1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of John Major’s speech at the annual Barnett Lecture, held at Toynbee Hall in London on Monday 17th November 2003.
My theme tonight is change.
We now live in a world without economic boundaries: crumbling for years they were finally smashed by technology.
As the global economy has taken root, the command economy has taken flight.
This economic wind is changing even the role of Government itself. Governments can wreck economies with bad policies, they can help build them up: but more than ever before the true engine of growth is private endeavour.
As the unfettered power of Government diminishes, the power of markets increase. And technology has ensured that markets never sleep. We are now into a continuing revolution that will not settle down into a comfortable pattern: it will accelerate and grow.
Much has changed in the last 15 years. Not only is the global economy a reality but one super power, the Soviet Union -
During much of the 1990’s the world enjoyed substantial growth with rising investment and low inflation but in the last few years, we have seen the flipside of that boom. None of the economic motors has been driving the world towards growth.
There are bright spots. In the US, the economy is about to grow rapidly.
Japan is showing renewed signs of economic life, even though her days of massive external investment are gone. Her potential is still huge, although, for the moment, she is merely limping towards recovery.
China is a different case. She is enjoying rapid growth helped by massive inward investment and an inexhaustible supply of cheap labour. But China’s growth comes with a warning: so cost effective have they become that there is a risk that they will export price deflation.
The political structure of the world is changing no less rapidly.
When the Soviet Union collapsed we all rejoiced that the world was safer. It was: the threat of nuclear exchange between superpowers had fallen. But -
For example, if the Soviet Union had not collapsed -
Other consequences were more benevolent. Freed from Soviet control Eastern and Central Europe re-
For the moment, there is but one super-
History is instructive here. When Britain had an Empire, we were widely detested. Hundreds of millions resented our power and envied our wealth. Even as they paid polite lip service to our face, they rejoiced if we were defeated or embarrassed.
Today, that envy, that resentment, is directed against wealthy nations more generally -
It is easy to rail against the mighty -
In the post Soviet world, two military-
The war in Iraq was very controversial -
They divided Iraq with terror and left fear, suspicion and hatred behind them. A once rich land became poor. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis -
The aim of the coalition must be to bring stability to Iraq.
This will not be easy. Ancient feuds run deep and each day terrorist attacks seek to make a difficult task -
There are three main risks:
(i) losing the tacit support of the Shia tribe;
(ii) open conflict with Iran; or
(iii) getting bogged down.
All are possible.
Yet, having invaded Iraq, we cannot turn our backs on it. We must aim to leave behind a free nation with a stable government. No-
One growing concern over the last few years -
MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
The question is: is a settlement achievable?
Certainly, both sides need one. Israel needs security and recognition and acceptance by the Arab States: and Palestine needs a future. An active peace process is vital -
The outline of a solution has long been clear. And yet, prospects of achieving it have rarely seemed as grim.
During the last year, hope has been hijacked as attitudes have hardened.
Israel has faced a spate of suicide bombings that are part of a deliberate strategy. Wicked men have encouraged foolish young men and women to become human bombs in Israel. The carnage has been frightful.
In a bleak year, over 400 Israelis have been killed. Many thousands more have been injured. For the third year running the economy has contracted, leaving unemployment at 10% -
And Israelis notice that the Palestinians do not regret the violence of the Intafada.
It has been bleak for the Palestinians too.
They have seen:
And Palestinians notice that Israel is unrepentant about occupying Palestinian areas.
Out of that mutual despair, is there any scope for optimism?
The essentials of this conflict have been unchanging for a long time. There is no new proposal for peace that will suddenly be seized on by all sides. The biggest change needed is one of attitude.
PM Sharon has spoken recently of “painful concessions”; “a Palestinian State”; and “no military solution”. What this implies is unclear -
A reality check tells us also that the exercise of American power and American diplomacy is crucial to progress for history suggests it is unlikely that a purely bilateral deal can be done -
A solution to Iraq may change the whole face of the Middle East but a solution to the Arab-
This week there is unprecedented security in London. The fear is terrorism. Over many years terrorism has grown bolder and more deadly. On 9/11 it over-
This cannot be a short-
Terrorism isn’t a nation.
