Arthur Scargill – 1985 NUM Conference Speech

Below is the text of the speech made by Arthur Scargill, the then General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, to the 1985 NUM Conference.

Conference meets this year following the longest, most bitter and possibly most savage national strike ever seen anywhere in the world. We meet not in the aftermath but still in the midst of a historic and heroic struggle waged by this Union and mining communities against the most reactionary coal industry management seen since the 1920s and 30s a struggle in which we have had to face the combined weight of the most reactionary and destructive Government Britain has known in over a century.

We have come through a strike which has changed the course of British history: a conflict of tremendous significance which has resounded around the world – a conflict which has transformed the lives of those who stood and fought against the National Coal Board’s disastrous pit closure programme -a conflict which has inspired workers in this and other countries to defend the right to work.

The National Union of Mineworkers has challenged the very heart of the capitalist system. We have refused to accept that any industry in capitalist society – whether public or private – has the right to destroy the livelihood of men and women at the stroke of an accountant’s pen. Our challenge has been met by an Establishment reaction of unprecedented savagery.

The pit closure programme announced by the Board on the 6th March, 1984 was a deliberate action, designed to provoke our Union into either taking strike action or backing down in the face of Coal Board`s policy.

Since November, 1983, the Union had been operating a highly successful overtime ban, building an effective “Campaign For Coal”, winning support both in mining areas and in the wider community the N.U.M. was taking the arguments for saving pits and jobs to our members and their families in a way which had never been seen before.

Faced with this unity of action, the Coal Board began a new tactic, using closure announcements to cut across and violate all our industry’s established procedures. As they contemptuously announced 25 pit closures – five of them to come immediately – with a loss of over 25,000 jobs, we knew that our Union had no real choice. We could either accept the Board’s proposals in the certain knowledge that they were only the start of a massive closure programme-or we could take strike action, and fight with dignity and pride for the position we knew to be right.

To the eternal credit of our Union, we took strike action. Let me say, unequivocally, that in defending our policies, jobs, communities and industry, we had no alternative – and history will vindicate our action.

Now, four months after our return to work, it is essential too look back over the first crucial phase of our fight for the future, examine what was accomplished, and determine where our Union and its members go from here.

It is vital that the Union analyses all the events of 1984/85 in order to learn from what took place and to utilise our experience in the next stage of our fight. The Board’s pit closure programme for 1984/85 was not carried through because the miners took strike action! It was the determination of this Union and mining communities which delivered the worst blow ever dealt to the Thatcher Government, and created a crisis in international capital.

The cost of the miners’ strike in Thatcherism has been truly astronomic. In their crusade against the N.U.M. and trade unionism, the Government robbed Britain’s taxpayers of ?8 billion (more than eight times the cost of the Falklands War), as they desperately sought to defeat the miners and destroy the National Union of Mineworkers.

History will record that this was a colossal act of vandalism by a monetarist Tory Government, which in order to survive requires a high pool of unemployed – a weak, collaborationist, or non-existent trade union movement – and laws which remove the democratic rights won by our people in over two centuries of struggle.

The attack on our Union was the culmination of five years in which the Thatcher Government had successively introduced anti-trade union legislation while raising unemployment to four-and-a-half million – and through the use of the media had implanted in trade unionists’ minds the idea that they could not win any struggle against this new authoritarian Government.

The decision to appoint Ian MacGregor as Chairman of the National Coal Board was vidence of the Tories’ growing confidence-and, with their success against the N.G.A., and the elimination of trade unionism at G.C.H.Q., they showed their increasing contempt for the T.U.C. and its affiliated unions.

Ian MacGregor was appointed N.C.B. Chairman in order that free market criteria could be applied to the mining industry, following exactly the line pursued by the Tory Government in other nationalised industries. His brief was to carry through a policy of pit closures as the first step towards a restructured coal industry, ripe for privatisation -a strategy which the Tories also believed would see Britain’s most powerful union rendered impotent.

Trade unionism and nationalisation are totally abhorrent to MacGregor. His union-busting record in the United States speaks for itself, and it was because of that record that he was brought over to Britain (to the eternal shame of the last Labour Government), first to British Leyland and then to British Steel, before being instructed to butcher British coal.

His attitude not only towards trade unions but Parliament itself has been demonstrated within the last fortnight-first by his disdainful dismissal of the Conservative-dominated Employment Select Committee’s report, which recommended that the Coal Board review its position in relation to those miners dismissed during the strike – a recommendation which if implemented would result in over 80 per cent of those sacked being reinstated.

During the strike, over 900 miners were sacked, and since the end of the strike, still more have been dismissed. To date, over 600 have not been reinstated.

Over 50 of our members have been jailed while carrying out union policy, taking action to save pits and jobs. They are political prisoners, whose crime is fighting for the right to work, and an amnesty for them, as well as reinstatement for all who have been sacked, are among our first priorities.

Ian MacGregor’s contempt for our industry and those who work within it has also just been demonstrated by the Board’s total abandonment of the agreement reached last autumn with N.A.C.O.D.S., modifying the Colliery Review Procedure. This Agreement, described during our strike as “sacrosanct” by both the Board and the Government, has now been proved the sham we always said it was.

Ironically, if we judge Ian MacGregor’s stewardship of the coal industry even on the basis of his own market forces criteria, he stands accused of total incompetence and of crimes against Britain’s economy and the British people. During the two years since his appointment, he has cost the taxpayers of this nation over ?90 million per week. He is, by any standards, an unmitigated disaster, and if ever there was a case for redundancy, he represents the perfect candidate -the quicker he goes, the better for all concerned.

The N.U.M. argued from the beginning that Ian MacGregor should never have been appointed, his entire performance during and since the end of the dispute bears witness to our belief. Under his direction, local and area management of the Board have embarked on a vendetta of draconian measures which have deliberately destroyed long-established customs and practice within our industry. We have seen industrial relations dismantled as Board management takes an increasingly hard line against our members.

There is no denying that the miners’ strike could have been brought to a swift and successful conclusion within a short space of time but for a number of important factors which had a major effect on the attitude of both the Coal Board and the Government.

1. Following our Special Delegate Conference on 19th April, 1984, which reaffirmed the democratic decision to endorse strike action in accordance with Rule 41, the Union’s call on all Areas to support the dispute was not followed by Nottinghamshire, South Derbyshire or Leicestershire.

In refusing to respond to a call from the vast majority of their colleagues already on strike, and – more importantly – by refusing to respect picket lines, those who continued to work producing coal provided a life-line to the Tory Government as it waged class war against the N.U.M.

2. There have been many comments from critics, cynics and even some colleagues, suggesting that had we held an individual ballot vote the outcome of our dispute would have been different. That argument has three basic flows:

(a) It fails to recognise that miners in 1984 were taking the same kind of action they had taken in 1981, when they had the support of Notts., South Derbyshire and Leicester -without a ballot.

(b) By the time of our Conference on the 19th April last year, nearly 80 per cent of our members were already on strike.

(c) The argument also fails to recognise, or conveniently forgets, that on a previous occasion Areas, including Notts., South Derbyshire and Leicester, refused to accept the democratic decision of our membership as determined in an individual ballot vote, and proceeded to negotiate with the Coal Board an incentive scheme which has helped to divide this Union and weaken our ability to fight for our policies.

