David Miliband issues 'age of impunity' warning in HMD speech

Ex-Foreign Secretary says 'the defining impulse of the Trump Presidency has been impunity the exercise of power without responsibility, precisely the opposite of accountability'


David Miliband has warned of an “age of impunity” in powerful speech delivered to the Holocaust Educational Trust shortly after the inauguration of the new American President Joe Biden.

The former foreign secretary told HET’s  event that “the defining impulse of the Trump Presidency has been impunity, the exercise of power without responsibility, precisely the opposite of accountability. And the events of recent weeks make America more notable for its warning than its inspiration.”

The ex-Labour minister urged the audience of 800 people who watched online, “do not focus on President Trump and what Fintan O’Toole has called ‘that great prairie of paranoia that stretches between what happened and what really happened’.

He said that instead, two facts should be reflected upon. “First, the most powerful country in the democratic world is undergoing an unprecedented attack on its democratic system by significant sections of one of its two political parties,” said Mr Miliband.

“Second, that America is not alone in suffering sustained attack on its democratic institutions, laws and norms.

“The harsh truth is brutal: the rule of law is in retreat in many parts of the world. I call this the age of impunity. It should be a warning to us in the UK, as we think about life after Brexit.

“Around the world, in domestic as well as foreign policy, might is increasingly willing to assert that it is right. Impunity is on the march, and our alarm bells should be ringing.”

Mr Miliband also spoke of the close” association of the waves of autocratisation with antisemitism.”

He added:” Antisemitism is not always the first canary in the mine, but when Jews are not the first group called unwelcome or foreign or dangerous, that targeting is not usually far behind.

“ It is a source of enduring pain and shame that the political party to which I belong should have become a home, temporarily I trust, for people who spout antisemitic bile. “

Mr Miliband also stressed what he said was the “duty of vigilance.”

He said this meant “ being vigilant about antisemitism “  and also “means standing and acting in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.”

“It means speaking out against horrors in immigration and asylum policy. It means denouncing demonization of the Muslim population.

" It means calling out clearly and plainly, as the current Chief Rabbi has done recently, the facts and testimony about the targeting of the Uigher minority in western China. It means standing against the abuse of power.

“This is not political correctness. It is just correct.”

The president and chief executive officer of the International Rescue Committee ended his speech saying: “If Holocaust Memorial Day teaches anything, let it be that while it is in the power of humankind to organize hate, it has equal and opposite power to put hate in check, and it is our individual and collective responsibility to do just that.”

Wednesday’s event was hosted by BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg. Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP, also delivered a speech at the event.

Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said: ”Tonight over 800 people tuned in to remember the Holocaust, to pay tribute to the survivors, and to contemplate the ways in which we can all learn from the past.

“Hearing David Miliband talk about the age of impunity, on Inauguration Day was prescient and reminds us of the importance of vibrant democracies and the role we must all play to create a tolerant society.

“Our mission has never been more important. As Rabbi Lord Sacks z”l said: “to defend humanity, you need education.” It needs the last generation of survivors to share their testimony and it needs the next generation to carry the truth into the coming decades - we will continue to do just that.

“We thank Rt Hon David Miliband, Laura Kuenssberg and Rt Hon Robert Halfon MP for joining the Holocaust Educational Trust, their support.”




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