Monday 3 May 2010

Gordon Brown: justice is the cause we fight for

Gordon Brown spoke about his commitment to social justice to the largest single meeting of the election campaign, as Citizens UK brought together 2500 people to hear all three major party leaders at its General Election Assembly, and to press them on the campaigning priorities of the Citizens UK movement of community and civic organisations.

Both supporters and critics have described Brown's contribution as his most powerful speech of the election campaign, winning strong support for his record on the minimum wage and commitment to a living wage, and heartfelt advocacy of the politics of social justice at home and abroad.

PoliticsHome has a video extract and transcript, along with a round-up of reaction.

Citizens UK is a cross-party campaign bringing together faith-based and secular campaigners for social justice. It is campaigning for a 6 point citizens manifesto, concisely summarised by Anthony Painter in his Left Foot Forward report on the event, and available in full at Citizens UK

The large audience also responded positively to Nick Clegg, particularly praising his willingness to back the campaign to regularise illegal, and to David Cameron being willing to engage with the idea of the living wage.

Here is part of Brown's speech.

your movement is like every other great movement in history, it is built on moral convictions.

First hundreds, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands of people they say. Inequality should not be woven into the fabric of our lives. People of compassion and good will should never journey without hope. And no injustice should endure for ever.

Do you know what taught me more than any book ever taught me, it was a video. It was a video created for the Make poverty History campaign. And it’s a video that sums up for me the strength of a movement. It encompasses the great campaigns of our time, it’s a video that shows the abolitionist movement, the civil rights movement, the votes for women movement, the anti-apartheid movement. And every time it shows that movement it passes by the leaders who spoke on the stage and zooms in on the faces of the crowds like the crowd here today.

The people who gathered to hear Wilberforce speak about slavery, the men and women on the march to Washington with Martin Luther King. And the point of zooming in on the crowds is that nobody was a spectator. That the people in the crowd, the people whose names are not recorded in the books of history are the real change makers, the people who made history by being there and demanding change.


so it is with Citizen’s UK. Each of you hear will know that your work may not always make the headlines. But you can always make the difference. And I know that in your work as community organisers you share testimony with each other. So please allow me to testify today to what I believe and to tell you who I am.

I’m a son of a Church of Scotland minister. He taught me, my father, that life was about more than self interest, that work is about more than self-advancement. That service is about more than self service. That happiness is about more than what you earn and own. My parents taught me the fundamental values of taking responsibility, doing your duty, being honest, looking out for others and that is the right way, it is your way and it is my way.

And when I was a student the two causes I worked for most were to force my university to disinvest in Apartheid and sell all its shares in South Africa. And I also ran a campaign for decent pay for university cleaners. And across the years I feel my life has come full circle, because when I became Chancellor of the Exchequer the first thing I was able to do was to create the minimum wage for the first time in 100 years. Justice for the low paid.

And the fight continues. And that is why we have said in our manifesto that the minimum wage rises at least in line with earnings. It will reach £7 on reasonable assumptions by the end of the Parliament. Because we must lead by example, Labour is pledged to go even further by asking all Whitehall departments to back the campaign that you have led and to which I pay tribute, the campaign for the living wage.

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