3. There have been suggestions (again, from critics, cynics, even some colleagues) that traditional, picket-line militancy is dead. Nothing could be further from the truth, and accurate, historical analysis will prove that point beyond doubt. It was not a failure of mass picketing, but a failure to mass picket that represented a weakness in many sections of our Union, and other trade unions beside ourselves must learn the lessons of what took place in 1984/85.

The mass picketing of Orgreave, like Saltley in 1972, proved so effective that it led to the British Steel Corporation halting its operations on the 18th June, 1984. But – unlike Saltley, where picketing was stepped up and intensified following the first closure – at Orgreave picketing was scaled down following our success on 18th June.

I have consistently argued that the tactics which brought us victory at Saltley should have been employed at Orgreave, where with increased picketing we would inevitably have involved the trade union and Labour movement throughout the Sheffield and South Yorkshire area, and brought the flow of coke from Orgreave to a complete halt.

We are involved in a class war, and any attempt to deny that flies in the face of reality. Confronted by our enemy’s mobilisation, we are entitled, indeed obliged, to call upon our class for massive support. In any future industrial action by any Union – including ours -this must be done.

4. It is a fact that the N.U.M. did not receive the level of support we needed and were entitled to expect from our colleagues in the wider Movements.

In spite of pleas from this Union, the leaders of the power workers refused to give us the same basic support they gave in 1974 – a measure of support which, I should add for the sake of the record, was not present in 1972 (contrary to any statements made by media experts). In 1974, by operating basic principled guidelines, power workers stopped the flow of coal into British power stations.

By acquiescing in the conversion of coal-fired power stations to oil, the power station workers made it possible for the Government and the C.E.G.B. to raise the amount of oil burn from 5 to 40 per cent. Power station workers could have prevented this simply by operating along the same principled lines followed in 1974.

5. The abject refusal by I.S.T.C. leaders to mobilise and coordinate the same degree of support for the N.U.M. which we gave steel workers in 1980 not only betrayed every tenet of the “Triple Alliance”, but actually forced and provoked the battles of Orgreave, Ravenscraig and Llanwern.

The British Steel Corporation has admitted that without the cooperation of the steel unions they could not have kept going, and the Coal Board would thus have been put under intense pressure to negotiate with the N.U.M.

6. The Government’s massive transport operation, mounted a long the lines of the Ridley Plan, to convey coal, coke and iron ore to power stations and steel works only proved effective because the power and steel unions failed to respect picket lines and stop deliveries.

On the other hand, the fantastic support given to us by the National Union of Railwaymen, A.S.L.E.F., the National Union of Seamen, and sections of the T.G.W.U. was not only an inspiration, but a demonstration to the rest of the Movement and the world of what trade union solidarity is all about. Their support is something that our Union will never forget.

7. Last October, N.A.C.O.D.S., having committed themselves to a united fight with the N.U.M. on pit closures, suddenly capitulated to the Board during talks at the conciliation service A.C.A.S., and accepted what everyone now knows was a deal that amounted to deception.

This N.A.C.O.D.S./N.C.B. Agreement, described as “sacrosanct” by both the Board and Government, was praised to the skies by pundits and politicians who criticised the N.U.M. for refusing to accept it.

The Agreement – which we said was worthless -was supposed to introduce into the colliery review procedure an independent appeals body, acceptable to unions and management, which would review any dispute about the future of a colliery or unit after all other procedures had been exhausted.

Only four months after the end of the miners’ strike, the Coal Board has now openly violated this “sacrosanct” Agreement, and has announced instead that it will go ahead on its own, unilaterally appointing one inspector to hear any appeals. The N.U.M. warned that the Agreement was a sham, and we have been proved absolutely correct.

8. The T.U.C.’s failure to translate into positive action the decisions taken at the 1984 T.U.C. Congress was seen by the Government as a green light to intensify its attacks on the N.U.M. Had the guidelines supporting the N.U.M. adopted by Congress been even partially implemented, the pressure upon the Coal Board and the Government would have been intense, and a negotiated settlement inevitable.

There can be no excuse for the T.U.C. General Council’s refusal to provide desperately needed financial assistance to this Union following sequestration and receivership. The appointment of a Receiver for a trade union is unprecedented, and is associated with the new Tory legislation – yet, eight months after receivership was imposed on the N.U.M., the £400,000 fund established by the T.U.C. at the 1982 Wembley Conference remains intact while we fight to survive.

9. During the strike, the Labour Party leadership allowed itself to be preoccupied with allegations of “violence”, scripted daily by the media-when they should have been attacking the Tory Government for its violence against our industry, and defending our members in the same way as Thatcher defended her riot squad in blue.

10. The High Court decision last autumn to fine the N.U.M., and then place an order of sequestration upon us failed to stop the Union functioning. Further legal moves then resulted in the High Court sacking the three N.U.M. Trustees and appointing a Receiver, whose purpose was to bring our Union’s operations and administration to a standstill by hijacking our funds. As a result of his appointment, our funds have been depleted by £1 million which would be part of our assets today had the Union’s Trustees not been removed by the High Court.

11. Throughout the past year, and longer, the capitalist media has played a role which would have impressed even Goebbells. Press and broadcasting have smeared and lied about our Union, its leadership and its members. It’s no good just blaming proprietors and managing editors. Journalists-many of whom will say privately that they “support” the miners – have allowed themselves to be used to attack us every day at every turn, as we fight to protect and sustain our industry. But in hurling weapon after weapon at the N.U.M., our enemies have revealed more than their hatred of us – they have revealed their own fear. Their viciousness springs from the knowledge that the heart of their own-class ridden system is under attack.

12. The proposal for a return to work without an agreement was a fundamental mistake – and events have shown that this was not the best course of action to adopt.

However, let no-one talk to me about defeat or setbacks. Those who since the end of the strike have pontificated in a negative and destructive fashion fail utterly to understand the nature of what actually took place.

This Union must not turn inwards in an orgy of self-criticism. We should stand confident and proud of what we have achieved, proclaiming the positive aspects of the dispute, and the most important victory of all – the struggle itself.

Within our Union and our communities, the strike brought forth revolutionary changes. I never tire of paying tribute to our young miners, whose courage and determination throughout the months’ battle remain an inspiration to us all. Our union must continue to involve them and use their energy and skills to the full.

I also acknowledge, yet again, the magnificent force which has emerged to take its rightful place alongside the N.U.M. -the women’s support groups. No words of mine can pay adequate tribute to their historic contribution to our common struggle. I believe I speak on behalf of Michael McGahey and Peter Heathfield as well when I say that nothing gives me greater pride than my association with Women Against Pit Closures.

They have been our strongest and truest allies, and there is absolutely no doubt that their collective strength is crucial to the fight that still lies ahead of us.

The Future

For the N.U.M., the tasks ahead present the greatest challenge any trade union has ever faced. We must build from this Conference a united fight united on policies and on principles. We must intensify the fight to save pits, jobs and communities, knowing that in the present climate only industrial action hopefully involving other mining unions can stop a pit closure programme which if allowed to proceed would slaughter our industry.

We must demand from the rest of the Movement – in particular the leadership of the Labour Party and the T.U.C. -a commitment in action to our fight for coal.

The case to protect our communities and mining families is irrefutable- but never forget that it is inextricable from the economic case for coal, and it is on our economic case against pit closures that we urge the Labour Party and T.U.C. to campaign in Parliament and throughout the nation.

