designs against Norway were sent from both Stockholm and Copenhagen in the first few days of April? I am afraid that what really happened was that, while we thought we were taking the initiative, our initiative, such as it was, only coincided with a far more formidable and far better planned initiative of the enemy.

I remember that many years ago in East Africa a young friend of mine went lion hunting. He secured a sleeping car on the railway and had it detached from the train at a siding near where he expected to find a certain man-eating lion. He went to rest and dream of hunting his lion in the morning. Unfortunately, the lion was out man-hunting that night. He clambered on to the rear of the car, scrabbled open the sliding door, and ate my friend. That is in brief the story of our initiative over Norway. In any case, even if we did not realise that the Germans were acting at the same time, why were we not prepared to meet their inevitable counter-stroke? We had only this inadequate little force, without transports, of which the Prime Minister has told us, in readiness to occupy Norwegian western ports if there were German action against Southern Norway. There was no plan to meet the contingency that Germany might seize the western ports as well or to meet any really serious attack by Germany upon Norway. As we know now, the German detachments for the more distant ports, Trondheim and Narvik, were despatched more than a week before, in readiness for the zero hour when all the German forces were to strike.

On 8th April we laid our mines. That time happened to be just before Germany’s zero hour. On the morning of that day a great German convoy sailed up the Kattegat and into the Skagerrak on its highly dangerous mission. To cover this daring manoeuvre the Germans sent a large part of their fleet, 48 hours before, away up the West coast of Norway towards Narvik. That action was duly reported to us, and the Prime Minister has told us that the Navy went off in hot pursuit after that German decoy. Rarely in history can a feint have been more successful. The gallantry of our officers and men in the blizzards of the Arctic, and the losses of the German fleet, serious as they were, do not alter the fact that the main German expedition to Norway took place without any interference from the Fleet, except from our submarines. With amazing courage and resolution, our submarines inflicted heavy losses on the Germans. How much heavier would those losses have been if the Fleet or any substantial portion of it had been there then, or, at any rate on subsequent days. That raises very formidable questions to which answers will have to be given sooner or later.

However, let me come to the next stage. What was our reaction when we learned that Oslo and all the main ports were in German hands? If we had any hope of retrieving the situation in Norway even partially, or of relieving the Norwegian forces, our obvious move was to retake one or other of those ports without a moment’s delay. We now know that the Germans seized them with only the tiniest handful of men. Only by seizing such a port would it have been possible to obtain landing facilities for our artillery and tanks, and above all, aerodromes, without which no operation could be conducted with any hope of success. The port clearly indicated by the circumstances was Trondheim, because it was farthest removed from the main German base at Oslo—which gave us time and the opportunity of maintaining railway connection with Sweden. We could have constructed a defensive line across the waist of Norway, behind which the Norwegian forces could have rallied, and from which we could have advanced, if necessary, to the recon quest of the country. That was the obvious plan.

The Prime Minister’s statements, however, make it clear that such forces as we had were at once sent off to Narvik, and not to their original destination of Trondheim or Bergen. Why Narvik? If we had held Trondheim, the isolated German force at Narvik would have been bound to surrender in time, and it could have done no mischief to us in the meantime. If we had ever contemplated retaking Trondheim at the start, there could have been no more crass instance of the dispersion, the frittering away, of forces. It is clear, however, from what the Prime Minister said to-day that the decision to send troops to Trondheim to try and retrieve that position was an afterthought, taken only after a number of days, and only at the urgent request of the Norwegians. How was it carried out? We have listened to the impressive speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Portsmouth. It is common knowledge that the original plan accepted by the Government for the taking of Trondheim was that the Navy should force its way into Narvik fiord while subsidiary landings took place to North and South. Once in the fiord our ships could command the whole of its vast coastline, with its roads and railway and its aerodrome. What we are entitled to ask is a very serious question: By whom and on whose authority was the indispensable hammer blow at Trondheim itself countermanded? Of course, there were risks. War is not won by shirking risks. Once the linch pin of the Trondheim operations was withdrawn, the rest was bound to fail precisely as it has failed.

As to those operations, there are many stories that reach us which cannot be discussed here. Our men did their best in impossible conditions, and one can only be glad that they got away. At the same time there is something which I feel bound to say. The Prime Minister, both the other day and to-day, expressed himself as satisfied that the balance of advantage lay on our side. He laid great stress on the heaviness of the German losses and the lightness of ours. What did the Germans lose? A few thousand men, nothing to them, a score of transports, and part of a Navy which anyhow cannot match ours. What did they gain? They gained Norway, with the strategical advantages which, in their opinion at least, outweigh the whole of their naval losses. They have gained the whole of Scandinavia. What have we lost? To begin with, we have lost most of the Norwegian Army, not only such as it was but such as it might have become if only we had been given time to rally and re-equip it. It goes to one’s heart to think of the Norwegian force strapped in southern Norway and forced to surrender after their bitter protest against our withdrawal. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal Opposition paid the tribute which he did to the gallantry of the Norwegian troops under adverse circumstances. What we have lost, above all, is one of those opportunities which do not recur in war. If we could have captured and held Trondheim, and if we could have rallied the Norwegian forces, then we might well have imposed a strain on Germany which might have made Norway to Hitler what Spain was once to Napoleon. All we can hope for now is that we may hang on to Narvik, and that will not be too easy, till the tide of war turns against Germany elsewhere. So much for the Norwegian chapter. It is a bad story, a story of lack of prevision and of preparation, a story of indecision, slowness and fear of taking risks. If only it stood alone. Unfortunately, it does not. It is only of a piece with the rest of it, of a piece with our hesitation and slowness in responding to Finland’s appeals for arms, in our handling of economic warfare and the reorganisation of industry, of our re-training of our workers, of the production of the essential munitions of war, of agriculture—in fact, the whole of our national effort, which, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, is apparently to be at most 10 per cent. higher in the course of this year than it is to-day.

The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister—I fully understand the good reason for his absence—in a digression explained why he used a certain unlucky phrase about Hitler missing the bus. He explained that what he meant was that during these eight months of war Hitler had lost the opportunity which he had at the beginning of the war because we had been catching up on Germany’s preparations. Believe me, that is very far from the truth. While we may catch up on her presently if only we do what we ought to, there is no doubt that during these eight months, thanks to Germany’s flying start and our slowness off the mark, the gap between the German forces and ours has widened enormously as far as troops, their equipment, tanks, guns and all the paraphernalia of land war are concerned. It has widened in the air, even if we reckon in things which may be “accruing” to us. That is a curious phrase, the precise meaning of which is difficult to determine. I remember that on the very morning of that speech I was reading the financial statement of a company which among its prospects included interest accruing to it from a mine in which gold had not yet been discovered.

We cannot go on as we are. There must be a change. First and foremost, it must be a change in the system and structure of our governmental machine. This is war, not peace. The essence of peace-time democratic government is discussion, conference and agreement; the Cabinet is in a sense a miniature Parliament. The main aim is agreement, the widest possible measure of agreement. To secure that it is necessary to compromise, to postpone, to rediscuss. Under those conditions there are no far-reaching plans for sudden action. It is a good thing to let policies develop as you go along and get people educated by circumstances. That may or may not be ideal in peace. It is impossible in war. In war the first essential is planning ahead. The next essential is swift, decisive action.

We can wage war only on military principles. One of the first of these principles is the clear definition of individual responsibilities—not party responsibilities or Cabinet responsibilities—and, with it, a proper delegation of authority. What commander-in-chief attempts to command 20 or 30 divisions in the field? He delegates the task to a number of army corps commanders responsible to him alone, and with authority over the divisional commanders underneath them. The last thing such a commander-in-chief would ever dream of doing is to make some of his army corps commanders divisional commanders as well. What is our present Cabinet system? There are some 25 Ministers, heads of Departments, who have no direct chief above them except the Prime Minister. How often do they see him? How often can they get from him direct advice, direct impulse, direct drive? Who is to settle disputes between them? There should be someone, not chairmen of innumerable committees, but someone with authority over these Ministers and directly responsible for their efficiency.

There is another cardinal principle of warfare: that is, the clear separation of the framing and execution of policy and the planning of operations, from administration. That is why every Army, Navy and Air Force has its General Staff. It is well known that the same man cannot do the work of administration and also frame and execute policy. How can you get either policy or administration from a Cabinet in which the two are mixed up hugger-mugger as they are at the present time? The next blow may fall at any moment. It may be in Holland; it may be in the Mediterranean. How many hours has any of the three Service Ministers been able to give during the last three weeks to the innumerable preparations required for that contingency? With the present organisation, there is not the slightest chance for them to consider these matters properly.

The Prime Minister has told us to-day of the change that he has made in at last giving a director and guide to the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He said that this struck him as being a good idea. For four years or more, ever since the Chiefs of Staff Committee was first spoken of in this House, some of us have said that it was impossible to produce adequate plans from a committee of men representing three separate Services, and each concerned to guard the interests of his own Service, without a chief over them. The result has inevitably been what I might call plans based on “the feeblest common denominator.” Now at last something is done to place the responsibility for framing and deciding plans clearly upon my right hon. Friend. The Prime Minister tells us that this has no connection with recent events in Norway; it is just a happy new idea. It is curious how we have for years now so effectively been locking the stable door always after we have discovered the loss of the horse. Anyhow, if those are the right functions for my right hon. Friend, how can he also carry on the tremendous tasks of the First Lord of the Admiralty? The Leader of the Opposition said that it was not fair to him. It is not fair to his colleagues; it is not fair to the nation.

Believe me, as long as the present methods prevail, all our valour and all our resources are not going to see us through. Above all, so long as they prevail, time is not going to be on our side, because they are methods which, inevitably and inherently, waste time and weaken decisions. What we must have, and have soon, is a supreme war directorate of a handful of men free from administrative routine, free to frame policy among themselves, and with the task of supervising, inspiring, and impelling a group of departments clearly allocated to each one of them. That is the only way. We learned that in the last war. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) earned the undying gratitude of the nation for the courage he showed in adopting what was then a new experiment. The experiment worked, and it helped to win the war. After the war years, the Committee of Imperial Defence laid it down as axiomatic that, while in a minor war you might go on with an ordinary Cabinet, helped perhaps by a War Committee, in a major war you must have a War Cabinet—meaning precisely the type of Cabinet that my right hon. Friend introduced then. The overwhelming opinion of this House and of the public outside has been demanding that for a long while. We are told that there would be no particular advantage in it at the present time. I ask, Is this or is this not a major war?

