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Max Power - Maiden Speech - 1987
#1
Mr, Speaker,
 
 
While it is an honor to speak before this House, I confess to feeling a sense of loss, because the uncertain fortune of electoral politics has meant that I will not serve in a House including the true statesman, James Callaghan. 

 We all know the basic outlines of his life and career.  He is a man who has served his country, in uniform and out of uniform.  He is a patriot.  He is a man who deeply loves his country as it is … but he has loved his country so much that he did not want to leave it as it was.

 

After helping our great country overcome the evil of Nazism in the Second World War, James Callaghan set out to help us to overcome the more subtle evils of selfishness and discrimination.  He remembered, all too well, the country that we had before 1945, a country in which class determined what kind of life you would lead.  Things that we today consider fundamental human rights, such as nourishment, housing, education, and health care, all depended to an unacceptable degree on the accident of one’s birth.  After the First World War, our people were promised a society that was “fit for heroes.”  But our people were betrayed.  They suffered years of deprivation and neglect.  The old elite continued to do very well for itself, while the great mass of our people struggled.  James Callaghan remembered.  James Callaghan was determined to join in a new way of governing our people, so that the many, and not the few, would finally benefit. 



The post-war era was a time of sacrifice.  It was a time of austerity.  It was a hard time.  And yet, our country, our people, pulled together.  We seemed to have been exhausted from our heroic efforts in the Second World War, and yet we were present at the beginning for NATO, standing as strongly against the totalitarian perversion of socialism known as Stalinism as we had stood against the evil of Nazism.  At the same time, our country, led by Labour, supported by James Callaghan, established the system of health care and welfare that has done so much to recognize that every person, regardless of birth, is made equally in the image of God, and has the same claim upon dignity.  If a person is born in this country, whether the child of a manual laborer, or a professional, or an aristocrat or even of royalty, has the same right to nourishment, to housing, to education, and to health care. 
 
James Callaghan never forgot that we are indeed linked together.  James Callaghan always remembered that we are not a collection of autonomous individuals, but we belong together, that our lives are closely linked together, and that, yes, there is such a thing as “society.”  He believed and continues to believe in a Britain in which all people pull together.  This belief has guided him as a member of parliament, as Chancellor, as Foreign Secretary, as Home Secretary, and as Prime Minister.  It was his misfortune to confront so many interests that forgot that we are one country and one people.  As Prime Minister, he fought valiantly for our country against great odds, and accomplished much.  But at the end, he was undone by selfish sectarianism, but people who placed their own interests ahead of the national interest.  The collective spirit of the 1940s had given way to the small-mindedness and selfishness of the 1970s.  We were winning the battle against inflation in 1978, but we were undermined by unreasonable pay demands in 1979.  And thus a change of government occurred. 
 
 Since 1979, what has happened to our country?  It would be wrong to deny that inflation has fallen and that economic growth has increased … after the wild inflation and depression era unemployment of the first Thatcher years.  But even now, unemployment is far higher than it was in 1979.  And, while much of the South of England shines with prosperity, what of the rest of our country?  What of the coal miners?   What of the steel workers?  What of the shipyard workers?  What of Yorkshire?  What of the North?  What of Wales and Scotland?  What of Birmingham and Manchester and Liverpool and Glasgow?   

 
There are families that are suffering, even now as we sit comfortably here in London.  There are families squeezed by a VAT that is too high, and a National Health Service that has been neglected.  There are families caught in poverty and social dysfunction, living on streets that have become mean in these last several years, and in communities that once resounded with the sounds of industry and commerce, and yet now lay silent, left behind by a government that indulges in its fetish for downsizing and privatization? 



How meaningful is prosperity if it is not prosperity for all of our people?  Prosperity belongs to the laborer or the teacher or the police constable or the nurse as much as it belongs to the banker or the executive or the stockbroker.  Our collective assets, everything from British Airways, to the railroads, to the water authorities, has been are being auctioned off to raise a quick pound or two.  These national treasures belong not to the wealthy and well-connected, but to all of our people.  That was a lesson James Callaghan never forgot.  And so I pay tribute to him today, and I express my sadness that I will not serve in this House with him, and I pray that our country will rediscover the virtues of patriotism, and fairness, and collective prosperity.  May we all realize that we are only so strong … as a SOCIETY … as our weakest members.  And may we realize that sometimes, the public good is more important than private profit.
Max Power, Labour
MP for Oxford East (1987-present)
Shadow Foreign Secretary (1994-present)
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