Papers from the Lloyd George Society Week End School held at the Commodore Hotel, Llandrindod Wells on the Week End of 17/18 February 2007
Alan Butt Phillips Reforming the European Union
Peter Unwin With Them or Against Them?
Rodney Berman Life as Leader of Cardiff City Council
Paul Murphy M.P. Security and the Terrorist Threat
Jenifer Longford Lloyd George: Reluctant War Leader
All these papers remain the copyright of their authors.
REFORMING THE EUROPEAN UNION
Little did I know when I attended the David Lloyd George Society Annual Weekend for the first time last year that I would end up twelve months later starting the thing off this year.
Now the title "Reforming the European Union" is a broad one, and the first thing I must do to emphasise to you that this is not code for some kind of Euro sceptic analysis. I have always been a great supporter of the European Integration Process but I have always been rather a critic of the way in which some of what the European Union does is done, and I have believed for a long time that member states of the European Union have got the politics of European integration all wrong.
The French and Dutch referenda results for 2005 were really accidents waiting to happen, predicted by Cassandras like me some ten years earlier. Basically my view for a long time has been that governments have been, as members of the European Union, living on the capital, the early capital of support for European Unity without really taking the trouble to explain how the whole process was moving on, how it was going to impact on peoples lives, and how there were going to be losers as well as winners from the process. And I'll come back to this.
Now the first thing I want to say under this great portmanteaux type of reforming the European Union is to say that we cannot afford to take the European Union for granted, and in the United Kingdom in particular we should not allow the take on what the European Union does in our culture and our politics to be determined by one Australian, now US citizen, not resident in the United Kingdom and his newspaper empire, and it is quite clear Tony Blair has allowed this to happen, and I think it is a scandal in terms of our democracy, that these are choices we should be making not newspaper owners. It is an old problem, Lloyd George knew quite a bit about it actually.
So, why should we celebrate the European Union for some of the things that it has done? Let me give you if you like five things to hang onto. It has underpinned democracy. The NATO construction has been vital as well, but it is the two things together, the European Union has provided the economic security which has underpinned democracy which has enabled NATO to function over the years and the EU continues to do this.
Secondly, it has been an economic success in terms of trade expansion between countries, the opening up of markets, growth, jobs, and the prosperity that has resulted.
Thirdly, think about free movement of people that comes in with membership of the European Union. Think of all those hundreds and hundreds of thousands of students that have been enabled to study in other parts of Europe, for the first time as part of exchange programmes initiated by the EU. Think of the hundreds of thousand of British people who are working in other parts of the EU as of right. No questions asked. No work permits required. And think, of the millions of British people who have decided to take up residence in other EU states as of right.
An estimate in Spain alone is two million. France, four hundred thousand, and these are the biggest centres of population. Think what a difference that has made to people who have chosen to want to live somewhere else. Some of them I understand cannot afford to live in the UK any longer, and many of them have chosen to retire abroad.
Point four. Think of the success of the Enlargement. Now I have some problems about this, about the way it has happened. But in terms of the EU providing a road map for the 2004-2007 Enlargements, a road map of what needed to be done to introduce market economies and political democracy in the Central and Eastern European countries; it has been a remarkable success. You only have to think, what might have happened if there had been no road map. If there had been a political vacuum allowed to grow up between the borders of the EU and the Russian borders of the CIS. A vacuum waiting for trouble to happen. The Mafia, terrorists, whatever, no stable democratic tradition or market economy tradition to build on. The EU provided a road map, and has done a remarkable job in conjunction with the states in question we have had major transformation in bringing them up to a West European standard and beginning to root European democratic standards in their societies. It has been a great success story, and overall you can say that the European Union has given people more choices. More choice of goods in the shop, half the goods available in the modern supermarkets would not be there but for the EU rule of mutual recognition of standards, which we always used in the past to find ways of keeping other peoples' goods off the shelves to protect home producers. That is out of the window as a modern supermarket with stocks of fifty thousand, sixty thousand separate items from all over the world is testament to
. Again think of, and it is not wholly a one way desirable thing, think of the cheap air travel orchestrated by the EU's reform of the rules of competition in the air transport market or cheap telephony, again orchestrated by the EU development of the GSM standard and forcing the liberalisation of telecommunication markets across borders, and think of all those lifestyle choices that follow from the point I made about the free movement of people. We have all got a lot more choice as a result.
Well if the story is such a good one in many ways, you may well ask, why does the EU need reform? Well I will try and sum this up in the following ways. The EU has grown apart from public opinion and the more it has developed its competence, I am afraid, the less the public understands why the EU does the things it does. Secondly, its organisational structure, which was designed for a membership of six states, is no longer "fit for purpose", when we have twenty seven states. Thirdly its invisible processes are opaque, and people do not understand how they work, or how they can influence them. And finally, in some respects the EU seems over intrusive and insensitive, and this I think is partly a product of the fact that it is trying to design a set of common rules for an increasingly large number of diverse member states. Having got to a position where the famous half yearly Euro Barometer surveys of public opinion in the EU are bringing up results that show we have got to a position where the Barometer is producing results suggesting that only about half the people of the European Union think that their country has benefited from it and there are about eight states where in fact there is a majority who think that their country has suffered more losses than gains as a result of membership of the European Union, and those countries include Germany, Austria, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. We ignore this kind of message at our peril! I think it is true to say that of course if the overall performance of the E.U were better, if it could point to actions that had led to much greater employment and creation of jobs, people would be a lot happier about the EU or if it had been able to act more effectively, and dramatically on the subject of climate change, I think that that would also be very well received by people across the European continent. Or if, say on an issue, like Iraq, the EU had not been divided but had been able to come up with a common position and insist on it on the world stage, again I think a lot of us would be a lot happier and those Euro Barometer results would look a lot better, if there had been a much greater sense of achievement, by the EU in certain key areas.
But, that does not address the issue that I really want to home in on today, which is the question of trust. Trust in the European Union, actually is part of a bigger problem we face, which is loss of trust in all forms of politics and all political institutions, which of course the EU on its own is not going to be able to do too much about, but there are specific reasons why there has been a loss of trust in the EU on the part of voters, and I want to identify now some of these.
First of all, just very poor information comes across about what the EU is doing and why it is doing what it does. The problem is, there are no really significant Trans European media, so everything that the EU does is reported through the prism of national media and even local media, and so we do not see the whole picture. We also in the United Kingdom are absolutely dreadful, about telling people at school level about our political institutions. About why they are there, about what they do, so that most people leaving school have not the foggiest idea what the EU is for, or how it works. It is one of my jobs as a university teacher, to try and recover some of that ground. I teach final year students by and large and I have to give them history lessons that they should have had at age thirteen or fourteen. I get tackled by French exchange students or German exchange students after lectures, saying "don't they learn all this stuff in school"? The answer is no! This is part of our problem. Very poor information, very poor understanding.
About a decade ago Euro barometer did a little exercise on what people in general knew about the European Union. Simple questions like, have you ever heard about the European Parliament? and could you name ten member states? this kind of stuff, and what was very interesting, was that the Danes turned out to be absolutely the tops. They had an 80% hit rate, and the Brits turned out to be absolutely the worst with a 20% success rate.
In case you think that just telling people more about the EU is bound to make them happier about the EU that just does not follow, because Danish society is notoriously divided about European integration, always has been, but they do like to know all about it, and I think it does help, so poor information is a big problem at so many levels.
Secondly, there have been abuses of office by Commissioners, a few, not many, and by M.E.P.s slightly more. They do seem to be very tardy in dealing with these things.
Thirdly, there is the culture of secrecy. Secrecy with which the Council of Ministers takes decisions and the committee and permanent representatives, that's the ambassadors working under them. About ninety percent of EU legislative decisions are taken behind closed doors by ambassadors acting on behalf of governments, where there is no scrutiny of how the decisions were taken. Many of them are quite straight forward, felt to be uncontroversial. But there is no parliamentary representative there, there is no Agenda that is published, it is the antithesis of transparency, and then there are hundreds of committees, some of them don't even have names or real identities in the EU structure that are dealing ad hoc, some on a more permanent basis with quite commercially sensitive issues, or important issues in certain sectors, and again we know not how they work. They are not accountable to anybody.
Then, we have this, symbolic more than anything else, twelfth successive year when the budget of the EU has not been signed off by the Court Auditors because they did not feel they could, largely because, member states are not accounting for the way they use EU money properly.
These are all reasons why people are suspicious, or untrusting, about the European Union, and what happens with this is that it becomes, as it has become, part of the current situation. If this loss of trust, leads to a loss of legitimacy, within the EU as a whole, and in turn that leads to impotence. I will explain precisely how that occurs. All the really big decisions of the EU like admitting new members, or changing the Treaties, requires every government to agree and every parliament to ratify those decisions, and it only takes one, only one parliament, or one referendum in one country, if the government decides to ratify it that way, to throw a spanner in the whole works and to stop change - dead. That is what has happened with the constitution, and it is a scenario that as I say, that I predicted over a decade ago. You could see that it was going to happen for some time, if nothing changed, and I am afraid the way governments act towards their voters with regard to the European Union, it has not changed. So we are in the situation we are in.
Well I think reform of the European Union and its political processes is part, only part, of the answer for re building the legitimacy of the European Union. First of all there needs to be democratic reforms at the Brussels level, and that means of course opening up the secrecy, and removing the secrecy, in the way the council and the commission operates, opening up all these committees, making things much more transparent.
Secondly I would like to see the President of the Commission elected by the European Parliament, not nominated by the member states, and I would like to see European Parliament elections, revolve around the issue, of which candidate which parties were going to support to be President of the European Commission. Part of the problem for the Parliament at the moment is that it does not provide a government for the EU. It is not intended to, it is meant to be representative of opinion across a very, very wide spectrum, which it is, but it lacks focus and it lacks impact as far as the voters are concerned. If you vote at the European Parliament Elections, it is not clear that the world is going to change by one inch, or should I say one centimetre?
So I would like to see that happen, then there has to be a much greater effort to get information to voters and to allow voters to communicate to the European Parliament. Of course there is this problem of distance, that many of the electorate live thousands of miles away, but modern e-mail technology can overcome a great deal, but it is also true that I think the European institutions have to be much more proactive in taking advertisements in local papers, to spell out what they have been doing, the effects given earlier, like where we are in mid Wales, or assisting schools, if they are going to put the EU on the curriculum, and the UK government is trying to do that right now as part Citizenship, to help prepare teachers to teach this stuff and to provide materials. So there, some more pro activity but also some more responsiveness to input from the voters through e-mail and websites, and I would think we could do a lot more within the European Union to scrutinise the appointment of Judges, currently, purely a matter of nomination by member states. We could have Senedd type hearings, to examine the qualifications of the good people who are going to sit on the Court of Justice, which is a very powerful institution, and has the capacity to set aside national laws if they are in conflict with European law, and has done so, on occasion, and I would like to see the Parliament exercising more scrutiny over the European Central Bank, which it has begun to do, all credit, and somewhat un noticed. But I think that there is more that can be done there.