The brilliant economic case against pit closures produced by Andrew Glyn of Oxford University shows that the cost to Britain’s taxpayers of closing a pit is almost double that of keeping it open, employing workers and producing valuable coal.

This is a fight for Britain’s future, and the extent to which we succeed or fail fundamentally affects other workers and the nation’s destiny.

The rail and steel industries, now under increasing attack must learn the lessons of the last 12 months, and understand that the surest way to save British steel and the railways is to take combined action-and not leave trade union colleagues isolated when facing a concerted attack by the ruling class.

But ours is not just a defensive fight. Our generation of trade unionist has a responsibility to make the dreams of the Socialist pioneers a reality. In fighting to save our nationalised industries and public services, we must win for them and for the British people the democracy, accountability, efficiency and profitability they have been denied over the past 40 years.

Looking ahead, one immediate task facing us – and the Movement – is building the campaign to release our members, jailed as political prisoners fighting against pit closures. We must win reinstatement at work for our members sacked during and since the end of the strike. This task is as crucial to our Union as the fight to save the industry itself.

We make it clear to the next Labour Government that it must first of all ensure that it frees from jail and reinstates at work any miners who remain victimised.

The next Labour Government must then address itself to the National Coal Board. It is no longer enough to merely call for the dismissal of ]an McGregor, although the N.U.M. and the Movement must continue to do that. The next Labour Government must remove all senior Coal Board personnel, and all area and local managers who have not only participated during the last two years in the deliberate destruction of our industry, but who have viciously attacked our members and sought to humiliate them since the end of the strike.

The N.U.M. must then be invited to share in the responsibility of running the National Coal Board as it should be run – of the people, by the people and for the people. The Board must be accountable to those who work within our industry, and the Chairman should be the nominee of the unions. Only in this way can the great wrongs of the past five years be righted, and our industry expanded and developed in line with 1974 Plan for Coal.

It follows that we must therefore make the broad alliances necessary to create the conditions for the swiftest possible return of a Labour Government – one which will mobilise a march towards full employment, while campaigning for peace, the removal of all nuclear bases from Britain, and economic justice throughout the world.

Despite the struggles and turmoil of the past two years, our Union will continue to participate in plans for a new Miners’ International Organisation, incorporating East and West by bridging the ideological differences and ripping away the barriers that have separated workers for far too long.

As we look at rising unemployment within Europe, the threat to other E.E.C. coal industries, as we view the horror of incessant warfare in the Lebanon, or watch while thousands die of hunger in the Third World, we cannot forget that our own struggles are connected with those of workers everywhere.

As we see the nuclear madness of the ever-increasing arms race, we must re-dedicate ourselves to campaign for peace – without world peace there is no hope for any of us. We must campaign until the billions spent on weapons of death and destruction are spent instead on providing an improved quality of life.

This Conference is a vital one. It follows a historic strike which has united our communities as never before. It is true to say that in 1984/85, for the first time in 50 years, many of our people discovered the real meaning of the word “community”.

But there are also indications (carefully nurtured by our enemies in the Board and Government) of splits and divisions in our great Union-divisions which would inevitably affect our ability to fight effectively to stop pit closures, save jobs or indeed to represent as powerfully as we should the interests of the entire membership.

At a time when the industry is under attack from the ruthless Government seen in our lifetime, it would be a disaster for every member of the Union if any breakaway were to take place. But, as history shows all too clearly, it would be most disastrous of all for those who themselves formed any such breakaway.

I call on all sections of our Union to take strength from the lessons of 1984/85, and from the fact that we are all part of a national Union.

I pledge for my part to accept the decisions of Conference – whether it be on policy or Rules – and to work wholeheartedly for them. No matter what my personal view, I will fight for the policies you decide, and I believe that all Areas of the Union should give the same commitment. That is my responsibility as President and I carry it proudly.

I would like, in conclusion, to express my appreciation of the unfailing solidarity and comradeship shared throughout our struggle by the three National Officials. Michael McGahey, Peter Heathfield and I have worked together in a way which has helped me meet and combat the unremitting attacks of our class enemy.

Our Union’s contribution to history and to humanity is in itself a triumph – let our great strike be the beginning of the fight not only to save jobs and pits, but to strengthen our Union, and help create the conditions for electing a Labour Government pledged to fulfil the aims and principles upon which the N.U.M. was founded.

Michael Portillo – 1985 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Michael Portillo in the House of Commons on 4 March 1985.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye so that I can make my maiden speech.

I begin by paying tribute to my predecessor as the Member for Enfield, Southgate, Sir Anthony Berry. Sir Anthony was a popular member and his death in the bombing at Brighton last October was tragic. I had the privilege of hearing you, Mr. Speaker, outside the House deliver an address in which you recalled Sir Anthony’s life and his many fine qualities. I shall not attempt to repeat the well chosen words that you used on that occasion, but, from my constituency experience, I shall add a few words.

It is clear that Sir Anthony was absolutely dedicated to the welfare of his constituents. He showed that dedication by his custom of visiting people in their homes to discuss their problems. That courtesy and kindness was typical of Sir Anthony. It is a stunning paradox that such a kind, courteous and gentle man should lose his life at the hands of men of violence. I know that the whole House joins me in remembering Sir Anthony, deploring his death and grieving for him. I am sure that all hon. Members also join me in paying tribute to Lady Berry, who has borne her bereavement with dignity and courage. [HON. MEMBERS: “Hear, hear.”]

Sir Anthony Berry made his maiden speech almost exactly 20 years ago in January 1965. He referred to the part of the North Circular road that runs through the constituency of Enfield, Southgate. He looked forward to that piece of road being widened shortly. Twenty years later we are still expecting the road to be widened. We often hear the Government say that not all public expenditure is necessarily desirable. Many of my constituents agree, because they are living in properties that are decaying, not because anything is wrong with them but because of planning blight. A number of my constituents would like the Government to save the money that they have in mind for the project and to allow them to continue to live in their homes rather than cause those homes to be destroyed.

At the other end of the constituency, far from the din of the north circular road, my constituency reaches the countryside. One can drive along the Hadley road and see nothing but green fields on either side. I imagine that I am one of the few London Members who has the privilege of having a number of farmers among his constituents.

In the middle of my constituency is Winchmore Hill. One of my history books says that about the year 1600 the people of Winchmore Hill were very primitive and much given to witchcraft. Recently, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the belief that public expenditure could cure all our ills as an ancient form of witchcraft. I assure my right hon. Friend that nowadays the good people of Winchmore Hill are no more attracted to that practice than their near neighbours in Palmers Green or Cockfosters.

Frequently, when discussion in the House turns to public expenditure, a number of hon. Members wonder whether they can improve on the traditional procedures by which they consider the revenue that the Government raise at one time of the year, in the Budget, and how that money is spent at another time of the year, in the autumn round of discussions. The Armstrong committee considered that matter in 1980 and came forward with a series of proposals for bringing the consideration of taxation and spending together. The proposal was considered by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee and the Select Committee on Procedure (Finance). The Government went some way towards meeting the point by devising the autumn statement in the form in which we now know it.

