|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Neil Hamilton : I beg to move, That this House takes note of the incalculable cost in human lives and poverty imposed upon the world by communist regimes and socialism in all its forms ; welcomes the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and the withering away of socialism in Western democracies ; and recognises the important role played in these processes by Her Majesty's Government, firstly through its determination to maintain strong defences, thereby creating the conditions for political change in Eastern Europe, and, secondly, through the success of its free market policies in inspiring socialist parties in the East and West to abandon much of their ideology in order to secure peace and prosperity.
I think that there will still be time for me to finish my speech, despite the attempt at organised disruption with which our proceeding began this morning.
Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As a conscientious Member of the House, I resent hearing efforts by my hon. Friends and myself to protect the rights of the electorate described by a Conservative Member as "organised disruption."
Mr. Speaker : Order. Who said that? [ Hon. Members :-- "He did".] Order. Today is Friday, and it is a private Members' day. I am not disposed to allow organised disruption of any kind. I should tell the House that I have not selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn).
I begin my speech on a sombre note, introduced by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), but the gentleman whose memory I should like to salute today is that of Dr. Andrei Sakharov, whose death was announced on the radio this morning. Dr. Sakharov represented the indomitable spirit of individual liberty. He survived decades of attempts by a monstrous tyranny to crush him and the principles of freedom, democracy and liberty for which he stood. In that, if in nothing else that I shall say, I hope that I carry the whole House with me in saluting his memory and sending our best wishes and condolences to his widow and to all those for whom Dr. Sakharov, in the Soviet Union and throughout the world, was an inspiration.
Sixty-six years ago, another Back-Bench Member drew first place in the ballot for private Member's Bills--Mr. Philip Snowden, the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. He introduced rather a different kind of motion on Socialism from mine. It drew attention to what he called the failure of capitalism. I have decided to introduce the debate to exorcise the notion that Mr. Snowden introduced all those years ago. His biography gives some of the background to that debate.
Most interestingly, it shows that in the days before television there was considerable interest in the proceedings of this House. Mr. Snowden said :
"The interest in the debate I was to raise was intense, both in Parliament and in the country. For a week before it took place the newspapers had paragraphs and articles every day, and members of Parliament were inundated with
Column 1302requests from their constituents for tickets for the Strangers' Gallery. Socialists from all parts of the country were ready to come to London for this historic occasion".
I regret to say that there seem to be very few Socialists, particularly Labour Members, who have been prepared to come to London today to participate in this important debate. There are only five here today-- admittedly, five distinguished Labour Members. It is a matter of particular regret that only such a small number seem to be interested in the future of the grand political philosophy in which they believe.
Mr. Snowden then said :
"On the day the debate was to take place the Outer Lobbies were crowded with men and women who had come down in the vain expectation that by some fortunate accident they might be able to get admission to the House."
In consequence of the intense interest in the debate, Mr. Bonar Law, who was then Prime Minister, was asked if he would give further time for the debate to be continued and properly discussed. I am happy to say that in those more enlightened days, he gave a whole day of Government time to debate the future of Socialism in this country.
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) : I was disappointed by something that my hon. Friend said at the beginning of his remarks before the first interruption and by the general tenor of his argument so far. Surely, this message should not take very long to get over. Why does my hon. Friend need additional time to debate what is already on the way out?
Mr. Hamilton : I have to admit that it is difficult to get the message across, although not to my hon. Friends. Despite decades of experience of Socialism and its failure in this country, it does not yet seem to have got through to Opposition Members that what they believe in has been a disaster for the people of this country and for people throughout the world. I hope that the way in which I wish to rationalise the experience of the last 50 or 60 years will at last convince them that their true path lies in crossing the Floor of the House and joining us.
Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle) : Before my hon. Friend leaves the subject of Philip Snowden, does he recollect that he betrayed Socialism by joining the national Government in 1931, and that he died a convinced capitalist?
Mr. Hamilton : I am sure that that point will appeal to at least two hon. Gentlemen and one hon. Lady on the Opposition Benches. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who is sitting on the Opposition Front Bench, may take a different view, because I imagine that he intends to tread a rather different path
I wondered who might answer the debate from the Treasury Bench. Which Minister, I asked myself, is responsible in our Government for the future of Socialism? There is, of course, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, whose Department is responsible for endangered species. Would it be my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) whose responsibility within the Department of Trade and Industry is for matters concerning intellectual property? However, I did not think that that would be quite apposite in this instance. Then there is my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), another Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry, whose responsibility is for bankruptcy. If we had conflated those two
Column 1303responsibilities, one of them could have come here today with responsibility for intellectual bankruptcy and adequately answered this debate.
