I am the kind of person who would tell you a speech by Gordon Brown was amazing even if it wasn’t, but listen – I went on Twitter and said “shall I watch this speech to Citizens UK everyone’s on about, or shall I go to sleep?” and someone who follows me on Twitter but isn’t a Labour Party member or even a supporter replied “watch it. where the hell has that guy been?”
This speech is strong, passionate, articulate – and better than that, it is pure Labour and pure Gordon Brown at his very best, and I wish he’d done it years ago. Watch the video – please. Accurate-ish transcript of his speech below, courtesy of Politics Home.
“When people say that politics can’t make a difference, when people say that people are apathetic and indifferent, when people say that there are no great causes left, let them come to Citizens UK, let them come here.
Our shared belief is that wealth must serve more than the wealthy. That prosperity must serve more than the simply prosperous. That good fortune must help more than those who are just fortunate. And your movement is like every other great movement in history, it is built on moral convictions.
First hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people they say. Inequality should not be woven into the fabric of our lives. People of compassion and good will should never journey without hope. And no injustice should endure for ever.
Do you know what taught me more than any book ever taught me, it was a video. It was a video created for the Make poverty History campaign. And it’s a video that sums up for me the strength of a movement. It encompasses the great campaigns of our time, it’s a video that shows the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, the votes for women movement, the anti-apartheid movement. And every time it shows that movement it passes by the leaders who spoke on the stage and zooms in on the faces of the crowds like the crowd here today.
The people who gathered to hear Wilberforce speak about slavery, the men and women on the march to Washington with Martin Luther King. And the point of zooming in on the crowds is that nobody was a spectator. That the people in the crowd, the people whose names are not recorded in the books of history are the real change makers, the people who made history by being there and demanding change.
And so when we saw Barack Obama place his hand on that Bible to take the presidential oath on Capitol Hill on that Washington day, we saw not just one man, we saw all who fought and campaigned. Top end slavery, to win the vote, to go back to Lincoln and beyond and we know that for all the great leaders of history there are millions of other unnamed men and women who are heroes who make our history happen.
And you know from one person, one candle, can be lit thousands of candles. And then tens of thousands of candles, all lit from that one flame. And think of the change that your movement can create. Once you have learnt something, nobody can unteach it. You cannot ever again humiliate the person who has got pride. You cannot suppress men and women who are afraid no more.
And so it is with Citizen’s UK. Each of you hear will know that your work may not always make the headlines. But you can always make the difference. And I know that in your work as community organisers you share testimony with each other. So please allow me to testify today to what I believe and to tell you who I am.
I’m a son of a Church of Scotland minister. He taught me, my father, that life was about more than self interest, that work is about more than self-advancement. That service is about more than self service. That happiness is about more than what you earn and own. My parents taught me the fundamental values of taking responsibility, doing your duty, being honest, looking out for others and that is the right way, it is your way and it is my way.
And when I was a student the two causes I worked for most were to force my university to disinvest in Apartheid and sell all its shares in South Africa. And I also ran a campaign for decent pay for university cleaners. And across the years I feel my life has come full circle, because when I became Chancellor of the Exchequer the first thing I was able to do was to create the minimum wage for the first time in 100 years. Justice for the low paid.
And the fight continues. And that is why we have said in our manifesto that the minimum wage rises at least in line with earnings. It will reach £7 on reasonable assumptions by the end of the Parliament. Because we must lead by example, Labour is pledged to go even further by asking all Whitehall departments to back the campaign that you have led and to which I pay tribute, the campaign for the living wage.
And your campaign has shown something even bigger. That a community is more than its buildings. More than its institutions. More than its fabric. A community is thousands of acts of friendship and service and compassion to each other. And you’ve shown something else that the public services, your hospitals, your schools, your children’s centres on which communities are built are not things that we can just do on our own, they are what we choose to do together, and that’s what a good society is about. Building together, investing in good schools, good hospitals, good public buildings, good community centres and yes, good banks for the future.
And we are fighting not just for the minimum wage but for Sure Start, for free childcare, for tax credits, for the Child Trust Fund. We are fighting to build on that with more childcare in the next few years, a new toddler tax credit and we are fighting to defend and extend the child tax credit and the child trust fund to help all, parents give their children the best possible start in life.
And I tell you this, we will not cut the child tax credit. We will not harm the child tax credit and we will certainly not propose an inheritance tax cut worth on average £200,000 to the richest 3,000 people in England, and that is a policy unfair.
The motto of that policy is not God helps those who help themselves, the motto is God helps those whom he has already helped, and that is not acceptable to me.
Now we are the only party backing an interest rate cap on the most exploitative, high cost doorstep lending. We will expand the funding of credit unions and other community finance organisations. We will make loans and savings available everywhere through the Post Office. We will fund this with hundreds of millions of pounds raised through a community finance levy we are putting on the banks and we will turn the Post Office into the people’s bank so that no one is more than a few miles away from the banking services at the best rate that people depend upon.
And we have a serious plan for better use of land and affordable housing. We will not charge stamp duty for houses below £250,000. We will increase that duty however on houses over £1 million. And we are pledged to build 10,000 council homes so that more people can become renters of their own homes. And because community trusts like you’ve talked about enabled people to have greater land ownership, we will be backing their extension all the way.
I have said throughout this campaign that the 6 May is fundamentally about choices. Nations need not be ruled by blind fate. Nations must choose their own history. And so I stand before you proud that Labour chooses to support the living wage, the interest rate cap, the community land trust and a return to community banking. These are your choices and these are our choices too.
And let the word go out that as you fight for fairness you will always find in me a friend, a partner and a brother.
When Cicero spoke to crowds in ancient Rome people turned to each other after hearing the speech and said ‘great speech’. But when Demosthenes spoke to the crowds in ancient Greece and people turned to each other they said, ‘let’s march’.
Let’s march for justice, dignity, fairness. That’s what we’ve all got to march for, and let’s march for it together. Thank you very much.”