In its present form, the autumn statement has given rise to a number of unforeseen difficulties. Public and press attention naturally focus on that part of the autumn statement in which the Government say how they view the prospective fiscal adjustment in the following Budget—whether they consider that taxation is likely to be increased or decreased. During the past two years we have seen that, whatever the Government say, the results can be unfortunate. In November 1983 the Government announced that the prospect was for a moderate increase in taxation in the following Budget. The Government were denounced for being too gloomy. People asked whether the Government were still committed to their policy of cutting taxation. In the event, all that gloom was unnecessary, because the Government were able to decrease taxes in the Budget.

Last November, the Government said that the prospect was for a decrease in taxation in the Budget, but that statement brought denunciation on the Government. At first people said, “The Government have underestimated how much money there is to give away in the Budget.” People thought that the Government were being too cautious. Subsequently, the Government were denounced for having thrown caution to the wind. It appeared that the Government were more determined to cut taxation than to continue their fight against inflation.

No one can reliably estimate in the autumn the leeway that the Government will have in the spring. Whatever figure is announced, it either increases or depresses expectations. More importantly, it creates confusion about the Government’s policy. Sometimes that can have serious consequences.

Our present arrangements are an uneasy halfway house between our traditional procedures and the radical proposals in the Armstrong report. This middle position does not satisfy those hon. Members who want a thoroughgoing reform. On the other hand, it sets a number of hares running about in a way that is not helpful to the Government or to the House. I cannot help thinking that the present position is likely to prove unstable and that we shall want to move either forward towards the Armstrong proposals or backward to the position in the old days when the Chancellor said very little in advance of his Budget statement.

May I use the opportunity of my maiden speech, Mr. Speaker, to make a point that concerns the relationship between public expenditure and unemployment? I am reminded of what happened to me last year at the Conservative party conference in Brighton. At about 2 am on what proved to be that terrible morning of 12 October, I was standing in the bar of the Grand hotel. Because the hour was late I got into a heated discussion with a journalist. He said, “The Government’s policies are designed to create unemployment.” Of course, I disagreed with that. The discussion became heated. To emphasise his point, the journalist beat the pillar beside us with his fist and said, “This is a pillar; that is a fact. Your policies are to create unemployment; that is a fact, too.” The discussion became even more acrimonious and the journalist rather abusive, so I left the Grand hotel and went safely to bed in my hotel down the road.

In the morning I reflected on two things. First, I was grateful to that journalist for having been abusive towards me; otherwise I might have stayed in the Grand hotel and been there at the time the bomb went off. Secondly, I reflected on the fact that the pillar which he had thumped with his hand and which represented for him absolute certainty was probably a pile of rubble. I thought that, in the light of day, the journalist, too, was a little less certain about the motives of Government policy.

Although I understand that the Opposition believe with absolute conviction that the way to reduce unemployment is to increase public spending, I ask them to understand the absolute sincerity with which Conservative Members say that to increase public spending is to increase taxation which would lead to fewer jobs and higher unemployment.

Neil Kinnock – 1985 Labour Party Conference Speech

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Leader of the Labour Party, Neil Kinnock, at the Labour Party Conference in Bournemouth in 1985.

Thank you. Comrades, Alan, I think you must be all Welsh to give a welcome like that. But wherever you come from, I do thank you and I think movement, the country, will have got that message that you gave them there and then very loud and very clear. There is no mistaking that.

Comrades, before I present my parliamentary report this year, I want to mark the fact that at this Conference we see the retirement of an unusual number of our senior comrades in the trade union movement and also, of course, we have seen this year the retirement of our General Secretary, Jim Mortimer. I want to take this opportunity of paying tribute to all of those people, together with those who are perhaps not so distinguished, for their lifetime of service to this working class movement.

Today, however, we learn with deep sadness that one of those retired friends died this morning. Terry Duffy was blunt, irascible, not always easy to agree with, but as honest as the day was long, and we mourn his death and the fact that he had to endure with immense courage months of a dreadful illness. We send our sincere condolences to his family, and to Terry and to the many others who have made such a contribution to our movement we say thanks for all that they have done.

Comrades, this week in which our Conference meets is the 333rd week of Mrs Thatcher’s government. In this average week in Tory Britain 6,000 people will lose their jobs, 225 businesses will go bankrupt, £400 million will be spent on paying the bills of unemployment, 6,000 more people will be driven by poverty into supplementary benefit; and in this week in the world at large over $10,000 million will be spent on armaments and less than $1,000 million will be spent on official aid; and in this week over 300,000 children will die in the Third World. These are the real challenges that we have to face, at home and abroad. These are the concerns of our nation; they are the crises of our world. These are the problems which we in our party address and must address this week and every other week. Only we will address them this week and every other week, because that is what our party is for.

The Tories do not see things like that. They do not believe that these are great problems of substance at all.  They think that all of the woes are simply a matter of ‘presentation’, as they put it.  Presentation – that is what their ministers tell each other, that is what their Conference will tell itself next week, that is what the Prime Minister uses to explain everything: it is all a matter of presentation. The unemployment does not really exist, the training centres have not been shut down, the Health Service is safe in their hands: it is all just a matter of presentation. Indeed, they are so convinced of that that they have now got rid of Mr John Selwyn Gummer. He has been sent off to the Ministry of Agriculture, where doubtlessly the expertise that he gained as Chairman of the Tory Party in handling natural fertiliser will come in very handy.

In little Selwyn’s place we have Mr Norman Tebbit, charged with the task, so the newspapers tell us, of explaining the government to the country. The last person to have that commission was Dr Goebbels.  Whilst Lord Willie Whitelaw, so the newspapers tell us, retains responsibility for co-ordinating the presentation of government policy. Norman and Willie – surely arsenic and old lace! Still, to give the devil his due, Mr Tebbit has been very frank about his whole function. A few days ago he said: ‘I don’t mind being blackguarded for what we’ve done, but I don’t want to be blackguarded for what we haven’t done.’

He will not mind then if I ask him to take a little time off from commissioning young Tories to litter the streets of Bournemouth and give us a few explanations.  Ask him to explain, for instance, how the self-acclaimed party of law and order comes to preside over a record 40 per cent rise in crime in our country in the last six years. How does the declared party of school standards contrive a situation in which Her Majesty’s inspectors can describe the schooling system as ‘inadequate, shabby, dilapidated, outdated’, and then on top of that the Government goads the most temperate of professions – the teachers – into taking prolonged sanctions in the schools they work in? How does the party of the family cut child benefit, cut housing benefit, reduce nursery schooling, turn hundreds of women into immigration widows? How does the party of the family hit the old and the sick by cutting funds in the health and social services?  How does the party of the family, indeed of the country and the suburbs, isolate the villages and the suburbs by destroying public transport services? How does the party of the family, above all, so arrange things that this year there is the lowest number of public housing starts in the whole of modern history, the same year in which a Prime Minister makes provision for her retirement with a £450,000 fortress in Dulwich? Is that the mark of the family party?

How is it that the party that promised to roll back the state has arrived at the situation where 1,700,000 more people are entirely dependent on the state because of their poverty during the time the Tories have been in government? How can the party of freedom, the friends of freedom, illegalise trade unionism in GCHQ Cheltenham? How can the party of freedom abolish the right to vote in the Greater London and metropolitan county councils? How can the party of freedom prosecute Sarah Tisdall and Clive Ponting? How can the party of freedom make secret plans to surrender completely the sovereignty of the British people in the event of war?  How can the party of freedom do that? That did not happen when the Panzer divisions were at the French coast, when this country was in its most dire jeopardy. The institutions of freedom in this country were maintained. We insist that at tall times of national gravity, at any time of public jeopardy, there is all the more reason for us to sustain the values and the institutions of our democracy in this country.  That is what we tell the party of freedom.

