Gerald Kaufman – 2016 Speech to Commons on Queen’s 90th Birthday

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Gerald Kaufman in the House of Commons on 21 April 2016.

This morning, when I was buying my muffin in Portcullis House, I noticed Elizabeth II on the coin with which I paid. However, today is not about the Elizabeth on our coins; it is about the Elizabeth in our hearts. She is of course Her Majesty the Queen, but today is not a royal occasion, even though it is an occasion about a royal. Turning 90 is a marvellous signpost in life, as I hope to experience myself before long. Not long ago, one of my sisters turned 90 and we had a huge family celebration. Today, the national family is celebrating, and that very much includes those in this House.

I remember the celebrations of King George V’s silver jubilee. I was five years old at the time, and I was in hospital recovering from having my tonsils out. I remember the ceremony of the jubilee being broadcast on the wireless throughout the ward. It was very impressive, even to someone of my age. It was respected, but it was remote. Over the generations, Her Majesty the Queen’s family has had its share of vicissitudes, some of which have been handled with greater adroitness than others. However, over the years, Her Majesty the Queen has sustained and increased the potency of the monarchy. That emerges from her own personality and from the fact that she has been brought up to serve and that it is her instinct to serve and to associate.

The basis of these celebrations today is that Her Majesty the Queen has turned the nation into a united family in a way that has never been achieved, or even attempted, by any previous monarch. We are all together, and that is why people feel so strongly about the celebrations and so happy about them. As shown in the photographs of a recent visit by Her Majesty to my constituency, which I have in my house, people are not only honoured to meet the Queen but delighted to do so. They are honoured by the position, but they are delighted by the person, and that is the reason that we celebrate so gladly today. It is not just “Congratulations, your Majesty”; it is “Happy birthday, Elizabeth.”

Sir Gerald Kaufman – 2015 Speech on Syrian Air Strikes

Below is the text of the speech made by Sir Gerald Kaufman in the House of Commons on 2 December 2015.

There is of course absolutely no doubt that Daesh/IS is a vile, loathsome, murderous organisation, and the attack in Paris—the murder of 130 innocent people—could just as well have been in London. The choice of Paris was a retaliation against French activity in its region, but that does not justify our taking action unless it were appropriate, relevant and, above all, successful. These people claim to call themselves Islamic, and the Prime Minister talked about reclaiming Islam from them—they do not own Islam. Hundreds of millions of Muslims throughout the world are appalled by their murders, their beheadings, their kidnappings—all the abominable things they do. But our loathing of IS and our wish to get rid of it, to defeat it, to stop it is not the issue here today. The issue here is: what action could be taken to stop IS and get rid of it? I have to say that I do not see such an action.

The Prime Minister spoke about getting a transitional Government in Syria and about the situation in Syria. I have been to Syria many times. I did so with some distaste as shadow Foreign Secretary, as I met leading officials in the Syrian Administration—I knew they were murderers. They murder their own people. They murdered 10,000 people in Hama alone. I would be delighted to see them got rid of, but they are not going to go. There is talk about negotiations in Vienna, but the assumption that somehow or other they are going to result in getting rid of Assad and the Administration is a delusion. Putin, one of the most detestable leaders of any state in the world, will make sure that because they are his allies and they suit him, action against them is not going to be successful.

What is the issue today? It is not about changing the regime in Syria, which would make me very happy indeed. It is not about getting rid of Daesh, which would also make me very happy indeed. It is about what practical action can result in some way in damaging Daesh, stopping its atrocities, stopping the flood of people who are fleeing from it and stopping the people who are flocking to it, including, sadly, a small number of people from this country. If what the Government were proposing today would in any way not simply or totally get rid of Daesh but weaken it significantly so that it would not go on behaving in this abominable fashion, I would not have any difficulty in voting for this motion. But there is absolutely no evidence of any kind that bombing Daesh—bombing Raqqa—will result in an upsurge of other people in the region to get rid of Daesh. It might cause some damage, but it will not undermine them. What it will undoubtedly do, despite the Prime Minister’s assurance, which I am sure he gave in good faith, is kill innocent civilians. I am not going to be a party to killing innocent civilians for what will simply be a gesture.

I am not interested in gesture politics and I am not interested in gesture military activity; I am interested in effective military activity, and if that is brought before this House, I vote for it. When the previous Conservative Government came to us asking for our support to get rid of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, I, as shadow Foreign Secretary, formulated the policy that led Labour Members of Parliament into the Lobby to vote for that. I am not interested in gestures; I am interested in effective activity. This Government’s motion and the activity that will follow, including military action from the air, will not change the situation on the ground. I am not interested in making a show. I am not interested in Members of this House putting their hands up for something that in their own hearts they know will not work, and for that reason I shall vote against the Government motion this evening.