However, I am delighted to see that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker) is on the Treasury Bench--the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the county of the red rose. I am certain that that is the reason why he has been selected, in addition to his formidable debating abilities, to be with us today.
I am sure that you will agree with me, Madam Deputy Speaker, that a crisis exists in the Communist world and, I contend, in the Socialist world more widely. A few redoubts of the old regime still exist. Romania comes instantly to mind. Unfortunately, I no longer have quite enough time to emulate President Ceausescu's great six-hour oration before the latest party congress. However, I may be able to say as much as he did, if my hon. Friends will control themselves and not give me the 67 standing ovations that President Ceausescu won on that occasion.
In addition to Romania, there are Chesterfield, Bolsover, Liverpool, Walton and a few other redoubts of Socialism left in this country. I think it is fair to say that the international Socialist movement has suffered a stroke and that the left side of its body is completely paralysed.
The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) recognises that that has happened in the Labour party. In the edition of Militant which was published on 1 December--a newspaper that is still widely read in Birkenhead and other parts of the country--the hon. Gentleman is quoted as saying that the Labour party has swung to the Right. He complains of
"the abandonment of genuine socialist concepts, a trend which has developed throughout the European socialist movement".
I am delighted to have confirmation of the first part of my motion.
Mr. Hamilton : The hon. Gentleman says that he has been saying that for years. The hon. Gentleman has been instrumental in teaching me that, in truth, the Socialist movement has collapsed and is in terminal decline. I have the greatest possible respect for the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that, in this also, I carry all my hon. Friends with me when I say that he is a valued Member of the House. I was very sorry to hear that he has decided to retire at the next general election. In the terminology of Marxism, the hon. Gentleman is a worker and an intellectual. He is certainly not, in my opinion, a peasant. There are those on that side of the House to whom that description might apply, although happily none of them has thought fit to be with us today.
As for the extent to which the change in the Labour party to which the hon. Member for Walton referred has taken place, I began by musing on which Minister would be on the Treasury Bench to answer the debate. A more interesting question was who would be sitting on the Opposition Front Bench to speak for Socialism. We might have chosen many candidates for that august position. The hon. Member for Hamilton, who no doubt wandered in
Column 1304out of curiosity to see what would happen today, found himself unwittingly in the position of having to give us the Labour party's views on the future of Socialism.
Perhaps it is only a coincidence, although it may not be, that he is the Member of Parliament for the Hamilton constituency. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones), who is rarely heard in this House so I am delighted to refer to his remark and get it on record, says that that is a tribute to me. I am delighted that there is now a shadow spokesman for Hamilton. I hope that we shall see the hon. Gentleman very much more frequently in that position.
Not everyone accepts that Socialism is collapsing. I refer to the debate in the House on eastern Europe on 1 December in which a number of distinguished speeches were made by Opposition Members, including the hon. Member for Walton. The hon. Gentleman does not believe that Socialism is in a state of collapse, as he believes that all the countries in eastern Europe that are now in crisis are not Socialist countries. He said :
"Many of us who are, I hope, genuine Socialists, have never believed that what has existed in the Soviet Union is a Socialist society."--[ Official Report, 1 December 1989 ; Vol. 162, c. 978.] He considers that neither the countries behind the Iron Curtain--East Germany, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, the Soviet Union--nor those countries where moderate Socialist Governments have abandoned their theories, such as New Zealand, Australia, Spain or West Germany--I could list a catalogue of them around the world--are Socialist countries.
So it appears that the countries that we have accepted as Socialist or Communist are not Communist because they have never been Communist, and those countries which have never had Communist Governments are not Socialist because they are capitalist. So the hon. Member for Walton imagines that there has never been a true democratic Socialist country. I believe that there are good reasons for accepting that view, because wherever voters are given the opportunity to reject Socialism, they do so, and that is now happening throughout eastern Europe.