How does the party of enterprise preside over record bankruptcies?  How does the party of tax cuts arrange that the British people now carry the biggest ever burden of taxation in British history? And how, above all, does the party that got the power by complaining that ‘Labour isn’t working’ claim in the name of sanity that there is a recovery going on, when unemployment rises remorselessly to the point where this Thursday they will record 3.4 million British people registered unemployed even on their fiddle figures? That is an awful lot – 3.4 million – of moaning Minnies, even for the most malevolent Maggie to try and explain away.

They are the paradoxes, they are the inconsistencies, they are the hypocrisies that Norman Tebbit has got to try and explain. No wonder they have given him a professional fiction writer as deputy chairman. But even if Jeffrey Archer was a mixture of the inventive genius of Shakespeare and Houdini and Uri Geller all rolled up into one, he still would not be able to do the trick, because the British people have rumbled. They have rumbled the methods, the motives, the style of the Government. They now understand. The great majority of the British people, including very much those who are not disadvantaged, are now alarmed and ashamed by the way that this Government rules, the divisions it creates, the dangers that it creates in our country. Their concern is recorded in every opinion poll, it is obvious in the statements of clergymen, it is even apparent amongst the soggier elements of the Conservative Party; and the breadth of that concern is evidence of the breadth of decent values and attitudes amongst the British people.

The Government ignores those feelings. They propose no concessions, no changes. All we get is a fleeting visit to what the Prime Minister thinks of as ‘the North’ and we get a Secretary of State for Employment in quarantine in the House of Lords, and then the other response that the Government makes to national crisis is to preach continually that there will be some great miracle of prosperity in some great non-unionised, low wage, tax-dodging, low-tech privatised day that one time will come upon us. It is a myth, mirage, fantasy, and the British people now know that.

They want a government that changes those policies; they want a government that will lift the poor and the unemployed; they want jobs to be generated; and they have demonstrated in overwhelming majorities that they want unemployment and insecurity to be fought by the Government, not used by the Government as the main tool of its economic policies. That is what the British people want. They resent the Tory strategy of fear. They know that fear brings caution, insecurity breeds stagnation. It goes not bring the ‘get up and go’ society that Mrs Thatcher talks about; it brings the ‘keep your head down, hang on to what you’ve got, stay scared’ society. That is what it brings – anxiety. And the penalties of disadvantage do not make confidence or co-operation or strength or stability; they make deference, they make division, they make weakness, yes, and they make conflict too.  When tension, division, distrust, racism and idleness are ignited by hopelessness, all of those policies of fear and neglect create chaos in our society and on our streets.

I say that we cannot afford to be ruled by a government that does nothing to combat that lethal mixture of stagnation and strife. We could not afford it at any time, but least of all can we afford it now, when our society must change or decay. We are in that time now, and there must be a better way to face those challenges, those alternatives, than the way that is shown by the Government of Margaret Thatcher.

I believe I know that in this party we do have that better way. I believe we have it because we have the values, the perceptions and the policies that come from democratic socialism. We have the combination of idealism, which stops us throwing in the towel and giving in to he defeatism of toryism, and the realism which makes us buckle down to finding and implementing the answers. That is the essence of what we believe in. That is the combination of idealism and realism that this country needs now. I say to this movement and I say to the country: that combination is more necessary than ever before.

We live in a time of rapidly and radically changing technology. We live at a time of shifts in the whole structure of the world economy; we live at a time of new needs among the peoples of the world and new aspirations among young people and among women – late but welcome new aspirations among half of humankind.  In the light of those changes, we need governing policies in this country that can gain change by consent. That will not come from government that bullies and dictates. It will not come from a government that evades changed and dodges the real issues. Change by consent can only be fostered by a government that will deliberately help people to cope with, handle and manage that change. That is the task for us – to promote change in such a way that it advances the people, all of the people.

Change cannot be left to chance. If it is left to chance, it becomes malicious, it creates terrible victims. It has done so generation in, generation out. Change has to be organised. It has to be shaped to the benefit of a society, deliberately, by those who have democratic power in that society; and the democratic instrument of the people who exist for that purpose is the state – yes, the state. To us that means a particular kind of state – an opportunity state, which exists to assist in nourishing talent and rewarding merit; a productive state, which exists to encourage investment and to help expand output; an enabling state, which is at the disposal of the people instead of being dominant over the people. In a word, we want a servant state, which respects those who work for it and reminds them that they work for the people of the country, a state which will give support to the voluntary efforts of those who, in their own time and from their own inspiration, will help the old, the sick, the needy, the young, the ill-housed and the hopeless.

We are democratic socialists.  We want to put the state where it belongs in a democracy – under the feet of the people, not over the heads of the people. That is where the state belongs in a democracy. It means the collective contribution of the community for the purpose of individual liberty throughout the community; of individual freedom which is not nominal but real; of freedom which can be exercised in practice because school is good, because the hospital is there, because the training is accessible, because the alternative work is available, because the law is fair, because the streets are safe – real freedoms, real choices, real chances, and, going with them, the real opportunity to meet responsibilities.  It is not a state doing things instead of people who could do those things better; it is not a state replacing families or usurping enterprise or displacing initiative or smothering individualism. It is the absolute opposite: it is a servant state doing things that institutions – big institutions, rich institutions, corporate institutions, rich, strong people – will not do, have not done, with anything like the speed or in anything like the scale that is necessary to bring change with consent in our society.  That kind of state is the state that we seek under democratic control.

It cannot be done with brutality and it cannot be done with blandness either. That is why the Social Democrats and the Liberals are utterly useless for the purpose of securing change with consent. They are in Polo politics – smooth and firm on the outside and absolutely nothing on the inside. They do not really do anything or say anything to address the real problems. They have just had a fortnight of conferences, most of which they spent talking about themselves and having a sort of a seminar about which David was going to play second fiddle, because we all know which David is going to play first trumpet, don’t we? They cannot be the enablers, for while there are doubtlessly people in their ranks who seek the decent ends of opportunity and production, there is no one there who will commit the means to secure those ends of opportunity and production. That is in the nature of the attitude that they have.

On top of all that in any case all of their aims for the next election are geared to one objective – a permanent, vested interest in instability, a hung Parliament, in which they can be the self-important arbiters of power. That would be contemptible at any time, but at a time when the Government is going to have to get on immediately, urgently, emergently with the task of generating jobs and investment, a strategy which is intent upon horse trading, juggling, balancing and ego flattering is totally contemptible, and the British people should know that.

The Tories meanwhile do not desire enabling ends and plainly will not commit enabling means. In every policy of the Tory government they have shown that their objective is to reduce what we have of an enabling state, what we have of a welfare state, to a rubble of shabby services and lost jobs. Of course they tell us they are not real jobs. Teachers, doctors, nurses, home helps, ancillaries in the schools and in the hospitals, ambulance drivers – they are not real jobs, that is what the Tories tell us. We know they are real jobs. We know they are real jobs because if those jobs are not done, if people are not allowed to do them, the consequent is real pain, real loss of opportunity, real suffering, real misery, yes, and real costs too. That is why they are real jobs, as real as life and death.

