Menzies Campbell – 2001 Speech to Liberal Democrat Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Menzies Campbell, the then Party Foreign Affairs spokesman, to the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth on 26 September 2001.

With the exception of some ritual skirmishing over the single currency, Foreign Affairs were noticeably absent from the general election campaign of 2001.

Foreign Affairs hardly seemed to register in the collective mind of the British electorate.

But as the events of two weeks ago show, there is no other area where policy is more influenced by external events over which we have no control, than the conduct of our relations with other countries and institutions.

It has become trite to claim that “the world will never be the same again” or that we have reached a “defining moment” or that we have reached a “watershed”.

We do not know any of these things are true.

But what is true is that before the 11th of September there were and still remain foreign policy issues which are urgent and acute;

Such as our military commitments in the Balkans and Sierra Leone;

The proper British response to American proposals for ballistic missile defence;

Or the impact of the slowdown in the Japanese economy on the inward investment upon which 65,000 jobs in the United Kingdom depend;

Or the political and economic consequences of remaining outside the single currency.

We have not suspended all political activity in the United Kingdom since 11th September but I sense that the electorate has little stomach for the partisan political exchanges which normally characterise the party conference season – and that least of all in Foreign Affairs.

So, let me today adopt a more reflective tone and try to set out a purely Liberal Democrat view of Foreign Affairs – leaving others to conclude how and to what extent that view conflicts with the policies of the other parties.

Our aim must be to offer a clear, constructive and credible foreign policy in which, by means of effective international and regional organisations, we can help to promote prosperity, peace and freedom, combat poverty and disease, and tackle global environmental problems.

Our natural inclination is towards internationalism – celebrating diversity, recognising that state borders provide no defence to environmental threats – accepting that the desperation of asylum seekers knows no boundaries – always holding to an unwavering commitment to the universality of human rights.

Freedom should not be the prerogative of the well governed, the well off, or the well connected.

A Liberal Democrat view embraces freedom from want and disease, freedom from oppression and fear, freedom of assembly and expression.

In short – a foreign policy with an ethical dimension.

But neither we nor any other country will fashion a foreign policy which meets these objectives unless by multilateral action; by acknowledging our dependence and by supporting international institutions; by collective and not unilateral action.

If the events of the last two weeks have taught us anything it is surely that no nation however powerful can hope to defend its citizens or seek redress on their behalf unless it acts in concert with those of like mind.

However much a sense of national pride may seduce us to believe we have the ability to stand alone, the truth is that our survival depends on our allies and our alliances.

It is no accident that in seeking legitimacy for prospective military action, the USA was compelled to seek the support of the United Nations, of NATO and of the EU.

It is no surprise that in order to maintain the coalition of support it has gone outside even of these institutions to try to forge an alliance of those who will look neutrally, at least, on a military response.

In renouncing unilateralism the USA has been compelled to cede to allies old, new and improbable, a measure of influence over its own decision-making.

When we argue as we have for a military response based on clear intelligence, precise and proportionate to the need, and consistent with the principles of international law this is not an over-cautious response, as it is crudely characterised by some, it is no more than the cement necessary to keep together the newly constructed coalition.

Abandon these principles and the coalition will be impossible to maintain.

Such ad hoc coalition may be a matter for congratulation, even astonishment, but it is no substitute for the permanent coalition of interests which a reformed, effective and fully funded United Nations would provide.

The mechanism for crisis management needs to be in place before the crisis erupts.

The United Nations will only fulfil these aspirations when it commands the unqualified support of all the nations, no matter how powerful.

A system of international justice will only be effective if all nations no matter how powerful accept the universal jurisdiction of an International Criminal Court.

And if we put our trust in a reformed and revitalised United Nations we must here also assert our belief in the web of mutually reinforcing treaties for arms control and disarmament which have maintained the strategic balance.

We are not signatories to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, but we have been its beneficiaries and we have a legitimate interest in the stability it brings and the consequences of its abrogation.

We are entitled to call upon the declared nuclear powers to fulfil their obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

We support the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty – we want all nuclear powers to do so too.

Landmines and biological weapons verification, measures to control the global trade in small arms and the Kyoto protocol – how shall we make a success of these unless we approach them from a collective and not a unilateralist standpoint?

Today is the 15th day after the events in Washington and New York, but it is also the 30th day of NATO’s operation to collect up weapons in Macedonia – a collective successful action in which the United Kingdom has played a prominent and leading part.

But if we are to go on playing such a role – if we are to go on being a force for good – if we are to assert and implement the right of humanitarian intervention where there are systematic breaches of human rights, I simply do not believe that we can do all this on the existing defence budget.