The pursuit of abstractions such as those that no doubt will be voiced today by Opposition Members has produced all the tyrannies that are now throwing off their shackles. It was said of Robespierre that mankind was everything to him and men were nothing. Despite the humane and tolerant attitudes of individual Opposition Members, those ideals have produced some of the more bestial tyrannies in the world in the past 200 years.
It is an inconstestable fact that there are no refugees from liberal capitalist countries such as ours or any of the other countries that have followed our example. All refugees come from countries that in some shape or form are in thrall to some variety of Communism or Socialism. I hope that Opposition Members now reproach themselves for the line that they took in the 1960s and 1970s when, however inadequately and efficiently, we were attempting to create some form of democratic or liberal capitalist system in Vietnam, which was ultimately overthrown by invasion from the north, and now a Socialist, Communist tyranny has been imposed upon its people from which the only escape is to get into small boats and sail across the ocean.
Column 1305will the hon. Gentleman now face the fact that large numbers of refugees from that capitalist free market model litter all the countries of the free world willing to give them asylum?
Mr. Hamilton : President Pinochet has accepted the result of the plebiscite in Chile, and I am sure that we all approve of that. I am delighted that today we have heard the results of a free election. President Pinochet, whom I have not come here to defend, took over the Government of Chile in the midst of much turmoil and confusion. I am delighted that his undemocratic regime has now been translated into a democratic one, and, in the process, over the past 15 years through the application of Thatcherite nostrums, the economy of Chile has transformed from one of the most shambolic countries in south America into one of the most advanced.
Mr. Jacques Arnold (Gravesham) : Will my hon. Friend note that it is significant that the Opposition in Chile did not field a Socialist candidate? Does he consider that that is particularly relevant to the situation there?
Mr. Hamilton : In the debate on eastern Europe, on 1 December, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Broadgreen (Mr. Fields) made a very distinguished speech. In some respects he joined the hon. Member for Walton in his analysis of the political changes in eastern Europe, but, unlike almost all other commentators, who say that it is undoubtedly a crisis of Communism and Socialism, the hon. Member for Broadgreen reached the conclusion that the turmoil in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe shows
"that there is an international crisis of capitalism".
Conservative Members may find it difficult to follow the logic of that.
Mr. Harry Barnes rose --
Mr. Phillip Oppenheim (Amber Valley) : Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Derbyshire, North-East (Mr. Barnes) has just remembered his point? Will my hon. Friend therefore give way to him immediately?
Mr. Harry Barnes : I refer to the hon. Gentleman's point about Thatcherism in connection with Chile. He claimed that, because of correct monetarist policies, as the hon. Gentleman sees them, under the Pinochet regime the economy of Chile has improved, making it possible for democracy to be introduced. Is it not interesting that the major impact of Thatcherism, which claims to be associated with individualism, seems to have worked most effectively in a dictatorial system? Is that not relevant to the notion of Thatcherism in Britain?
Column 1306economic policy which has transformed Britain--and many other Socialist countries which were on the verge of collapse--from the shambles of 1979 into mainstream economic success.
The hon. Member for Broadgreen believes that there is an international crisis of capitalism. He said :
"The crisis in eastern Europe has nothing to do with Socialism or Communism".
He referred to the Soviet Union, saying :
"All went well under the plan until about 10 years ago."--[ Official Report, 1 December 1989 ; Vol. 162, c. 988.]
Presumably, for the hon. Member for Broadgreen, the disaster was the death of President Brezhnev. That is a somewhat unusual view, but we should devote a small amount of time to it, as it is evidently a view which is of some importance in the Labour party.
The hon. Gentleman has tabled an early-day motion calling for the true spirit of the October revolution of 1917 to be restored in the Soviet Union. I do not know what the hon. Member for Hamilton will have to say about that. No doubt, appealing to his own Back Benchers, he will devote a certain amount of time to it. The truth is that, for 70-odd years, until very recently the Soviet Union was a prison which enslaved millions of its people and caused millions of deaths under the Leninist and Stalinist dictatorships and what succeeded them, including the deaths of many distinguished men such as Dr. Sakharov. Chronic incompetence in economic affairs turned a country which was a major exporter of grain under the Tsars into a major importer that cannot feed its own people, where the staples of ordinary everyday life are unavailable to ordinary workers and citizens. It has been a militarist totalitarian dictatorship. Although we all welcome its imminent demise, I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House recognise that the October revolution, in so far as it gave rise to that, was an unmitigated disaster for the entire human race.
