Let me finish with a final thought, and it’s about the importance of courage in politics.
I started by talking about Aneurin Bevan, and the NHS he created through force of will and political drive. The NHS is a great example of how today’s controversy is tomorrow’s commonplace. In 1948, the Conservatives voted against the NHS Bill in Parliament.
Yesterday, as I queued for the Westminster Abbey service to commemorate the NHS, standing behind me was my good friend David Cameron, leader of a party committed to the NHS.What can she mean? Is she talking in code? Some Labour MPs certainly think so...
In the 1960s my mentor and heroine Barbara Castle introduced seat belts and the breathalyser, and was called every name under the sun for restricting drivers’ freedom to drive whilst drunk and without a seat belt. No-one today wants to reverse that policy.
In my time in parliament, we’ve seen controversies such as Academy schools. Opposed tooth and nail at the time; now an increasingly accepted part of the local education system. Or the smoking ban. One year one, considered a great success.
My point is that every new political idea has its opponents – people who lack imagination, who fear change, who benefit from the status quo, or who want a quiet life. But those people fade away. They make little mark, and they are gone.
The people who drive forward human progress are the brave people, the people who are prepared to argue their case, who value courage and conviction above consensus. It is to them that we owe our liberty and our democracy. And I am convinced that in local government, the future belongs to the innovators, the visionaries, the trail-blazers and risk-takers.
It belongs to people with courage.