So that's Democratic Reforms and the New Look, so the Commission needs to be re- structured. I will come onto some of that in a moment. Secondly, and I think a vital part in reforming the European Union, has to be to draw national parliaments closer into the scrutiny of the European decision making. Now there is a varied pattern of this, starting of course with the Danish model where the government of Denmark cannot move its negotiating position in the Council of Ministers without first of all getting the permission of the Chair and the Deputy Chair of the Market Relations Committee. Something like this, I think, is the kind of model we need to have in every member state. It is undoubtedly true that there is very poor scrutiny by National Parliaments of how government ministers have negotiated issues in the Council of Ministers. It is poor scrutiny because, currently it is largely done in secret, therefore it is very difficult for us to know by another means what has gone on, but it is also true that National Parliaments have been reluctant to move into this area, thinking, well, that's the European Parliament's job, but actually it is not . The people who are representatives in the Council of Ministers are accountable, not to the European Parliament, it's their National Parliaments, and the House of Commons has been really derelict in its duty for decades in allowing its Ministers of the hook.
I think it was Chris Davies, when briefly a member of Parliament, who got a researcher to look at the last forty thousand parliamentary questions that had been asked, which is certainly something you get a researcher to do, as it is not something you do yourself, and he discovered that only one question, in the previous forty thousand, had asked government how it had voted in the Council of Ministers on a particular issue. I mean, that is the level of dereliction that M.P.s have sort of lost the plot, they don't understand how much has moved to the Brussels' level, how much of the national legislation that the Home Office or the Department of Trade is bringing, actually owes it's inspiration to directives already passed in Brussels, agreed by the UK government, and MPs should be doing a much better job in this area. One of the things that National Parliaments could do, and, this was in the Constitution that is not going to pass I fear, is that National Parliaments should be given a minimum time period, some people say six weeks, in which to assess new legislative proposals coming out of Brussels, and to comment, and to particularly check, whether they reach the test of subsidiarity. Now, I think, that there is a lot that could be done to bring in the National Parliaments to the European picture in this way quite legitimately. Britain has the worst and best in this area. The worst is what the House of Commons does not do, and the best, is what, the House of Lords does, and I say this not because half of you are members of the House of Lords, it has this splendid Committee which for nearly ten years I was a special advisor to, which does scrutinise what is going on in the EU and manages to do so in a relatively non partisan way, and to try and set the agenda for the UK government. The UK government does not have to pay to much attention, but the House of Lords does take all of this very seriously as a committee, I think, involving at least eighty Peers and six sub committees and they produce twenty four to thirty reports a year, and what they produce, the analysis, the commentary, is widely read, as it is a very high quality, and it shows what can be done if you are prepared to take things seriously. Now of course nobody knows about this in terms of the electorate at large. People here in this country have not a clue, but there we are, that is the condition of politics.
So that's important, and I have written that because the EU doesn't have a lot of automatic legitimacy. One of the things, that bringing the national parliamentarians into the EU scrutiny process more, would in fact be to borrow legitimacy from the national level, because, people understand, ordinary voters understand Westminster is King. A dreadful thought really. I mean we are over sold on Parliamentary Sovereignty, it seems to me but, anyway, people do understand that Westminster has some say, and therefore, if Westminster has agreed certain things, then its likely to be accepted by more people, than if it is just a feeling that Brussels has gone and done something, even though, of course when Brussels goes and does something our M.E.P.s in the European Parliament have agreed it and usually our government and Council of Ministers have agreed it, but somehow it is not perceived as being the same thing, and it is that problem of perception that we have to get round.
Another thing we ought to have been thinking about across Europe for some time is whether we are asking the Commission to do an impossible job, and whether we shouldn't be trying to get the Commission in many ways to do less, but to do what it does best, to do more of that.
The Commission has in some areas exclusive policy competence and a lot of knowledge, but it is not above making mistakes as we have seen in the field of Competition Policy, over the last decade, particularly when overwhelmed with work. One of the things that has happened as a result in the field of competition policy, is that there has been a move to devolve administration back down to the national level, subject to policy framework, set in Brussels, and I think that we need to be looking at that kind of model across more sectors, I think something of the sort is happening in agriculture, but painfully slowly.
What the Commission is good at, is bringing experts together, from, twenty seven or more different countries, and if you like, facilitating, finding out, what different countries do, what problems in this sector or sub sector are in this place as opposed to the other place, and so on, and it seems to me that, it is the clever thing they are good at and encouraging policy learning as member states sit down and discuss what the different problems are in a given sectors, and whether there is any kind of common ground or way forward.
So that model of the Commission is not really departing from the original script, but a less hands on Commission, I think, would actually be more acceptable and a greater success. But at the moment, what happens is that we just pile on more and more responsibilities, without actually giving them the resources to do the job, and that can't go on forever. We have heard that about local government, haven't we?
So, there is an agenda in terms of reforming the political processes of the European Union, which could help rebuild trust and legitimacy, but, I would like to take the discussion a little bit further than that.
With Enlargement, the academic discussion has often turned about whether the consequence of Enlargement, bringing in more diverse states, whether that widening of the European Union would lead to a kind of dilution of its purpose, and a less effective set of institutions and policies, or whether, rather than enlarge the European Union, it would be a better idea simply to deepen?. The contrast was between widening and deepening. Widen, bring in more members, and risk dilution? Or do you deepen? Keep the core membership, don't expand and do more and more integration, together.
It has turned out really in the light of experience that this is a false dichotomy, and actually as the European Union has widened so it has deepened, because the new states have come in with a different set of priorities on their agenda. One of the real consequences of bringing in the former Central and East European countries, has been to bring to the table, states that were very concerned about their security in general, especially their relations with their Russian former masters, and more specifically, this year and last year with their energy supply security. That is an example of the deepening happening at the same time as the widening. I think there are new tasks for the EU. So, just as I can see that we could get the Commission particularly to do less, in some of the fields concerning Single Market, Competition Policy, Agriculture, I see the EU doing more in climate change.
The EU has been involved in this area for well over twenty years, but there is clearly a great deal more that could be done, and I think, the EU is the right body for representing Europe in this position. I think one of the most remarkable things the EU is able to do in the Kyoto negotiations was to come up with a proposal of eight percent reduction of noxious greenhouse gas emissions for Europe by two thousand and tenish, and within that overall commitment, to arrange for some countries to be permitted to produce more emissions because they were still in the developing stage, while other countries like the UK and Germany were willing to cut more than the eight percent, rather of the order of twelve to compensate. So, burden sharing in other words.
The EU was able to come up with a burden sharing scheme, as far as greenhouse gas emissions were concerned, which everybody was willing to accept. Now this is a model for the world.
In the next round of negotiations and the round after that, I think the EU shows that its got what it takes to be able to deliver that. So that is one area, another would be People Trafficking and Illegal Immigration. Clearly nation states are no longer in control. The position of the UK government is very interesting on this, at the time of the Maastricht Treaty, the German government wanted to put common immigration policy into the EU Treaty script, the British government would not have it. So that is national keep out. So it was left out. Now it is the British government that is arguing that it cannot handle all of this people trafficking and illegal immigration on its own. "We must have European action!" I don't disagree. So that's an area.
The third area is energy security, and we have all got to think about this. We are extraordinarily dependant, and are going to remain dependant, particularly on Russian gas, and even if the UK can sort out its own immediate needs, courtesy of a big pipeline to Norway, that has just opened, it does not mean that we can afford to let, if you like, for the gas tap to be turned off to Germany or Poland or anywhere else in Europe. I think we should be thinking collectively about diversification of supply, about having stocks, buffer stocks, in case of disruption, and of course massive effort, just to use less. That is all part of the same piece in achieving energy security. So that's another area.
Human Rights, I think is going to come more and more onto the stage because the EU has accepted that it has a role in monitoring Human Rights, certainly within member states, in case they fall short, and clearly in the negotiations with Turkey. That is going to be a continuing issue. What I am saying is that I can see new work for the EU, at the same time as some of the old tasks, may be able to be decentralised. I think most people in the European Union won't be unhappy if the EU attempts some new tasks, as long as it is effective. I don't think one has to be a big federalist, or a big nationalist about this. I think most people would want to be fairly pragmatic, but at the end of the day we want some achievement thank you very much. The problem is at the moment, not enough people have trust in the European Union, and so, we do have to reform the political processes to deal with this loss of trust.
It's not the whole answer to the problem of dealing with increasing inter governmental and international governments institutions. It is not the whole answer, but it is a necessary part of the answer.
WITH THEM OR AGAINST THEM
I spent my working life in the British Diplomatic Service. My last three jobs were Ambassador in Budapest, then in Copenhagen, and then finally, an odd job, I was the Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth based in London but travelling around the world. But all the time I was doing that I used to say I'm not sure I really want to do this, what I want to do is to be a writer.
So when I retired I was hoisted with my own petard and had to sit down and write some books, which I did to my great enjoyment though very little profit. Which perhaps is why I start with that strong promotion by Bill for the new one?
I wanted to talk today about Britain's relationship with the United States and before I plunge into it, to tell you where I first began to register feelings on this subject. I was brought up really in the Diplomatic service to think that the Americans were through thick and thin always our closest and best friends and the KGB man was always the man behind the arras, the man who was going to undo us if we didn't stay very close to nurse, nurse in this instance being any president of the United States. I began to think in the year that I spent at Harvard in 1979 to 1980 on sabbatical that there was a bit more to this relationship than that, and I began to question really whether at all times we ought to be hooked to the coat tails of the United States and I want to explore that a bit further today.
Four years ago I came, almost exactly to the day to a Lloyd George Weekend and the war on terror was about eighteen months old. This was in February 2003 and we were poised to go into Iraq in the distinguished but perhaps not sufficient company of the United States. I then suggested that, as a proposition for consideration, if in the Twentieth Century the United States had done more good than harm, which I think it's fair to say it did, was there a danger that in the Twenty First Century it might do more harm than good?
Now here we are four years on and one can recount the dramas of the Anglo Saxon experience in the last four years and it's not I suggest, though there are many different opinions on this, a not very edifying story. Shortly after I delivered my prognostications to the Lloyd George Society, in we went to Iraq, in actually what was only the second occasion in the last fifty years in which we had been involved in an illegal attack on a Sovereign State. The first occasion having been Suez, the second occasion having been the invasion of Iraq. Serbia I leave aside, Serbia is a complicated story but lets leave that one out of the count.
The second occasion I suggest in which we were involved in an aggressive and illegal war, we did it essentially because of our commitment to the belief that it was in our interest to stay close to the United States through thick and thin. It was the quick success of shock and awe and then the terrible unravelling that followed, I won't go into the details; we may disagree about them and it is not central to my proposition.