Mr. Hamilton : I am not supporting feudalism : the chairman of the Feudal party stood against me at the last general election. However, the rate of economic advance in Russia in the early years of the century was considerable. Had liberal capitalist economic and political structures been allowed to develop, instead of being nipped in the bud by the October revolution in 1917, Russia would today be one of the richest countries in the world, enjoying one of the highest standards of living.
The political effects of the October revolution gave rise to a monstrous tyranny. The hon. Member for Broadgreen admires the late Leon Trotsky. An analysis of Trotsky's works shows why the October revolution inevitably gave rise to a political tyranny on the back of an incompetent economic tyranny. Trotsky said :
"In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle--who does not work shall not eat has been replaced by a new one : who does not obey shall not eat."
That is the history of the past 70 years in the Soviet Union. It is the suppression of markets in Russia that has produced the poverty and the tyranny.
Column 1307this year--the advocate of free trade and democracy--was Karl Marx's greatest opponent in the 1840s and 1850s, when Marx was developing his notions of Communism which lie at the root of the demise of the Soviet Union today?
Mr. Hamilton : I accept entirely what my hon. Friend says. It is the suppression of markets that has produced the political conditions in the Soviet Union. I forget who said that, if the Soviet Union successfully invaded the Sahara desert, nothing would happen for 10 years and then there would be a shortage of sand. That is the story of the Soviet Union. It is richly endowed with natural resources but has been constitutionally incapable of exploiting them successfully.
The human face of Socialism, which is authentically represented by the hon. Member for Walton is an impossibility because of the nature of mankind. When we centralise power, we encourage the worst instincts of humankind and produce the kind of state that we now see withering away.
There is no example of a state with a centralised or command economy that has managed to preserve political liberties. E. H. Carr--no Right-wing Conservative--said :
"It is significant that the nationalisation of thought has proceeded everywhere pari passu with the nationalisation of industry."
The philosophy espoused by the hon. Member for Walton is a fantasy that can never be translated into a reality. As we know well, power corrupts--or tends to--and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The scale of corruption in eastern Europe is now being revealed. I am sure that all hon. Members have read with interest the recent reports from East Germany about the standard of living which was enjoyed by the top dogs of the political system--a system supposedly based on equality--which contrasts markedly with the miserable living conditions of the people groaning under their yoke. I am sure that we have all seen television photographs of Mr. Honecker's magnificent country estate at Wandlitz outside Berlin. It has now been turned into a 400-bed hospital for the handicapped.
The top Communist party officials in East Germany had 6,745 miles of territory in New Brandenberg designated as their hunting reserves. Some £2 million is said to have been diverted from a special state fund in 1988 for the upkeep of those estates for the privileged. The veteran trade union leader Mr. Harry Tisch had a sprawling hunting estate which required 35 full-time gamekeepers to look after the lodge.
The Berliner Zeitung newspaper reported that a luxury home was being built for Gerhard Nemmstiel, the leader of the country's metalworkers' union. The paper also revealed that DM 250,000 were held illegally in foreign bank accounts by another trade union leader. Mr. Alexander Schalck-Golodkowski, who ran the foreign trade agency of East Germany, who has also achieved some celebrity because of the kickbacks that he was being paid by countries in Latin America, the middle east and Africa, which were then paid into Swiss bank accounts. He announced that he is willing to return to East Germany up to £22 million which had been siphoned off, to partly repay
Column 1308his depredations. However, he is not keen to return to answer the charges now that the country is no longer controlled by the Communist party.
I know that some Opposition Members are true Socialists who do not seek personal enrichment but there are many cases of personal enrichment among those who espouse even a very Left-wing brand of Socialism. Mr. Clive Jenkins has now taken his millions off to Australia.
We can find many similar examples. The decentralisation of economic decision-taking reduces corruption and political power and hence the chance of tyranny. The great John Keynes, although no Right-wing Conservative, said in "The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money" :
"There are valuable human activities which require the motive of money- making and the environment of private wealth-ownership for their full fruition Dangerous human proclivities can be canalized, into comparatively harmless channels by the existence of opportunities for money-making and private wealth, which, if they cannot be satisfied in this way, may find their outlet in cruelty, the reckless pursuit of personal power and authority, and other forms of self-aggrandisement.