I lost the argument inside our party for a commitment to increase defence spending in our budget proposals for the general election.

But I was in good company.

So did Iain Duncan Smith and Geoff Hoon.

No UK political party campaigned in the General Election on the footing of increasing defence spending.

And yet every party wants the armed forces to do more, to be better equipped, better manned, to make a better contribution to our foreign policy objectives – just plain better.

It can’t be done without better resources.

The Labour Government’s Strategic Defence Review was supposed to provide conceptual stability for defence policy and it largely succeeded.

But without adequate resources to match its objectives we shall be driven to a further review before long.

We shall find it difficult to deal with turbulence abroad if the armed forces are facing financial turbulence at home.

And finally let me turn to Europe.

A party of reform in Britain has to be a party of reform in Europe.

Better scrutiny, better control of expenditure, less waste, less bureaucracy, more subsidiarity, more transparency.

Our commitment to Europe will not survive sceptical challenge unless it is accompanied by frank acknowledgement of Europe’s weaknesses and credible proposals to put them right.

But let us acknowledge the burgeoning foreign policy influence of the European Union.

In its achievements as a partner with Nato in Macedonia and its mature political response to President Bush, it is coming of age in foreign affairs.

These last two weeks have been a curious time in foreign affairs.

So much of what seemed certain has been disproved.

So much of what we took for granted has been destroyed.

In uncertain times a political party confronts challenges by rigorous adherence to its principles.

Be in no doubt, our principles and our resolve will be tested as never before.

Menzies Campbell – 2006 Speech to Liberal Democrat Spring Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by the then Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell, at the 2006 Liberal Democrat Spring Conference on 5th March 2006.

Well I’m delighted to be here.

For those of you don’t expect me to be here too long, I have a worrying statistic for you.

The previous Ming dynasty lasted for 276 years.

I want to begin by acknowledging Chris Huhne and Simon Hughes, and particularly their generosity since the announcement of the result last Thursday.

Innovative thinkers, gifted communicators and tenacious campaigners – and that was just when they were having a go at me.

God help the opposition.

They are formidable opponents, tremendous allies and it’s great to have them on our team.

To the members of the party, I want to say thank you for giving me this chance to serve.

I want to celebrate the enormous contribution of my predecessor, Charles Kennedy.

Under his leadership the Liberal Democrats have become a much more powerful political force.

With more votes and more seats at Westminster.

Ever-greater influence in Brussels.

Running more major cities than ever before.

Charles has been the most successful leader in the liberal tradition since Lloyd George.

And why? Because this party is serious about politics and serious about government.

We’ve shown how well we can perform in local government, from parish councils to great cities.

We’ve shown how we influence legislation in Europe and in the House of Lords.

We’ve shown we are the driving force in Scottish Government and in Welsh politics too.

And now my task – our task – is clear.

It is to lead this party from protest, into power.

A few short weeks ago every London-based commentator wrote us off.

But the political obituary writers were rudely interrupted.

By the very people the political establishment often forgets – the voters.

Willie Rennie’s spectacular triumph in Dunfermline and West Fife has shown us the way.

All the big guns came to Dunfermline. Brown, Salmond, Cameron.

“Dave” came up for a day trip.

But in his first electoral test, he didn’t just lose his tie – he lost his shirt.

Gordon Brown masterminded the whole Labour campaign.

He smiled, and showed us his lighter side.

But for all the smiles, the voters said thanks, but no thanks.

It’s ironic.

David Cameron and Gordon Brown.

One desperate to be Tony Blair.

The other desperate not to be Tony Blair.

Me, I’m just happy to be myself.

We’ve had enough of Blairism.

The country is crying out for a principled liberal democratic alternative.

A principled liberal alternative has never been more needed than when there are people being abused and held without trial at Guantanamo Bay.

The Prime Minister calls it “an anomaly”.

Let me address him directly; Prime Minister, this is not an anomaly…

This is an outrage.

But under this government, the “anomalies” are becoming the norm.

Schemes to keep citizens under house arrest,

Identity cards.

A Labour party member – a Labour party member – Walter Wolfgang arrested as a terror suspect for daring to heckle at the Labour Party Conference, taken into custody for shouting ‘Rubbish’ at the Foreign Secretary.

I hope they don’t introduce that in the House of Commons – otherwise I will be joining him.

And members of the public like Maya Evans arrested outside Downing Street just for reading out the names of British soldiers killed in Iraq.

Who knows what this government would have done with Siegfried Sassoon, or Wilfred Owen, if it had been in office during the First World War.

Once Westminster was the cradle of democracy.

Under this government it is becoming the graveyard of democracy.