We must have, first of all, a right organisation of government. What is no less important to-day is that the Government shall be able to draw upon the whole abilities of the nation. It must represent all the elements of real political power in this country, whether in this House or not. The time has come when hon. and right hon. Members opposite must definitely take their share of the responsibility. The time has come when the organisation, the power and influence of the Trades Union Congress cannot be left outside. It must, through one of its recognised leaders, reinforce the strength of the national effort from inside. The time has come, in other words, for a real National Government. I may be asked what is my alternative Government. That is not my concern: it is not the concern of this House. The duty of this House, and the duty that it ought to exercise, is to show unmistakably what kind of Government it wants in order to win the war. It must always be left to some individual leader, working perhaps with a few others, to express that will by selecting his colleagues so as to form a Government which will correspond to the will of the House and enjoy its confidence. So I refuse, and I hope the House will refuse, to be drawn into a discussion on personalities.

What I would say, however, is this: Just as our peace-time system is unsuitable for war conditions, so does it tend to breed peace-time statesmen who are not too well fitted for the conduct of war. Facility in debate, ability to state a case, caution in advancing an unpopular view, compromise and procrastination are the natural qualities—I might almost say, virtues—of a political leader in time of peace. They are fatal qualities in war. Vision, daring, swiftness and consistency of decision are the very essence of victory. In our normal politics, it is true, the conflict of party did encourage a certain combative spirit. In the last war we Tories found that the most perniciously aggressive of our opponents, the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, was not only aggressive in words, but was a man of action. In recent years the normal weakness of our political life has been accentuated by a coalition based upon no clear political principles. It was in fact begotten of a false alarm as to the disastrous results of going off the Gold Standard. It is a coalition which has been living ever since in a twilight atmosphere between Protection and Free Trade and between unprepared collective security and unprepared isolation. Surely, for the Government of the last 10 years to have bred a band of warrior statesmen would have been little short of a miracle. We have waited for eight months, and the miracle has not come to pass. Can we afford to wait any longer?

Somehow or other we must get into the Government men who can match our enemies in fighting spirit, in daring, in resolution and in thirst for victory. Some 300 years ago, when this House found that its troops were being beaten again and again by the dash and daring of the Cavaliers, by Prince Rupert’s Cavalry, Oliver Cromwell spoke to John Hampden. In one of his speeches he recounted what he said. It was this: I said to him, ‘Your troops are most of them old, decayed serving men and tapsters and such kind of fellows.’…You must get men of a spirit that are likely to go as far as they will go, or you will be beaten still. It may not be easy to find these men. They can be found only by trial and by ruthlessly discarding all who fail and have their failings discovered. We are fighting to-day for our life, for our liberty, for our all; we cannot go on being led as we are. I have quoted certain words of Oliver Cromwell. I will quote certain other words. I do it with great reluctance, because I am speaking of those who are old friends and associates of mine, but they are words which, I think, are applicable to the present situation. This is what Cromwell said to the Long Parliament when he thought it was no longer fit to conduct the affairs of the nation: You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go.


Leo Amery – 1911 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Leo Amery in the House of Commons on 17th May 1911.


I trust that I may have the indulgence of the Committee for venturing so early in my Parliamentary career to address the Committee on so an important and great a subject as the year’s Budget. I know that I cannot rival the eloquence of the hon. Member (Mr. Dillon) below the Gangway, who has just sat down, nor could I attempt to go into the intricacies of the Budget with that wonderful lucidity and grasp which was shown by the hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman). What I would like to do, if you have patience with me, is to make a few reflections on the general features not only of the Budget as it stands to-day, but on the financial situation of this country as indicated by this Budget. Before I come to more general topics I should like to say how pleased, as one who has spent a little while in East Africa, I was to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that the pledge given some three years ago by the Home Secretary as regards East Africa is to be fulfilled, and that a loan is to be advanced for the purpose of extending a feeder to the Uganda Railway in East Africa, and that money is to be spent on the splendid harbour of Kilindini and in improving the condition of the town of Mombasa. I am glad to say that there was almost universal approval on the other side of the House of the working and the success of the Uganda Railway. I may say that the success attained has been very striking, considering the great cost of that undertaking. I am not going to say that the work was extravagantly done, in the sense that money was wasted, but the railway was, in the opinion of engineers of Colonial experience in such matters, carried out on much too careful a scale and was much too well done for a new country. Even so, the railway has begun to pay its way. What is important is, that it should have feeders to help to develop East Africa. At present a great part of the traffic over that railway is not contributing to the development of British East Africa, but is bringing traffic from German East Africa from the south shore of Lake Victoria Nyanza. I was very glad to find the hon. Member for East Northants (Mr. Chiozza Money) come out as such an eloquent advocate of a policy of wisely spending money on the development of our possessions. I believe that there is no wiser way in which we can spend money. I May not be a financial purist, but I entirely agree with one who is considered to be so, the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), who expressed the hope that the surplus might sometimes be devoted to development loans for productive works. The instance of the Uganda railway has not had so much attention paid to it in this House as it deserves. Immense good followed as the result of the loan advanced to the Transvaal and Orange River Colony. There you had a country as empty and utterly desolate as any part of East Africa to-day. There was hardly a farm standing. Ten millions of money spent on railways, and the building of various public works, and ten millions more spent in restoring farms, in bringing to them cattle and stock, brought that country, in six or seven years, into a condition far exceeding anything that could be claimed during the previous fifty years of its history. The lesson which I draw is that what has been done in what, to all intents and purposes was a wilderness, can be done in other wildernesses which exist in our Empire to-day. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was sometimes necessary to spend money to utilise previous expenditure. So it is with the expenditure in East Africa on the railway and on the improvement of the harbour of Kilinclini; but we do not know whether the benefit is to accrue to the German East Africa line or to British industry. It is a heavily subsidised line. The hon. Member for East Northants welcomed what the United States are doing in the case of the Panama Canal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, like many Chancellors of the Exchequer before, has referred to the income which this country derives from the Suez Canal shares.

For an original cost of less than £4,000,000 we are now earning over a million a year, the company paying between 25 and 30 per cent. But it is doing so at the cost of a very heavy burden laid upon shipping, certainly 78 per cent. of which is British. If I might make the suggestion, it is impossible, I believe, for this country with only a minority of representation upon the Canal Board, to insist upon the rate being lowered. What the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself suggested at the Imperial Conference four years ago was that a rebate might be given to British shipping off the Canal dues. There is this further advantage in that, if they are prepared to give two or three hundred thousand pounds of rebate, we should without doubt get a substantial further grant towards rebate from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. Again I regret that there was no mention made in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s statement of the All Red Route, a subject to which four years ago he promised to devote most earnest attention, but of which we have heard nothing since. It is the one subject on which His Majesty’s Government have shown the least indication of readiness to bind the Empire together. The Imperial Conference will meet in a few days, and one would imagine that at any rate the possibility of some contribution being made towards this scheme would be brought forward. I hold with the Member for Northants that every development of opportunities for trade, the opening up of pathways for commerce and finding employment, is money well spent. Money is better spent if you give five shillings to a workman to enable him to earn thirty shillings a week than if you give him five shillings for a week’s pittance. Let me return to the main question, the relation of our revenue to our expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke with eloquent contentment of the state of trade, and he was ready to wager that we should have another prosperous year. I think he is probably right. A year like the last, which was a very prosperous year, is always followed by large revenue. But the drop in the importation of raw material might indicate a slight check in that movement; whether that is so or not I do not know. But what I do know is that the present movement is not going to last for ever.

There will be sooner or later, possibly sooner rather than later, a period of worse trade. In fact what other justification is there for that great scheme of insurance against unemployment which has been introduced to the House? The Chancellor of the Exchequer boasted of the present prosperity, and suggested that some of it was due to his own Budget. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) dealt with some of the details. But might I say that another part of the right hon. Gentleman’s speech somewhat demolished the credit accruing from these taxes against which we protested most strongly in this House, from which we foretold serious consequences, and taxes which, according to him, have not matured yet and have not begun to exercise their in fluence. When the present period of trade prosperity is over, and those taxes are beginning to mature, does he really think they will relieve a depression of British industry, or is it not very likely that they will tend to accentuate that depression? I will not attempt to follow the hon. Member for Chelmsford and the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London into the discussion as to the extent to which the Death Duties are actually a tax on capital and not on income, or whether they are heavy burdens upon industry. The difficulty is you have the evil in operation, but the effect of it may not be seen for a very considerable period of time, but, generally speaking, I do not think any one who listened to the final remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer can doubt that even in this period of good trade we are perilously near the margin of elasticity of our revenue when compared with the steady and ever-growing burdens laid upon it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown a spirit of optimism as to the future burdens to be laid on this country. I noticed that he said nothing about the possible future cost in connection with Ireland. The hon. Member for Chelmsford has referred to the possibilities of increased expenditure in connection with the scheme of Home Rule, and we had an eloquent plea made just now by the hon. Member below the Gangway. It seems to me if we have measures in contemplation of that character on that side of the House, we on our side will, in the same spirit, have to approach the question of Ireland as for the development of East Africa, and possibly to incur substantial burdens in order to develop Irish trade, and if possible to bring back to the population that prosperity which they should enjoy with the rest of the Empire.

Then comes the question of naval expenditure. The right hon. Gentleman is sanguine because under the statutory provision now in force in Germany there will be a decrease in the German naval estimates in the next few years. But is the statutory provision now in existence in Germany to be the only and the last statutory provision to be put in force in that country? The only test you can apply as to what is likely to happen in the future is the general trend of German policy, and the general trend of German industrial development. The other day, at a meeting of the Iron and Steel Institute, they were deploring the fact that the German iron and steel industry is now twice as large as ours. Can Members of this Committee contemplate that, in the long run, we can attempt to maintain a two-to-one standard of battleships when the other side have got a two-to-one standard against us in the iron and steel industry? Apart from that, let us consider, not only the possibility of statutory provision being made in Germany, but the fact that there are new statutory provisions made in Austria. There may be a great problem before us in the Pacific. Certainly this concentration of the Navy in Home waters is a thing which cannot be continued always. If there should be a demand for warships in other waters, we would have at once either a large naval increase or we should have a considerable increase of military preparation. I for my part, own that our military preparations are utterly inadequate, and the expenditure of five millions more will not be sufficient, even with a cheap and effective system of national service, to secure our home safety, but even on present lines there must be increase of expenditure We have heard a great deal about the shortage of officers, and the fact that the pay of officers is inadequate. We have also heard of the shortage of horses, and if we are to have horses we must pay for them. We have also heard a great deal in the last few weeks about the serious state of the Territorial Army, and it is likely to be still more serious. If the Territorial Army be put on its proper basis, and is to be made to respond to what the Secretary for War expected it to be, it will have to have a very considerable expenditure made upon it. Naval and Military expenditure is necessary, and it is bound to increase.

