The Rt Hon Douglas Alexander. A positive speech to take the campaign forward…
Ladies and gentlemen
I want to talk to you today about Scottish values of struggle, strength and solidarity, the very same values that Gordon Brown and Tony Blair displayed when they worked so well together without a bad word in government. They struggled to deal with each other in failing to deliver social justice and the rest of us pretended everything was fine to show solidarity.
These are the virtues that have served Labour well. We will never walk away when someone is in need. Did we walk away from the people of Iraq? Even in the teeth of all the evidence from Hans Blix, from our own lawyers, from the intelligence services finding no link with al-Qaeda, from the millions demonstrating on the streets, we would not be deterred. We showed solidarity with the American people and the oppressed in Iraq, sadly now mostly dead. Would the narrow nationalists have done that?
We will not walk away from the vulnerable poor in the great post-industrial cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham just because they are English. No, we will continue to support them with our best wishes. If only a Labour government could be elected with massive majorities of say 179, 167 and 60 for three successive terms it could really do something for the working poor of those cities who have been left scandalously at the mercy of right wing uncaring neo liberal elitist governments feather-bedding the City of London and destroying industry with real jobs. That’s something to aspire to, isn’t it? Who wants to improve their own lives when there is a chance of using their tax pounds to help others who continue to vote in governments who ignore them and people who reject more control over their own affairs? Many of them don’t get the government they voted for either but do they run away and hide? Of course not. They stay put to be impoverished and humiliated and keep voting Labour in the hope that every 10 years they get a different party who still won’t do anything for them. The important thing is that in the meantime politicians of all parties get to keep their jobs in a show of solidarity. That’s social justice.
Education is the bedrock of our society. That’s why in England Labour MPs don’t send their children to state schools but to private ones or Church schools like Tony and Cherie. That’s not for a class reason like snobbery. It’s to keep spaces free for working class families to get their children in, where they’ll feel more at home. That’s solidarity with the working families of Britain. And when it comes to university, who said there would be no tuition fees and then introduced them anyway? Who said there would be no top up fees and then introduced them anyway? That’s right – Labour. We showed solidarity with the students who can now start their lives with an effective mortgage of £35,000 for life because they can’t get a real mortgage any more and there are no new houses to live in. Labour did that. Social justice in action.
When workers at Poundland were forced to work for nothing or lose their benefits, the evil Tories brought in a bill justifying this act of slavery and Labour stood firm in solidarity with the workers and proudly abstained allowing it to become law. Social justice in action.
There are many types of nationalism in the world. There is British nationalism which we all know is something to be proud of. As Gilbert and Sullivan said: He is an Englishman. Britishness allows us to restrict immigrants from bringing their families and makes sure there are British jobs for British workers and it means we can abuse asylum seekers and reject Europe, all symbols of social justice. There is Irish nationalism which is a fine thing with its whistles and fiddles and Guinness and we love the Irish now they’ve stopped shooting us. But at least the Irish had the decency to fight. Unlike Scottish nationalism which has never used weapons. It is sleekit and insidious and pretends to want social justice but is really just a front for bigotry. Why else do they sing about sending Edward home again if it isn’t repatriating foreigners?
And here’s my main point. It’s only through the Union that we still have a need for struggle and search for social justice. After all we’ve had 300 years to get it right and the only people doing well live in one corner of the country where all the money and power is and where all the taxpayers money is poured…today Crossrail, tomorrow a new rail line and a new station at Gatwick…that means the rest of Britain is kept back, kept poor and resentful. Without those policies Britain would be a fairer and just place and where would your struggle and solidarity be then? There would be no need for them, would there? If all the ills of society were sorted there would be no struggle. It’s through the Union that we get embedded inequality that leads to demands for social justice.
Ladies and gentlemen, I too am playing my part in the struggle and showing solidarity. I opened the Paisley Food Bank the other day and a proud moment it was to realise there are so many people living the struggle daily and so in need of justice that they go hungry. It made me so proud to realise our community rose to the challenge and sent in their tins of beans and Ambrosia creamed rise. Solidarity!