We see the Tories’ attitude towards enabling people in the education cuts; we see it in the closure of skill centres and training boards; we see it in the reduction in apprenticeships; we see it in the attempted withdrawal of board and lodging allowances to unemployed youngsters and to the chronically sick who need residences. Above all, we now see the Government’s attitude towards enabling in the proposals made by Norman Fowler in his social security review, which you debated this morning; ‘social security review’ – it would more appropriately be called social insecurity for you and you and you and you. Everybody in this country is going to be disadvantaged if they ever get the chance to implement those policies fully.

In the Labour party we are fighting, and we will go on fighting, those poor law proposals, and as part of that fight early next year we will launch Labour’s freedom and fairness campaign to put the issues to the British people, to give them our alternatives and to show that once again we have real policies for hope to put in place of fear, which is the only Tory policy. Of course hope is cheap; attractive, delightful, but cheap. Help costs money. So in the course of that fight and in our policies for construction and care we have to take full account of the breadth and depth of the ruin made by the policies of eight or maybe even, by then, nine years of applied Thatcherism. The extent of that ruin is awful.  Last Wednesday the Association of British Chambers of Commerce reported: ‘Our shrinking manufacturing base and deteriorating trade performance raises a fundamental question about the future of the British economy. How do we pay our way in the world when the oil trade surplus, at present a huge £11.5 thousand million, begins to disappear in the late 1980s. Answers to these questions from economic ministers and senior civil servants have been unsatisfactory.’

Comrades, in the last six years, alone among the major industrial nations, manufacturing production in Britain has actually fallen by 8 per cent; investment in manufacturing production has fallen by 20 per cent; manufactured trade has moved from a surplus of £4,000 million in the last year of the Labour government to a deficit of £4,000 million in the sixth year of the Tory government. In the years since 1979 our economic strength has been eaten away just as surely as if we had been engaged in a war – I put it to this party, I put it to the country, not as a defence, not in any defensive sense whatsoever, but as a salutary fact of life. The Tories have been the party and the government of destruction. If we are to rebuild and recover in this country, this Labour Party must be the party of production. That is where our future lies. It is not a new role for us, but it does require a fresh and vigorous reassertion.

Over the years our enemies and critics – yes, and a few of our friends as well – have given us the reputation of being a party that is solely concerned with redistribution, of being a party much more concerned about the allocation of wealth than the creation of wealth. It was not true; it is not true; it never has been and all our history shows that – from the great industrial development and nationalisation Acts of the Attlee Government, which gave this country a post-war industrial basis, through to the Wilson Government’s investment schemes and initiatives that brought new life to where I come from, to South Wales, to Scotland, to the North-East, to Merseyside to the new towns of the South-East, right through to the actions of the last Labour Government, which ensured that at least we retained a British computer industry, a British motor industry, a machine tool industry, a shipbuilding industry.  We have a long record and need give no apology for being the party of production.

Now in the 1980s we face new challenges in our determination that our country shall produce its way out of slump. There is the challenge of the hi-tech industries, which six years ago had a surplus with the rest of the world and now run a £2.3 billion deficit with the rest of the world, as a result of deliberately depressed demand, withdrawal of research and development and expensive money – the policies of the Tory Government. We have challenges too from the traditional industries, those industries dismissed, written off, by a Tory government that calls them ‘smoke-stack’ industries and really think that Britain’s future is as a warehouse, a tourist trap, with nothing to export but our capital.  That is the vision they have of the future – totally impractical, ruinous, not only for our generation but for all those to come.

Through our ‘Jobs in Industry’ campaign, in all our policies, we in this party say to the British people: Britain has made it, Britain can make it and, provided that we give to the workers, the managers, the technicians, the people of Britain the means to make it, Britain will make it in the future if we have a Labour government. Those means that they must have at their disposal are training, research and development, and finance for investment over periods and at prices that producers can and will afford. That is absolutely crucial. Other countries do it, and nobody has yet explained satisfactorily to me how it can be, why it should be, that we have a government and a financial system that believe that Britain can’t do it, Britain can’ make it and in any case Britain shouldn’t make it in the future. We cannot afford that surrender mentality from government. We have got to have a government like those of Japan, Germany, Sweden, France and Italy, which put the real interests of their country first.  They don’t talk about competing in the world economy as if it is a game of cricket. They talk about competing and they mean it, so they put their money where their speeches are.

I am not saying that an economy can revive and thrive only with government; I am saying that it is a fact of life in a modern economy that there can’t be any real progress while the policies of a government lie like a great stone across the path of productive manufacturing advance. I am not saying that it can only be done with government; I am saying that the fact of life is that we will not revive and thrive without the active support, involvement, participation of government.

To all those defeatists, the real moaning Minnies of Britain, who say: ‘That’s all very well, but British workers won’t respond, British managers won’t respond’, I say: go to the industries in Britain where modernisation has taken place, some of them foreign-owned, and see how, when people have the means, they can stand their corner with any competing industry in the world. I say too to them: go to where, in Labour local authorities, enterprise boards have been established, bringing together public capital and private capital, bringing together people with common objectives, and see how they succeed in measurement by anybody’s terms. Go and see, where people get the chance, how they take that chance, how they use it, how they use money to make production, how they spend some to make some, how they are determined to make modern things for modern markets, and do it successfully – from handicrafts right across to the frontier technologies.

We won’t accept the defeatism, the surrender mentality. That is why the first priority as the next government of Britain will be to invest in Britain. It has been obvious for decades and disastrously clear since the Thatcher Government took away controls on the export of capital six years ago at Britain is a grossly under-invested country. There is less excuse for that now than ever. The Tories have had more oil money in every month that they have been in government than Jim Callaghan’s government had in a whole year of government. They have spent that money on sustaining unemployment, and even as the oil money poured out on that unemployment, even as it poured in to the Exchequer, the investment money poured out of the British economy altogether.

In the last six years, over £60,000 million of investment capital has left Britain. We need that money – not the Labour Party or the Labour Government: Britain needs that money, if we are to rebuild. That is why we are going to establish our scheme to bring the funds back home where they are needed, so that they can be used for generating employment, development and growth in our economy. We are going to use those funds for long-term loans for the purchase of modern machinery, for research and development, for training. We will ensure that the return paid is comparable to what can be got elsewhere, but the difference will be this: those resources will be here, for the process of investment, for the purpose of creating wealth, for the purpose most of all of generating jobs here in Britain.

We don’t make those arguments for getting and using that money out of any jingoistic or nationalistic motive. What we say is this: we need those policies for we simply cannot afford the level of charity shown by the moneyhandlers of Britain towards our advanced industrial competitors. That charity is too expensive for this country to tolerate any longer. We need that money. We need the money to be able to produce; we need the money to be able to generate those jobs, further development, new investment; we need that wealth to reward people for their effort, for their enterprise; and we need that money and the wealth that it generates to provide the means of properly funding the system of justice and opportunity and care which I call the enabling state.

We need that money to make our way in the world, but there are other ways too in which we must make our way in the world. We must make our way morally as well as economically. For us as democratic socialists there can be no retreat from our duties as citizens of the world. We don’t want to be the worlds policemen, we don’t want to pretend that we are the world’s pastor either, but we must be the friends of freedom; and as people who believe that the great privilege of strength, the great privilege of being strong, is the power which it gives to be able to help people who are not strong, we understand where our obligations are in this world.

