Below is Mr Major’s speech at a rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Independence of India and Pakistan. The speech was given at The Commonwealth Institute on 18th January 1997.
I've just returned from a long visit with British businessmen to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Everywhere I went the welcome for Britain was very warm.
Today, many people with an affection for those nations are gathered here.
What brings us together?
The same beliefs, the same hopes -
A tolerant, civil nation, where everyone has the opportunity to make a success of life.
We don’t wish to see people boxed into compartments or pigeonholed to fit into plans, according to their colour or sex or wealth. That isn't the kind of society I care for. It isn't the kind of society we’re building.
We should relish the fact that every person is unique, with their own talents and abilities. Diversity is a strength and we should play to it, so that everyone can make the most of their skills.
Some will do better than others -
My aim is to make Britain the best place in the world to live.
Is that a pipe-
But we do have something quite unique. We have our history. Our instincts. Our national character. We have, above all, the British people.
And thanks to their hard work, Britain is in an enviable economic position.
We’re enjoying growing prosperity -
The present prospects are very bright.
And stability and prosperity are already giving even more people the opportunity to get ahead in life, the chance to realise their dreams and ambitions. Ahead of us is opportunity for all -
All of us here today share values that are instinctively Conservative. Some of you -
If you say to a gathering of British citizens whose fathers or grandfathers came from Asia or the Caribbean, “Look, we've all done a lot better than we ever expected, and life together is a happier experience than anyone would have supposed thirty years back”, you are bound to be accused of complacency.
But I am going to say that.
I believe the general record since the sixties is a good one -
Many decent people feared racial tension -
The press was heavy with speculative articles about the rage pent up and waiting for explosion, the backlash which was so certain to come. Commentators deplored racism while waiting excitedly upon events.
But the great trench war between the races never happened.
Why is it those fears were so wrong?
I believe it was thanks to the fundamental goodwill and decency of the British people. And politicians recognised that and built on it.
Plenty of perfectly decent people were unsure about whether actual formal legislation on racial equality, the actual out-
They feared the backlash and doubted the possibility of making good by law. That’s a respectable point of view, but also quite wrong. Public goodwill and decency existed Out there in the country, but had to be given a lead. If freedom includes freedom to run a colour bar, and bureaucracy forbids colour bars as evil, then that bureaucracy is right and that freedom is wrong.
Politicians agreed on how to tackle the problems. We had fine leadership on the race issue from many in all parties.
The best expression of the consensus is -
“I believe quite simply in the brotherhood of man -
Macleod went on:
“And this is coming. There are foolish men who will deny it, but they will be swept away...”
And they were swept away -
Society is an unimaginably complex thing made up of little threads and small actions. It works through a blurring of sharp edges, a million acts and omissions. And the acts and omissions of most people in recent decades are ones which imply acceptance and tolerance.
Yes, tolerance. Tolerance is the real test of civilisation. Most of the relationships between people turn upon tolerance. It’s tolerance that confounded the forecasters of doomsday.
“Oh,” says smart, knowing opinion. “Is that all? Tolerance? What a banal commonplace, little thing.” Yes, indeed. It is so banal, so commonplace this tolerance, that it is Alpha and Omega. It is so little a thing that if it disappears, men die.
If you disbelieve me look at Srebrenica. That’s a warning of what happens when people no longer tolerate other religions or values or races. Tolerance had disappeared. Civility vanished.
Civility goes far beyond politeness. It’s a breakwater against first thoughts and worst instincts. It inhibits anger, pulls away from prejudice. Civil people acknowledge other people -
To take a concrete example, I think most civil people would share my concern about an approach some have to Islam.
If you were to play the game of word association -
It would be “fundamentalism”.
Now where all extremism or militancies do occur -
But “Islamic fundamentalism” -
But there are. And we must resist the temptation to judge a race or religion by its least worthy members.
Because what is salient about Muslims -
They were attracted to Britain by our values -
There’s a new, twentieth century word to describe our kind of society. Multi-
Their background did not stand in the way of success. They melded into the landscape of British society -
Today, neither race, nor colour, nor religion, nor background must stand in our way.
If the man in the same office, cursing the same computer when it goes down, following the same football team, grumbling about the same café menu, has a different complexion, then it’s just about the only thing different about him. His job, his family, his hopes, his fears, his allegiances, his experiences are often otherwise all the same.
Life is lived, people join, people belong.
Darkness, lightness -
A quick glimpse at Britain today and you cannot miss the tremendous contribution the ethnic community makes to our country. From footballers to lawyers, businessmen to pop stars, newsreaders to doctors -
And their success has come from hard work, enterprise, innovation. Making the most out of opportunities that come their way. That’s the kind of nation we Conservatives believe in and are creating.