Terrorism is Al-
In the mind of the terrorist, no-
The question is: is such a war winnable at all? With one proviso the answer is yes. The proviso is this: we are unlikely to eliminate terrorism entirely because as terrorist groups are beaten back they are likely to splinter into smaller, more radical groups, with more extreme agendas. But what we can do is cut back their threat, and lower their potency to a wholly different level.
To do this, we need international co-
Many of these are Moslem which is a further reason why we need to improve our relationship with them.
But we need to hurt the terrorists in another way too.
We need to cut off the flow of their support and, to do that, we need democracy to tackle the grievances that act as the Recruiting Sergeants for militancy.
These go beyond Iraq and the Arab-
We should never lose sight of the political, social and economic long-
In some parts of the world, corruption, poverty and the growing epidemic of AIDS condemn untold millions to a life of misery and hardship. Some may say -
In helping others, we will help ourselves. In removing grievances we cut away the resentment of the “have nots” for the “haves”.
In the 1940s/50s, the US launched a Plan to deliver Aid and rescue Europe from the devastation of wars. It was, Winston Churchill said, “the most un-
In a world of growing global security -
It will come -
Too late -
But act early, act now, act out of conscience -
Let me say a word about domestic politics.
We are at an immensely fluid time at present.
The old verities can no longer be relied upon. Every child is no longer -
For generations our politics was largely based on a familiar combination of class, of background and an affiliation to one of the competing philosophies of socialism or the free market. For those political non-
All that is going. The old politics is dying.
Today’s voters are less interested in ideology and more fluid in voting intention. They are bored with the old arguments and the familiar jibes. They are also puzzled because nothing is clear-
This leads to the widespread (but mistaken) view that “they’re all the same” and “nothing makes any difference”. The result is a General Election with a turnout of under 60%: in which the “don’t knows” and the “won’t votes” score more highly than the winning Party.”
An underlying problem is that the Commons has been losing status for some years. Some of this is inevitable. Some of the powers it had have been lost to the impact of the global economy. The world has changed and vital decisions must often be reached in wider fora: in the G7, the UN or -
To balance this, the Commons must look seriously at reform: and by reform I do not mean the pale-
Our present and future Governments, face complex problems -
None of them are easy.
None can speedily be remedied. None benefit from the ‘yah-
All need a strong, virile Parliament and not a powder-
My theme tonight has been one of change: let me try and bring it together.
In a world of bewildering change, the speed of medical advance is staggering and the demand for medical services is infinite. It will grow: the mapping of the human genome system will lead to an explosion of demand for preventative care and, where this is provided, to an increase in life expectancy. It will be common place for today’s children to live beyond 90 years of age. What changes may they see?
As so often, the past may give us an idea of the scale of change in the future.
Last year, I attended the funeral of Her Majesty the Queen Mother and, as I sat in Westminster Abbey I pondered upon the remarkable advances the world has seen during the 100 years of her life.
At her birth, no-
In 1900, the Europeans were dominant.
The United Kingdom, France and Russia controlled 80% of the world’s surface. Only Siam had never been governed by the Europeans.
Even the United States was still a debtor nation, financed largely by the City of London.
How things have changed.
The Ottoman Empire has gone.
The French Empire has gone.
The British Empire has gone.
The Russian Empire has come -
The US is now the most powerful nation in the world with China -
Children born today will see the conquest of the stars.
They will live longer, see more, do more, know more than any earlier generation.
They will see the deserts bloom.
See a genetic rebuilding of failing bodies.
Live with technical innovations beyond our present imagination.
It will be a world unrecognisable to their forebears.
Against the enormous changes that are taking place, we need a longer term approach to policy and an end to the travesty of “sound-
Soundbite is quite simply a fraud: falsely promises an easy solution to a complex problem. Easy -
The events of 9/11 are giving us a masterclass in consequences. We need politics that confronts the uncomfortable. Politics that rises above the short-
I will read you a poem you may know and I learned as a child:
For the want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For the want of a horse the rider was lost.
For the want of a rider the message was lost.
For the want of a message the battle was lost.
For the want of a battle the war was lost.
For the want of a war the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
Benjamin Franklin, 1758
It is the classic illustration of how a chain of events can be triggered by one single incident.
If it was true in the world of 18th century -
This world is competitive. Complex. Confusing. And always changing. This is our world, and we would be wise to reflect with care upon how it is and plan for how it could be -