It is better that a man should tyrannize over his bank balance than over his fellow citizens."
That is a true analysis of the circumstances we are debating. The collapse in eastern Europe owes much to the unity and firmness of western countries, particularly over the past 10 years. Through our strong defence policies, as my motion says, and through our successful economies, we have shown that the Soviet bloc is incapable of keeping up with us because it does not have the same rate of economic advance as us. It cannot compete with weapons modernisation and the quantity of armaments required to oppress its own people and to extend that repression around the world. We owe a debt to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and to President Reagan. Had it not been for them, I do not believe that the NATO Alliance would have been so successful in the past 10 years in the defence of freedom against the real threat of Communist tyranny from the East.
The Labour party showed no firmness of resolve on defence in the 1973 or 1987 general elections. No doubt the Soviet Union was looking carefully at the 1987 election because if we had a Labour Government now who were not committed to a strong defence policy, one part of the incentive for change in eastern Europe would not have existed. After all it was my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister who first recognised the leadership qualities of President Gorbachev when he was a member of the Politburo. She said that she could do business with him.
President Reagan, like the Leader of the Opposition, was not a man for detail but he was able to grasp the simplicities of freedom. We owe him a great debt of gratitude. The strategic defence initiative and the modernisation programme of nuclear weapons ultimately showed the Soviet bloc that it could not win. The bankruptcy of Communism is now recognised worldwide.
Column 1309That leads me to the second part of my motion, referring to the "withering away" of Socialism outside the Communist bloc. I believe that 1975-76 saw the beginning of this great movement. The election of my right hon. Friend the Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) as the leader of the Conservative party in 1972 brought about a significant change in the political ethos of the United Kingdom. Since 1979, we have introduced many permanent changes. it has been the sort of irreversible shift, although in a different direction, to which the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) frequently refers. In 1976, my hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced that she was undertaking a crusade not merely to put a temporary block on Socialism but to stop its onward march once and for all. I believe that that is what we are achieving.
Socialist parties throughout the world are now in headlong retreat. In Australia, there is a Labour Government under the leadership of Mr. Hawke. They have decided to float the dollar. They have reduced taxes and they have a budget surplus of A$5.5 billion. They have cut tariffs and they have targeted welfare spending.
The same is true in New Zealand. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould) is a distinguished export from New Zealand. No doubt anticipating the death of Socialism in his country, he decided that his only future was in the Labour party in Britain, which is one of the few Socialist parties in the world in which a significant number of members remain wedded to outmoded and exploded class-war concepts.
In New Zealand, an even more radical Thatcherite programme has been pushed through in the past four years. The Government have abolished exchange controls, subsidies for industry and agriculture, an incomes policy and rent controls and energy price controls. There has been a mammoth programme of privatisation. There have been massive tax reductions, and the top income tax rate is now 33p in the pound. Spain, too, has a Socialist Government. My hon. Friend the Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household, who sits in his place on the Government Front Bench, has no doubt had an important part to play in the conversion of the Socialist party in Spain into a Thatcherite party. The Spanish Government are engaged in a mammoth privatisation programme that includes the coal and electricity industries.
Mr. Gow : Is it not part of the complaint of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) and of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that the occupants of the Opposition Front Bench have been partly converted to Thatcherism?
Mr. Hamilton : My hon. Friend, with his usual perspicacity, has anticipated the next part of my speech. I intend to devote some attention to the somewhat embarrassing position in which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) finds himself as he languishes on the Opposition Front Bench.
Germany abandoned any pretence of Socialism long ago. Even France, recoiling from the disaster of the early years of the leadership of President Mitterrand, is now engaged in the demolition of the Socialist state.
In Latin America, apart from some revolutionary paradises of the sort represented by Nicaragua, Socialism is in headlong retreat throughout the continent. I have a
Column 1310great expert on Latin America sitting behind me in the form of my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesham (Mr. Arnold). In Honduras, a free-market, United States-trained economist has been elected President. In Uruguay, a privatisation advocate has been elected in the first free elections since 1971. In Peru, Mario Vargos Llosa leads in the election campaign, despite the worst excesses of Marxist guerrillas there. Chile has already been mentioned this morning. In Mexico, President Portillo--no relation, I am sure, of my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr. Portillo), the Minister for Public Transport-- nationalised the banks in 1982. He having been succeeded by a more free- market leader, Mexico has been denationalising on a large scale. Opposition Members may have read in The Economist not so long ago that Aeromexico had a strike as a result of a protest about the cancellation of uneconomic routes and the sale of 13 airliners. The Mexican Government responded by declaring the company bankrupt, sacking all the employees and putting all the aeroplanes up for sale. I believe that that is symptomatic of changes that are taking place in Socialist movements throughout the world.