The Challenge Ahead
I don’t wish to paint a picture of utopia. There is much still to be done. I don't pretend that the prospects for the young black man in Brixton is yet as open to talent as it is to the young white man in the Home Counties. It clearly isn't.
But we must try and make it so.
Jobs, crime, education -
The institutional barriers of racism and prejudices that stood in people’s way might have begun to crumble. But we still have more to do to entrench and broaden opportunity.
Politically correct policies won’t achieve this. No man or woman wants to succeed because of their colour. They wish to succeed on merit.
Few things would inflame racial tension more than trying to bias systems in favour of one colour -
Policy must be colour blind -
But how do you achieve equality of opportunity?
It begins with education.
Over the last few years we've opened up our schools so parents -
Ironically, the councils whose schools score the poorest results are Labour controlled -
We’re helping those children who suffer from such education with practical policies. Testing children on the basic skills, and giving parents the results. Inspecting schools on a regular basis. And, when it’s really necessary, closing down failing schools.
If young people aren't able to read, write and add up from an early age, their chances of getting a rewarding job suffer a crippling blow.
That’s why literacy is so crucial.
We’re setting up literacy centres to pinpoint our efforts on those who need help most. On top of the tens of millions of pounds we’re already spending to help pupils who don’t have English as their first language, this will be another lever to raise standards.
But that isn't enough -
Not every child is the same and they shouldn't be forced to fit into a rigid education system.
Every parent wants their child to be given the best education -
So they should be in the driving seat of deciding what kind of education their children receive.
Specialist schools, grant-
Creating a system that gives children an education that opens up a world of enjoyment, pleasure and potential. An education that prepares them for today’s modem hi-
Almost alone in Europe, we’re enjoying falling unemployment. Britain is bucking the trend in spectacular fashion.
This month, unemployment fell by 45,000 -
Over the last four years, Britain has created 900,000 extra jobs -
Put it another way, since 1992 we've created the equivalent of two jobs every working minute -
We've given people the tools -
I know how tempting some of the policies of our political opponents might sound. New rights, new conditions, new minimum wages. But forcing employers to pay more to employ people means they won’t be able to take on new workers -
And who will suffer? The young, the unemployed.
Youth unemployment is 29% in France and 43% in Spain. That’s not a coincidence. Both countries have a minimum wage.
Unemployment is not the kind of future I want for our young people -
Unemployment is falling right across Britain -
Like the inner cities, where people need opportunities the most, but where it’s hardest to get a foot on the ladder.
I was a councillor in an inner city once. I saw the problems people faced.
And all too often socialist thinking made matters worse. It was well-
The ambitious and the enterprising were driven from the inner cities by municipal controls and union driven services.
Bad local government policy shut out new business with political correctness and impossible demands and self serving red tape. And the minority groups in our country often suffered most from this policy failure.
But now look what’s happening.
Bricks and mortar, jobs and hope are flooding back.
Concrete proof that freeing enterprise, trusting private business, attracting investment spells new jobs, new opportunities, new hope.
There’s more to do.
Bring in more private capital. Break up monolithic council estates. Encourage more home ownership. Create more jobs. Build houses on a human scale.
It’s a massive task. One I care about. But it can be done and we will bring in plans to do it.
The people Labour have deserted, we’re helping -
Law and Order
These policies aim not just to make people better off, but feel more secure.
Safe streets and secure homes should not be a priority only for those in the leafy suburbs. Living free from fear is something every person should be able to enjoy. 5,000 more police constables by 1999, 10,000 more closed circuit televisions, tougher sentences for persistent offenders -
I spoke earlier about tolerance and civility. Sadly, there’s a small minority who do not share those values. They incite racial hatred and violence.
That’s why we've given the police greater powers to deal with racially inflammatory material.
But all too often, it’s verbal abuse that causes distress. Continuous snide, offensive language, designed to hurt. So we've strengthened the penalties available for intentional harassment and our new proposals will make the law stronger still.
I've never been a victim of racial discrimination, but any decent person would agree that those kind of acts are utterly repugnant in a civilised nation like Britain. They have no place in our country -
The Conservative Party/Peroration
The Party I joined is one that governed for the whole nation -
We should remind people more often that the Conservative Party is an inclusive party -
Its roots are sunk deep across the country. It must always be so.
We have always had an alliance with people from all walks of life. That must always be so too.
So to those of you here today and many beyond, I say that if you share our beliefs you are welcome.
If you share our love of country, you have a place in our Party -
As an inclusive Party, we seek to build an inclusive Britain.
We know how far we've come. We know what still needs to be done. We know how to do it.
And if the work can be finished, we can then truly say “Britain is the best place in the world to live”.