The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

Foreign Secretary (1989)

Mr Major’s Comments on Labour’s Policy Review – 10 August 1989

Below is the text of the press release, 110/89, issued by Conservative Central Office on Thursday 10 August 1989 and entitled “Labour Still Unfit to Govern – Policy Review is a Colossal Deception”. The speech was made by Mr Major at Huntingdon to party workers at 17:00 on Thursday 10 August 1989.


Labour are no more fit to govern now than they were one year ago.

Neither their much-touted policy review nor their European Manifesto have revealed any new understanding of how to make Britain’s voice count in the world, or how to advance Britain’s interests.

That’s bad news not only for Britain, but for the whole international community. Because Britain now takes a leading role on a whole range of key international issues such as arms control, human rights, the nurturing of democracy, the resolution of regional conflicts, and the protection of our natural environment. In all these areas, Britain has helped to set the pace – thanks to ten years of Conservative Government. And Labour are as baffled by that success as ever.

First of all, Labour haven’t yet grasped how much of Britain’s new political capital has been built upon economic success. Their policy review shows that they are more than ready to jeopardise that success for the sake of socialist ideology – albeit dressed up in the language of realism and efficiency. Labour would reverse the whole thrust of the Government’s economic strategy which has propelled us to the top of the growth league of major European economies. That would be folly.

It’s high time some of the myths of Labour’s so-called new ‘realism’ were nailed once and for all.

There’s nothing realistic about a jobs strategy which would force industry to pay a national minimum wage – and cost thousands of jobs in the process.

There’s nothing far-sighted about subjecting industry to a whole panoply of controls, commissions and boards dusted down from the 1960s. There’s nothing pragmatic about restoring union immunities, bringing back secondary picketing, and ending the right to a pre-strike ballot – the very state of affairs that brought the country to its knees before, and would do so again.

And there’s nothing modern about taking privatised industries back under state control – just when the rest of the world is consigning nationalisation to the dustbin.

Under the Conservatives, we’ve seen Britain leading the world by example. We have shown how competition, incentives and privatisation can create jobs by the thousand and boost standards of living for everyone. Other countries – of every political complexion – now wish to do the same – from Turkey to Cuba, from China to Togo. They all want to learn from our experience.

It’s the prestige we have earned which is giving Britain real clout in the world once again. Labour’s policies would turn us into an economic laughing-stock, and usher us backstage all over again. And as their disastrous policies take their toll, Labour would fall back on the usual socialist prescription: import controls, capital controls, and Fortress Britain consigned to unsplendid isolation. In no time at all, Britain would be paying the inflationary price of Labour’s Mark 2 socialism. The world would be the poorer for it. And so would Britain.

Of course, Labour would like Britain’s voice to be heard.

But it wouldn’t be as a key player in arms control negotiations between East and West – because they’d rather opt out altogether.

It wouldn’t be in all the key economic fora, pressing for multilateral disarmament in trade as well as weapons.

It wouldn’t be at the United Nations, working to bring peace in the major conflicts which blight our world.

And it wouldn’t be heard in the Community, urging our partners to meet the 1992 deadline for a free and open People’s Europe.

No. Labour would much rather see Britain posturing shrilly from the sidelines. But posturing is not substitute for a policy. Nowhere is that more true than in defence – the first responsibility of any Government. And it’s in defence that Labour’s policy review has most conspicuously failed the test.

By abandoning the policy of flexible response – the strategy which has kept Europe at peace – Labour would critically undermine the unity of the NATO alliance.

By opposing the modernisation of NATO’s short-range nuclear weapons – in spite of the fact that the Warsaw Pact have modernised 95 per cent of theirs – Labour would leave NATO with a deterrent which was neither credible nor effective.

And by seeking the eventual removal of all short-range nuclear weapons, Labour would jeopardise the safety of our troops in West Germany.

Most fatally of all, Labour’s policy review makes it clear that its eventual objective is the elimination of Britain’s own nuclear capability. So the abolition of the British deterrent remains unequivocally on Labour’s agenda. The question is not whether we should disarm but when.
Labour’s policy review has barely begun to come to terms with the real world. It is a public relations exercise. It would be greeted with total dismay by our European partners, and would seriously undermine our objective of getting Europe to speak and act as one on all the most crucial international issues.

It would be the most colossal deception of the British people.

And it’s the most telling evidence yet that Labour are still unfit to govern.