Gordon Brown has made his final speech to the House of Commons - and pledged to ‘‘fight and fight again’’ to renew and protect British values of tolerance, liberty and fairness.
The Kirkcaldy MP bowed out of a lifetime in politics urging Britain to becomne leaders once again - not spectators on the shore.
The former Prime Minister argued our successes came when we looked outward with confidence - and he attacked the Government’s plans for EVEL - English laws for English votes - in response to last year’s Scottish referendum,.
Mr Brown paid tribute to his parliamentary colleagues on both sides of the House as he took his leave with a speech which looked ahead as much as it did reflect on past events.
He said: ‘‘I leave this House feeling a huge amount of gratitude --but also with some concern. For I sense that the UK today is fragile, at risk and we are potentially at a point of departure.
‘‘Countries at their best, their strongest, their truest, are more than places on the map, more than a demarcation of borders. Great countries stand on shared foundations. They are guided by unifying ideals. They move forward in common purpose. And so it must be with Britain.
‘‘And whether the future lies in greater devolution, a new form of federalism or home rule within the UK, in the constitutional revolution now under way I will fight, struggle, do battle and fight and fight again to renew and reconstruct for a new age the idea of Britain around shared values can bring us together and advance a common Britishness - a shared belief in tolerance, liberty and fairness that come alive in unique British institutions like the National Health Service and in common policies for social justice - ideas which we have given to the world, but now seem to be losing sight of at home: unifying ideas that we need to champion anew at the core of a common British national purpose that binds us together in a shared future.
It is because I believe in Britain’s future that I am saddened - and I am sorry to have to say this - that for the first and only time in 300 years since the start of the Union it has become official UK government policy to create two classes of elected representatives – “first class” English who would vote on all issues, and “second class” Scots who would vote on only some – and thus to mimic the nationalists by driving a wedge between Scotland and England --- and this only to head off opposition from the extremes with a direct nationalist appeal to the English electorate….not so much “English votes for English laws” as “English laws for English votes.”
‘‘I ask this House to remember that our greatest successes as a country have come not when we have been divided nor when we have turned inwards, but when we have confidently looked outwards and thought globally, our eyes fixed on the wider world and the future.’’
Mr Brown spoke of Britain’s key role in championing global action, tackling poverty, and speaking out against discrimination
The role, he said, went beyond economics.
‘‘All societies need a moral energy that can inspire individuals to the self-sacrificial acts of public service that come alive out of mutual respect and obligation, and can turn impersonal buildings and anonymous streets made only of stone and concrete into vibrant, sharing communities,’’ he said.
Yes, the predominant feeling in our country today is an anger I can see in people’s faces and hear in their voices – an anger directed against elites - and a demand for change.
‘‘Yes, too, of the many social changes that I have witnessed in thirty years here, among the most dramatic has been the significant fall in religious observance.
‘‘But I also sense that the British people are better than leaders often presume; ready to respond to a vision of a country more caring and less selfish, more compassionate and less cynical than any “me too, me first, me now, me above all, me whatever” manifestos.
‘‘For I sense millions of us feel, however distantly, the pain of others, and believe in something within ourselves, beyond ourselves and bigger than ourselves that can lead us to work for causes greater than ourselves. And so we cannot easily feast when our fellow citizens go hungry to food banks; we cannot feel at ease when our neighbours – in hock to payday lenders – are ill at ease; and cannot be fully content when, with poverty pay and zero hour contracts, there is around us so much discontent.
‘‘It’s not anti-wealth to say that the wealthy must do more to lift up those who are not wealthy. It’s not anti-enterprise to say the enterprising must do more to meet the aspirations of those who have never had the chances to show that they too are enterprising. And it’s not anti-market to say that markets need morals to underpin their success.
‘‘And for me, the most moving mission statement defining our duties as MPs here is the declaration made nearly 100 years ago – on the day after they were elected - by MPs from Clydeside, that we should “abjure vanity and self-aggrandisement” and, as “humble servants of the people”, “have regard for the weak, those stricken by disease, those who have fallen in the struggle for life” and “bear in our hearts the sorrows of the aged, the widowed mother, and the poor, that their lives shall not be without comfort.”
‘‘And for this – and for showing me that when the strong help the weak it makes us all stronger - I will always be grateful to my parents who taught me these values of justice, my party who taught me how to fight for justice, and my constituents who taught me every day the rightness of justice.
‘‘For we must never forget that what politics at its best can do is imbue people with hope and inspire us all to be better.
‘‘Wishful thinking about the future is the passive belief something might be done.
‘‘Optimism is the instinctive belief that yes, something can be done.
‘‘But hope is the active resolve that something must be done.
Mr Brown concluded his final speech with a pledge.
‘‘I leave here as I came here, with an unquenchable faith in a future for our country that we can build and share together, a future where we help shape the world beyond our shores, a future where we always demand the best of ourselves. This is the future worth fighting for and this is the future that I will never stop fighting for.