Buts it's not been a good story, the story of the last four years in Iraq and nor has the separate, but related story of the war on terror in the last four years. Abu Grabe falling into both categories, Guantanamo falling into the war on terror, the extraordinary renditions falling into the latter category and so on, you can go on. And with out wanting to prejudge the outcome of this new surge I think we can probably fairly say that we certainly won the battle in Iraq but we are well on course for losing the war. Not in the sense of being helicoptered from the roof of embassies and so on but in the sense that we are not going to achieve what we set out to achieve when we went so dashingly into Iraq four years ago.
So one could at this point just sit back and say 'told you so' but in the end shardenfreuder and righteous indignation, are jolly enjoyable emotions, but they're not really much of a guide to policy. So having registered those occasions for shardenfreuder and indignation, let's put them on one side and think rather more generally.
Now you could say that the Americans have learnt their lesson in the last four years just as we are on course for a chastened America taking a different line of action from the past. The George W Bush Presidency was uniquely bad but it won't happen again. I saw that that brilliant writer, that brilliant Welsh woman, Jan Morris was making exactly this argument in the Guardian the other day, and a rather more eminent judge of the American character Winston Spencer Churchill used to say ''you can rely on the Americans always to do the right thing when they have first of all tried to do all the wrong things'', so you could say there is going to be better news from now on. I don't think to myself that one can jump to that conclusion because I think, and I am going to try to illustrate the point in a moment, that the George W Bush phenomenon springs from a lot of characteristics in the American character and a lot of myths in the American political narrative, which go much, much wider that George W Bush and much wider than the Republican Party and have really persisted since, before the formation of the Republic right, back to the time of the colonies.
Let us think first of the almost universal view I suggest in the United States that America is an exceptional society to be judged by different criteria from other societies in lesser places. Any nation, actually, which has achieved the glories the United States has achieved on the back of immigration, is bound to feel with a lot of justification that the bright people got on the ship and went to the United States and the silly ones, the idle ones, us, stayed behind. So it's a very reasonable belief, this belief in American exceptionalism, its also very dangerous as well.
It ties in with a feeling of righteousness which goes right back to the founding fathers in New England. They said that for good religious reasons they were going to leave corrupt old Europe and go to a new and wonderful place where they would set their own standards and they did. I was reading an article recently which said how odd it is that that narrative has remained in the American psyche, whereas the narrative that flows from the settling in Virginia which came a bit earlier has not stuck, because that was not a narrative of righteousness it was a narrative of going out and trying to settle the wilderness. It is also true of course that the one in New England survived and the one in Virginia became unstuck the first time round. But there is I think, and I say this without any kind of prejudice, there is I think a stream, a line of thinking that goes right back in the American psyche of exceptionalism and righteousness. I suppose actually just to put this thing in proportion, if we could fast back nearly a hundred years you could say all these things about the British at that time, but let us stay with the Twenty First Century. These beliefs in righteousness and exceptionalism express themselves very early on in the form of an America whose foreign policy and security was in some way sacred and could be detached from that of other people.
So you've got very early on in the 1820's the Monroe Doctrine. A doctrine which said that everybody else had to keep out of the new world, a doctrine which funnily enough was enforced for the next fifty years not by the power of American arms but by the Royal Navy. But nevertheless there it was a Monroe Doctrine that said 'we can set our own rules in the new world while reserving the right to set about setting its own rules also in the rest of the world'. That of course played through to Woodrow Wilson, not I think the estimable man that he is often held up to be at trying to settle the affairs of Europe in three months, and also to Roosevelt a generation later trying to settle the affairs of the World at the expense of the British Empire that he didn't really understand.
Another myth and all of these things go together to make the United States an admirable, fascinating, self confident, great and dangerous society. Another myth was the myth of omnipotence, a very reasonable myth of omnipotence because who was there who could in any possible way challenge the safety and independence of the new United States? The British could but they had lost it once and they weren't going to try and do it again, nobody else came anywhere near. So this expansive omnipotent power dealt with the Indians, dealt with the Mexicans and eventually dealt with the Spanish, all happening from a base of complete security far from any other outside threat which was only ever really badly damaged throughout the Nineteenth Century by a terrible tragic civil war. So the Americans on top of these other convictions do have a conviction of omnipotence and it's justified at the moment by their military strength compared with anybody else's.
Curiously enough two things really, really get to the heart of American concern anxiety. One recent, another fifty six years old now. The old one is Pearl Harbour where they were actually attacked by surprise in their own country. The second of course is 9/11. There's also a myth that the United States is uniquely efficient and effective which up to a point there is something in and up to another point there isn't. I think that J. Paul Bremmer as the Viceroy of Iraq might point to the contrary.
But out of all these things comes first of all a feeling of indispensability which I believe the United States has, it is truly indispensable to itself and to the rest of the World, and also a strong, strong conviction that things can be settled by the United States alone or by the United States alone with the assistance of its allies.
Alright, that takes us to today, but America has been humbled, there are now more problems, and will it now be different? I suggest not because of the persistence, the deep engrained nature of that narrative of those myths that go right back into the American psyche, quite as profound I would suggest as the narratives that in this room for example separate the Anglo Saxons from the Welsh. This is a national narrative of enormous power and endurance. You could say right that is the end of the story, it doesn't sound good but it's the end of the story but of course it isn't because it's not just the United States and their lesser allies such as the British who have changed in the last four years, learning from bitter experiences, the world has been changing around this Anglo Saxon adventure in dramatic ways.
Four years ago I was suggesting to those of you that were here that China might become a super power to rival the United States in the course of the next half century. I looked up my notes and that's what I said, and they have done it to a degree in four. Russia on the strength of a very popular tough leader called Putin, whatever we may think of him and strong energy prices is really bouncing back as a World power. India is coming up, the Islamic, sorry we are not meant to say Islamic World somebody was correcting this today. The World of the Arabs, the Pakistanis and people associated with them, many of those people, I think the whole of those societies are enraged by what the West has done in the last four years and a very small number of people within those societies are prepared to do something violent about it.
It's very dangerous to talk about clashes of wars of civilization, but I think that we are nearer to a true clash of civilization now than we were four years ago because those people in Pakistan and elsewhere have reason to resent what we are doing and are biting back. I'm not going to touch on the extra aggravation brought to all these matters by the situation in the Near East by the relationship of Arabs and Israelis, it only makes the story more complicated and in my judgement more tragic. The point I'm trying to make now is that whereas four years ago I suggested there was a manifest danger of American engagement in everything, doing an awful lot of harm, there is now perhaps a balance to be struck. Is the United States going always to consider itself not just omnipotent but indispensable, or is it going to turn to a mood of isolation, not much sign of that yet, but there are signs of things that often lead to that such as a tendency in the United States and elsewhere to look to protectionism to put right the troubles of the economy and the social troubles that flow from indiscriminate immigration.
So having in my judgement four years ago seen a clear picture of an America too big, too powerful, too cock-sure and too intrusive. That was the way one might have felt four years ago but now I think there is a different set of criteria and so here are we the British if you accept five or ten per cent of what I have said, I hope you accept more, but if you accept ten you will agree that there is a problem we have to resolve and it's the problem of how do we disport ourselves and align ourselves in this changing world?
I do think, and here I am being emotional, you should never be emotional about foreign policy and I am being, I do think that it is absolutely essential for the British to find ways of differentiating themselves from their American cousins. Essentially for our own self respect and to begin the restoration of the respect in which we used to be held and would like to be held in the rest of the World. I think the British have got a habit of kidding themselves that they know they are trying to do the right thing, and kidding themselves that on the whole foreigners like them quite a lot. I don't think it was ever entirely true, I think it's much less true after the last few years' experiences. I think we've got a long way to go in rowing back to establish a position in the world not for the sake of being loved but a world in which we're respected so that we can once again operate effectively for our own interests for the good of our friends and for the good of the whole world. I think without a self conscious attempt to distance ourselves in that way, we won't get back either our reputation abroad or our self respect at home.
How do you do that? I think you just have to start bit by bit and not by saying we're now against the United States, you have to start by saying we will just judge each American action on its merits and we will consider whether to express our opinion on those actions or whether in our own interests it is better to keep quiet on this particular occasion. This sounds, I'm sure to many of you, very sort of shabby and ad hoc but I think it's the only way one can operate and I think it's the way in practice foreign policy has to operate and you have to just feel your way forward in an empirical way within that general frame work that we've got to operate in future on terms of our own making rather than on terms automatically made in Washington.
This means, I think, first of all that we have got to be even more outspoken than we are at the moment in support of the United Nations. Frail body it sometimes is, essentially because people don't back it, but I think we are going to have to commit ourselves yet more assertively and more whole heartedly to support the United Nations and its actions. It's not that it's always right, but it is actually, being universal, the only body which can aim at but rarely achieves universal legitimacy and validity because it does speak it would claim for the whole World. Those, and there many of us, who have our doubts about the United Nations can always find evidence of its failure or of its wrong doing. But there we are really talking about the failure and the wrong doing of the international society of which we are a part. Without a stronger United Nations, which will certainly bring one into opposition with the United States, there is really no prospect at all of getting back to a World that is in something like balance.
I think we are going to have to welcome, not fear the return to a multi polar world. Put in very crude terms 1945 to 1989 bi-polar world, 1989 to 2007 a
Uni-polar world with a lot more evidence piling up as the days go by that we are moving away from the uni-polar world and we are seeing the reassertion of people who do not like, who fear or object to the United States, people who in China say 'we are going to be a great power', ditto India, ditto Russia, ditto the world of Islam and ditto even South America. Not central perhaps in our minds to World affairs but look at the number of people who in South America are now getting up and answering granny back a lot. We've got to embrace rather than fear a multi-polar world and that's a dangerous thing to be doing in a way because to quote from a speech which was made by Condalisa Rice in London three years ago, multi-polar worlds are no good she is saying because they end in war, and of course multi-polar worlds have ended in war. But the uni-polar world in which we live at the moment has not done very much better.
So I think you have got to go and put your money on a multi-polar world and be prepared to play a part in operating that system in such a way that you get the benefits of the expression of the identities of lots of societies around the world and you contain the dangers of conflict between those societies. Anything else quite frankly in a world where the United States at the moment is so deeply in debt to China and so on, anything else is frankly not sustainable but you've got to embrace it and make the best of it and accept that there are dangers which must be contained.
Now Europe, I've said everybody has changed in the last four years and I'm not sure Europe has very much beyond the very welcome last enlargement. Four years ago I would have said all we have got to do really is to rally round, we have got to be open to building up in Europe a capacity to speak to the United States on equal terms and commit ourselves whole heartedly to the European adventure. Well with a Liberal Democrat audience some of you may even agree with me. We're a long way now frankly, in seeing a way in which that can be expressed. I know somebody was talking about the European Union this morning and I unfortunately missed it, but I don't see any clear way forward for the European Union to the next great step which might put it back into the world's game comparable with the United States, China, Russia and so on. We have somehow got a long way to go before we Europeans collectively can get back into the World game in a way in which we can speak with authority, with the authority which will come only from speaking with a single voice or with an agreed voice. We all know where Tony Blair's attempts to set himself at the heart of Europe landed us.