In Britain, the Labour party has spent the last 10 years in implacable opposition to all the changes, of whatever sort, that the Government have introduced, on the basis of which a transformation has taken place. If matters were left to them, we would still be stuck in the world of the 1970s of corporatism, failure and decline. In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), there has been some superficial change in the leadership of the Labour party. It is now only the Bourbons of Bexley and Sidcup who support unreconstructed and arbitrary interventionism without apology. The leader of the Labour party deserves some credit for dragging the Labour party into the 20th century, just in time for the rest of us to enter the 21st century.
Mr. Gow : Is it not a complaint of the right hon. Member for Chesterfield that the Leader of the Opposition will abandon any principle and change any policy in pursuit of his overriding objective, which is to secure power at any price? Is that not also the complaint of the hon. Member for Walton?
Mr. Hamilton : I believe that there is much common ground between the hon. Member for Walton, the right hon. Member for Chesterfield and my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne. I believe that we shall hear a considerable amount of agreement expressed across the Floor of the House during this debate. Although the hon. Member for Hamilton is being subjected to a barrage of criticism from my hon. Friends and me, he is about to be subjected to an even greater barrage from those who sit behind him. He will be ground between the upper and the nether millstones of the Government and the leader of the opposition to the Leader of the Opposition.
The Labour party has been engaged in a policy review for some time. This has resulted in the dropping of many of its policies, and they have not been replaced by new policies. I am beginning to think that the policy review was about whether the Labour party should have any policy at all. Some Labour Members do not like the results of the review. The hon. Member for Walton said not so long ago : "There are suggestions that policies on housing, defence, etc., must be further changed to make them more
Column 1311palatable to the Establishment and the USA. I trust that the party will reject such false advice and that our policies will not be further watered down."
The right hon. Member for Chesterfield said :
"There is a real risk that we could come to be seen as a purely opportunistic party that is prepared to say anything to get into office and is ready to sacrifice good policies when the opinion polls swing against us."
The Government Front Bench and the Conservative party represent the principle of equality of opportunity. Those who occupy the Opposition Front Bench represent nothing but the equality of opportunism ; I agree with the right hon. Member for Chesterfield about that. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside (Mr. Blunkett) made this announcement on 16 June :
"There is not a single policy issue or a cause, no matter how worth while, which is more important to us than winning the next general election."
Therein lies the key to what is going on in the Labour party. There are some men of principle on the Opposition Benches who cannot stomach this. The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas), who I am sorry not to see in his place, said recently :
"I sadly fundamentally find myself at odds with the current Labour credo that power and the desire to win is more important than principle."
As a result, the hon. Gentleman has decided that he will not seek re- election to the House at the next general election.
We have been seeing a sort of Boston tea party, with the Labour party jettisoning electoral liabilities wherever they are discovered. The Labour party is attempting to convince the British people that it has changed. The reality is that, if it were ever to form a Government, the same old Labour party would once again be revealed. Nowhere do we see this trickery more blatantly than with the Labour party's defence policy. It has decided, supposedly, to drop its unilateral nuclear disarmament policy, but the Leader of the Opposition remains a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Either he believes in the policy of the CND or he believes in what is supposed to be the policy of his party. He cannot believe in both ; he has to make the choice.
The Labour party has said that there should be no
something-for-nothing disarmament, but the Leader of the Opposition has said :
"There are no circumstances in which I would order or permit the firing of a nuclear weapon."
If we have a Prime Minister who supports that view, we shall effectively have disarmed, although we may still have nuclear weapons. If they are not to be used, they will be useless. By retaining nuclear weapons on that basis, the Labour party is retaining a worthless extravagance. In so far as it has changed its defence policy, it has done so not to improve the defensive capabilities of this country but to improve its chances of defending itself against the British electorate at the next election. Mr. Bruce Kent, who is now a member of the Labour party--