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Maude: This is a Party on the rise again

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2005

"I want to start by saying a huge thank you on behalf of all of us to our conference chairman, Paul Marland.

Paul is an example to everyone in this Party. He served 18 distinguished years as a Member of Parliament. But when the electoral tide went out against him Paul didn't fold his tent and slink away.

Instead he threw his heart and soul into being an unpaid senior volunteer, and is the first former MP to serve as conference chairman.

This has not been an easy conference to organise and chair. We don't have a leadership contest every year, although several of you have very wrongly suggested that it's been such good fun we might make it a regular feature.

Just everyone, even the most hard-bitten cynical hacks, agrees that this has been a fantastically good conference. You, Paul, take the credit for that. You have been a complete star, and we are hugely in your debt.

And to prove that there are plenty of Tory traditions worth keeping I'd like to present him with the Conference Bell.

A great Tory Prime Minister, George Canning once wrote:

"But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,

Save me, oh, save me, from the candid friend!"

On Monday I was the party's candid friend. Often people like the friendliness more than the candour.

So I've been touched by how many people since then have come up to me and said: "Thank you for what you said. It needed saying. We know it's true - so let's crack on and deal with it."

And we've gone on to have the best party conference any party's had for years.

We haven't run away from the truth. We're confronting our challenges because we're a confident serious grown-up party with a new spring in our step.

We know that just having a brilliant conference is the beginning of our renewal, not the end.

We recognise that we must not slip back into a cosy comfort zone where we congratulate ourselves in ever smaller rooms about the excellence of our policies while too many modern Britons blithely ignore us.

We're being realistic and truthful. Open and honest. Thoughtful and constructive. Courteous and generous. We've shown during this week the very best of Conservative values.

We're upbeat and optimistic - and we're right to be.

We've seen the fantastic progress that Conservatives are making in local government. We're now the largest party with more councils and more councillors than anyone else.

We control the councils in Walsall and Dudley Coventry and Trafford and we're set to do even better next May.

Another thing. We have the best professionals there are, in CCHQ and out in the field - researchers, campaigners, press officers, ACDs, agents. Often blamed and rarely thanked, we're incredibly lucky to have them. They serve us with unstinting dedication and professionalism, and on your behalf I give them our thanks.

This is a Party on the rise again.

Look at the next generation of Conservatives - we're thriving.

The Wave Network initiative shows that younger Conservatives are building community foundations where we need to be - in our great cities.

We're recruiting people such as Zac Goldsmith from social and political movements beyond our traditional boundaries.

And we've got a new intake of MPs that's as talented, as engaging and as committed as any party has had for decades.

Generosity, respect for all, fairness, compassion.

Today we go from this place claiming those Conservative values with pride.

We go from this place looking forward, looking out, looking up, on the next stage of our journey of service, with our love for today's Britain firing our single-minded determination that we will do everything - everything - to win that most precious privilege: the privilege of serving out fellow countrymen in government.

Let none doubt: the Conservatives are on the march again.

When we succeed there will an honoured place in the story of our recovery for Michael Howard. Michael's my favourite politician.

He's clever, brave, upright, deeply, deeply honourable. He didn't have to do this - his brow was adorned with laurels enough. But when this last call to service came, like the good, good man that he is, Michael unhesitatingly answered the call.

Michael, you have laid us a foundation upon which those to whom the torch passes must now build. We thank you so very much for what you are and what you have done."

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