In a way I am asking for something which is rather old fashioned which is a world of independent forces, usually nations but not always nations which can express themselves and cooperate to the creation of a better world. You might call that the Nineteenth Century Novel. At the same time I want to have that, I'm urging us to pursue that for a very, very modern reason which is that we are now faced with problems we haven't yet touched upon which can only be tackled collectively, can only be tackled I suggest sensitively rather than by aggressive force and which if we don't tackle them will consume the world in which we live. Starting with the minor ones there is the problem of water which is steadily running out in many parts of the world. There is the problem of migration often flows from the lack of water. There is the problem we've touched on already of terrorism and a clash of civilizations to be distinguished from terrorism. Above all there is the whole bundle of things that we all agonise over day in day out and do so little about, climate change, global warming and all that.
So I think what I want to end by suggesting is that the United States is manifestly unequipped to lead the world in tackling those problems. For one thing they are all problems that require both the use of technology and human sensitivity not just the use of force. The only thing that I think can tackle those problems is a World which is prepared to cooperate together. The only way I can see of achieving that is by respect for multi-polarity with a different centre and focuses of power and therefore with all the difficulty I recommend that course of action to us, because uni-polarity has failed, the United States and the Anglo Saxon Alliance has failed and we can not afford to fail in tackling these new problems of the Twenty First Century which go so far beyond every boundary and require everybody's commitment if we are going to have any chance, even a slight chance of solving them.
LIFE AS LEADER OF CARDIFF CITY COUNCIL
I think I have been leader of Cardiff City Council coming up for three years and I think probably one of things I would say about it most is that it's the kind of job that you just cannot prepare for at all. You have basically to be thrown into it at the deep end and get on with it to actually discover what the job is all about. Even then it's probably the sort of role where you're always learning. Hopefully learning from experience, sometimes the experiences can be a little bit bruising, sometimes they can be a bit rewarding but none the less I think overall it is something that I would say is a very rewarding experience and I think the first thing that struck me when I came to the Council was how wonderful that I get a much bigger and a much nicer office that I used to have as leader of the opposition. So there are some very good elements to it.
I think as Bill suggested the Liberal Democrats became the largest party in 2004 after the local elections partly as a result of the legacy of Russell Goodway and his Labour administration who the people of Cardiff were quite keen to throw out. I'd like to think that perhaps some of the campaigning that we did as Liberal Democrats in opposition helped to foster that view point. Also of course we were trying to promise them something different, we were trying to promise them change and new style of government. That is quite easy to say but how is that actually to be delivered?
What got us to where we are again is an awful lot of hard work over a number of years. I was involved in Cardiff since approximately 1994, we had a growing team then, we have grown ever since, we are campaigning I'd say today harder and across more parts of the City than we have ever campaigned, so we continue to grow even whilst we have been in power. But how much does a lot of leaflet shoving, a lot of door knocking actually prepare you for running a City, and running a major City? That is the challenge and one thing I would say about being on the Council is there is no such thing as a typical day. All sorts of things can happen and it's the old story about events dear boy, do you mean events. You just don't know what you're going to deal with, I mean yesterday everything seemed to be going fine and then I got a phone call from our Executive Member for Finance who said. "You know how we're just about to set the budget for next week, well it looks as if the Assembly is cutting one of our major grants by a very significant amount of money and the whole thing is up in the air". And that's the sort of thing that just happens and you think, gosh, how am I supposed to deal with this? But that's what makes it challenging.
If I go back to where I think we were when we first started off back in 2004, obviously we came into office with the electoral arithmetic of the Council having dramatically changed. Labour had had a clear majority in the chamber, about two thirds of the seats, they lost a shed load of seats, a large amount to us but others to the Conservatives, to Plaid and of course Cardiff became a hung Council with us as the largest party. That of course meant that we hadn't had time really to recover from the hard work at the election when immediately the hard work had to begin in quite a different way and the back room discussions took place - who was going to run the Council, were we going to have a coalition, was this party going into coalition with this party and what have you. I think what we then discovered was nobody particularly wanted to work with anybody and we did try and we did actually reach an agreement with the Conservatives and Plaid that what we would do was switch the way the Council was run so that we would have a Cross Party Board running the whole City. Unfortunately Labour didn't quite agree with that and then of course we discovered that we would need to get permission from the Assembly to do that anyway and we initially were told that could be sorted out fairly quickly, but unfortunately the legislation that they needed to be able to approve it was not actually written because they had not thought about it in advance. Then of course politics got in the way and the Minister sat on the whole issue for about a year and then wrote an interesting clause in which you said that you can change the system provided there isn't a significant group on the Council that doesn't agree with that. Of course it's called the 'Labour get out clause' put in by the Labour Minister.
So as a result we ended up as a minority administration and that has lasted ever since and in some ways it works well, but it is actually quite challenging. I suppose where it's easiest is when you're having meetings of the executive because we are all Liberal Democrats and we make the decisions. Funnily enough we always vote together which is quite good and we always win every vote. But unfortunately we then have to go into the full Council meetings and then there are only thirty two of us and forty three of the others and that's when it gets a bit difficult.
One of the first things though that we said when we did take office was that we wanted to change the culture of the whole Council. I think the Russell Goodway era had been sort of typified by having a very strong, powerful leader who dominated everything and I think that was one of the down sides of the way that Cardiff was being run. Something that I think that the people were really saying we want to end. I can remember when we had drawn up the previous constitution under the previous Labour Administration; we had got some people from Warwick Business School to come down and give some training to Councillors about how this new constitution would work. I remember then remarking that they had never seen a constitution in a Council which gave so much power to one individual other than when you had a directly elected mayor. And of course that's what we had under Labour. I think another thing that I'd point out is actually in the dying days of the Labour Administration I think because Russell Goodway felt he was being attacked that he set up a Corporate Government's Commission. I heavily criticised it because he spent £200,000 on the whole issue. The idea was for some independent people to come round, sit with the party leaders and discuss how the Council was being run or not being run. I think the whole £200,000 could have been saved if we had just waited for the next election until the rest of us got into power and changed it anyway, but it was perhaps one of those things that back fired on him. What they had said was actually there is too much power in the hands of the leader and that was what the root of the problem was so it actually helped us.
But in moving away from that we had to start changing quite a lot of the processes of the Council. The whole idea was to create a new ethos of openness and transparency and to make sure that we actually had proper debate, proper understanding, made sure councillors from whatever party group they were in were actually informed about what the council was doing. This was because what used to happen was everything was decided behind closed doors by the Labour Group and then you were lucky if you got told before you were being asked to vote on the matter in the Council Chamber. So we established systems where spokespeople of all the other parties could get briefed on reports when they were still in draft form as we were developing the proposals before the decisions were made. I can remember some of the officers turning round and thinking 'are you sure you want to do this, you must be mad, we've never done this before, what actually tell the opposition what we're doing and sound them out before we do it, good gracious!'
We also changed the format of the Council's executive meetings. Previously, as leader of the opposition on the Council I had been entitled to sit in the Public Gallery whilst these meetings were taking place and if I dared try to open my mouth when the discussion was going on I can remember, as it happened to me on one occasion I was threatened with being thrown out of the room for being disruptive. So we brought in a very unusual step, we decided that the leaders of the other parties could sit round the table with us as we were making the discussions, could ask us questions on the proposals and could debate them with us before we took the decisions. I mean it sounds perfectly logical to me but this was a whole new ethos in Cardiff Council.
Another thing that we changed fairly early on was to do with how the Council dealt with exempt reports, reports which had confidential items on them, maybe for commercial sensitivity reasons or for legal reasons. Two things we did there, one thing is that if there was a very small amount of information in a report which had to be exempt and confidential what Labour would have done is make the whole report exempt and kept everybody out - the press, the public, the other parties and just made the decision in private. We first of all discovered that all you needed to do was put all the sensitive information on one very small appendix maybe at the back and you could have the rest of the report in public. The thing was I remember when the former cabinet was discussing these kind of reports I would get thrown out of the room because I wasn't one of the people who got to make the decision and even though I was a Councillor, I wasn't allowed to listen to the discussion or see the report before the decision was taken. I was told by Russell Goodway all this was all down to legal restrictions and we could maybe change the constitution but it was quite difficult.
When we came to office I said 'right ok can we now make the changes please, change the constitution or whatever we need to do so we can fix that', and the Lawyer turned round to us and said 'actually you don't need to change the constitution you can just do it', and of course we did.
So really I suppose having established the administration and a more open way for the Council to work, the key things for us were then to help attempt turn policy into action. The first time in I don't know how many decades that the Liberal Democrats had been in charge of Cardiff Council, well at least in the driving seat rather than perhaps being a third party in a hung Council as we had been maybe in the eighties. I think the key thing for us was having been prepared and having known what we wanted to do before we went in and this has been our Bible. I think I would say to any aspiring Liberal Democrat Groups on other Councils if you think there is a chance that you're going to be part of an administration, or if you think that you could be running your Council in future then spending some time working out what you want to do in advance is very worth while because we put together what I think was quite a detailed manifesto and as such we haven't really had to think too much about what we wanted to do. We knew our principals, we had our programme and the officers were amazed that somebody was coming in and giving them a whole list of instructions to do which they never really had before. They thought it was wonderful.
I suppose the test for us really is how have we done? Although we had lots of detailed points we did single out a number of key pledges that we put to the electorate and I think they helped us get to power.
If I look through some of the things we said we would do, one was to invest more of the Council's budget in schools, to address poor performance and education. Well Cardiff historically was one of the poorest funders of schools in the whole of Wales, just a few years ago I think we were twenty first or twenty second out of twenty two local authorities for the funding of schools. In the last few years for the first time in living memory we have actually gone above average in terms of the funding that goes per pupil in schools in the whole of Wales. I think we were seventh out of twenty two last time and that just shows what we have managed to do in just a couple of years.
We said we would wage war on litter by employing more street sweepers, I think if our budget goes through this week we will have employed nearly thirty more street sweepers since 2004. We said we would at least double the Councils Litter Enforcement Team, well I think we have trebled it and we said we would increase kerb side recycling to every street in Cardiff. Now I think that's one of the things that I am perhaps more proud of than anything else because we have built in Cardiff one of the largest Local Authority run recycling plants in the whole of the United Kingdom, if not in the whole of Europe. It is bringing a whole see change in the way that we collect our waste in Wales and it's something we called upon for years when we were in opposition. I can remember twice Labour voting down our calls to bring forward a programme over a period of years, we didn't ask for the impossible, to extend recycling to every street in Cardiff but 'oh no it can't be done, can't be done'. We started it on day one, that plant is there and our recycling rates are now going through the roof as we are now rolling that out across the city.
We said we would tackle crime and anti social behaviour by introducing a city-wide network of Council employed Community Support Officers, that's alongside the ones that the police have brought in in recent years. The first five are being trained at the moment and we will soon be doubling those to ten. So we are working on that one.