I consider it necessary, and I do think it has compensating advantages on which the right hon. Gentleman did not dwell. Certainly as regards naval expenditure it provides a great deal of skilled employment, and, furthermore, it does indirectly give a great deal more unskilled employment, payment for which does not come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. Take the great amounts given for building battleships for foreign Powers—a subsidiary development which is pure profit for the people of this country. Let me now come to the expenditure under this great scheme of insurance. The Bill has been welcomed in all quarters. The sickness part of the scheme has some basis of admitted calculation behind it, though it is bound to exceed the estimate already formed. But as to the unemployment part of this scheme, we have practically no evidence as to what the cost will be on the present narrow and restricted basis, or of what it would cost if other industries insist upon being included in its benefits. When you consider what this will involve in taxation, you must remember the weekly levy upon the employer and the workman, upon which the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Macdonald) has eloquently insisted. What is the effect of this taxation going to be? The Chancellor of the Exchequer considers, according to an interview reported in the “Daily Telegraph” the other day, that the extra cost will fall on the consumers of this country. Why! he asked, should not the consumer contribute in some measure to the health, comfort, and happiness of those who produce. That is a very significant admission of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. There can be no one stronger on behalf of the cause of Free Trade than the right hon. Gentleman when he is conscious of the fact that he is discussing the fiscal question, but when his mind is on other matters his utterances must be a continual and terrible source of anxiety to the hon. Member for East Northants. If it is the case that the burden falls on the consumer, then what about its effect upon production? In his speech yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer noticed that a very small increase in the price of tea appreciably diminished consumption. An increase like this upon the cost of goods in this country would, judging by that, have a very serious effect upon consumption and upon production and employment, and possibly would do a considerable amount of harm to industry. I confess I do not hold the view that this burden is going to fall on the consumer. While, the consumer has got an alternative supply to draw upon, he is not subject to that burden. It would be imperative on the producers unless they wished to lose their employment to pay the tax themselves. If they do the question is upon what part of their expenditure will it fall? The hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) suggested that it would fall upon the necessaries of life of the working people. If, as he suggests, the result of this scheme of insurance was going to be that the children of the working men will get less food or clothing, or that they will have to live in worse homes, then I am not sure whether the final result of that scheme will be a great benefit. But let us suppose that they pay it out of luxuries; the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that the money they would contribute would be equivalent more or less to an ounce of tobacco and two glasses of beer per week. Supposing it does fall in that way, has the right hon. Gentleman considered that practically six-sevenths of the cost of that ounce of tobacco and two glasses of beer per week is money taken away from the revenue, and that the revenue will thus lose, and that the shrinkage in the consumption of the working man’s luxuries, represented by the ounce of tobacco and the two glasses of beer, would have a very serious effect on the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman?

Apart from that actual issue of the way in which the tax will be met there remains the fact that these measures add considerably to the burden resting upon the industries of this country. A few years ago a calculation was made, and I think it is generally admitted, that of the cost of production, or the price of any British article in a shop window, something like 12½ per cent. or 2s. 6d. in the £ represented local and Imperial taxation. I think the extra burdens imposed in the last few years, together with the burden now imposed by the Insurance scheme, would bring that amount somewhat nearer t o 15 per cent. If you have a burden of that extent resting on the production of goods of English manufacture, sold in the shops of this country, is it reasonable, and I am not talking at this moment from the point of view of a Tariff Reformer, but from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that £156,000,000 of manufactures coming into this country should he exempt from that duty. That exemption is equivalent in essence to having an Excise and no Customs to correspond with it. I can only imagine that any Chancellor of the Exchequer, who would really face the problem from that point of view, would be bound to deal with it. It is not satisfactory from the point of view of the consumer either, who now imagines that he saves money when he buys untaxed goods; he has still got to meet the burdens that fall on the industries of the country and to meet the taxation himself. Let me give a concrete instance. A man goes into a shop and sees two articles, one costing a sovereign and English made, and the other 19s. 6d. and German made. Hon. Gentlemen opposite recommend him to buy the cheaper article and save 6d., but the so-called dearer article really only costs 17s. 6d., and the remainder went to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The man makes this assumed saving, but he has forgotten that he is defrauding the Chancellor of the Exchequer of half a crown or three shillings. The Chancellor of the Exchequer does not forget that and when the time comes round he has got to make him pay that sum of money, so that along with the cost there is to be added the half-crown, and thus, instead of having paid 19s. 6d., he has paid 22s. for the article.

That is not the end of the story, for after buying that foreign article there is somebody unemployed in this country, somebody whose family are suffering and who is suffering himself. That suffering may not attract the attention of the Free Trade purchaser, but it attracts the warm-hearted sympathy of hon. Members opposite and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who comes to this House with a large scheme for insurance and relief which involves taxation. The Free Trade purchaser finds he has also got to pay for keeping the man whom he deprives of his employment? Even there the story does not finish, because this German article he has bought goes to strengthen the wealth and prosperity of Germany, and a considerable portion of it goes towards the revenues of that country, and a considerable portion of that may be devoted to battleships. Then the First Lord of the Admiralty comes down here and tells this House that he has discovered some time after the event that the Ger man navy has been increased, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, hoping against hope that this may be the last time, asks for a further increase in the Naval Estimates. Thus your Free Trade purchaser who followed the advice of hon. Gentlemen opposite finds that the article for which he paid 19s. 6d. costs him from 24s. to 25s. I wish to suggest that to impose an equivalent burden upon those £156,000,000 manufactured in other countries equivalent to the burden upon our industries is not protection but equalisation. Hon. Members opposite, on the reasoning which they so very often employ against the advocacy of Protection, say that a disadvantage from the revenue point of view of a system of Protection is that you tax part of the supply, and only part, and that only the taxation on that part supplies revenue, and that the price of the whole supply is raised, and that consequently a heavy burden of taxation falls on the consumer and which does not find its way into the Treasury, but into the pockets of capitalists. If that is so I would ask the Members of the Committee to consider the present case, where we have a burden of from 12½ to 15 per cent. put upon the goods made in this country, and that the portion of the supply coming from abroad does not pay anything.

The conclusion, according to the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that this country at this moment is paying from £15,000,000 to £20,000.000 to the capitalists of other countries and capitalists who are not amenable to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose incomes he cannot touch and whose deaths give him no satisfaction. To put on equalising duties, by the argument of hon. Members, would only mean that the revenue would be getting what at the present moment is going to foreign capitalists. As a matter of fact, I do not share that view in its entirety, and I do not hold that foreign capitalists are making a profit to that extent; but I imagine, in those instances where they are making a substantial profit, that an equalising duty would cause them to lower their prices to contribute the cost of that and relieve the taxpayer of this country. In other instances I believe the real truth is that they are not producing as cheaply as our manufacturers, but owing to the unfair handicap caused by their not having to pay an equalising share in our taxes, they at present can compete where they ought not to compete.

That brings me to the point, or dilemma, that was raised by the hon. Member for Greenock, and also by the hon. Member for Woolwich. They said, “If you do impose those duties for revenue on the foreign importations, and if you do get your revenues, where does the case for employment come to, and if you do keep out those goods and get employment, what happens to your revenue?” A more absurd dilemma there never was. There is no dilemma. If the goods come in then the revenue gets the money; if the goods do not come in, and instead of that are produced in this country, then by all the channels of revenue that production will yield the extra money to the revenue. According to the existing basis of taxation they yield to the revenue at the rate of something like from 12½ to 15 per cent. Therefore there is no question of having a dilemma from which we cannot escape. If we can find employment and production, the revenue will come. That is really the main point. Look after the production of the country and the revenue will look after itself. That was the great point Mr. Gladstone made in his great Budget speeches when he said in taking off one tax and adding another, he did not care so long as they made for the development of commerce.

The whole issue between hon. Members on this side and the other is that we hold that you raise your revenue from the production of the country, and that wherever you raise it and in whatever particular way you raise it, the cost of that burden is inevitably diffused over the whole of the production. Hon. Members opposite, more particularly the hon. Member for Leicester, the hon. Member for East Northants, and to a very large extent the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, have a sort of notion that the annual wealth of the country is something that is taken out of a large sack, and distributed in unequal amounts into the pockets of different classes of persons, and that it is there, and that it ought to be taken to a larger extent out of those pockets where they are most full, and to a less extent where they are not so. That is an entire misconception of the nature of the income of this country. The income of this country is not something which is distributed and then remains in various pockets. It is something that is continually in circulation. To use the phrase of a leading economist, there is a continuous wheel of wealth production.

Money goes into the pockets of one class, and is spent in supporting another class. That goes in its turn to still another class, and so on. To this rule there are certain exceptions. There is such a thing first of all as the circulation of wealth within a certain limited class. A very appreciable portion of the large nominal incomes of what the hon. Member for Leicester called the classes is due to the fact that they pay each other large sums. Thus you have successful barristers and doctors who exchange with each other in the guise of high fees. These fees are not a real addition to wealth, but they represent a certain scale or convention of living. Take the wealthier parts of London where you have high rents, which the same landlord class pay out in high fees to doctors who pay those rents and to barristers who pay those rents, and to dear shops and restaurants. In one way or another a very appreciable proportion of the nominal income of the so-called classes is money that circulates among themselves. If you tax income at a moderate rate you do not prevent the process of circulation amongst them, but if you raise Income Tax beyond a certain point you may find them stopping the circulation of money and you will have an appreciable shrinkage of wealth from which you can get revenue. There is a further point. The circulation of wealth need not take place wholly within the country. There is a necessary and salutary circulation, in which raw materials that are required are brought in from outside, and manufactured articles are sent out by us. There is also a circulation in which only a small part of the process is in this country. People get income from investments in other countries, and they spend income in supporting the labour of those other countries. In that case only a small portion of the circulation is in this country, and a very small portion of the income will serve its natural and proper purpose of providing income for other classes. I will not attempt to labour that somewhat elaborate economical point further.

The ultimate source of revenue is the production in this country. If you want to lighten the burdens of the working people the task to which you should devote yourself is not that of discovering elaborate means of punishing this or that class, with a view to getting more out of one class than out of another, but that of finding means to increase the amount of production in this country, and to increase the demand for labour. In conclusion, though I believe the condition of the revenue can be enormously improved by a different fiscal system, I feel that the responsibilities which are going to be laid upon this country in future are so great that no fiscal system based on the resources of the United Kingdom alone can ever bear them. We have to face an immense task—a task which two islands like these can never face alone. If I may adapt the famous words of Canning we must call a new world of Empire into being to redress the balance of the old. The lesson I draw from that is that when you consider the proposals which have been made for drawing the Empire closer together by preferential tariffs, by expenditure on better means of communication, and so on, you should not look at them from the point of view of fiscal theory, or from the point of view of the immediate expenditure involved, but you should consider what their effect is to be on the Budgets and the social programmes of the future. Hon. Members should remember that every quarter of wheat brought from Canada carries in itself some contribution towards the ultimate solution of the great problem of defence, because the man in Canada is prepared to take a share in the defence of the Empire, either in his own person or in contributing to the revenues of a Government which has already done something, and mill in time to come do more. By that very act we are also contributing some thing towards solving the social problems of the country. I am not talking of the advantages to trade, because I am not now making a speech on Tariff Reform, except in its revenue aspect, but even in that aspect the task of the social reformer will be lightened.

