Politics is not always about action. Long term plans, philosophy, and even dogma, are all proper subjects for politicians. But there are moments when the overwhelming need is for action. There are times when the problems of the nation are too pressing for anything but immediate solution. When the crisis really breaks, everything else must be put aside.
Harold Wilson is proud of having said: “A week is a long time in politics” . A week can be a lifetime in a crisis. What we do today will shape tomorrow … . In our economic life, there comes a moment when action now can have the most far-reaching effects. If that moment is missed, if the crisis gets out of hand, then the chance may never come again, and our inaction today will have destroyed tomorrow.
That is why I have pressed the Harold WilsonPrime Minister to act urgently. He appears to have a personal motto: “Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow” . That is why he's missing the chance to put the British economy right. More than this, he's making it worse. By not acting he is increasing inflation and helping his left-wing to achieve their aims.
The extremists welcome inflation. It is their means of destroying the Britain that we have known. We all know how it plays havoc with the pound in our pocket. Even more important is the way that inflation strikes at the heart of our society. [end p1]
It creates a single or one-generation society. As the value of the pound plummets, people cease to think of the future or of their children. They spend today because it will be gone tomorrow. Wilson's 75p pound will never be worth a pound again. Five ‘bob’ has been slashed off the pound forever.
As families no longer look forward for their children, so they cease to look backwards to their old folk. As inflation rages, they leave that to the State. Their business is getting by today. Their concern is neither with tomorrow nor yesterday.
The one-generation society is likely to be selfish and shiftless. It has no real stake in Britain, no continuing security, no real self-reliance.
More than this, inflation removes the possibility of enterprise. People cannot rely on a reasonable return for the work they put in; their initiative will go unrecognised; the capital they seek to build up is eaten away every day. Inflation destroys the incentive to build new companies, provide more jobs and create more wealth.
Indeed, the whole community is undermined. The Government spends more and more, as the nation produces less and less. Taxation takes an increasing proportion of individual income. More and more choices are made by the State rather than by the people. The wage earner keeps less of what he earns and has less chance to choose what to do with it.
Inflation therefore strikes at the family, at enterprise and at choice. It tears away the basis of our society. It destroys not only our standard of living but our way of life. One-generation Britain will be a nation living for today and heedless of tomorrow.
But there is a way to stop inflation. The other countries of Europe have already shown that way. They have had to deal with the same inflation, the same oil crisis, and the same trade recession. They have been successful. In Britain, the situation has got worse and worse. We can win the battle if we take four-fold action now. Not next year, not next week, but now. [end p2]
First, we must cut Government spending. We cannot go on making the people pay so the Government can live beyond its means. We cannot go on being a society where the Government decides more and more, and the people choose less and less. The Government cannot spend as if there is no tomorrow.
Second, we must act on wages. The nationalised industries are now setting the pace for huge wage increases. This fuels inflation, and people begin to believe that there is a bottomless Government kitty to finance any wage demand, however much, however high. The Government cannot pay as if there is no tomorrow.
Thirdly, we must have action to encourage enterprise. Free enterprise already produces 97%; of our visible exports. It is the only way of providing jobs and a decent standard of living for the people of Britain. We must remove the socialist taxes which discourage profitable private enterprise. The Government cannot tax as if there is no tomorrow.
Fourthly, we must have action on nationalisation. There must be no further nationalisation. The people do not want it. The nation does not benefit by it, and no-one can afford it. [Beginning of section checked against ITN Late News] The Government cannot take as if there is no tomorrow.
So we need action on spending, on wages, on taxation and on nationalisation. This is the four-fold action which can defeat inflation. It is the four-fold action which can stop the destruction of the Britain we know.
That Britain depends upon the self-reliance of our people. [End of section checked against ITN Late News.] As a child I was always taught by my parents that initiative and a willingness to get on with something ourselves were the marks of the British. We didn't have to wait for orders. We weren't dependent upon someone else to tell us what to do. In the modern phrase, we were a nation of self-starters.
That ought still to be true. Initiative, the willingness to do something yourself, the desire to play your part, the desire to do your best: that is the secret of the great society. [end p3]
It makes people independent and not subservient. They decide for themselves instead of accepting the fashionable view. They expect to provide for their families instead of depending upon the State. They are pleased when their self-reliance leaves the nation freer and richer to help those who cannot help themselves. A society where most citizens are independent can do so much more for the sick, the handicapped, the pensioner and the unemployed.
It is this society which inflation destroys. We all know it makes us poorer because our money is worth so much less. But it makes our life poorer too, because it restricts our choice. It makes a mockery of saving. It makes enterprise unrewarding. In essence, it creates a dependent nation.
That is why, for Conservatives, the conquest of inflation is a priority above all others. Britain's standard of living and our way of life is threatened. That is the measure of the crisis. If tomorrow's Britain is to be the kind of Britain we would recognise: the kind of Britain we expect—then action must be taken today.
When Britain itself is threatened, the people turn to the Tories. They expect us to take the tough action they know is needed. They will not be disappointed. If this Government and this Prime Minister cannot act now, we are ready to battle against inflation—the great destroyer. It will be our task to save the free society which has taken so many generations to build.