Overhaul care services for the vulnerable to address the deficiencies highlighted in the 2002 joint review of Social Services. I'm sure people will remember that another legacy of Russell Goodway's administration was that we had the worst social services in the whole of England and Wales in Cardiff. At that time social services were placed in special measures by the Welsh Assembly, placed under special monitoring, targets were put in because basically the Council just could not run the services itself. Well I'm pleased to say that in the last year those special measures were lifted because we have had reports which have shown that we have had significant improvements in the last few years in how we have been running our Social Services. There is still a long way to go but we have been very much on an upward trend and we have had a lot of praise from the inspectors not least of which is for the political commitment that we have shown as an administration to improving Social Services.
Next we said we would cut Council's allowances and freeze them for four years. Well we cut them on day one and we have frozen them ever since and we have paid the tax payers quite a bit of money. To be quite honest I don't think that we feel particularly poor because of it because of course some of you will know that when Labour was running the Council they put the allowances up so the leader of the Council was being paid the most of any Council in the whole of England and Wales at one point. So we have slightly outlawed the bandits.
And lastly we said that we would not increase the council tax without first consulting the people of Cardiff. We now do an annual survey on peoples spending priorities which go out in our Council Newspaper to every household. We also then get focus groups together, people from different parts of the city, different communities, the elderly, the young, the black and minority ethnic communities. We sit them down and talk through what their priorities are then we prepare a draft budget using that information and we sit them down and ask them what they think about it. None of that happened before; I was never consulted on the budget as leader of the opposition on the last administration. I saw the budget about three or four days before it was actually agreed by the Council in those days with no time to scrutinise it. So I think we have moved on quite a lot there, it's not easy, because of course when you go out and ask the people what would you like us to spend more or less money on they want us to spend more money on everything! Then when we go out and say 'are you happy with us increasing the council tax' they say no! So I think it will always be there.
One of the things I could say is that if we were thrown out of office tomorrow and it is always a possibility with the electoral arithmetic the way it is, it has happened to the administration in the Vale of Glamorgan fairly recently, so we always have to live on a day to day existence. But at least I would know that Cardiff is a cleaner place, a greener place, we have had improvements in services that have been recognised, we have got better funded schools and we have got an awful lot of efficiencies in the way that the Council is run. There are things that we can point to and be proud of and that if we go there will be a legacy left. I hope though that we won't be going too quickly.
I think as I have said to run a minority administration is not easy. What you tend to find is that sometimes, particularly with the other parties that don't have responsibility of office, they are more likely to put politics before their principals, jump on what might be a popular band wagon and vote in a certain way or take a charge in a certain way even though privately you know that they do not really mean it, they do not believe it but they think they are playing to the gallery. That is the thing that we have to deal with all of the time. It is very often sometimes we convince the other parties in private that what we are doing is right, but then in public they go completely against you even though they understand the issues. What disappoints me sometimes is that I see them being dishonest in the way that they deal with those issues, in the way they present them and in the way that they talk to the electorate in a way that I never did when I was leader of the opposition. Maybe they felt I did but I don't think so. I think I had more principles but that is perhaps what disappoints me most.
Another thing that has made life difficult for us is that we do have a legacy of problems in Cardiff built up from years of neglect from years of focus on the wrong priorities and from years of avoiding the very difficult issues that we have got to deal with.
The biggest of those which has been a feature I suppose of our administration which we didn't particularly plan for has been the big debate on schools in Cardiff that we have had. We have nearly nine thousand surplus places in our schools across the city. It is a national problem, birth rates have been falling in recent years, there are not as many children being born, there are not as many children to take up these places but of course the funding we get as a council which comes from the Assembly is based on the number of pupils we have got. The number of pupils falls, the money we get to spend on education falls; we have less and less money to spend on the schools that are there. There is already a repair backlog with less and less money each year it just stands to reason that if you try to keep all these buildings going and keep them all open you have got less and less money for maintenance, more and more classrooms fall apart. I think everybody understands that and I think we did actually convince people in Cardiff that yes we do have to do something about that and we do have to look at rationalising the number of schools and make sure the money is spent more effectively and have better quality education for those that are being taught for generations to come.
Everybody accepts that until you get to the point of saying 'well actually that school has to go' and everybody will write to you and say 'we totally agree that you have to do something about this but you should not be closing that school, that is the wrong one!'. Of course when we did publish our report, our programme to do that we were guided by consultation, people said we have got to do it on a city-wide basis we were guided by the cogs of the opposition parties 'it has got to be a city-wide plan or we are not going to support it'. We published it as a city-wide plan, they voted it down because it was a city-wide plan and it was too much, too quickly, too fast. You can't win! I think one of the things that did contribute to that is what we tend to call in Cardiff the Cardiff North Factor. Cardiff North at parliamentary level and assembly level is a marginal constituency between Labour and the Conservatives. Traditionally a Conservative seat won by Labour in 1997, held with them ever since but their majority has been going down since the Tories have been gaining ground. Labour and the Conservatives are continually fighting to show that they can better represent the electorate particularly in Cardiff North. What happens is that that means you cannot get any sense out of either of them on a lot of these issues. So if we had proposed a schools plan which said lets close half of the schools in the city but none of them had been in Cardiff North we might actually have got it through the Council. It would have been the wrong thing to have done but it might have worked. Unfortunately there was no way once things became public and once the public started saying 'don't close this school, don't close that school' you were going to get either of those parties to agree to any single closure in that constituency because that would mean the other party is going to win the next election. Is that a way to make long term strategic decisions? It is not easy.
It has been a steep learning curve, one of the things which we as Liberal Democrats strongly argued for in opposition was that the Council needed to do more in terms of consultation; it really needed to engage the public. That is a philosophy I believe in whole heartedly and something that we have striven to bring in to the sort of work that we do. We have set up a citizens panel of a thousand people, we call upon people to sound out their views on different decisions etc., our intention with the Schools Plan is that that would have gone out to a full consultation beyond the statutory requirements etc. As I say we consult widely on the budget before we agree it but of course one of the issues with consultation is that when you have a vulnerable situation in a hung Council where you can easily be ganged up and voted down people then start to use that to gain momentum for campaigns. I think one of the things that the Electorate of Cardiff are cottoning onto is that they don't necessarily just have to convince the administration to abandon something if they don't like it. All they have to do is convince the other parties collectively that the Council should abandon that, and then of course those parties can put that as a motion to Council and can over turn the policy. So they realise that there is all sorts of ways that if they shout loud enough they could possibly get something stopped. That can be a difficult thing because sometimes you will get cases where you can have a very vocal minority shouting very loudly against something and they can basically cloud out a majority view that is in favour of an issue that wants to see something done. But of course whereas we in the administration will try and take a more responsible view and try and look at the whole issue and all the responses carefully and make sure we do proper consultation in a meaningful way where we sit down and talk to people and don't just listen to the people who are shouting the loudest. We can take that overall view but the press will latch on to the people who are shouting loudest, the opposition will latch on to the people who are shouting loudest and slowly you lose the argument and it becomes difficult to sometimes do anything. In particular it is difficult to try to make decisions which are perhaps projecting forward in to the long term, sorting out services for future generations. It is easy to convince people when they feel they have a problem right now that you have got to do something about it but when you say on something say for example gridlock on our streets, if we don't do something to try and tip the balance, to try and move people slightly more from the private car onto more sustainable forms of transport then nobody is going to be able to drive around. We do get criticised for being one of the most congested cities in the country sometimes and that is fine, people understand that but they still see that they can still drive around at the moment. They don't see that maybe in five or ten years time unless you do something about it now they might not be able to drive around the city because they don't actually believe that at the moment. So will we actually have to wait until we get to that point before we convince people? Possibly, well at least while we have a hung Council and an opposition that will give in to whoever is shouting the loudest?
I also referred earlier to the issue of dishonesty and I said what frustrates me sometimes is when you find the opposition parties taking a dishonest position. I remember recently we ran into a bit of difficulty with the reconfiguration of some of our Social Services provision for people with learning disabilities. If you go back to the joint review report for 2002 the report had said that we had the worst Social Services in England and Wales. It said that with these particular services, which we were contracting from independent providers, we were paying way over the odds and that these providers had formed themselves into a powerful cartel which was resisting us reforming the service and making sure they were still keeping their lucrative contracts etc. I slightly paraphrased what it said but that was the jist of it. So we thought fine, let's put these services out to tender and we were told by the officers that other companies might come along who will be able to provide them more cheaply, we will still get the same services and still the same quality. We will be able to reconfigure them so we can plug gaps in our current service provision and we will get much better value for money and free up resources to spend on other services. The only problem is of course that some of the companies providing the services on the current contracts realised that these contracts were under threat and they started stirring up the issue, starting scare mongering to their clients saying 'your services are going to get taken away from you' which was rubbish. But of course the opposition realised there's a band wagon rolling and they latch onto it. I remember I had to go along to quite a difficult public meeting and try to explain what the council was planning to do. The leader of the Labour Group then stands up and says 'well actually we saw this coming, we had doubts about this when it was first proposed and when this was in the budget we said no, no, no we should be very careful about this'. I reminded him he was talking a load of rubbish that you were actually talking about something else in the budget at the time; you said nothing of the kind and had no problem with this when it was coming through. The day after in private he told me 'actually you were absolutely right', but it did not stop him standing up playing to the gallery and telling them a load of lies.
One of the most difficult things I think when you are a minority administration is getting the budget through and of course that is preying heavily on my mind because we have got the budget date coming up this Thursday in Council. None of them have been easy and we sometimes get fun and games with the Welsh Assembly Government over them. The first year we were setting our budget at the last minute they started coming up with some rules because they were in a panic over the way revaluation was going down in Wales which was like a lead balloon. I'm sure any part of Wales will know that when everybody was suddenly finding that far more people were going up council tax bands than going down because it was supposed to be neutral when they originally proposed it there was quite a lot of public opposition. They realised this was a problem so they suddenly brought in last minute rules about how much the Council could adjust its council tax in a year which was somehow specifically written or so it seemed to us to mean that unless Cardiff actually cut its council tax rate compared to the previous year it was going to be capped by the Welsh assembly. All this came in right at the last minute and resulted in us having to make three point four million pounds worth of cuts from our proposed budget right at the eleventh hour. I don't think it did the Labour Assembly Government any good because of course we skilfully portrayed that in our leaflets through letter boxes as cuts forced upon us by Labour and you have wonder what they have gained from it. That is one of the interesting things you get when the assembly's Finance Minister represents that very marginal consistency of Cardiff North.
