Labour’s lost vision of Humanism

Labour won the 1964 General Election after 13 years of “Tory misrule”. It did so on the back of a vision to ‘humanise the State’ and to modernise it. We face the same challenge today. Here are the final paragraphs of the 1964 Manifesto – inspirational today, as they were then:

We do not delude ourselves that the tasks ahead will be easy to accomplish. Even now we do not know the full extent of the damage we shall have to repair after 13 wasted years of Conservative government. The essential conditions for success are, however, clear.

First, we shall need to make government itself more efficient. As the tasks of government grow more numerous and more complex, the machinery of government must be modernised. New techniques, new kinds of skill and experience are needed if government is to govern effectively. Certainly we shall not permit effective action to be frustrated by the hereditary and non-elective Conservative majority in the House of Lords.

At the same time new ways must be found to ensure that the growth of government activity does not infringe the liberties of the subject. This is why we attach so much importance to humanising the whole administration of the state and that is why we shall set up the new office of Parliamentary Commissioner with the right to investigate the grievances of the citizen and report to a select committee of the House.

Second, we shall seek to establish a true partnership between the people and their parliament. The government itself cannot create a new Britain. National regeneration must mean the release of energy in the whole people in the regions no less than in the capital, so that the drive towards renewal comes from the vitality and self-confidence of the community itself.

Third, we must foster, throughout the nation, a new and more critical spirit. In place of the cosy complacency of the past 13 years, we shall seek to evoke an active and searching frame of mind in which all of us, individuals, enterprises and trade unions are ready to re-examine our methods of work, to innovate and to modernise. Here too, the Government can give a lead by subjecting to continuing and probing review the practices of its own Departments of State, the administration of justice and the social services, the Statute Book with its encrusted laws – and the work of Parliament itself.

Fourth, we must put an end to the dreary commercialism and personal selfishness which have dominated the years of Conservative government. The morality of money and property is a dead and deadening morality. In its place we must again reassert the value of service above private profit and private gain.

The Labour Party is offering Britain a new way of life that will stir our hearts, re-kindle an authentic patriotic faith in our future, and enable our country to re-establish itself as a stable force in the world today for progress, peace, and justice.

It is within the personal power of every man and woman with a vote to guarantee that the British again become the go-ahead people with a sense of national purpose, thriving in an expanding community where social justice is seen to prevail.

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