I conceive that the true object for social reformers to have in view is, not to aim at the impossible, not to demand reductions or armaments which would bring the country into danger, and undermine the whole groundwork on which any social reform must rest, but to find ways and means of diminishing the intolerable nature of the burden by calling in others to share that burden. May I appeal still more earnestly to Members of the Government, who in the next few days are going to enter into discussion with representatives of the dominions beyond the seas as to how best the Empire may be drawn together and strengthened? I ask there to forget for the moment that they are a party majority in this House, and to remember that they are the representatives not only of the England of to-day, but of the England of the future. I ask that, in considering the schemes brought before them, they should judge them not in a narrow spirit, but broadly, looking to what they may mean in the long run to the revenues of this country and its prosperity.

Douglas Alexander – 2013 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, to the 2013 Labour Party conference in Brighton.


Conference – This has been an important debate. And it takes place after an extraordinary year for our country’s Foreign Policy.

Across the Middle East we see a region engulfed by turmoil.

In Syria a hundred thousand have been killed. Millions displaced. A nation state is melting away before our eyes.

And then last month the latest horrific chemical attack took place in Damascus

The Prime Minister announced the recall of Parliament and a Commons motion was drafted authorising British military intervention in Syria.

The UN weapons inspectors had not completed their work. The UN Secretary General was pleading for more time. And the UN Security Council was to be effectively bypassed.

Yet here the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister seemed determined to rush to military action on a timetable agreed elsewhere.

It fell to our leader, Labour’s Leader, Ed Miliband, to speak for the nation.

He upheld a basic principle: that the evidence should precede the decision, not the decision precede the evidence.

And together we set out a ‘roadmap for decision’: a clear set of tests and conditions by which our nation should reach a decision of such consequence.

Conference, it was Labour’s leadership that prevented a rush to military action on a timetable set elsewhere, without the necessary steps being taken and without due process being followed.

We have learned the lessons of the past. Intervening immediately and asking hard questions later would have ill served our country.

As Labour, we are prepared to support force where we must – as we did in Libya two years ago – but we should support diplomacy where we can.

Now, thankfully, a new diplomatic path is open to eradicate chemical weapons in Syria – in part due to Westminster’s vote.

So in the months ahead we must pursue diplomacy without illusions.

The task now is to ensure that new humanitarian efforts are made, and new diplomatic efforts are taken to get the warring parties around the table, and to end the suffering.

Now some have claimed that the Syria vote means Britain has turned its back on the world. Certainly, people across Britain are weary of conflict.

A decade of brave service by our troops in Afghanistan is drawing to a close.

And of course our economy is fragile.

But that vote told us much more about the competence of this government than it did about the character of our country.

Neither knee jerk interventionism or knee jerk isolationism is the right course for Britain in the 21st century.

It is in our national interest to upload an international rules based order.

And our country is strongest when we work with partners and allies in pursuit of shared goals.

Many on the UKIP right – whether within or out with the Conservative party – have reverted to isolationism, we know that.

So as progressive internationalists we must and will reject the isolationism that expresses itself in an anti-Europe, anti-immigrate, anti foreign aid, stop-the-world-we-want-to-get-off type of politics.

We will oppose that politics wherever we find it.

We understand that as a country we face challenges – from financial contagion to climate change to nuclear threat and conflict – that spill across borders and defy unilateral solutions.

And only a progressive internationalism can answer that call.

For Britain to now try and retreat from the world would be as foolish as it would be futile.

And that Conference is why Britain’s continued membership of the EU matters so much.

The Eurosceptic fantasy of Britain as a North Atlantic Singapore is just that – it is a fantasy.

British jobs, British exports and British influence in the world all benefit from Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Our economy is strengthened, our interests are advanced, and our voice is heard louder on the world stage as part of the European Union.

And that is why under Ed’s leadership, we will argue for reform in Europe, not exit from Europe.

So Conference, the real problem for the Conservatives on foreign policy isn’t the Prime Minister’s incompetence – evident though that is – it isn’t even the rise of isolationism on their backbenches – evident those that is as well.

It is that these Conservatives are in hoc to an idea – an imperial delusion – that is out of balance, and out of step, with the modern world.

They believe that as America pivots towards Asia and the Eurozone consolidates, Britain should simply focus on its own business.

They don’t understand that there is nothing splendid about isolation in the 21st century.

And they don’t understand that Britain is strongest when we work alongside our partners.

Britain stood shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies against the Soviet Union.

Britain led the development of the single market across Europe.

Britain helped create the United Nations.

Now is the time for a new era of international cooperation.

It is time to lead reforms of Europe and its institutions.

It’s time to strengthen NATO to better coordinate our capabilities amidst tight budgets.

It’s time to deepen our partnerships with Asia, as economic power moves east.

We need that cooperation and that engagement, because “you are on your own” is as hopeless an idea in foreign policy as it is in domestic policy.

Sadly, the Conservatives just don’t get it.

They have weakened our economy at home and they have weakened our influence abroad.

This is a government that deserves to loose.

Defeating this government is our shared responsibility and working together it can be shared achievement.

Douglas Alexander – 2013 Speech to Chatham House


Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, to Chatham House on 17th January 2013.


Good evening. It is a both a privilege and a pleasure to be here at Chatham House.

There could be few better settings in which to discuss the recent developments and future course of the United Kingdom’s relationship with Europe.

Chatham House has developed a peerless standing as a venue for debate and discussion about international affairs, and the key challenges facing the international community.

So, ahead of the Prime Minister’s speech in the Netherlands tomorrow, I want to explore why he finds himself where he does, with reference both to party pressures and public opinion, before setting out Labour’s thinking both on why the United Kingdom should be part of the European Union and why and how the European Union needs to change.

Put simply, my argument this evening is that reform in Europe, not exit from Europe, is the right road ahead for the United Kingdom.

Let me start by acknowledging openly that my speech begins with a focus on the domestic politics of Europe – and not simply the foreign policy towards Europe.

On one level I regret this – but I can’t avoid it.

To understand both the why, and the what, of the speech the Prime Minister delivers tomorrow in fact demands an analysis rooted in politics.

So let me begin my remarks this evening with reference to last Friday, not this Friday, and with reference to America rather than Europe.

Where I want to start is not with the words of a US diplomat, but a film by a US director.

Because last Friday I attended a screening of Stephen Spielberg’s new film “Lincoln”.

It’s a great film.

It tells the story of Lincoln’s struggle to pass the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution banning slavery.

It describes vividly Lincoln’s willingness to contemplate low politics in order to try and achieve historic change.

Now although I sit across from him each week at Prime Minister’s Questions, I have to admit to you that I do not often find myself drawing a comparison between David Cameron and Abraham Lincoln!

But stick with the parallel – however unlikely – for a moment.

Because as I reflected on Spielberg’s film it struck me that David Cameron’s approach to politics is almost exactly the opposite of Lincoln’s.

Here’s why.

To really understand tomorrow’s speech you need to start from this understanding: that the Prime Minister really is willing to contemplate historic change purely to try and achieve low politics.

So significant are the potential consequences of this speech that it is tempting, indeed reassuring, to presume a degree of strategic thought or high public purpose in its preparation.

The truth, I fear, is both more prosaic and more worrying.

This speech is about politics much more than it is about policy.

And its origins lie in weakness, not in strength.

Let me explain.

One of the domestic political consequences of the Global Financial Crisis was that David Cameron never managed to complete the modernisation of his party – whether he ever had the desire, or intention to, is another question.

But a consequence of this failure to modernise, is that he failed to change his party’s approach to Europe.

And this failure to first challenge, and then unite his party on Europe means David Cameron has been living on borrowed time since the day he walked through the door of Number 10.

These longstanding internal pressures on David Cameron have only been exacerbated by recent external electoral ones.

Many Tory MPs now see UKIP as a dagger pointed at the heart of their electoral prospects.

Deep hostility to Europe is not a marginal feature of today’s Conservative Party – it is the mainstream philosophy – both on the backbenches and within the Cabinet.

For many in his Party, getting David Cameron to commit now to an in/out referendum is not about securing consent.

It is about securing exit.

Indeed it is worth noting quite how far the Conservative Party has shifted over the decades.

This is best demonstrated by recollecting the words of a previous leader of the Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher, when she set out her opposition to a referendum on Europe in the House of Commons on 11 March 1975. This is what she said then:

“What one Minister has used as a tactical advantage on one issue today, others will use for different issues tomorrow. This will lead to a major constitutional change, a change which should only be made if, after full deliberation, it was seriously thought to be a lasting improvement on present practice. This White Paper [on a referendum] has come about because of the Government’s concern for internal party interests. It is a licence for Ministers to disagree on central issues but still stay in power. I believe that the right course would be to reject it and to consider the wider constitutional issues properly and at length.”

How accurate, indeed prophetic, a description of the judgement David Cameron now seems set to make.

So the roots of tomorrow’s speech lie much more in the politics of the Conservative Party, than in foreign policy.

And the real tragedy of tomorrow’s speech is that David Cameron’s Party won’t let him address the undoubted need for change in the EU in a sensible way.

We have a Prime Minster who simply cannot reconcile the demands of his party, with the needs of his country.

There is a very real risk that, in failing to meet the bar set by his own rhetoric, and by his own backbenchers, he stumbles into an in/out referendum and Britain stumbles out of Europe.

Unless he achieves total success in his negotiating objectives, his party will not back him.

If he demands a shopping list of unilateral repatriations by threatening exit, he will have no hope of success.

The gap between the minimum the Tories will demand and the maximum our European partners can accept remains unbridgeable.

And we will have a British Prime Minister sleepwalking towards exit, knowing he is letting down the national interest, but too weak to do anything about it.

So let me, in turn, be open with you as to where Labour stands.

Some commentators argue that Labour could make significant tactical gains, now and also at the time of an election, by being seen as a more euro sceptic party in general, and by outflanking the Tories by committing now to an in/out referendum.

They know that this might come the cost of the long term interests of the country – both in terms of the economic recovery and Britain’s place in the world – but would argue that ultimately, the electoral boost would make it worth the risk.

They argue this because they think it will help Labour to win.

I want to see Labour win.

And that is why I disagree.

Let me tell you why.

