We're riding the tide of freedom
Whenever Parliament rises for the summer recess I am reminded of those lines from that poignant Remembrance hymn:
“Time like an ever rolling stream
Bears all its sons away …”Isaac Watts
The rush of politics also bears much away and memory becomes blurred. It is only if you stand back and take stock that you realise how much has happened over the previous twelve months.
Never was this more true than in 1989–90.
When we went on holiday this time last year Ceausescu still ruled Romania.
The Berlin Wall still stood testimony to the shame of a creed which needed to cage its citizens; now German unification is only months away.
Freedom had still to conquer Eastern Europe in a whirlwind autumn offensive.
Namibia was not yet independent.
Nelson Mandela was still in prison.
Full democracy had yet to come to Brazil, Chile and Nicaragua.
And, coming back to Europe, we were still confronted by the Warsaw Pact.
Twelve months later we inhabit a different world. Events have outpaced expectation. The opportunity vastly to extend the frontiers within which people live in liberty, justice, peace and rising prosperity has suddenly presented itself. We must seize it. The Nineties must be the Decade of Deliverance for billions of people—the decade in which they discover that freedom and democracy are the keys which unlock the door to the richer, fuller life of which their dreams are made.
You cannot imagine the satisfaction—indeed, the joy—which this prospect brings me.
For eleven solid years and more I have striven at home and worked abroad—across every ideological divide—to make one simple point: set the people free and they will enrich the earth.
Of course, problems remain. A volatile and potentially explosive situation in the Middle East. An ever expanding world commerce in drugs, despite all our efforts to contain the menace. Hideous acts of terrorism. And dire poverty and hunger.
But the tide is flowing strongly in favour of our ideas, our beliefs. In this next decade we can see them carried to every corner of the globe.
Such an exciting international vista, however, brings me back home.
In straining every sinew to extend democracy, freedom, justice and enterprise across the world, the Government must not neglect to secure its home base.
It would be a bitter irony if we allowed Britain, whether by commission or omission, to fall into the hands of the Labour Party's socialism in disguise—but socialism red in tooth and claw nonetheless.
That must not—and will not—happen.
I am conscious that those who are buying their own home—especially those who bought at the top of the housing market—are for the moment paying a heavy price in high interest rates.
I also know of the cost to the public, not of the community charge but of the sheer extravagance and profligacy of, overwhelmingly, Labour councils. That waste must—and will—be curbed.
It will not however be reined in by a return to the rates which the Labour Party agreed were thoroughly discredited until they decided on their umpteenth U-turn on local government finance.
Let me remind you of what has happened in Britain under a Conservative Government:
Eight successive years of growth leading to the highest standard of living in our history.
More people at work—27 million—than ever before.
Union bosses tamed; fewer strikes than for fifty years.
Enterprise liberated—1,500 more businesses open than close each week
Record home ownership—four million more home owners.
Record spending on health and social services—every year under the Conservatives has brought more doctors, more nurses and more patients treated.
And since the 1987 general election we have:
Cut income tax further and introduced separate taxation for wives.
Slashed the National Debt by £30 billion—saving 2p on the tax in interest charges.
Launched a £12 billion roads programme and invested record sums in the railways.
Spent £10 billion reviving inner cities.
Abolished the earnings rule for pensioners and given better deals to the disabled and war windows.
Introduced a national curriculum and testing in schools.
This is the reality. Not the jaundiced, moth-eaten, impoverished nation that the Labour Party continually serve up for your incredulity.
To preserve the reality—and our crucial influence abroad—the Government's overriding priority in the months immediately ahead is to contain the outbreak of inflation and beat it down.
We shall do just that.