William Hague reminded the House of Commons of his considerable skills this afternoon when he gave a powerful speech to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as I listened to this section:
"It was the British government which was the first of a major European country to legislate against the slave trade and after 1807, lobbied, bullied, and bribed other nations to follow forthwith. And, as the world’s foremost maritime power, it was the Royal Navy who bravely enforced the abolition: an assignment which was to become one of the most protracted and gruelling in its history. The suppression of the slave trade was described as ‘perhaps the most disagreeable, arduous, and unhealthy service that falls to the lot of British officers and seamen’ and between 1810 and 1850 the Royal Navy freed nearly 120,000 slaves. And so the moral case, once made and enshrined in the law, was upheld over the coming decades through a commitment to international diplomacy and the application of British force."
If that passage made me proud to be British another section reminded me of the global leadership of George W Bush's America in opposing modern-day slavery:
"Speaking as Shadow Foreign Secretary, I would like to see an improved and strengthened international effort to tackle human trafficking. The United States, through the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons has elevated this issue, and amongst other endeavours, now produces an influential Trafficking in Persons Report on an annual basis. Other countries, including our own, must follow suit and act with the same levels of commitment."
It is, of course, an American-made film - Amazing Grace - which pays tribute to the life of William Wilberforce. If you do nothing else please go to the movie's website and watch the Madagascar clip. It's strong stuff. It's already in US cinemas - it's in UK cinemas from Friday.
Download a full pdf of William Hague's speech here.