Our relationship with the press has been interesting. The press have really turned on Russell Goodway and the previous Labour administration in their dying days and we have benefited well from that. For some time we were in a honeymoon period where we were getting fair open coverage, perhaps, too fair coverage. The opposition had not learned to play the game of opposition perhaps as well as they have now and we were getting our say without being criticised and that was fine but of course did not really last. We have certainly tried to foster closer working with the press particularly the South Wales Echo which has the widest readership of the written press certainly in Cardiff. I have a meeting every month with the Political Editor so we give them exclusive stories. All the members of the Executive will meet regularly with the relevant journalists on the paper as well. That does help us in terms of having more of an understanding relationship because the Political Editor will tell me that when Russell Goodway was there at one point Russell refused to speak to him for about six months which didn't do him any good in their coverage what so ever. I am not saying that our coverage is that much better because we do talk to the press; I just think it could be a lot worse if we didn't. You do detect an increasingly cynical attitude with the press and I think as time has gone on more and more they have reported things cynically. They are always obsessed by money spent on things. They always give more weight to what they perceive as a negative story than to what is a positive story. That is just one of those battles that you are never going to win outright and I think I go back to what was said earlier, the only way that you can counter that is put your own message on a piece of paper and keep shoving it through the letter box and by golly we still do that.
Also we have to suffer the consequences of what I perceive as being 'Big City Politics'. Particularly in the Capital City where not only do you have the written press based but you have the broadcast media based for Wales. So when issues blow up like schools, reorganisation or what have you it's relatively easy for BBC Wales to cover it, for ITV Wales to cover it because they are based in the city and these issues tend to be more of a focus perhaps than they are if they are happening in other parts of Wales where they only have a weekly local press, where the broadcast media does not give quite so much attention. That makes life that bit easier, when I go back to the problems we have with schools, in the run up to us publishing our schools plan we did take advice within the Liberal Democrat Party. I got some of the best expertise there was nationally from somebody who helped run school reorganisations in other parts of the United Kingdom quite successfully. She told us what we were doing was right, she thought that we were doing all the right things and I thought she was surprised with the way it all blew up on us because she had never done this in a city like Cardiff with the media attention that we get. I don't know why we bother sometimes!
If I could sum up, it has been a rollercoaster, it is full of ups, and it is full of downs. Personally I feel like I have been on a journey and learnt a lot from it. I have learnt that you have to take things slowly; you have to be determined and have to move the agenda forward. You have to build consensus with other parties, you have to put in a lot of hard work, a lot of hard slog. It would be nice sometimes if you could have the odd quiet week but you have got to accept you are never going to have the odd quiet week so it is always going to be on a treadmill. It has got me to other parts of the world I might not have got to; it has got me to front wonderful events being right at the heart of the centenary celebrations of the Capital. In 2005 for instance it was something I will be able to go away and say I am really pleased that I was there at that time and that I was part of that. I wouldn't dismiss it for a minute, not any of the last two and a half years but what I do want to do is make sure it continues and make sure that we can carry on putting Liberal Democrat values into the way that Cardiff is run and making sure that we can continue making it particularly a more environmentally sustainable city. That is one of the big things I think we have brought into the policy dimension.
There is still a lot that we need to do there, we are doing things like developing park and ride sites around the city for instance and they will be a few years to go. We have done a lot in terms of making sure that the City hasn't just focused on the big skill projects but yet that doesn't mean to say that big skill projects aren't still happening. Cardiff City Football Club for instance I was reliably informed by the press yesterday that somebody had seen some bulldozers on the site so there might be something about to happen there. A project that has been promising to deliver a stadium for five or six years and finally we have managed to unlock that whole deal. We have got a major regeneration of our city centre starting to take place now with the development of the Saint David's Shopping Centre. We are bringing an Ashes Test to Cardiff in 2009, something I thought I would never be involved in; trying to personally persuade the England and Wales Cricket Board, but these things happen when you go into politics. So those things are still happening and at the same time what we said we would do is to play hard for the people of Cardiff, and by that we meant that we would look at making sure the ordinary basic services in the City didn't continue to have to suffer at the expense of bigger projects. We are seeing services improved. We have put in a lot of effort and are making sure we monitor our performance and we are beginning to see it in key services like recycling, like Social Services, like Education and we are beginning to move up in those performance tables.
We are starting from a very low base so we can only really go up but we are actually getting somewhere. What I want to do is make sure that I am around for at least maybe another term as leader of the council but this time please with a majority so I don't have to deal with things continually being watered down in Council.
Paul Murphy M.P.
SECURITY AND THE TERRORIST THREAT
Here in Mid Wales I thought I might touch on a couple of things that I've dealt with over the last ten years or so and which might be of interest to yourselves as a largely Welsh gathering of course, but also in the name of Lloyd George. I was pondering as I was driving up about what he might have made of where we are at the moment, both in terms of Wales, in terms of Northern Ireland and in terms of our general security. Of course when my father was born in 1919, Lloyd George was the Prime Minister, he had always been an advocate for home rule as they put it in those days for Wales. He had been instrumental in the solution after the war of the Irish question and of course he had been the Prime Minister responsible for ending the biggest threat to our security that the world had seen by 1918 / 1919. I think he would have been quite pleased with the Welsh and the Northern Ireland position as we are now. I'm not so convinced he would have understood where we are in terms of security.
So perhaps I can just touch on something I know many of you in this room have been particularly keen on over the years and that was devolution for our country here in Wales. My own constituency incidentally voted against it twice. Hugely in 1978 when I was the Chairman Labour No Assembly Campaign and then secondly in 1997 it voted by only five hundred however against when I, as a member, and loyal member of Her Majesty's Government both voted for and campaigned for the Welsh Assembly.
Now why the change?. Well it was Mrs Thatcher really, that was the change! I was saying the other day why did Wales change because parts of Wales didn't very much, for example both the West and the North of Wales both in 1978 and 1997 were more in favour of devolution. The North East of Wales and the cities, Cardiff, Swansea and now Newport of course were against and still were in 1997 but the valleys changed. The million people in the South Wales Valleys with the exception of my constituency all voted yes in 1997 as opposed to no in 1978. I think it was eighteen years of a party which people were alienated by in Wales which had a big effect on people. It was also the business of a new government coming in and in the very early wake of that there was a change and of course people had got fed up with the fact that the country was being run very largely by people who were unelected and it should be democratised. All sorts of other reasons, but only just however if you remember, and there was a coalition amongst pro devolution parties in favour of a yes vote back in 1997.
What would happen now I wonder if we had a vote on devolution in Wales? I think my constituency would now go yes, not hugely, but would vote yes on the basis they have begun to understand and realise what it is that an assembly has done for the people and how government is more accessible to people. That strikes me as the most significant thing, you can talk about the achievements of the assembly since it's been formed and I think there are a lot of them and it is different but the accessibility of government to people is one which is quite meaningful. If you remember in the days when we had part devolution we had a Secretary of State and two Junior Ministers and yes they spent some of their time in Cardiff, but generally speaking if you wanted to contact a Minister because they had to be in the House of Commons or the House of Lords to do their business it was quite difficult. Now you have got a cabinet which meets in Cardiff and people are accessible so it's here to stay.
I think Lloyd George would have been pleased that here in Wales, particularly now that the rules have changed so that there is going to be more power given to the assembly to be able to make their own laws then I think he would have been pleased about that. He was like me a Unionist with a small 'u' in that whole move for Ireland, a bit different I suppose, that whole move for Wales and for Scotland. The English regions didn't mean that you saw the end of the United Kingdom as an institution and as a political entity. My own view is that I think devolution Wales but to a lesser extent in Scotland has unified the United Kingdom rather than breaking it up. In other words the aspirations of people can be dealt with, national aspirations in our case can be dealt with in Cardiff but it would still be part of the United Kingdom. In other words you can be both British and Welsh at the same time.
What would he have thought of Northern Ireland? I think he would have been a little confused at the current position to say the least but he would have been pleased that a solution was found. If you remember when they came to that solution after the First World War, and he instrumental in promoting that solution, it wasn't a solution which was ideal because you had a divided Ireland. But it was a solution which at least meant the Irish restate could become an independent republic with a president eventually outside the Commonwealth. Interestingly some people in Ireland think that they ought to come back into the Commonwealth but that is another question. But the point was it was an imperfect but necessary solution to it. The imperfection of the solution meant that over fifty odd years the solution was not the right one for the North although it might have been the right one for the South. The impression I gained when I first started in Northern Ireland politics which was in 1994 when I was then the Shadow Welsh Office Minister and Tony Blair had just come become leader. I was driving on the motorway and I had a call on my car phone as they were in those days from Mo Molam. She said 'it is likely that the leader of the opposition is going to phone you up and ask you to become my deputy in Northern Ireland what do you think?'. I said 'I'll ask my dad first' which I always did in those days so I went to a service station phoned my father up and said 'what do you think dad?' He said 'go for it' so I did! That is as good a reason as anything I can tell you - he was my political hero. Interestingly though because with a name like mine there is an Irish back ground. My father's grandfather had come from Cork in 1865 to work in the iron works in South Wales in Abersychan. Then there were large numbers of Irish people who by the time that I came along were assimilated into the Welsh population. Knowing only the historical side because I have been a teacher of history I went to Northern Ireland for a year or so with Mo as Deputy and then in 1997 when the Labour Government was elected I had a phone call from the Prime Minister as then was saying go across to Northern Ireland and see what you can do as Minister for Political Development, in other words the Talks Minister.
I spent two years talking basically which is what politicians do but you talk particularly differently when you are a Talks Minister as I was in Northern Ireland. In fact you were really a Listening Minister rather than a Talking Minister with our friends over there. Having said all that they didn't all talk to each other, that was the other problem and still don't. When we went in 1997 the cease fire had broken down, Canary Wharf had been blown up and the idea was to bring Sinn Fein back into the talk's process. The talk's process was headed by Senator George Mitchell who had been the Democrat Leader in the Senate and I think one of the most accomplished politicians I have ever met. He really is an amazing man. He had two deputies, the Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari who had been the Prime Minister of Finland and General John de Chastelain who had been the head of the Canadian armed forces. Formidable people but they were trying to hold these parties together. The Conservatives, to give them credit, had started that process off under John Major and it had broken down because of what had happened with Sinn Fein but they were all in the talks at that stage with the exception of Sinn Fein. The problem which people think was religion wasn't and isn't, the problem is ultimately you had Nationalists who were mainly Catholics but not exclusively who felt trapped in the neighbouring state in Northern Ireland. You then had Unionists, a million of them who mainly but not exclusively were Protestant who believed that they were besieged by the Irish Free State to the South. How do you reconcile that? Indeed others included the Alliance Party who felt that they were neither of those things, that they wanted to see ordinary politics come into Northern Ireland not the politics of faction or of religion. By then after thirty years of troubles I think people realised that there had to be a change. Why did it happen like that? I think partly because people were war weary, they had had enough of it. Three and half thousand people had perished in Northern Ireland in a period of thirty years. Out of a population of one and a half million that is a huge number. In Welsh terms it would have been seven thousand people dying in our streets in Wales if that had happened here and that was across the board not on one side or the other.
