It is a huge pleasure to be here with you tonight.
And to be giving the Hugo Young Lecture.
Hugo Young was a figure of great decency and integrity.
He wrote beautifully and insightfully and gave journalism a good name.
As Alan Rusbridger wrote after his death, “Hugo never forgot why he was there: not to make friends or amiably to chew the political cud, but to report and to explain.”
Of the many things that made Hugo Young famous, was the phrase “one of us”.
It was the title he gave to his renowned biography of Margaret Thatcher.
As Hugo began the book:
“Is he one of us? The question became one of the emblematic themes of the Thatcher years.”
“Posed by Mrs Thatcher it defined the test which politicians and other public officials vying for her favour were required to pass.”
Now, I cite this not because I think we should take it as a model for government.
Nor for appointing civil servants.
But in the use of the phrase, Hugo Young was making an important point.
The very fact that Lady Thatcher was able to ask that question meant that she was absolutely clear what she stood for.
Prime Ministers are elected on a manifesto and make policy on that basis.
But in my view whether they achieve lasting change depends not just on specific policies but whether they can define the purpose and mission of their government.
With thousands of decisions taken in government every day, unless there is that sense of purpose, ministers and the people who support them will simply go their own way.
And the whole will be far less than the sum of the parts.
This is particularly true when it comes to the incredibly complex task of running the state and public services.
Over twenty Whitehall departments, more than a hundred local authorities, thousands of hospitals and schools.
Millions of choices are made each year in these organizations.
Even the most hands-on Prime Minister cannot determine those choices—nor should they want to.
But a Prime Minister and a government can establish a culture for the way public services ought to work.
And the reality is that it doesn’t need civil servants to be ‘one of us’ to respond.
All of my experience is that public servants want a sense of the culture of public service the government wishes to see.
Because this sense of purpose acts as a guide for them.
My aim tonight is to say what that mission would be if I was Prime Minister.
My case is that the time demands a new culture in our public services.
Not old-style, top-down central control, with users as passive recipients of services.
Nor a market-based individualism which says we can simply transplant the principles of the private sector lock, stock and barrel into the public sector.
The time in which we live and the challenges we face demand that we should always be seeking instead to put more power in the hands of patients, parents and all the users of services.
Unaccountable concentrations of power wherever we find them don’t serve the public interest and need to be held to account.
But this is about much more than the individual acting simply as a consumer.
It is about voice as well as choice.
Individuals working together with each other and with those professionals who serve them.
This commitment to people powered public services will be at the heart of the next Labour government and tonight I want to set out why it matters, and what it means in practice.
This vision for public services is rooted in one of the key principles that drive my politics.
The principle of equality.
In his poem, The Prairie Grass Dividing, Walt Whitman talks about what makes for a successful democracy and says it is about a country where people can “look carelessly in the faces of Presidents and Governors, as to say, Who are you?”
Of course, politicians today quite often have that experience.
But not quite in the spirit Walt Whitman meant.
He is expressing the belief that each person however powerful or powerless, matters as much as one another.
An ethical view about the equal worth of every citizen.
This is the foundation of my commitment to equality too.
Whoever you are, wherever you come from, you are of equal worth.
It is the standard I seek to hold myself to as a person.
It means seeking to walk in the shoes of others, not looking over their shoulder to someone more powerful.
And that defines my politics too.
Because from that flows a belief in equal opportunity.
How else can we fulfil our commitment to the equal worth of every citizen?
And from it also flows a belief that large inequalities of income and wealth scar our society and prevent the common life I believe in for our country.
As Benjamin Disraeli wrote in Sybil in 1845 the danger is of “two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones or inhabitants of different planets”.
Those words were true then and feel as true today.
For decades, inequality was off the political agenda.
But nationally and internationally, this is changing.
Many people across every walk of life in Britain – politics, charity and business – now openly say they believe that inequality is deeply damaging.
Internationally too, political and civic leaders are talking about inequality in a way that they haven’t for generations.
At the end of last month, President Obama put it right at…