First, I don’t think it is right for any party to sacrifice what they think is in the national interest simply for the sake of advancing narrow party interest.

This is not my way of doing politics.

I don’t think this is right for a party of Government. But I also don’t think it is worthy of an effective and credible Opposition aspiring to be a Government.

But secondly, it would not work.

We don’t buy the simplistic assumptions about how the public would respond to such a shift in attitude and policy.

I think it would be to underestimate the voters if we are to assume that they judge politicians simply by what they say and not what they think they actually believe.

Were Labour to come out and call for a referendum the night before, or morning after, David Cameron makes his own speech, I think the public would see through it.

They would see the announcement for what it was – opportunistic political positioning rather than serious considered policy making.

So let me set out Labour’s position on the issue of an in/out referendum.

We are clear that to announce one in these circumstances will not serve Britain’s national interest.

As Ed Miliband set out in his speech at the CBI in November, Labour argues that the priority should be to promote growth at home and secure influence abroad.

And committing to an in/out referendum tomorrow will make it harder, not easier, to deliver on these two objectives.

It risks up to seven years of economic uncertainty which could deter potential investors and undermine the prospects for recovery.

Significant British business leaders have already come out to warn of this – and indeed, even the Foreign Secretary William Hague has told the House of Commons that “it would create additional economic uncertainty in this country at a difficult economic time.”

And it undermines our influence and political capital in Europe at a time when our leverage could be most significant and the changes being contemplated are so profound.

But let me say clearly – not agreeing with the Prime Minister’s approach – is not, and cannot, be a justification for ignoring the public’s very real concerns.

Who could deny that hostility towards the institutions of the EU has grown as a consequence of the Euro crisis?

Frankly that is no surprise.

But this public hostility is too often misunderstood.

Of course there are those that are in principle opposed to our membership of the European Union.

For them no justification in terms of enhanced power, status or security would be worth the pooling of sovereignty that a union of 27 member states inevitably entails.

Let me today be clear to these people.

Labour disagrees with you and will seek to win your vote by persuading you of our case.

Then there are those that form part of what is being described as a ‘UKIP surge’.

But let me say– in my view – the UKIP surge reflects not so much a European policy problem as a British political problem.

It is a symptom of a growing sense among some that British political parties simply don’t understand their lives or share their fears.

That is why to simply insult the Party and its voters – as David Cameron has done – is exactly the wrong thing to do.

I recognise that the Conservative Party – and indeed some within my own Party – are concerned about the impact of UKIP on their electoral prospects.

But the depth of concern about UKIP is not always matched by a depth of understanding.

The most comprehensive survey of UKIP voters yet undertaken – a huge poll of 20,000 supporters done last month by Lord Ashcroft found in his words “the UKIP threat is not about Europe” – and confirmed that issues like jobs, welfare, and immigration scored higher than Europe amongst these voters list of concerns.

The UKIP vote rising does not prove to me that more people are convinced we would be better off out – it proves to me that we have to be making the case for Europe, and so much else, differently.

Then there are those who count within the often used label of the ‘majority of the public’ who are anti-Europe.

In fact this bloc is far from homogenous.

Within this bloc, most people are willing to accept that there are areas where the EU is vital to protecting and promoting British interests.

Indeed, recent YouGov polling makes that case that despite overall levels of hostility to the EU as a whole, a majority still believe that the EU should do more to cooperate on issues like international terrorism/crime, tackling climate change, reducing poverty and immigration.

But they hold this view alongside a growing sense of frustration that the EU today is simply not meeting their expectations.

That is why Labour says clearly to them – yes, the United Kingdom’s future lies in Europe, but in a Europe we will work to change and reform.

And we will not be alone: there are reforms that many across Europe support – reforms that can be secured without the risk of Britain being dangerously isolated.

I do not believe that an in/out referendum now is the right way to demonstrate to the public that you are not satisfied with the status quo in Europe.

It is simply wrong to suggest that rejecting the Prime Minister’s approach means Labour is accepting the status quo.

For Labour, unlike some Conservatives, being pro-reform is not a proxy for being anti-Europe.

Indeed, for Labour, the reform of Europe should not be seen a question mark over our commitment to Britain’s future within Europe.

Instead it not just the safest ground, but also the most solid foundation, on which a positive case about Britain’s membership of the EU can be made – and the concerns of the public addressed.

I believe the modern world provides the rationale both for the EU, and for its reform.

And it is by winning the case for reform, we can also win the case for the EU, and address the concerns of the public.

So today our commitment to Europe must be matched –

First by candour about the need for change;

And second by being clearer about its ultimate destination.

Let me address each of these in turn.

First, on the need for change:

I would argue that today there are two views that can encourage hostility towards Europe within the British public.

First, being Eurosceptic – where you firmly believe that nothing the EU does is right simply by virtue of it being done by the EU – and no amount of reforms or revisions will ever change that.

But there is another view that also risks encouraging hostility towards Europe.

And that is being uncritically pro-the status quo.

Those that believe that whatever the EU does is justified by virtue of it being done via the EU in fact pose a real threat to the future of the European project in a way that few of them would be willing to admit.

Those who believe Britain’s future lies within the European Union must see the case for change not as a threat to our politics – but as a foundation on which to win back support for that politics.

We must also, however, be clearer than in the past about the ultimate destination of the changes and reforms we seek.

For decades the EEC and then the EU have had as its goal “an ever closer union”.

This goal has in turn led to talk of “a two speed Europe” implying differing speeds of travel towards a common destination.

Others have spoken about a two-tier Europe suggesting a permanent and inflexible division between the core of ‘real Europeans’ and the second class periphery of Europe.

None of these are, or should be, our desired destination.

The future of the European Union is not – and must not – be defined as uniform progress towards a common federal government or the merging of national identities into a United States of Europe.

Instead Labour’s vision of Europe is a flexible Europe with a common political framework that can permanently accommodate varying levels of integration amongst Member States.

This is not an a la carte Europe – but one where member states choose, collectively and collaboratively, to pool sovereignty in those areas where they judge that they can achieve more together than they can alone.

That means there maybe areas where member states will in future decide to do less together – but Labour are clear that it also means there could be areas where member states might start to do more together.

So let me set out for you key components of that reform agenda to you today.

First – Labour are clear that our agenda for change in Europe should start where the need is most urgently felt – and so the economy will be our focus.

Second – Labour believes that the institutional reform agenda is more relevant now than in the past because not only does the EU need to change, but it needs to be seen to change by the public – and reform of the way the EU itself works is relevant to achieving that.

Third – Labour will not shy away from making the case for Britain when we think our interests are being challenged in specific policy areas – but we will do this by building alliances and coalitions to secure reforms, not make undeliverable demands for unilateral repatriation.

In all three, it is the national interest, not party interest, that should drive change.

On the economy, there are two overlapping but separate agendas that we must now pursue.

There is an urgent reform agenda aimed at protecting the interests of the single market, and the UK in particular, in the face of an increasingly integrated Eurozone bloc adjusting itself in response to the recent euro crisis.

And a broader pro-growth and anti-austerity agenda that a Labour government would lead on with our partners in Europe.

Let me address first of these:

The design of the Euro needs to be revisited – not least because the fate of our own economy in part depends on that.

But the Prime Minister is wrong to imply that these changes inevitably threaten our interests.

Let’s be clear – some opponents of the EU in Britain would welcome the prospect of a two tier Europe – which sees Britain’s interests constantly being undermined and outvoted by a stronger and more integrated Eurozone bloc.

They warn against it – but in reality hope that convincing people it is inevitable will effectively put us on a conveyor belt to exit.

But they are wrong.

No one knows how the changes currently being contemplated within the Eurozone will affect Britain’s relationship with the EU, or indeed the nature of our membership.

As things stand today, it seems that they may not be as far-reaching as some had hoped and others feared.

But furthermore, it is simply wrong to suggest that this process is something that will happen to us – indeed we have the power – and indeed the responsibility – to decide what happens and how it happens.

And it is certainly wrong to reach the absurd conclusion that because countries in the Euro are going to cooperate more on managing that currency, that the UK somehow needs to cooperate less with our fellow Europeans on other issues like crime and policing.

Instead we should be seeking to secure protections and safeguards that continue to ensure that the interests of the euro-ins and euro-outs are appropriately balanced within the institutions of the 27.

It is also why it is crucial that we always ensure a British seat at the negotiating table when these decisions are being made – rather than walk away from talks before they have even really begun, as the Prime Minister did in December 2011.

Negotiating institutional safeguards, and not demanding unilateral repatriations, will be the best way to protect our interests through this process of change.

Of course, the present economic difficulties afflicting Europe have caused many to question their support for Europe.

And that poses a challenge for Labour, when so many governments in the EU are currently centre-right – because we believe that the synchronised austerity being pushed by them, only reinforces the sense of alienation and frustration among many voters.

But our response is not to reject Europe.

It is to advance a reform agenda to secure growth.

That is why we have consistently called for not just restraint but also reform of the EU budget.

It may only be 1 per cent of GDP, but it could be far better used.

It should focus on those items where spending at EU level can save money at national level, through economies of scale or by avoiding duplication.

Far too much money still goes on agricultural subsidies, instead of on policies to promote growth, cohesion and development or to support the EU’s vital role in international affairs.

The CAP is an obstacle to international trade liberalisation, creates too few jobs and introduces distortions so there is not a level playing field.

Neither we, nor Europe, can afford this waste.

EU structural funds — currently used to promote growth and investment in the EU — must also be reformed if they are to deliver the vital support that Europe now needs.

These funds make up around 35 per cent of annual EU expenditure but are distributed according to overlapping and, at times, competing objectives agreed decades ago – instead that money must be spent on promoting growth and jobs in deprived areas.

Alongside reform of the Budget, Labour have also called for a new Growth Commissioner – and a new mechanism embedded within the EU and tasked with assessing the impact of every new piece of legislation on the potential to promote growth across the EU – this will improve accountability and help sharpen the EU’s focus on this vital agenda.

The EU should also be looking to reform aspects of the single market – by extending into areas like the digital, energy and financial sectors.

And the EU must work much harder to reduce the burden on business by actively removing unnecessary regulation.

Rescue of the currency, protections for the single market, and revival of the prospects for growth should be Europe’s priorities for change.

But economic reform is not the limit of our ambitions for change in Europe.

So, Labour will seek to address issues around accountability by working for credible institutional reform.

Labour would seek to agree a mechanism for ensuring that national parliaments have more of a say over the making of new EU legislation.

Currently the ‘yellow card’ system – which the Lisbon Treaty initiated – gives national parliaments the ability to push legislation into review if there is significant opposition to it from a third of member states.

This is indeed welcome.

