Ron ThurlowMr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.
We shan't see many weeks in history [baby crying] again like the one we have had this week, [children shouting] but we shan't see many years again like the one we've just seen in the past year. You know it's only just about a year since I went to Poland. I saw Mr Lech Walesa, I went into the Gdansk Shipyard, I saw General Jaruzelski. Since then they have had elections and the Walesa-Solidarity movement—which was not then recognised as legal—has in fact become the government. It is quite remarkable.
Shortly after that we entertained in the City of London a certain Mr Pozsgay of Hungary on a visit here, and as you know Hungary is now going to have two parties at an election. That was remarkable.
We have also seen Mr Gorbachev on the way back from Japan and discussed things that have been happening in the world, and there make it quite clear that the events we have seen recently could never have happened but for his vision and courage in changing things in the Soviet Union itself, and encouraging change in the satellite countries. [hear, hear and applause] It was a remarkable piece of insight and foresight.
And the second remarkable piece was when it actually happened in those satellite countries, there was no attempt to intervene. No, it is said, “please go further towards democracy each within your own countries” .
We also owe a great deal to President Reagan. You know that for years we were thinking that somehow the Communist edifice would never fall. We thought that it would go on forever. Perhaps we might have known that with the great revolution in communications, in television, that they couldn't forever keep out the news of what was happening in the rest of the world. And you also have to remember that throughout the years—many many years—there had always been some brave souls there, within, who have campaigned for liberty, and it must be a special joy to them to see it come about.
But of course it is not all over yet. It is one thing to say that we will go to democracy. It is one thing to say we will get rid of a lot of controls, but it is much much more difficult to bring about the economic reform and the higher standard of living than it is to bring about the political change. So they will need a great deal of help and support in the coming years, if they really are to say the great flowering of liberty which they wish.
But it was fascinating as I came back from Japan, in September. We couldn't, in one flight, get from Tokyo to Moscow, so we had to come into Siberia. And I had never expected to visit Siberia. [laughter] It was fascinating. And there was … [words inaudible] … I had been to Moscow and began to talk about these remarkable things that are happening, remarkable things that are things that are happening in the Soviet Union.
But it clearly has been, if I may say so, something in which we too have had influence. As you know it was we who first invited Mr Gorbachev, because as I have told [end p1] you before we went talent spotting and thought that he would be the next leader in the Soviet Union. And he made the very best of his visit to this country—it was his first visit to a non-communist country, was to our beloved Britain. [sic] [applause] And he saw there what a non-communist country could be like. He had a fantastically successful visit, which was of course was reported back in the Soviet Union. And I think I have seen him six times, sometimes visits to Moscow, sometimes visits here, sometimes elsewhere. And I think therefore we can say, that we—as well as Mr Gorbachev, and as well as the eternal unity and belief that we have with the United States of America, and recognising that Ron Reagan restored America's confidence, that we in this country have had quite a major role in the great events that are happening today. [tape cuts and resumes]
… social services than ever before, so that we have all benefited from it.
I think that you can feel very good today, because no Member of Parliament in our Parliament could have done this without the fantastic support we get from those people who belong to our associations and support us in every way possible. So that we know that through thick and thin, in good times and in difficult times, we have that great core of loyalty and friendship which enables us to move mountains. Thank you so much for everything you have done. We carry on as we always have, in the spirit of believing in the same cause, of great loyalty and great friendship, and it's a great gathering we have here each year. Welcome, let us have another good day and renew our spirit to face the future. [applause]