So there was a war weariness certainly and also a realisation that the world was changing. As a member of the European Union for example, did national boundaries mean so much in these days, in terms of United Ireland? It meant that the Labour Party and indeed the Liberal Democrats and Welsh National Party too, had come out in favour of devolving power in the United Kingdom. So what was so unusual about having a devolved Northern Ireland Assembly if there was going to be one in Cardiff and Edinburgh as well? And of course, practically, a realisation on both sides that the war could not be won.
I have just come back from Sri Lanka, some months ago, the Prime Minister asked me to go and to tell them about what had happened in Northern Ireland. I talked to the Tamil Tigers there and the others in the government. I was saying to them 'look, you're in exactly positions there were in Northern Ireland that it was a stain like effect'. Our intelligence for example had become so good that they were thwarting outrage after outrage, bombing after bombing so the IRA basically was not getting very far. Similarly they were not going away either because there was an element there within the community which supported it. So no one was going to win.
For all those reasons and the change of government, which was important after eighteen years of a single government, there was that momentum to move. Eventually of course later that year in 1997 Sinn Fein came in and of course at that point the DUP went out with a vengeance. It wasn't easy then though because what would the other Unionists do, particularly the Ulster Unionists? They were like the DUP now they wouldn't talk to them, so I would chair the meetings dealing with the setting of the Executive and the Assembly and I would be in a room a bit bigger than this and there would be all parties round the side like that. You had the Unionists here and Jerry Adams there. Adams would say to me 'Mr Chairman would you ask David Trimble about XYZ' and they said 'Tell Jerry Adams about XYZ. He said he 'doesn't want to talk to you' and it went on for about six months. I said 'I can't cope with this much longer as an intermediary'.
Then things changed after Christmas. Christmas of 1997 / 1998 was pretty awful; it was a killer of a day. There was also a realisation that they had to come to a conclusion which they did by Good Friday 1998. Some weeks before there was a thawing, I wouldn't say that they would go on holiday with each other but there was a thawing between the Unionist side and the Sinn Fein. Now in the middle of all this there were the other parties, the SDLP, the Alliance party, the Small Loyalist parties, the Women's Coalition and indeed there was a small Labour Party. All those were in this mix together. Sinn Fein did not acknowledge that there should be an assembly for Northern Ireland because it went against the business of United Ireland, so they had come to see me very politely, sit in a room together, talk about the weather and they would talk about Irish songs or whatever it might be but they wouldn't talk about the business of an Assembly or an Executive. Suddenly they realised about six weeks before the Good Friday Agreement that that had to change. They sent Barbara de Brun with the Minister of Health to come and see me and said 'of course Paul you know that we don't agree with Northern Ireland Assembly' and I said 'I do', 'However' she said 'if we did, this is what we think it would look like'. Right, we thought, there is going to be a change and change there came.
The Good Friday Agreement ultimately was the most important thing I have ever been involved in and I think in a sense to all of us here in our lives. Although it perhaps seemed a long way off across the Irish Sea it was part and is part of our country and if you think in terms of Powys or North Wales, losing three and half thousand people in a conflict like in Northern Ireland it would have perhaps brought it home a bit more to us. It was part of our country which to all intensive purposes was in civil war. It stopped; it was not a perfect agreement but that it was not far off it in my view. It settled the way in which power sharing was to happen. It dealt with human rights, it dealt with equality, it dealt with the issue ultimately of the police in Northern Ireland and it dealt most controversially with the release of prisoners who had committed all sorts of terrible crimes on both sides. That was the most difficult one to imagine because if you had been the family of a victim in Northern Ireland and had to see the murderers coming out of prison, let out early by an amnesty effectively then that must be very hard for you to accept. Nevertheless people voted for it overwhelmingly on both sides and in both parts of Ireland. Since then it has been a bumpy old ride to say the least but it is not news in the same way.
When I became Secretary of State people said to me, I was there for three years, 'you know there is not so much news coming out of Northern Ireland anymore' so I said 'good that is exactly what I want, I want it to be the dullest place there is, I don't want bad news coming out of it.' The reality was that people were not being killed in Northern Ireland anymore for political reasons. There is still a lot of criminality going on which needs to be addressed by the Loyalist Groups and the Republican ones but that has to be addressed as criminality not as a political issue. Ultimately that stopped, it is a more prosperous place, more people than ever now visit Northern Ireland and stay there as tourists where as they never used to go there in the past, if you remember.
Economically in terms of employment it is a wholly different place. If you go to Belfast it is like going to Cardiff. In terms of there is no threat of bombs you do not have to go to be searched and all the rest of it. We now face within the next couple of weeks the real break through, had someone said to me five years ago perhaps that the chances of Ian Paisley becoming the first Minister of Northern Ireland with Martin McGuiness the second Minister I would have put them in a lunatic asylum because you would not think that that was in any way a real possibility. Now they don't speak to each other which might make government a bit tricky but I think they will because the business of government brings them together.
I was there for a short time when they were governing properly in devolution and they had to look at things like what do you spend on schools, what do you spend on your health system, where do you put a road here, what about a bypass there. They have got to do those things and the business of having to take decisions actually changes it. I will give you one example. The European Union was instrumental in bringing about what happened there for all sorts of reasons. One was that they gave a lot of money called the Peace Dividend Money to Northern Ireland but in order for that money to be spent it had to be spent by both sides so to speak, coming together and working out how to spend it. I went to Newry, almost on the border and I went to the Council Chamber first and I had never seen so much chaos in all my life. What they were calling each other was nobody's business as bad as Torfaen Council Chamber. There they were shouting at each other and I said 'I can't cope any more with this', so we left after a while. I then went to the European Body which was based in that area, the same as the Local Authority area which basically dolled out the money. It had to be dolled out through a joint working committee and the same people were sat around a table like this 'well Jack, how are you going to manage to spend this up there then and do that up there' and it was unbelievable and it was working. So the reality is they can work together.
I think that it will be very difficult after the March 7th elections; it seems to me for the DLP not to go into government in Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein particularly since Sinn Fein has agreed to accept at last and rightly to the provisions on policing there. Also, I think, because as a direct ruler myself as they used to call me direct rule Murphy! I was the direct ruler Murphy for five years on and off and it was most inappropriate to say the least for Northern Ireland. This isn't far short of colonialism to be honest and I felt terribly uncomfortable, not in doing the things I had to do to help to bring the peace process along because that was different; but when I was Finance Minister for example, as I was, I had to take decisions as to where money was spent all over the place and I thought why should I be doing it? I represent Cwmbran and Pontypool and the Labour Party and my party is not represented in Northern Ireland. Nobody votes Labour in Northern Ireland, they may want to but that is another issue because ultimately perhaps it will settle down so that people won't vote on what tribe you belong to so to speak but what you think on social or economic issue which you should be voting on. I think that direct rule has to go; it's awful that it had to happen, but as I said the business of government will bring people together. So we might see the miracle happening.
Ten years ago as a Catholic myself and if I had become Secretary of State the chances are the DUP would denounce me for being Secretary of State and a Catholic. Now Paisley could not be friendlier. I have a very good relationship with Ian Paisley. My father who is no longer with us wouldn't have been too pleased about this I guess, then the world has changed and he has changed and his party has changed and I have changed. We have all changed to accommodate a new world and I have found the DUP over the last few years that I have been dealing with them extremely courteous yet disagree obviously on some aspects of things but generally speaking it is a different sort of party from what it used to be. I think at eighty one years of age he would probably like to be the first Minister of Northern Ireland before he dies and in so doing bring about a solution. I think he is up for it myself. The problem I think he faces is that he is eighty one, there is a succession battle, there are more parties than ever we have here, and it's in that succession battle who is going to take over. Some are more against an agreement than others that is the only thing I think will possibly hold it back.
I think Lloyd George would have been pleased with what has happened. Where he would have been bewildered is of course where we are at the moment in terms of our own security and Roger touched on the very important issue of balancing how much we make ourselves safe. The first duty of government is to ensure the safety of the people that it governs that is the first duty. Then you have to do that in such a way that our civil liberties are not eroded and that's a very difficult one.
My current job is to deal with the intelligence agencies - MI5, MI6 and DC HQ. Last year we looked at the July 7th bombings in London. We looked to July 21st but because the trial which is coming to a close now the July the 7th trial was on; we couldn't go into too much detail on that.
Currently we are looking at rendition, extraordinary rendition. All these things brought to a world which would be very alien to my dad, alien to me really in that the threats we now face are very different. They are global threats, threats from Al Qaeda and as you probably now know have at least a thousand people working for them in our country. Threats in where young men are completely taken over, brainwashed if you like by an ideology by which would mean that they can kill themselves and sixty other people in the tube in London. They would have, had they been successful in the summer bought down five planes or whatever it was with tens of thousands of casualties and deaths. It's only really by the successful way in which we work in our security agencies that we have not seen worse.
It is an uncertain difficult area, an area which is made even more difficult by a society which is even more diverse than it has ever been. How do you cope with that? We have seen what has happened in South London, I know it's not the same sort of thing I'm talking about but it is another aspect of a different society which we have got to come to terms with. I think that the balance is achievable; my own committee tries to ensure there is accountability of the intelligence agencies. That never used to happen they never even used to acknowledge that they existed ten years ago let alone be accountable to anybody so that is different. Also within Parliament, within the Laws of the Commons we have got to look at laws which sometimes are quite difficult. There are different views within parties about it. Should you hold somebody for ninety days for example, a big issue that is not going to go away but we have to look at it because of the way in which technology has increased and you have got to try and ensure you look through all this CCTV stuff, you look at computers and what they work on and all rest of it. Then at the same time, liberties that we fought hundreds of years for could be put at risk. These are difficult decisions for politicians to take and for the people to accept. That is what they pay us for in Parliament, we have got to take decisions on behalf of other people, that is why they elect us to it and we can't run away from them.
I think Lloyd George would have been bewildered by our current world in that sense but would have been deeply pleased in what has happened here in our own country and in Northern Ireland as well.
LLOYD GEORGE - A RELUCTANT WAR LEADER
I think what I have to say should follow on from what the last speaker talked about but backwards. An hour ago I would start with the Boer War and go on up to the present day but not beyond it!
I was born in 1929, Lloyd George was born in 1863 so he was over sixty when I was born and he didn't want a scandal. His first wife was still alive so my mother was not yet married to him. The simplest way of behaving in a way that kept me in contact with him was to call him Grandfather rather than Father. As a Welsh "taid" I think he already had seven grandchildren who were all older than me. I remember when my mother married him in due course that one of the grandchildren's first reaction was 'good god, Jennifer is my aunt!' He was a boy at school at the time but what I want to do is to go back to what LG talked about as in the way that grandfathers talk to their grandchildren. Parents don't usually have time to talk in detail about the past but grandparents have a lot of time. He spoke about the past to such an extent that when I was asked later on to talk to people about say the Boer War or the First World War I actually felt as though I had been there. I was quite surprised to find that I hadn't. I remember talking about the First World War to an aged professor when I went to university and we got on very well, I don't think he realised that I wasn't there any more than I did!