But we will look at extending this – arguing for the introduction of some form of collective emergency break procedure –that could further amplify the voice of national parliaments within the EU law making process.

Labour would also seek ways to make the European Parliament and Commission more streamlined and effective.

And, of course, our long standing commitment to abolish the second seat of the Parliament endures – but given opposition from the French and despite other’s best efforts, change will be difficult and should not prevent us from being prepared to looking at other areas of possible reform.

So we should be looking at ways to bring down the cost of the Parliament and how the workings of the Commission could be reformed to help it operate more effectively.

It makes no sense to divide up the functions of the Commission into 27 separate pieces if in doing so we undermine the Commission’s ability to operate effectively.

But reform is needed not simply in relations to the institutions of the EU, but also in its policies.

So through the Labour Party Policy Review, Labour is already looking at ways of addressing real concerns that the public have about the lived experience of the EU.

I want to be clear about how we will approach this.

Because it means change for my party, and has risks for our country if not done in the right way.

Change for my party, because the old approach of not talking about problems with the EU didn’t make those problems any less real or indeed mitigate them.

Instead we need a real dialogue with people and the honesty to hear their concerns and when we accept them to say so.

But rebuilding trust means not just recognising their concerns. It means too realising that you undermine public trust rather than enhance it by promising what you know you can’t deliver.

So our approach must be different from our past, but very different from this Government’s.

Let me touch on some examples.

We all hear about the perceived strain that certain aspects of the EU are putting on some local communities here in the UK.

For many, this relates specifically to the operation of the Free Movement Directive.

For too long, those wanting to make the case for the EU would shy away from talking about one of its most prominent components – the free movement of people.

This must stop.

We must be clear about the advantages that many British citizens get from this Directive.

Latest figures show that over 875,000 British people are officially registered as living in another EU country, and we can all tell personal anecdotes about the benefits this seemingly abstract principle has on our day to day lives – from retirement choices to work opportunities and study abroad schemes.

But we must also recognise that in some cases it is has put pressure on communities here at home – and this must not be ignored.

It is true that far more people are moving around Europe than ever before.

Enlargement brings enlarged freedom of movement, which underpins the many benefits of the single market but also creates certain pressures.

Labour has recently recognised these pressures in a way we haven’t in the past.

Back in June Ed Miliband set out the new approach we would need in this area.

Labour has already set out that it regrets not implementing the full transitional arrangements that were available to it during the last round of EU enlargement and would do differently now.

We believe the EU should look to go further than that and look at ways of giving member states more flexibility over the transitional arrangements that they sign up to – both to relax them more when those countries see fit, but also to include the possibility of tightening them further if necessary.

But we should not promise what we cannot deliver on immigration from within the European Union.

That is why we must also manage those impacts and reform our economy, to address people’s concerns on the likes of agency workers and workplace segregation.

We will also look at what else can help.

The EU does not currently collect data on the size of the flows of people moving between member states.

This data is vital to helping us better understand the implications of the Free Movement Direct – and therefore enable all member states – including the UK – to manage its consequences.

On this the EU needs to show increased responsibility.

The interplay of EU immigration and social security provisions are a source of real and legitimate concern.

Which is why our Policy Review is considering deliverable reforms to address these real concerns people have – specifically around family related entitlements.

But Labour’s approach to delivering these reforms is different to the Conservatives’.

Our candour about the challenge of delivering them is key to us convincing the voters that we genuinely want to make progress on these areas.

And we recognise our interests are intertwined – and because of that we must work to convince, rather than coerce, our European partners.

Unlike the Conservatives’, we will argue that changes of this type are best for Britain – but we will also argue that they make sense for the EU.

This candour sadly looks set to be unmatched by the Conservatives’ shopping list of demands.

His unilateralist approach to repatriation – that presumes changes will be agreed in Europe simply by making the case that they are ‘best for Britain’ – is not just bad politics, it is bad diplomacy.

It is the wrong approach because it will fail to deliver.

Opening the door to an a la carte EU – where member states defend change based on the narrowest definition of their own national interest – doesn’t just undermine the principle of European cooperation, it could in effect undermine the interests of the United Kingdom.

It would leave open the door to other member states repatriating, reforming and renegotiating vital components of the EU that the UK benefits from – not least the single market.

Indeed it would not be hard to draw up an equivalent list of demands to match David Cameron’s shopping list of powers that say, France, Poland, or others, would seek to pursue.

It won’t be accepted.

It won’t work.

And it denies the spirit of cooperation that we believe defines – and in part justifies our continuing commitment to the EU.

The EU was originally founded on the principle not only of cooperation, but also of promoting peace after decades of a continent savaged by war.

While this peace now seems assured, it must never be taken for granted, nor the importance of this achievement diminished – as the recent awarding of the Nobel Prize reminds us.

Today, the peace that it established allows the EU to today become an effective and vital vehicle for amplifying power.

This is true in economics, in trade, in defence, foreign policy and global challenges such as climate change.

It gives us a weight collectively that on our own we lack.

And it does so at a time in our history when this has arguably never been more important.

If we accept this is a central feature of the emerging age, then, in that context, it is worth listing a few basic facts:

As of today, China has a population three times that of the whole of the EU combined.

India has over a billion people.

Indonesia is three times the size of the largest European country – Brazil is two times bigger.

Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Vietnam, the Philippines and Egypt all have bigger populations today than any single EU nation.

Against this backdrop, the case for the UK’s future in Europe is not a matter of outdated sentiment.

It’s not even a matter of party ideology.

It’s a matter of simple arithmetic.

That is why the benefits of EU membership go beyond a simple ledger of accounts – an exercise of costs to the tax payer and benefits accrued.

Nor are the benefits simply about our ability to travel, work, study and live across Europe.

They have to do with Britain’s role in the changing world and place in the global race.

About what kind of nation we are.

And what kind of nation we aspire to be in the decades ahead.

In an age of countries the size of continents our membership gives us access and influence to the biggest global trading bloc – with a GDP of €12.6tn in 2011 – prizing open new frontiers that would be otherwise unreachable – including 46 vital EU trade agreements with other countries.

In an age of common threats that permeate through national borders, membership gives us the power of collective action and pooled resources that helps make us safer and more secure – whether that be through tackling climate change, cross border crime and terror, targeted EU sanctions on Iran or EU neighbourhood funds to help counter the spread of extremism.

And incidentally that is why specifically on Justice and Home Affairs – an area where the case for European cooperation is clear – it is so regrettable that the Prime Minister seems to have chosen the bloc opt out.

In a world where power is shifting eastwards, in what many predict will be the Asian Century, when the US is pivoting to Asia, the EU strengthens rather than weakens out trans-Atlantic relationship.

Britain is a top-table member of not just the EU – but also of NATO, the G8 and the G20, the Commonwealth and the United Nations Security Council – but these are overlapping and interdependent spheres of influence, not mutually exclusive power bases that we have to chose between.

On so many issues that matter – jobs, growth, trade, security in central Europe and the Middle East – the EU is an indispensable force-multiplier for all its members – including the UK.

Labour supports the EU not just as an instrument for amplifying power – but also because in the decades ahead it has the capacity to be a vehicle for promoting our values, as well as our interests.

From promoting a vision of responsible capitalism, to securing peace and security and defending democracy and human rights – Labour’s vision of the European cooperation is part of our progressive project, not distinct from it.

And as Labour, we have no illusions that part of what, in part, motivates the modern Conservative party when it comes to Europe is to bring powers home in order to take protections away.

We are proud that Labour signed up to the Social Chapter which introduced measures including four weeks’ paid holiday; a right to parental leave; extended maternity leave; a new right to request flexible working and the same protection for part-time workers as full-time workers – and we will fight to protect them.

In conclusion, let me simply say this.

Tomorrow the Prime Minister will make a speech that even before it has been delivered has caused warnings to be issued by business leaders at home and friendly governments abroad.

The warnings of the last week have been a timely reminder of the bigger issues at stake tomorrow.

Setting aside the immediate pressures of party politics and taking that longer view, Britain stands stronger in the world as part of the EU.

But the EU in changing and needs to change more. In truth if an institution for regional co-operation like the EU did not exist today – as Labour, we would be arguing for it to be invented.

In the modern world neighbourhoods matter as well as networks.

The modern world provides both the rationale for the EU and for its reform.

It is a true tragedy that David Cameron’s party simply won’t let him address this task in a serious and sensible way.

And so it falls to Labour, and to many others, to give voice to the national interest.

We will make the hard headed, patriotic case, founded on the national interest, both for Britain in Europe and for change in Europe.

That is what we believe.

And that is where we stand.

And that is what, in the months and years ahead, we intend to do.

Douglas Alexander – 2012 Speech to Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, to the Labour Party conference on 1st October 2012.


Conference, this has been an important debate. And as this video reminds us, it comes after an extraordinary summer.

Now I know it’s customary to close these debates by quoting past speakers – and there have been some great contributions this morning.

But I want to begin my remarks by reminding you of the words, not of a politician, or even an activist, but of an athlete.

Because the quiet but fierce pride so many of us felt about Britain this summer was best captured for me when a journalist asked Mo Farrah:

“Wouldn’t you rather have run for Somalia?”

Mo replied, “Look mate. This is where I grew up, this is my country and when I put on my Great Britain vest I’m proud. I’m very proud.”

Let’s just contrast those words with the most famous, or should I say infamous, remarks by a Conservative politician this summer, Mr Aiden Burley…..

Remember him?

And what was his reaction to Danny Boyle’s extraordinary evocation of our islands’ story that fittingly celebrated the Suffragettes and the Trade Unionists, the Windrush and our NHS?

He didn’t feel proud like the rest of us.

He called it “Lefty multi-cultural crap”.

Now the reason I remind you of these revealing remarks is that this is quintessentially Conservative. This ‘stop the modern world we want to get off’ attitude doesn’t just appear when the world comes to Britain – but alas it is also present when the British Government reaches out to the world.

Conference, modern Britain exists in a world where everyone is connected to everyone – a world of quite extraordinary interdependence.

And the fundamental weakness with this Conservative Government’s foreign policy is that they remain damagingly unreconciled to that modern truth.

Let me be clear: the Foreign Secretary – he’s not a stupid man.

Indeed he’s an intelligent man.

The problem is he, like all the rest of them, are in hoc to a dumb ideology.

‘You are on your own’ is a hopeless idea on which to base a Government’s domestic policy.

But it’s also a hopeless idea on which to base a Government’s foreign policy.

Take the issue of Europe – does it matter to Britain? Absolutely.

Does it need fundamental reform? Certainly.

Does this Government have a clue how to influence that reform? Absolutely not.

We all know real change is coming, so as Labour, under Ed’s leadership, we’ll argue for reform in Europe, not exit from Europe.