And I’m not just talking about terror.

Look at every department of state and I will show you bureaucracy and regulation, an ever-greater threat to enterprise, diversity and freedom.

Our alternative is clear:

– a greener, fairer, decentralised and democratic Britain

– a Britain at peace with itself at home and admired abroad.

So what of David Cameron and his Conservative alternative?

Well if you know your Scottish history, you’ll know that down the centuries the Campbells have always got the better of the Camerons.

And now Mr Cameron tells us he’s a liberal.

Some liberal.

This is the David Cameron who has told his Euro MPs to abandon the mainstream and join the extremists.

This is the David Cameron who was Michael Howard’s ideas man? The man in the shadows on Black Wednesday and the author of the Tory manifesto of 2005 – the most reactionary, unpleasant, right-wing manifesto of modern times.

And this is the David Cameron who supported the Iraq war and has just sent William Hague off to Washington to restore links with the hard right of George W Bush’s Republican Party.

Forget neo-cons. This is a real con.

During the leadership election, there were fewer differences between the three of us than there are between David Cameron on Tuesdays and David Cameron on Wednesdays.

But he’s right in one respect. He knows that this country is turning to liberalism. And that’s why he’s been trying to steal our clothes.

But the voters know better. Why go for an imitation when you can vote Liberal Democrat and get the real thing?

And what about the oldest double act in town? Tony and Gordon.

Remember 1997? So much promise and so many promises. Things can only get better.

Better? Who would have thought the heirs of John Smith’s devolution would have created the most over-centralised country in the Western world?

Who would have thought the guardians of Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policy would have become the standard-bearers for an illegal war in Iraq?

Who would have thought the opponents of apartheid would become the apologists for rendition?

After that, things can only get better.

As for Labour’s record on civil liberties, it’s quite simply a disgrace. This government never tires of invoking terrorism and security threats to justify illiberal laws. No-one denies the reality of the threats we face, at home or abroad.

But the legislation proposed by the Government would not have prevented the tragic loss of life we saw in London last year.

Identity cards would not have helped.

Nor would locking up British citizens for 90 days without trial.

The right to due process and freedom from summary arrest are part of this country’s  proud traditions.

Indeed they are revered throughout the world.

We support practical measures that can defeat the spectre of terrorism – not the erosion of this country’s values. We should be relentless in the pursuit of those who perpetrate terrorist acts and unswerving in our commitment to uphold justice. That’s why we’ve argued if this Government wants real justice it should allow telephone intercepts to be used as evidence in court, as in every other Western nation.

In the leadership campaign I talked of the need to wage war on poverty. Labour’s record on social justice is a sorry one. Where you are from, what your parents did, the school you went to: these determine your success in life more than ever today.

Shelter estimates that one in twelve children is likely to develop asthma, TB or bronchitis because of poor housing.

Yes, you heard that right – one in twelve children.

Over a million children live in slums in this country.

A Britain which tolerates this is not a liberal Britain.

One of the biggest scars on our society is child poverty. It is worse today than when I grew up in Glasgow.

A Britain which tolerates this is not a liberal Britain.

I want the Liberal Democrats to be the party of opportunity, aspiration and ambition.

Labour has promised welfare reform, but failed to deliver.

Our party has a proud record of reform – yes and delivery too.

People saw the difference when Lloyd George ushered in the state pension 100 years ago, and when Beveridge built the welfare state forty years later. Today it again falls to the Liberal Democrats to reshape our welfare system, to build a society secure against poverty, and create a system founded on opportunity and responsibility with incentives to work and to save.

Over last the eight weeks, people asked me what my leadership would mean.

Those commentators who said I would simply tread water for a while are in for a rude shock.

I joined the Liberals because I wanted to challenge the settled orthodoxies of British politics. I still do. I intend to lead a party willing to think anew. A party willing to develop fresh ideas. A party drawing on enduring Liberal Democrat principles but ready to apply them in a rapidly changing world.

That need for fresh thinking is even more acute today.

Look around you.

The pace of social, economic and environmental change is without precedent. Consolidation and caution will not be an adequate response, either for our country or for our party. Liberal Democracy cannot be a struggle between those who wish to modernise and those who do not. To be a Liberal Democrat is to be a moderniser.

You showed courage and willingness to think anew yesterday, when you backed Norman Lamb’s proposals to give our Post Offices a future. Take that policy and sell it on the doorstep to the British people in these critical May local government elections.

I am determined that under my leadership the Liberal Democrats will be at the cutting edge of debate and new thinking. Our policies must address the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. Over the next 6 months, and before we meet again in Brighton, I intend to set out in more detail key challenges and policy directions on the major issues of British politics: the economy, the environment, welfare reform, better government, education and skills, crime and social policy.