If the morality won’t convince people, if the ethics won’t convince people, let the practicalities – the material practicalities – convince them. In this world now we either live together or we decay separately. It is in our material interest to ensure that the supplicants of the Third World are turned into customers and consumers by relieving them of the terrible burdens of interest, by the effectiveness of our aid policies and by assisting in their development. That is a clinical fact stripped of all emotion, and I use it to persuade the falterers. But even to them I say that if you had come with me this year to see the different levels of need in the barrios of Managua and the shambas of Tanzania, in the desert settlements of Kenya and, most of all, in the back streets of Addis Ababa – for I have never seen such destitution – I would not have to tickle you with profit. If you had seen and touched and felt and smelt, you would know where your duty as free people, as people with money, as people with power and strength, really lies in this world. I say to those people that they would want to do all they could to give life and to help people make a life for themselves. They would. That is what the British people showed just on the basis of television pictures, even without the touch on the skin of a starving child. The British people showed it and will go on showing that they feel that putting food in people’s stomachs and putting clothes on people’s backs and putting roofs over people’s heads is our place in the world; and, even more than that, they show they understand that helping people to provide the means to grow their food, to make their clothes, to find their freedom, is our place in the world in this democracy.

Just as it is the duty, the privilege, of the strong to help the weak, so it is the duty of the free to help those across this planet who are oppressed because of their beliefs, the colour of their skin, their sex, their poverty, their powerlessness, their principles. We reach out to them, for we must be the friends of those who are oppressed, those who are made captives in their own lands, in our efforts, right throughout this movement, some announced, some more subtle, to secure the release of refuseniks and so-called dissidents in the Soviet Union, in our support for Solidarnosc, in our aid for the democrats of Chile, in our backing, our solidarity, with the democratically elected government of the Republic of Nicaragua. We stand with them. In all those and in many other ways, in our support for the United Nations, we know that for us as free people freedom can have no boundaries.

Comrades, the Government doesn’t know that. Britain should not have to be dragged, fumbling, stumbling and mumbling, into imposing even the most nominal economic sanctions against apartheid South Africa. We should be leading opinion, out of pride in our own liberty and out of the practical knowledge, as we in this movement have counselled for years, that there is only one plausible way that stands the remotest chance of securing peaceful change in South Africa, and that is by the strong imposing of effective economic sanctions against apartheid. Now, when South African businessmen sensibly confer with leaders of the African National Congress, when the United Democratic Front grows bold in its demands for freedom in South Africa and when even the President of the United States of America is obliged to impose embargoes on the apartheid regime, the British government’s excuses and alibis become more lame, more pathetic, more contemptible by the day.

Next month is the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. Britain will be stranded, isolated amongst that Commonwealth of nations – rich nations, poor nations, black nations, white nations, north and south – as the only nation that shows any degree of friendship towards apartheid South Africa. We should be taking our place in the world properly, with the Australians, the New Zealanders, the Canadians, and the Zambians, the Tanzanians and those who at the front line have made the most monstrous sacrifices in order to sustain what pressure they can on South Africa.

In taking our proper place in the modern world, rid of all the vanities, the nostalgia for a past whose glory missed most of our people, it is essential that we strip ourselves of illusions; most important, that we strip ourselves of the illusions of nuclear grandeur. Not my phrase – nuclear grandeur, the illusions. That phrase belongs to Field Marshall Lord Carver, former Chief of the Defence Staff. In June he said to the House of Lords: ‘Why do the Government obstinately persist in wasting money on a so-called British independent deterrent? … Our ballistic missiles submarines are not an essential element of NATO’s strategy. Whether they are regarded as an addition to the force assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe or as an independent force, they are superfluous and a waste of money. The essential element is the stationing of United States conventional land and air forces on the Continent; and, in order to persuade the American people that it is right, proper and in their own interests that they should continue to [contribute to the defence of Western Europe], it is essential that we and our fellow-European members of NATO should convince them that we are using our money and manpower effectively to maintain … the capability of our conventional forces … That, my Lords, is the first priority of our defence policy, not illusions of nuclear grandeur.’

I don’t suppose I agree with Field Marshall Lord Carver about everything, but that was a very effective way, from a very effective spokesman, of demonstrating the insanity, the waste, the illusion of Tory Party policy, and demonstrating too the reality and necessity of our complete non-nuclear defence policy to maintain the proper security of our country and alliance. That is our policy, our commitment to the British people, and we will honour it in full.

We want to honour our undertakings in full in every area of policy.  We want to say what we mean and mean what we say.  We want to keep our promises, and because we want to do that it is essential that we don’t make false promises. That is why we must not casually make promises that are so fanciful, so self-indulgent, so exaggerated that they can be completely falsified by the realities in which we live and the realities that we know we shall encounter.  If we do not take that view, if we do make false promises, we shall lose integrity, we shall demonstrate immaturity, we will not convince the people.

Comrades, 463 resolutions have been submitted to this Conference on policy issues, committed honestly, earnestly, and a lot of thought has gone into them.  Of those 463, 300 refer to something called the next Labour Government and they refer to what they want that next Labour Government to do. I want to take on many of those commitments. I want to meet many of those demands. I want to respond to many of those calls, in practice – not in words, but in actions. But there is of course a pre-condition to honouring those or any other undertaking that we give.  That pre-condition is unavoidable, total and insurmountable, and it is a pre-condition that in this movement we do not want to surmount.  It is the pre-condition that we win a general election. There is absolutely no other way to put any of those policies into effect. The only way to restore, the only way to rebuild, the only way to reinstate, the only way to help the poor, to help the unemployed, to help the victimised, is to get the support of those who are not poor, not unemployed, not victimised who support our view. That means, comrades, reaching out to them and showing them that we are at one with their decent values and aims, that we are with their hopes for their children, with their needs, with their ideals of justice, improvement and prosperity in the future.

There are some in our movement who, when I say that we must reach out in that fashion, accuse me of an obsession with electoral politics; there are some who, when I say we must reach out and make a broader appeal to those who only have their labour to sell, who are part of the working classes – no doubt about their credentials – say that I am too preoccupied with winning; there are some who say, when I reach out like that and in the course of seeking that objective, that I am prepared to compromise values. I say to them and I say to everybody else, and I mean it from the depths of my soul: there is no need to compromise values, there is no need in this task to surrender our socialism, there is no need to abandon or even try to hide any of our principles, but there is an implacable need to win and there is an equal need for us to understand that we address an electorate which is sceptical, an electorate which needs convincing, a British public who want to know that our idealism is not lunacy, our realism is not timidity, our eagerness is not extremism, a British public who want to know that our carefulness too is not nervousness.

I speak to you, to this Conference. People say that leaders speak to the television cameras. All right, we have got some eavesdroppers. But my belief has always been this, and I act upon it and will always act upon it. I come here to this Conference primarily, above all, to speak to this movement at its Conference. I say to you at this Conference, the best place for me to say anything, that I will tell you what you already know, although some may need reminding. I remind you, every one of you, of something that every single one of you said in the desperate days before June 9, 1983. You said to each other on the streets, you said to each other in the cars rushing round, you said to each other in the committee rooms: elections are not won in weeks, they are won in years. That is what you said to each other. That is what you have got to remember: not in future weeks or future years; this year, this week, this Conference, now – this is where we start winning elections, not waiting until the returning officer is ready.

