Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Public Responsibility For Social Justice

Part of Orders of the Day — Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 3:33 pm on 10th March 1997.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Margaret Ewing Margaret Ewing , Moray 3:33 pm, 10th March 1997

I beg to move, That this House calls for a concerted effort to eradicate poverty and create full employment; believes in a society free of social injustice and inequality where decent, democratic values ensure that priorities become the defeat of homelessness, the maintenance of free health care and the guarantee of dignity from cradle to grave for all citizens; pledges itself to working against the politics of selfishness and greed and to developing a society where the contribution of the whole community is sought and valued; and, for the above reasons, rejects the Government's proposed spending plans for 1997–98 and 1998–99. I welcome the opportunity to highlight social and economic justice and our public responsibility in this House for those issues. Central to the debate is the political will to effect change to the benefit of all our constituents, the communities that we represent and people outwith our country.

Politicians are not held in the highest regard at any level of political activity—community council, local council, Parliament or Europe. However, my experience during 15 years in the House is that the majority of Members of Parliament work very hard on behalf of individuals and hold dearly concepts of social and economic justice. We do not always achieve the results that we want, but there is a genuine consensus among politicians that we are here to represent people and we want to achieve the best for them.

It is tempting to concentrate on what the media tell us are the critical issues of the day, but we should step back from that from time to time and consider what we are doing as legislators, because that is fundamental to all of us. Everyone in the House—I am glad to see a substantial number of hon. Members present—should ask themselves why they signed up to represent their party and why they decided to become involved in politics, particularly when many people appear to regard politics as despicable.

I joined my party for a simple reason. People are always asked why "they" did not do something. That "they" was a grey, amorphous organisation. People should ask, "Why don't I become involved? Why don't I do something about what is happening in my community and my country?" As a young student at Glasgow university—that well-known breeding ground for politicians—I listened to our lecturers talking about history, culture and literature. I was struck by the words of John Donne, the metaphysical poet. Metaphysical poets are one of my great joys in life. I read them regularly. John Donne wrote: No man is an Island, entire of it self… And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee. Whatever our party or our constituency, we are all here to talk about the people for whom the bell tolls. Politics is about the involvement of people. It is about thought and analysis of the situation in which we find ourselves.

When this institution was founded, we did not have electronic media or journalists wanting a quick quote on every issue. In one respect, insularity and immediacy have perhaps undermined our political process. Those who fought for you and me, Madam Speaker, to have the right, as women, to be members of this House and to vote did so because they believed that society would be changed irrevocably through representation. Indeed, such campaigns have changed many aspects of society.