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As Prime Minister, Jim became a figure, even as the difficulties mounted, viewed with respect and he brought an earthy common sense and determination to do right
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to all that confronted him. In many ways, despite the problems, it was the office to which he was best suited. If he had been given time, Jim Callaghan would have made not just a good Prime Minister, but a great one.
Finally, after almost three years, most of it without a Parliamentary majority, the Government were defeated. The margin of defeat was just one vote and it says a great deal about Jim Callaghan that, even though he knew how close the vote would be, it was on his express instruction that a desperately ill Labour Member of Parliament was not ordered down for the Division.
By the time that I arrived in the Commons in 1983, Jim Callaghan was no longer leader but a respected Father of the House. He later sat in the other place, where he continued to make telling contributions to debates on subjects close to his heartincluding, of course, the power of education to transform lives. I know how important it was for him to see Labour back in power again and how delighted he was with this Government's programme of economic stability and social justice combined together.
Kenneth, now Lord, Morgan makes the point in his recent biography that Lord Callaghan in many ways personified the history of post-war Britain, the challenges and its successes. He also embodied, as a man and as a politician, the essential and enduring values of fairness, compassion and solidarity. He will be sorely missed, but as Jim Callaghan himself said in his memoirs:
"In the Labour Party, it is now the task of a new generation . . . to reconcile individual freedom with the general welfare, to settle the limits of the state's reach, to grapple with and overcome racial discrimination and to assist the great mass of poor people who make up the world's population to free themselves from poverty and ignorance".
When I first entered the House in 1979, he was extremely kind and helpful to me, as he was to all new Members of Parliament. That kindness and support was always there, even when he left the House of Commons and was elevated to the House of Lords. He will be missed by a great many Members of this House.
Jim Callaghan was universally respected. The warmth of the tributes that have flowed over the past week from across the political divide, all corners of the United Kingdom and elsewhere bear testimony to that. All who met him spoke of his personal qualities, dignity, warmth and humanity, and those who had never met him knew of him in the same way. He will be remembered especially fondly in Wales. There he was an adopted son, having served Cardiff in Westminster for 42 years. All who doubt where his loyalties lay should reflect on the
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words of his biographer: when England played Wales at rugby, Jim Callaghan referred to Wales as "we". That is good enough evidence for me.
As the Prime Minister said, Lord Callaghan had the distinction of being the only holder of all the great offices of state. As such, he had a profound influence on the course of the political life of our nation across the entire latter half of the 20th century. His modest background and growing up during the depression fuelled his approach to politics. His period as Home Secretary saw him take the difficult decision to send soldiers to Northern Ireland. As Foreign Secretary, he helped to renegotiate the terms of entry into the then European Economic Community. As Prime Minister, he launched a debate on education that many credit with leadingeventuallyto the introduction of the national curriculum.
Lord Callaghan was brave in standing for his own beliefs. In fact, one of his first actions in government was to resign as a Parliamentary Private Secretary over the American loan agreement in December 1945. One of his last actions as an active politician was to speak out against unilateral nuclear disarmament at a time when that was far from fashionable in his party. He always had a willingness to learn. On becoming shadow Chancellor, for example, he quickly recognised the need to take a course in economics at Oxford.
It is fair to say that Lord Callaghan's premiership took place, to adapt the allegedly Chinese proverb, in interesting times. He had to grapple with serious questions, such as the role of trade unions, Britain's economic decline, the search for peace in Northern Ireland and the issue that eventually forced the election in 1979devolution. None of those was unique to his Administration because the same issues were faced by Governments both before and after his. They were long-term problems with no short-term solutions. Other Governments would need to tackle them over the years that followed. In some ways, Lord Callaghan foreshadowed the prescriptions that would follow, too, not least in his famous 1976 Labour party conference speech warning of the perils of countries spending their ways out of recession. His Administration can be regarded as a watershed and his prescient comments before his defeat, acknowledging a sea change in domestic politics, showed that he foresaw what was to come.
It is remarkable that, even during and after that defeat, Lord Callaghan never lost his personal popularity. Recently he won praise from unlikely quarters. Baroness Thatcher called him a formidable opponent who could best her across the Dispatch Box and Lord Tebbit called him "warm and approachable". He was widely seen as having a shrewd political instinct while retaining both common sense and a common touch. He was an excellent negotiatorby no means an insignificant attribute given the challenges of his time. He was a patriot and from the last generation to have served in the war.
As the Prime Minister said, Lord Callaghan was a family man, in deed as well as word. He cherished the company of not only his children, but especially his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Of course, he was devoted to his wife Audrey. It is a bittersweet testimony to that devotion that he died just 11 days after she did.
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It was perhaps characteristic of Lord Callaghan that he was said to remark that one of his proudest and most lasting achievementsto which the Prime Minister has alludedwas, as a junior Transport Minister, the introduction of cat's-eyes on our roads.
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West) (LD): It is a privilege to associate myself with the very proper expressions of condolence from the Prime Minister and the leader of the Conservative party to the relatives of the late Lord Callaghan.
I can certainly echo what you said a few moments ago, Mr. Speaker. All three of we party leaders were elected to this House in 1983, and Jim Callaghan was the Father of the House in that Parliament. In those days, I happened to be the youngest Member of the House, and he was very avuncular to me in both image and reality. As Father of the House, he took time to show me around the House of Commons Library, to introduce me to the Officers and staff and to do things that, frankly, he did not need to do, but which he none the less took it upon himself to do. That was the nature of the man, and a very fine man he was, too.
In an age in which most of us have had the opportunity of some form of tertiary education, it is remarkable that, as recently as the late 1970s, a man who did not have that opportunityand who was keenly conscious of those who also did not have that opportunitywas able to rise to the great offices of state and to the ultimate office: that of Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister referred in passing, perhaps unnecessarily pejoratively, to the period of the Lib-Lab pact, and I want seriously to echo the reflections of one of my predecessors, Lord Steel of Aikwood, on his dealings with Prime Minister Callaghan during that period. Despite all the difficultiesthe precariousness arising from the lack of a parliamentary majority and the obvious issue of party self-interest, but the need none the less to build majorities in the Division Lobby and to ensure the continuing governance of the country against a very difficult economic backdropDavid Steel found that Jim Callaghan had an acute sense of the overriding national interest, which he was willing to elevate above and beyond sectional party interest. That is a good example for us all.
Jim Callaghan was a member of a most remarkable post-war generation of politicians in this House, which also included people such as Sir Edward Heath and the late Roy Jenkins. Tempered as they were by the experience of war, they were determined to build, at home and internationally, a better world order than the one that they experienced during that terrible and tumultuous period.
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