Because British jobs, British exports, and British influence all benefit from Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.

Remember this when we hear the boast and the bluster from David Cameron trying to placate his backbenchers on Europe next week.

The real tragedy is the Conservatives have marginalised Britain just when influence matters most.

Because when you start with a bunch of Aiden Burleys on the back benches you end up with the fiasco last December of a front bench that does indeed manage to unite Europe…..but the only problem is – they unite them against Britain.

Just two years into Government and that’s David Cameron in a nutshell: out of touch at home; out of his depth abroad.

But what’s the Conservatives’ strategy for the EU? Nothing, it’s a blank page.

What’s the Conservatives’ strategy for the G20? Nothing, it’s a blank page.

What’s the Conservatives’ strategy for the WTO? Nothing, it’s a blank page.

What’s the Conservatives’ strategy for NATO? Nothing, it’s a blank page.

The Conservatives don’t seem to understand that we are stronger and safer when we cooperate and collaborate with international partners.

And that blindness to the need to network is damaging, and indeed at times dangerous.

David Cameron came to office declaring that Afghanistan would be his number one foreign policy priority.

That’s as it should be. Our troops – still in harm’s way – deserve nothing less.

Now we have heard this morning from members of our Armed Forces. They are quite simply the best of British. And we thank them for their service.

But understand this – they deserve something more than our applause. They deserve a political strategy worthy of their military effort.

And yet the Prime Minister, that self-same Prime Minister who told us Afghanistan would be his Government’s number one foreign policy priority, has not made a speech in the House of Commons on Afghanistan in 14 months. That is shameful.

So today from this platform I say this: David Cameron, break your silence, take the risks to negotiate for a durable peace in Afghanistan, and we in the Opposition will support you.

Now, of course, such an approach will demand Britain works with partners.

And nowhere in the world is that type of coordinated joined-up approach needed more than the Middle East.

Just last week the President Abbas spoke at the United Nations General Assembly and made clear the Palestinians’ wish for enhanced status at the UN.

But where do the British Government stand on this issue?

So far all we’ve heard from them is the sound of silence.

Conference, I give you my word, as a Labour Foreign Secretary, I would not sit on the fence: I would use my voice and my vote to upgrade Palestinian representation at the UN.

Let me be clear. To continue to build settlements on other people’s land is wrong, and it is illegal.

And so too is launching rockets into Israel.

So when people ask you – which side is Labour on?

Answer them: Labour is on the side of peace and justice, and a negotiated settlement to this conflict. So we will work with our international partners to see not only a secure Israel but a viable Palestinian State.

And we must also work together with our partners on the issue of Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

Let me state this plainly: a pre-emptive strike now by Israel cannot be justified, but nor can Iran’s evasion and hate-filled rhetoric.

The Iranians must face a world united against nuclear proliferation.

Britain must continue to work for a peaceful resolution to this crisis with our international partners led by Cathy Ashton.

And that must continue to be our approach to resolving the crisis in Syria.

On Syria let me say this to the British Government:

The scale of the slaughter and suffering is such that the Government must redouble its efforts to work with international partners to end this violence.

Conference, the long shadow of the last difficult decade has taught us many lessons.

We have to win back trust. I understand that.

So let me say this clearly – we will always work for peace and only ever contemplate force where we have to.

But for Britain to now try and retreat from the world would be as foolish as it would be futile.

The security and prosperity of each and every citizen of Britain now depends on the security and well-being of those who live far beyond our shores.

It’s not imperial delusions that give you strength in the modern world, it’s the capacity to cooperate and collaborate.

We get that. The Conservatives just don’t.

They are weakening our economy at home.

They are weakening our influence abroad.

They are out of touch at home.

They are out of their depth abroad.

And through our collective endeavour we will work to make sure they’re out of Government come the next election.

Douglas Alexander – 2011 Speech to Centre for European Reform


Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, to the Centre for European Reform on 6th July 2011.


As we meet today, the thoughts of many people across Europe will be on the Greek crisis: what will happen, who will have to pay, and will there be a spillover outside Greece?

That crisis is real and it is important. But it is fundamentally internal to the European Union – and will always seem more so when sitting in a country that isn’t a member of the eurozone.

My argument tonight is that this internal crisis shouldn’t blind Europe to the opportunities and responsibiliti es on its doorstep.

Fundamentally, countries not currencies will make history in our part of the world and the response to the “Arab Spring” will be even more important to Europe’s long term future.

In the early part of this year, from Morocco in the West to Iran in the East, we saw not a domino effect, but a demonstration effect – where the success of one set of demonstrators has given energy and inspiration to other people in other countries.

I was Britain’s International Development Secretary from 2007 to 2010 and although we worked with the poorest, most troubled nations in the world, we never saw a wave of instability of this kind in three years, let alone three months.

If anyone thought that this would be a quiet moment on the international stage while European countries wrestled with public sector debts and anaemic growth, that view has now become untenable.

In Tunisia, the demonstrators met limited resistance. In Egypt, once the army decided to side with the people, the demonstrators couldn’t be opposed. In other countries, protests have been met with –sometimes murderous – repression more often than they have been met with reform.

Where EU member states have influence – such as Bahrain and Yemen – we should be pushing for the latter and not the former. Where the EU has less influence, such as Iran, we should be just as unequivocal in our condemnation and readiness to stand in solidarity with the victims.

In Syria, I welcome the fact that the EU has acte d where the UN was unwilling to, and taken at least some steps to enact sanctions against the Syrian regime.

In Libya the protests were met with a response that was egregious in its viciousness and unique in the breadth of international clamour it created for military action.

As the Official Opposition, we made the decision to support the enforcement of UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 and vote in the House of Commons for military force to be used to protect the people of Benghazi from imminent slaughter.

For over 100 days, Britain’s armed forces – along with those of many other countries – have undertaken difficult operations to try and protect civilians in Libya.

We want a resolution to the conflict soon. We want a post-Gaddafi Libya. The International Criminal Court last week rightly issued a warrant for Gaddafi to be sent to The Hague to be tried for crimes against humanity.

But if those wishes were granted tomorrow, would the international community – and particularly the European Union – be ready?

Neither our responsibility to the people of Libya nor our national interest in seeing stability on Europe’s southern border will end when the RAF sorties come to a halt.

Historically, 40 per cent of all post conflict situations have fallen back to conflict within a decade.

For a number of weeks now, I have been raising the concerns not just of the Labour Party but of many people in our defence and foreign policy establishment, about the lack of post-conflict planning work going into Libya.

By default rather than design, William Hague has, in his own words, ensured that “Britain is in the lead” on post conflict planning. And, uncovered in answers to Parliament, we have found that not a single official in the Foreign Office or Ministry of Defence’s grand offices in Whitehall was working full time on post conflict planning in Libya.

Of course, we welcome the work that the Department for International Development is doing to plan on humanitarian issues, but the political and military aspects of post-conflict planning are just as important and are in fact pre-requisites to any effective humanitarian efforts. I say this as a former Secretary of State for International Development, with the highest regard for those officials with whom I used to work.

In past conflicts a key problem has been that the international community had a set of assumptions that didn’t turn out to be true. The failure to challenge those assumptions, to have independent “red teams” review worst case scenarios and criticise the prevailing consensus on either side of the Atlantic, was crucial to the failures of post conflict planning, in Iraq especially. So I believe it’s our duty as the Opposition to keep post conflict planning on the agenda and, as best we can, provide thorough scrutiny of the Government’s performance on this issue.

The differences with Iraq and Afghanistan are important.

The United Nations Resolution rules out “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”. The Libyan population is a fifth of the size of that in Iraq or Afghanistan. Libya’s Arab neighbours oppose Gaddafi and have never historically seen, as in Afghanistan, Libya as a place to play out their own key strategic interests.

But after the brutalisation of the Gaddafi years, we cannot be certain what kind of Libya he could leave behind. The first concern in the hours and days after Gaddafi’s regime collapses will be security.

Chaos, looting and militia violence would critically undermine Libya’s post-conflict future.

That means we need to do all we can to help support post-Gaddafi security forces establish themselves and for the Libyan Transitional National Council to maintain civilian control over all its security operations. How the security envelope is provided is fundamentally a question for the Transitional National Council and the United Nations, but we have to start thinking about the answer now. Those in the regime who need to be brought before the International Criminal Court should be extradited as soon as possible, but a speedy assessment has to be made as to which members of the regime – for example, technocrats with no links to Gaddafi’s violence –can play a continuing role.

Libya’s economic problems will be acute.

In Egypt, where the revolution was relatively fast and the country largely remained stable, the new Government now predicts that the economy will likely contract by 1.4 percent in the second half of the current fiscal year. If food, water, utilities and parents’ ability to get their kids to school safely all can be guaranteed, it will offer the population the best reasons to buy into Libya’s future. If young men can find work they are less likely to be drawn into any nascent insurgency – making the construction sector, and European and Gulf state loans to get it going, both vital and urgent.

In Afghanistan, we are living with the centralism of a constitution designed shortly after the conflict that brings with it particular challenges in establishing a politica l process in that country. So a transitional set of arrangements, explicitly ensuring a review over time, might be a better way forward for Libya.

In Iraq, the challenge of coordination between agencies proved a major issue. In Libya, the political process would benefit from a single, empowered United Nations representative – ideally from an Arab League country – who can coordinate with the relevant UN agencies as well as being the prime interlocutor with the Transitional National Council.

But given Libya’s location so close to Europe, it would also benefit from the EU having its own special representative to lead on direct loans, providing market access and supporting private investment into Libya.

The faster Libya returns to growth, the lower the risk of a return to conflict: growth eases the zero sum conflicts between different tribes and interests. Alas, without the necessary sustained political or military involvement in post-conflict planning, without clear roles of the United Nations and European Union and without a clear ministerial lead, the Government post conflict plans in Libya remain confused and behind schedule.

Now is the time for the Government to learn lessons and accelerate progress.

The need is great – but the urgency greater still.

In the longer term, we should be clear that any post-Gaddafi Libya would be fully supported by the European Union, whether that is in terms of trade, aid or the building of civil society. This is where Libya’s two post-protest neighbours can’t be ignored. Not that they should be far from our minds anyway – Tunisia is about twice as populous as Libya, Egypt is around fourteen times more populous.

But the people of Libya will rightly judge the West’s intentions through our actions in supporting the two countries that have successfully removed oppressive leaders.

Just as no European country can afford to have a foreign, defence or development policy that is of a pre-Tahrir era, the Union as a whole must respond to this call for change.

Go back to the moment this uprising began; when the unemployed 26 year old Mohammed Bouazizi was humiliated by the Tunisian state for selling fruit and vegetables without a permit.

There you have the two biggest challenges: economic torpor and repressive state institutions.