Our policies need to be thoroughly tested. They will be subject to new levels of aggressive scrutiny.  Labour and the Conservatives realise we are their principal opponent in all parts of the country. They will turn their guns on us. And we must be ready.

As Richard Kemp said yesterday, opposing is not enough; our policies have to be fit for government. And that means when we campaign for greater localism we must be clear what we mean.

All three main parties now speak the language of localism. We have New Labour’s double speak about “double devolution”. And we have David Cameron’s miraculous conversion to decentralisation. But in my experience the voters have long memories.

They remember the sustained attacks on local government by the Conservatives and Labour. They know that only Liberal Democrats are credible when we advocate the reduction of excessive Whitehall power. But there’s more work for us to do.

Our public services today are not accountable to the local people they serve. And I agree with the conclusions of the Power Inquiry. Last week it said that we need a shift away from the executive back to Parliament, and from central to local government.

It is absurd that if a hospital operation goes wrong the first democratically elected person in the chain of responsibility is the Secretary of State for Health. But we need to explain in clear terms how localised school and health systems would work. We need to explain how we would move from central targets to local accountability.

We need to explain how we would maintain national standards, while creating a climate that would allow local diversity to flourish.

Let us be clear – localism necessarily means that things will be done differently in different places. Policies that work for the people of Harrogate may not work for the people of Haringey. That is acceptable if in each area there is full democratic decision making, accountable to local people, and free from interference by Whitehall.

On taxation, too, we need to think afresh. The Tax Commission was established by Charles Kennedy to do precisely that. Too much attention has focused on our manifesto policy for a new higher rate of income tax on earnings over £100,000 a year.

We should avoid becoming fixated on one tax rate. You cannot create a valid tax policy based on a single tax rate any more than you can have a valid defence policy based on a single weapons system. Nor can you create a fairer society without a fairer tax system.

Here are my three principles for a new, fairer tax regime.

First, the tax burden must be lighter for those on lowest incomes.

Second, the tax system must provide incentives to companies and individuals to behave in a way that sustains our environment.

Third, the system must be simple – it must support enterprise and must not stifle it.

Fairer taxation will build an economy that’s more efficient and a society that is more just. We’re not going to spend more, when we can spend more wisely.

I see no case for an increase in the overall tax burden in the present economic cycle. And if we are looking for areas to save money let me suggest some – the Child Trust Fund, identity cards – even the Department of Trade and Industry.

And there is another area where we must embrace reform – and that is Europe. I am a passionate European, and always have been; Europe as the guarantor of our peace and prosperity.

But the old ways of the European Union are no longer working. The European Union is now become much larger and more diverse. It is intolerable that decisions that affect the lives of every one of us are taken by Ministers meeting in secret. The veil must be cast aside. True friends of the European Union are true friends of its reform.

When we see the return of old-fashioned protectionism at the heart of Europe, we must be the liberal voice for free, fair and open trade without which the EU will not survive. I want to see the nations of Europe open to each other, yes…  and open to the products of the poorest countries in the world too.

Our party has always fought economic nationalism – and must now do so again in Washington, Paris and Brussels.

To maintain our credibility, as the only truly liberal force in British politics, will also require changes in the way we organise ourselves.

We have just had the most successful general election for over eighty years. We must build on that success – as we become more successful, so too we must become more professional. We must now modernise our organisation to sustain our growing presence throughout the country.

I’m going to ask a team of our leading campaigners to draw on the latest techniques to make sure we maintain our lead as the most innovative campaigning party in British politics. Raising money, selecting and training candidates and agents, building and maintaining local parties, involving and including our members, communicating through a 24-hour media are all areas where we need new ideas.

I will reform the way we support women and ethnic minority candidates. I am going to set up a special trust fund to provide them with financial support. I am going to ask every single Parliamentarian to mentor a woman and ethnic minority candidates – to give them the support and skills they need to get and elected. How can we represent this country if we are not representative of this country?

We now have a wealth of youthful talent in our party. For the brightest and best of this generation are Liberal Democrats. Our new frontbench team will be more than a match for the Conservatives and Labour Party.

I will draw on the many strands of our liberal democracy – social, economic, personal and political – to mark out distinctive territory in British politics. There is no conflict between economic and social liberalism. You cannot deliver social justice without economic success – and discipline.

We can build a fairer Britain, not the means-tested, target driven, over-centralised country run by Labour today.

Our unity must not come at the price of clarity. We must be clear and consistent in all that we say and do. We are moving out of the comfort zone of opposition politics. We must make three-party politics a credible reality.