So I will go back right to the beginning. Even when he was a small boy at school Lloyd George was a fighter but in the Boer War he was already in Parliament and his career was just beginning. He risked the whole of his career to talk about the Boer War from what was for everybody else the wrong side, or nearly everybody else. He thought that the Boers had been unfairly dealt with but the Boers were farmers. He thought of the Boers as being like Welsh people. They came from a small country and they were being victimised by Britain. He thought it was unfair and all they wanted to do was to stay in their own country or move to a place where they could have their own farms and the word Boer means farmer. They were not interested in the gold or the diamonds that lay beneath the soil but the British were. The British were not interested in farmers they were interested in gold and diamonds. The conflict was really between the two and so he felt that the Boers were not being treated fairly. They weren't, not only were they attacked but the British invented concentration camps, the wives and the children were sent to these concentration camps where quite a large number died. We forgot that until quite recently.
L.G. risked his life, he was in fact attacked, he was called a pro Boer and he was called a pacifist and if anything he was not. Nobody ever in their right mind would have called him a pacifist he fought everybody on everything if he thought that they were wrong and he was right, even from his earliest days at school. He did think that the Boer were being unfairly attacked which he said so and escaped with his life at least twice but probably more often. Once he was disguised as a policeman and taken away from the hall in which he was talking and only just got away with his life. He was not someone who would avoid unpopular causes. If he thought someone was being dealt with unfairly he said so and said so very, very vocally, very persuasively. Perhaps not quite persuasively enough because there was still plenty of people who thought he was wrong. So he was originally pro Boer.
The interesting thing looking back was there were Boers on one side, there were the British on the other side and there were a lot of Zulus, there were Hereros and allsorts of people that he was not concerned with. When one thinks back, how many people thought of the black people as being as important in Africa as the British and the Boers and whoever else was white. We forget that it never occurred to people. The blacks were the hewers of wood and drawers of water, the people who went down the mines or who worked on the farms. They were not the people who created governments. Things have changed very much but it has taken quite a long time. One has to remember that one can't blame Lloyd George for not considering black people as good as white people. I think he was wrong but I don't think one can blame him for it because everybody did at that time.
This was the time just after the scramble for Africa in which the European Nations all grabbed parts of Africa and the only country which remains on the map at that time which has not got a European origin was Liberia. It hasn't done very well but it was the place that they sent slaves when they returned to Africa and didn't know which part of Africa they had come from. That was never taken over by any other county.
L.G. was thought of by some as a pacifist because he was on the side of the Boers how on earth that made him a pacifist I don't know? When the First World War started he had been Chancellor of the Exchequer by then for some time and it looked as though his next step up would be Prime Minister. At that time Asquith was Prime Minister and he was next in line but things went wrong in the First World War. The people who suffered were the ordinary people who had joined up with immense enthusiasm because they had to fight Germany and they had to protect gallant little Belgium as it was then called. They felt that they were doing the right thing in enormous numbers and they died in enormous numbers. It was an enormous waste of a generation and it needn't have happened at all but one reason why it happened, why so many people died was that there was not enough in the way of bullets and shells and armaments generally.
Lloyd George looked at the situation and realised somebody had got to do something about the production of armaments. The situation at that time about a year after the beginning of the First World War was that there were about two shells where there should be two hundred. They just weren't being produced. He gave up his job as Chancellor of the Exchequer; people have accused him of being out for himself but very much not. He thought it was much more important that these poor wretched people who joined up with such enthusiasm should be given something to fight with than that he should retain his important position as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
He went to the new Ministry of Munitions which he invented and he went there with two tables and a chair the Ministry of Work strived to take away the two tables and the chair and he got very cross - he said he needed them! He had given up his very important job for a very unimportant one that had just been invented but he knew what to do about it. One thing he did was that he got people involved in making munitions who were very good at making other things. People who were ordinary business men working very hard at their jobs, he got them into making munitions. Allsorts of people of different kinds, if they were good at their job and if he liked them then they were offered a job at the Ministry of Munitions and it began at last to function extremely well.
The other people that he involved were women. He had not liked the Suffragettes and it was safe to say the Suffragettes had not liked him! They were very good at getting people to do things and they were energetic people and if there was one thing he had it was enormous energy. So he got the women all over the country to work in the factories and to make the shells and the bombs and all the nasty things that we think of so that there would be enough munitions to function in Belgium and in France. It was interesting because it didn't make the Suffragettes like him and it didn't make him like them but they were all functioning well. I have got a lovely little pottery that says he was very good at making munitions and how important it was! Again it was not going to be something that was going to make him popular. He may have been known as the man who won the war but it was probably because of munitions rather than because he became Prime Minister towards the end of it.
When he did become Prime Minister he had to do down the Liberal Prime Minister Asquith and there was good reason for it because Asquith was a little bit remote from ordinary people. For instance he would sit in cabinet meetings and write letters to his mistress. Although Lloyd George had a mistress as I know, he would never have written a letter to her during a government meeting. He thought it was important that one actually listened to what was being said in the Cabinet. He didn't really get on with Asquith but he offered Asquith a job when he took over as Prime Minister but Asquith didn't want it. He split the Liberal Party completely and one reason for this was that he really didn't mind about party politics. He was perfectly prepared to work with the Conservatives if they were prepared to work with him just as he was prepared to work with Dukes if they were prepared to do things for the common people.
He didn't put people into categories, if he thought people behaved in what he thought a compassionate way then he would work with them. He ended by splitting the Liberal Party and it has taken until these days for them to get it together again. Gradually it is now and it certainly has taken a long time and I think one has to blame him for that. There were things that he did like having an election just after the end of the war in which he gave people coupons if they voted for him and they did. That was an absolute disaster for himself because when the Conservatives got strong enough to manage without him they threw him out and he never got back again. I think he should have foreseen that but it didn't seem important to him at the time. People have blamed him at that for ambition and perhaps it was. It's interesting that it was originally his care for the common people.
The people he really disliked were the Generals who didn't care about the common people. For instance one of them, Earl Hague who you think of so highly because of all the poppies had said 'it doesn't matter if there is only one person left at the end of the war as long as that person is English', and L.G. was absolutely appalled. It was one of the first thing s that he told me about and how dreadfully this man had behaved. He didn't like quite a few of the Generals, not all of them but the ones who just didn't care, who liked fighting, who liked other people fighting for them. Those people he did not like. But an ordinary man on the street who had given up his job to go and fight in a war in a place that he really didn't know anything about, and a war I think nobody knew how dreadful it would be, he cared for those and wanted for them that they should have peace.
Unfortunately what we got was a war with an immense number of casualties. If you go to any place and I am thinking now of the place in Edinburgh where you have a list of people who were killed in the First World War and people who were killed in the Second World War. People who were killed in the Second World War although it was longer were only a quarter of the numbers compared to the people killed in the First World War. It destroyed a generation, it wasn't even just the people who were killed, even the people that weren't were very badly damaged as a rule and he really cared about each one of those, he didn't want anybody killed. He did want to win the war and it was touch and go right at the end, right to the end. It was only almost by chance that we won it.
Where he made I think more mistakes was in what happened after the war. The Peace Treaty, the treatment of all sorts of foreign countries, countries like Germany which were much too heavily penalised resulting in the Second World War. Countries like the Middle Eastern countries for example. Look at the Iraq war today. That goes back to Lloyd George's decision that he would give Iraq, which was then Mesopotamia, to a leader that didn't belong there Faisal who had never actually been there at that point. He was made king. Lloyd George didn't really understand foreign people and countries that he didn't know. It was alright if he could translate a Boer into a Welsh man but he couldn't do that with people in the Middle East. Another point of friction that has gone on ever since is that he was tremendously in favour of the Jews. Now if you think of it quite a few of the Jews were of European origin, very few of the Arabs were, in fact none. He thought maybe the Arabs had not done so much to help the countries in the Middle East as the Jews were prepared to do and could do. The Jews needed a national home but simply to decide that they would have this, the Balfour Declaration in I think 1917 said that the Jews would have a home, it didn't actually specify where or what sort of a home but it was taken to mean that they would be able to go to Israel and make a country for themselves. This they ultimately did. I was brought up on the assumption that firstly I would know all about the Balfour Declaration which happened quite some time before I was born and secondly that I would support it wholly, so I did of course, I mean at the age of five you do! That war between the Israelis and the Arabs started at that point and that has obviously got worse. He made mistakes but partly his mistakes were simply of not understanding the countries involved and just as he hadn't understood that the Zulus were people, then nobody would have really thought of it at the time.
I am going to go right back now to just after the First World War when he had to decide what to do about countries that had been ruled over by Germany. Quite interestingly I worked for eight years in Tanganyika which is now Tanzania and we didn't know that the Belgians had ruled over a large part of Tanganyika very badly. They said at the Peace Conference that 'we want part of what was German East Africa', and Lloyd George said 'we are not having it; it means you will actually rule a country, you won't be Little Belgium anymore you will be Greedy and Grasping Belgium. You will be people who rule from coast to coast three thousand miles and we're just not having it. We will have it'. He didn't suggest that the Africans could have it and that again continued for some long time, that the British were best without doubt in British eyes and if you weren't British you were white. If you were an African living in a mud hut you had no importance at all. The fact that he didn't see this is something that we have to bear in mind in looking back but nor did anyone else.
When I first when to Tanzania I went to be useful, to teach nice little African girls, I must say they were a lot nicer than white girls that were of the same age, and they wanted to learn which was a difference. I went there thinking that I was going to be useful, I hope I was, and when I arrived it was just after my husband had been there four years earlier and he had just had a meeting with the United Nations which had taken over the country because it had been German East Africa and then under the mandate of the League of Nations. It was a Trust Territory and they kept an eye on it.
The United Nations afterwards came up and they sent four people out to decide what the future of Tanzania was to be. It's a country the size of from here to Warsaw. You had four people who didn't know it at all who came out to see how it should be governed and what they said was it should get independence within twenty five years. It actually got it in seven. Of those four people, two of them objected strongly to the suggestion that it would get independence in twenty five years, they said it was much too soon. They got part of their way, one was Australian I think and I have forgotten the other. So it took everybody by surprise that they did get their independence and it became quite a different sort of world when you had a lot of independent African countries instead of a lot of dependent ones dependent on the European world. When Lloyd George was arranging all these things after the First World War, nobody ever suggested that the Africans had any rights at all, that white European people were the ones that actually mattered. As I say one had to condemn him for that.
On the other hand he worked with enormous energy, with in fact I think genius and with compassion for as much as he could manage for the people of the World. I think that we owe him a lot but that time has gone on and the World has altered. We have to remember that the World has altered and what he did was good and for what he didn't do he was in no way to blame.
Printed (hosted) by Prater Raines Ltd, 98 Sandgate High Street, Folkestone CT20 3BY
Published and promoted by Lloyd George Society, 114 Worcester Lane, Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, B75 5NJ
The views expressed are those of the publisher, not of the service provider.
Website designed and developed by Prater Raines Ltd, with modifications by Lloyd George Society