The first challenge is the more straightforward: Europe is North Africa’s nearest wealthy neighbour. Trade barriers are already limited but some informal barriers still exist. But t he revolutions, in the short term, have made this harder.

Egypt’s economy had many causes for concern before the crisis: with roughly one in ten unemployed and over 40% of the population living on less than a day.

The Egyptian finance ministry now predicts that “Domestic activity was affected by the disruption of business activities during the weeks of massive protests. Tourism collapsed temporarily, banks and the stock market were closed, capital flows reversed rapidly, and the manufacturing, construction, and internal trade suffered […]the Egyptian economy will likely contract by 1.4 percent in the second half of the current fiscal year, and growth for 2010/11 as a whole will decelerate to a mere 2-2.5 percent.”

A report by the international institute of finance predicts across the region, real GDP growth across Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia dropping from 4.4% in 2010 to -0.5% in 2011.

The G8 at Deauville said that “multilateral development banks could provide over bn” for Egypt and Tunisia in the next two years, but it is far from clear if new money on such a scale will in fact be mobilised or indeed when.

Yet the need is immediate, great and growing.

On both money and market access, a stronger and more strategic response from the international community is needed if we are to ensure that this spring’s winners don’t lose in the months and years ahead. Certain, non-tariff barriers have been identified by Cathy Ashton as hindrances that are preventing North Africa’s economies exporting north, in particular the need for support for rural development in North Africa to raise standards to export quality.

That brings us to the question of direct support;

I am already on record saying that funds should also be redirected within the external relations budget from areas such as Latin America towards North Africa.

That would be a tough decision but if we miss this moment to support countries like Egypt and Tunisia because we avoided taking tough decisions, we will regret it for many years to come.

However, this is to miss the fact that prosperity without the rule of law is unlikely in itself and would always be insecure.

So we need to be asking ourselves, what can Europe do to ensure Egypt and Tunisia have police forces that are honest, judges that are independent and officials who are accountable for their behaviour? The promise of accession has helped in the past and is helping today to reform states on Europe’s periphery.

But given that accession is not on offer to the North African countries, we must think about what Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski has called “multiple small carrots” in respect of European support for countries in transition to democracy in north Africa.

So our strong support to build liberal states in Egypt and Tunisia should be matched by a generous but condition al approach to economic assistance.

Think of the newspaper headlines in the next few months, the crisis in Greece and the fighting in Libya are not likely to be out of them for very long.

But the less exciting but no less important events in Egypt, Tunisia and in planning for a post-conflict Libya should hold our attention just as much.

This is an extraordinary moment for the European Union – the chance to have a set of growing, more democratic countries on our southern border, rather than declining autocracies.

If we let it slip by, we will regret it for many decades to come.

Douglas Alexander – 2012 Speech to Scottish Labour Party Conference


Below is the text of the speech made by Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, to the 2012 Scottish Labour Party conference on 2nd March 2012.


It is good to be with you here today.

It is customary to begin these speeches with an amusing story. But today I want to begin, instead, with a heartfelt tribute.

Last Saturday, Thomas Watters, a Glasgow Corporation bus driver, passed away at the age of 99.

Thomas was the last Scottish Member of the International Brigade. He worked alongside the 4,000 men of the British Battalion, who in 1936, went from these islands to defend the cause of democracy in Spain.

He didn’t go as a fighter, he went as an ambulance man.

For others – the thread workers in the mills of my own Paisley Constituency – solidarity was expressed through financial and material support given willingly to their brothers and sisters in the factories of Barcelona.

From this platform today, let us pay tribute to Thomas Watters, to his fellow members of the International Brigade, and to those here at home who stood in solidarity against the tide of fascism.

Let us pay tribute because Thomas’ heroism reminds us that our story and the struggles of Scotland’s working people have long been interwoven with the stories of working people from across these islands.

But Thomas’ courage should also remind us that for, our movement, the claims of our shared humanity, and solidarity have always extended furth of Scotland.

Now there’s an old saying that charity begins at home. But that has never been Scottish Labour’s creed.

Think of Labour in the City of Glasgow – embracing Nelson Mandela in the 1980s.

Think of the tireless work of Gordon Brown to write off the debts of the world’s poorest countries in the 1990s.

Think of the Gleneagles Summit in 2005 when a Labour Government led the world by demanding that climate change and global poverty be at the top of the international agenda.

Internationalism – never nationalism – has always been our lodestar.

It’s not just about what we believe. It’s about who we are:

My mother worked as doctor in the Southern General. My father was a Parish Minister in Renfrewshire.

But like millions of their fellow Scots, my parents horizons were never limited to one community or one country.

My mother was born in China – the child of Scottish Medical Missionaries. My father graduated from Glasgow University one week but the next week travelled to New York and worked amidst the poverty of East Harlem.

So when nationalists say to me that being part of Britain cuts Scotland off from the world, I say to them: That’s not my Scotland.

And when they suggest that we’d be better to just ignore the struggle of others and instead look out for ourselves, I say again: That’s just not the Scotland I belong to.

And even if Scotland ever did succumb to such an outlook – the world is heading in the opposite direction.

From the Eurozone Crisis to the Environment, from Export Markets to Mass Migration, interdependence – not independence – is the hallmark of our age.

So, if we can’t escape from that interdependent world we have to ask ourselves: How best we can influence our world in the service of our ideals?

Let us say confidently and clearly:

There is nothing “positive” or “progressive” in retreating from the world.

And if the objective is engaging with the world, then there is nothing ‘anti-Scottish’ in acknowledging these facts:

If we want to advance international cooperation: Britain has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. A separate Scotland would not.

If we want to strengthen our collective security: Britain has a permanent seat on the Council of NATO. A separate Scotland would not.

If we want to engage the emerging economies: Britain has a permanent seat on the G20: A separate Scotland would not.

If we want to tackle disease and poverty: Britain has a permanent seat on the Board of the World Bank. A separate Scotland would not.

If we want to regulate the global financial markets: Britain has a permanent seat on the Board of the IMF. A separate Scotland would not.

As proud Scots, we may feel there’s ‘no where better’.

But we also know that there‘s something bigger.

And in the coming century our influence would be diminished, and our global reach more limited without the British Connection.

And in the months ahead it will be up to Scottish Labour, to every person in this room, and every one of us in our Party to make the case that Scotland stands taller on the world stage as part of Britain.

We are stronger together, and we’d be weaker apart.

Under Johann’s leadership we must challenge narrow nationalist politics and expose the aching gulf between the nationalist’s rhetoric and the reality experienced by the rest of us.

Take my community in Renfrewshire, where 23 unemployed people are today chasing every vacancy in the local job centre.

And here in Dundee, almost 6,000 unemployed people are competing for fewer than 400 jobs.

Every time I do my surgery I listen to the people behind these numbers – people who are crying out for help and support to make the best of who they are.

Conference, we understand that it’s not aspiration that’s lacking in our communities today – it’s opportunity.

It’s work. It’s jobs.

But what is the Nationalists’ response to this jobs crisis?

Are the Nationalists busy providing jobs or skills to the young people in Paisley or young people here in Dundee?

No. They boast about free education, but have slashed the budget of our local FE colleges, like Reid Kerr, by £54 million.

Are they protecting the vital local services that help Scottish families through tough times?

No. They’ve increased charges, sacked staff, and slashed teacher numbers.

That is why May’s elections matter. It’s why this week I’ve been out on the doorsteps in Renfrewshire with our local council candidates.

And it’s why, in the weeks ahead, we must all be urging and asking voters to support Scottish Labour on May 3rd.

Because our communities need Labour Councillors providing not just good value, but good values.

Defending services. Upholding fairness. Protecting the vulnerable.

Just as in the 80s it now falls to Labour councillors to be the last line of defence for our communities.

The last line of defence against a Tory Government with policies tearing our society apart, and a Nationalist Government determined to tear our country apart.

We face a Nationalist Government weak in principle but strong in purpose.

And, as a party, we have to understand how we find ourselves in this position, if we are to break its dynamics and so generate a different outcome.

The origins of our defeat last May were deep, not recent. And they demand an honest and painful reckoning.

Too many saw us as being more Anti-Nationalist than Pro-Scottish.

Too many saw us as a party of tribalists not a party of thinkers.

Too many felt Scotland had changed, and that Scottish Labour had not.

So here, in Dundee, our task, as a Party, is to demonstrate, by our words and deeds, that we are motivated by a sense of pride, passion, and possibility for Scotland.

With Johann’s leadership that task of renewal is now underway.

So, true to our history and alive to contemporary currents, we must be open minded on how we can improve devolution’s powers, including fiscal powers, but be resolute in our rejection of separation.

Working with other parties, with local communities and with civic Scotland – as the authors of Devolution, we must be both the defenders and developers of Devolution.

And let us tell the Nationalists with a quiet confidence that they can bully, they can bluster and they can boast, but on the issue of separation: They do not speak for Scotland.

To the Nationalists I say this: You can try and delay the Scottish people’s choice. But you will not change the Scottish people’s verdict.

At our best, Scottish Labour has been the party of not just constitutional but, also of economic and social renewal.

These are the tasks to which we must dedicate ourselves under Johann’s leadership.

But that renewal requires the contribution of each of us.

One more heave would simply guarantee one more defeat. And then another. And then another.

The threats to Scotland are too great, and the risks too real, for Scottish Labour to settle for a quiet life of decline and defeat.

We need to change and change radically – not to disavow our deepest beliefs, but to become a better expression of them.

We need to change how we identify and select our candidates, how we organise and fund our campaigns, and how we develop and communicate our policies.

We need to change so that people across Scotland who share our values but would not now consider standing as a Labour candidate will change their mind and say: That is where I want to be, and who I want to stand with.

To fail to embrace these changes would be to abdicate our responsibility to the very people and the very communities we came into politics to serve.

Remember this: Scottish Labour’s past success was not inevitable.

And neither is Scottish Labour’s future recovery.

We have to earn it.

And if we need inspiration in that endeavour then let us remind ourselves:

When Keir Hardie and the Trade Unions founded our Party they started without power, without money, and without influence.

And when, in recent times, we selected candidates of the calibre of Alistair Darling, Sam Galbraith, and Brian Wilson, and Helen Liddle they began in opposition, but in time were judged not just worthy of Government, but truly a credit to Scotland.

In their day Smith, Cook, Brown and Dewar did not feel entitled to Govern. They felt called to serve.

They stood up for their beliefs, just as, in a different time, Thomas Watters stood up for his.

So let it be said of this Party, gathered in Dundee:

We had the insight to understand, and the courage to change.

For it is only by embracing change that we can prove ourselves, once more, worthy of our Nation’s trust.

That is our urgent task.

That is our solemn duty.

And, working together, it can be our shared achievement.