Under New Labour, politics has become managerial, not inspirational. The Conservatives have taken the same course, shunning conviction and desperate only to emulate a value-free Downing Street.

Britain does not need a third managerial party. It needs a distinctive liberal democratic party. I will lead this party with a clear vision of Liberal Democracy.

To empower people, and not the state; to promote social mobility; to nurture the aspirations of all individuals; to shape events in the wider world; to cherish our shared environment; to defend the cause of liberty, and to promote the radical reform of Britain’s tired political system – and that means fair votes for Westminster.

To be the leader of the Liberal Democrats is to be the trustee of a great party, with so much to be proud of – but with so many dazzling achievements still to come.

Let us pledge today that where we see unfairness we will challenge it; where we see injustice we will attack it; and where we see prejudice we will confront it.

Together we must campaign as never before. Together we must become the rallying point for a new liberal democratic Britain. Together we will win.

Menzies Campbell – 1987 Maiden Speech in the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech by Menzies Campbell in the House of Commons on 13th July 1987.

I hope that it will not be thought presumptious or unduly prococious of the part of a maiden speaker to offer you, Madam Deputy Speaker, my congratulations on your new appointment. May I express the wish of those on the Liberal Benches that you enjoy your appointment and occupy the Chair for a long time to come.

I am grateful for the opportunity afforded to me to make a maiden speech in this House. I do so attended with all the apprehensions to which maiden speakers are traditionally subject. In the spirit of that tradition, I wish to begin by referring to my predecessor, Barry Henderson.

Barry Henderson served the constituency of Fife, North-East sincerely and conscientiously during the time he was its Member of Parliament. To me he was a courteous opponent, and he was gracious and generous in defeat. However, none of those qualities, admirable in themselves, was sufficient protection against the condemnation by the electors of Fife, North-East of the party of which he was such a loyal supporter. Some of the condemnation was especially reserved for the community charge, or the poll tax as it is colloquially described north of the border.

I trust that we on the Liberal Benches may be forgiven some small self-indulgence from the realisation that the constituency that returned Mr. Asquith for so many years has once more returned a Liberal Member of Parliament.

The House will be aware that within my constituency lies Scotland’s oldest university, founded in 1411. That university has a long noble tradition of scholarship in the arts and sciences, in teaching and research. The maintenance of that tradition is becoming increasingly difficult in the present climate. Research, in particular, is an issue of considerable controversy within that university. It is universally recognised within the academic community that research for its intrinsic merit is an essential feature of a vigorous and healthy university. It must surely be accepted that scholarship should not lightly be sacrificed to commercialism. However, that is an inevitable consequence of Government policies towards universities.

Since 1980, St. Andrew’s university has suffered a cut of 21 per cent. in real terms in University Grants Committee funding. It has survived only by the skilful management of its investments and by a robust programme of recruiting foreign students who pay full fees. Obviously, that programme has been acompanied by a reduction in opportunity for students from the United Kingdom. Indeed, it may not be long before that institution is staring deficit in the face. One may think that that is hardly conducive to the role that is required of it during the last part of the 20th century.

This debate is concerned with local government finance. Anyone who listens to those who are involved in local government on a day-to-day basis will readily accept that many of the difficulties that local government faces arise from the continuing reduction in central Government’s support for local government. In Fife, North-East, for example, if the housing support grant stood today at the same level as in 1979, the rents for council houses would be £6 per week less. Until that reduction in central Government support is halted, the pressure on local authorities will continue to be acute and damaging. To suggest, as appears to have been suggested in the House a few moments ago, that the community charge will bring a solution to the many problems of local government financing seems to ignore the fact that the community charge, of itself, will create its own difficulties.

Of course, it is accepted that rates are universally discredited, although from time to time one feels that, as a means of raising local taxation, rates still enjoy some support from Labour Members. The replacement of one regressive tax by another is no solution. The community charge, or the poll tax, must be regressive and unfair; otherwise there would not be any need for rebates. If it were essentially a fair charge, there would not be any necessity to make allowances for those whose personal circumstances were such as to make them unable to pay. A tax that will benefit mostly those who earn over £350 per week is self-evidently unfair.

We argue, as we have argued for a long time, that the only fair system of raising local taxation is by a local income tax based on the ability to pay. If ability to pay is recognised as the proper measure for raising taxation on a national, United Kingdom-wide basis, why is it denied that the same basis should be applied to local taxation?

If the Government were to undertake to restore the level of central Government support to what it was in 1979 and to introduce a local income tax along the lines that we have argued, real progress could be made in the financing of local government. I look for that, but so far I have been disappointed.