this will most likely be the last time that i will speak at length as prime minister, and i would like today to share some personal reflections on the state of politics in our country and around the world.
now i've lived politics for half a century. from stuffing envelopes for my local party in my school years to serving as a local councillor, fighting a by-election,winning a seat, serving for 12 years on the opposition front bench and for 9 years in the cabinet as home secretary and prime minister.
throughout that time, in every job i have done. i've been inspired by the enormous potential that working in politics and taking part in public life holds. the potential to serve your country, to improve peoples' lives and – in however big or small a way – to make the world a better place.
both domestically and internationally, in substance and in tone. i'm worried about the state of politics. that worry stems from a conviction that the values on which all of our successes have been founded cannot be taken for granted. they may look to us as old as the hills, we might think that they will always be there, but establishing the superiority of those values over the alternatives was the hard work of centuries of sacrifice. and to ensure that liberal inheritance can endure for generations to come, we today have a responsibility to be active in conserving it, if we do not, we will all pay the price: rich and poor, strong and weak, powerful and powerless.
as a politician, my decisions and actions have always been guided by that conviction. it used to be asked of applicants at conservative candidates election meetings 'are you a conviction politician or are you a pragmatist'?
i've never accepted the distinction. politics is the business of turning your convictions into reality to improve the lives of the people you serve. as a conservative——i have never had any doubt about what i believe in: security, freedom and opportunity, decency, moderation, patriotism. conserving what is of value but never shying away from change. indeed, recognising that often change is the way to conserve. believing in business but holding businesses to account if they break the rules. backing ambition, aspiration and hard work. protecting our union of nations –and being prepared to act in its interest.
even if that means steering a difficult political course. and remaining always firmly rooted in the common ground of politics where all great political parties should be. i didn't write about those convictions in pamphlets or make many theoretical speeches about them. i have sought to put them into action.
and actually getting things done rather than simply getting them said requires some qualities that have become unfashionable of late. one of them is a willingness to compromise.
prime minister theresa may leaves 10 downing street for her final pmq's on july 24, 2019 in london, britain. [photo/vcg]
that does not mean compromising your values. it does not mean accepting the lowest common denominator or clinging to outmoded ideas out of apathy or fear. it means being driven by, and when necessary standing up for your values and convictions. but doing so in the real world – in the arena of public life where others are making their own case, pursuing their own interests. and where persuasion, teamwork and a willingness to make mutual concessions are needed to achieve an optimal outcome. that is politics at its best.
the alternative is a politics of winners and losers of absolutes and of perpetual strife and that threatens us all. today an inability to combine principles with pragmatism and make a compromise when required seems to have driven our whole political discourse down the wrong path. it has led to what is in effect a form of "absolutism", one which believes that if you simply assert your view loud enough and long enough, you will get your way in the end. or that mobilising your own faction is more important than bringing others with you. this is coarsening our public debate. some are losing the ability to disagree without demeaning the views of others.
online technology allows people to express their anger and anxiety without filter or accountability. aggressive assertions are made without regard to the facts or the complexities of an issue in an environment where the most extreme views tend to be the most noticed. this descent of our debate into rancour and tribal bitterness, and in some cases even vile abuse at a criminal level is corrosive for the democratic values which we should all be seeking to uphold. it risks closing down the space for reasoned debate and subverting the principle of freedom of speech. and this does not just create an unpleasant environment. words have consequences and ill words that go unchallenged are the first step on a continuum towards ill deeds, towards a much darker place where hatred and prejudice drive not only what people say, but also what they do.
we are living through a period of profound change and insecurity. the forces of globalisation and the pursuit of free markets have brought unprecedented levels of wealth and opportunity for the country and for the world at large. but not everyone is reaping the benefits. the march of technology is expanding the possibilities for humanity in ways that once could never have been conceived. but it is changing the nature of the workplace and the types of jobs that people will do. more and more working people are feeling anxious over whether they and their children and grandchildren will have the skills and the opportunities to get on. and although the problems were building before the financial crisis that event brought years of hardship from which we are only now emerging.
populist movements have seized the opportunity to capitalise on that vacuum. they have embraced the politics of division; identifying the enemies to blame for our problems and offering apparently easy answers. in doing so, they promote a polarised politics which views the world through the prism of "us"and "them", a prism of winners and losers which views compromise and cooperation through international institutions as signs of weakness not strength.
we are here today at st james' square, the location from which dwight eisenhower led the planning for d-day. it was standing on the beaches of normandy with otherworld leaders last month, remembering together all that was given in defence of our liberty and our values that most inspired me to come here today to give this speech. eisenhower once wrote:
"people talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable"
"things are not all black and white"
"there have to be compromises"
"the middle of the road is all of the usable surface"
"the extremes, right and left, are in the gutters"
我们今天在这里，在圣詹姆斯广场。德怀特·艾森豪威尔领导诺曼底登陆计划，就是在这里完成的。上个月，我与世界各国领导人一起站在诺曼底海滩，共同铭记为捍卫自由和价值观，我们所付出的一切，这也是激励着我今天选择这里发表演说的原因所在。艾森豪威尔曾写道："人们在谈论中间路线时，似乎都将其视为不可接受的" "但这世界并不是，非黑即白" "我们必须有所妥协" "其实道路中央才是可供行走的路面" "而左右极端，才会被困于路边的沟壑中"
i believe that seeking the common ground and being prepared to make compromises in order to make progress does not entail a rejection of our values and convictions by one iota rather it is precisely the way to defend them. not by making promises you cannot keep or by just telling people what you think they want to hear. but by addressing the concerns people genuinely hold
and showing that co-operation not absolutism is the only way to deliver for everyone.
for the future, if we can recapture the spirit of common purpose – as i believe we must, then we can be optimistic about what together we can achieve. we can find the common ground that will enable us to forge new, innovative global agreements on the most crucial challenges of our time from protecting our planet to harnessing the power of technology for good. we can renew popular support for liberal democratic values and international co-operation. and in so doing, we can secure our freedom, our prosperity and our ability to live together peacefully now and for generations to come. thank you!