Secondly, something else you know. If Socialism is to be successful in this country, it must relate to the practical needs and the mental and moral traditions of the men and women of this country.  We must emphasise what we have in common with those people who are our neighbours, workmates and fellow countrymen and women – and we have everything in common with them – in a way we could not do if we were remote, if, like the Tories, we were in orbit around the realities of our society, if, like the Social Democrats and the Liberals, we stood off from those realities, retreated from them, deserted them.  But we are of, from, for the people. That is our identity, that is our commitment, that is how much we have in common with the people. Let us emphasise that, let us demonstrate it, let us not hide it away as if it was something extraordinary or evidence of reaction.  Let us emphasise what we have in common with the people of this country.

We must not dogmatise or browbeat. We have got to reason with people; we have got to persuade people. That is their due. We have voluntarily, every one of us, joined a political party. We wish a lot more people would come and join us, help us, give us their counsel, their energies, their advice, broaden our participation. But in making the choice to join a political party we took a decision, and it was that, by persuasion, we hoped that we could bring more people with us.  So that is the basis on which we have got to act, want to act.

Thirdly, something else you know. There is anger in this country at the devastation brought about by these last six years of Tory government, but strangely that anger is mixed with despair, a feeling that the problems are just too great, too complex, to be dealt with by any government or any policy. That feeling is abroad. We disagree with it, we contend it, we try to give people the rational alternatives, but it exists. If our response to that despair, anger and confusion amounts to little more than slogans, if we give the impression to the British people that we believe that we can just make a loud noise and the Tory walls of Jericho will fall down, they are not going to treat us very seriously at all – and we won’t deserve to be treated very seriously.

Fourthly, I shall tell you again what you know.  Because you are from the people, because you are of the people, because you live with the same realities as everybody else lives with, implausible promises don’t win victories. I’ll tell you what happens with impossible promises. You start with far-fetched resolutions. They are then pickled into a rigid dogma, a code, and you go through the years sticking to that, out-dated, mis-placed, irrelevant to the real needs, and you end up in the grotesque chaos of a Labour council, a Labour council, hiring taxis to scuttle round a city handing out redundancy notices to its own workers.

I am telling you, no matter how entertaining, how fulfilling to short-term egos – I tell you and you’ll listen, I’m telling you that you can’t play politics with people’s jobs and with people’s services or with their homes. Comrades, the voice of the people – not the people here; the voice of the real people with real needs – is louder than all the boos that can be assembled. Understand that, please, comrades.  In your socialism, in your commitment to those people, understand it. The people will not, cannot, abide posturing. They cannot respect the gesture-generals or the tendency-tacticians.

Comrades, it seems to me lately that some of our number become like latter-day public school-boys. It seems it matters not whether you won or lost, but how you played the game. We cannot take that inspiration from Rudyard Kipling. Those game players get isolated, hammered, blocked off. They might try to blame others – workers, trade unions, some other leadership, the people of the city – for not showing sufficient revolutionary consciousness, always somebody else, and then they claim a rampant victory. Whose victory? Not victory for the people, not victory for them.  I see the casualties; we all see the casualties.  They are not to be found amongst the leaders and some of the enthusiasts; they are to be found amongst the people whose jobs are destroyed, whose services are crushed, whose living standards are pushed down to deeper depths of insecurity and misery. Comrades, these are vile times under this Tory Government for local democracy, and we have got to secure power to restore real local democracy.

But I look around this country and I see Labour councils, I see socialists, as good as any other socialists, who fought the good fight and who, at he point when they thought they might jeopardise people’s jobs and people’s services, had the intelligence, yes, and the courage to adopt a different course. They truly put jobs and services first before other considerations. They had to make hellish choices. I understand it. You must agonise with them in the choices they had to make – very unpalatable, totally undesirable, but they did it. They found ways. They used all their creativity to find ways that would best protect those whom they employed and those whom they were elected to defend. Those people are leaders prepared to take decisions, to meet obligations, to giver service. They know life is real, life is earnest – too real, too earnest to mistake a Conference Resolution for an accomplished fact; too real, too earnest to mistake a slogan for a strategy; too real, too earnest to allow them to mistake their own individual enthusiasm for mass movement; too real, too earnest to mistake barking for biting. I hope that becomes universal too.

Comrades, I offer you this counsel. The victory of socialism, said a great socialist, does not have to be complete to be convincing. I have no time, he went on, for those who appear to threaten the whole of private property but who in practice would threaten nothing; they are purists and therefore barren. Not the words of some hypnotised moderate, not some petrified pragmatist, but Aneurin Bevan in 1950 at the height of his socialist vision and his radical power and conviction. There are some who will say that power and principle are somehow in conflict. Those people who think that power and principle are in conflict only demonstrate the superficiality, the shallowness, of their own socialist convictions; for whilst they are bold enough to preach those convictions in little coteries, they do not have the depth of conviction to subject those convictions, those beliefs, that analysis, to the real test of putting them into operation in power.

There is no collision between principle and power.  For us as democratic socialists the two must go together, like a rich vein that passes through everything that we believe in, everything that we try to do, everything that we will implement. Principle and power, conviction and accomplishment, going together.  We know that power without principle is ruthless and vicious, and hollow and sour. We know that principle without power is naïve, idle sterility. That is useless – useless to us, useless to the British people to overcome their travails, useless for our purpose of changing society as democratic socialists. I tell you that now. It is what I have always said, it is what I shall go on saying, because it is what I said to you at the very moment that I was elected leader.

I say to you in complete honesty, because this is the movement that I belong to, that I owe this party everything I have got – not the job, not being leader of the Labour Party, but every life chance that I have had since the time I was a child: the life chance of a comfortable home, with working parents, people who had jobs; the life chance of moving out of a pest and damp-infested set of rooms into a decent home, built by a Labour council under a Labour Government; the life chance of an education that went on for as long as I wanted to take it. Me and millions of others of my generation got all their chances from this movement. That is why I say that this movement, its values, its policies, applied in power, gave me everything that I have got – me and millions like me of my generation and succeeding generations. That is why it is my duty to be honest and that is why it is our function, our mission, our duty – all of us – to see that those life chances exist and are enriched and extended to millions more, who without us will never get the chance of fulfilling themselves. That is why we have got to win, that is what I have always believed and that is what I put to you at the very moment that I was elected.

In 1983 I said to this Conference ‘We have to win. We must not permit any purpose to be superior for the Labour movement to that purpose.’ I still believe it. I will go on saying it until we achieve that victory and I shall live with the consequences, which I know, if this movement is with me, will be victory – victory with our policies intact, no sell-outs, provided that we put nothing before the objective of explaining ourselves and reasoning with the people of this country. We will get that victory with our policies, our principles, intact.  I know it can be done. Reason tells me it can be done. The people throughout this movement, who I know in huge majority share all these perceptions and visions and want to give all their energies, they know it can be done. Realism tells me it can be done, and the plain realities and needs of our country tell me it must be done. We have got to win, not for our sakes, but really, truly to deliver the British people from evil. Let’s do it.

Thank you, comrades.  Everybody has got the message: we’re not the Liberals or the Tories. Thank you very much.