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May: Let's be inspiring to win

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2005

"It's great to be back amongst so many friends.

When I was Chairman, I met thousands of you as I visited constituencies across the country.

I know how hard you all work --- not just at election time, but week in, week out --- to spread the Conservative message.

And, as an MP, I know that none of us would be here without you.

So thank you.

Of course, if you listened to the Liberal Democrats before the election, I wasn't supposed to be here at all.

Well so much for Mr. Kennedy's decapitation strategy.

There's only one head that Liberal Democrats want to see roll now.

And that's yours Charlie!

I want to talk this afternoon about the next Conservative Government.

Not just about what we will do when we are in power --- as if we only have to wait four more years before it happens.

But about the roadmap --- the hard work and the tough choices --- that will take us there.

Government is about people.

And right now, the people of this country need our help more than ever.

But, if we are to win the opportunity to help them, and to change life in Britain for the better…

There are three things we will have to do.

First, we are going to have to change the way we conduct our politics.

Tony Blair chose to use his first major speech after the election to talk about restoring 'respect' on our streets.

Can you imagine how sweet those words sounded to someone whose life is affected daily by Britain's drink-fuelled yob culture?

And then think how they feel now with the Prime Minister insisting on 24-hour drinking laws.

Cheated, betrayed, conned.

And a little less likely to trust anything a politician promises, ever again.

There is a problem with respect in Britain.

We do need urgently to restore respect for people and property.

But it's more than that too.

It's the respect for government that has been steadily eroded by years of broken promises.

And it's the respect for government that we will have to restore --- if we are to persuade people there is a better way.

You see, the status quo always favours the incumbent.

Labour know that no-one trusts them, but they still won in May, so they don't care.

All they care about is that no-one trusts us either.

So we have to change that.

It won't be easy.

I know some people say that the main job of the opposition is to oppose.

And, as an opposition, the temptation is always to throw the punch --- to grab the headline.

But we've done that for eight years.

And where has it got us?

The real job of this Party --- the real way we will win people's respect --- is to stop being today's opposition and start being tomorrow's government.

So, from now on, we will have to be scrupulously honest and painfully reasonable.

We'll have to stop opposing for opposition's sake --- and resist all temptation to be opportunistic.

And we will have to show people what we stand for --- and then stick to those ideals and principles --- even when that means supporting the Government if they get things right.

The second thing we have to do is reform our Party.

We have to show that we are a Party comfortable with Britain as it is today.

A Party representative of men and women --- of every age, race, and religion.

A Party as at home in the cities as it is in the country.

A Party as confident about the future as it is about the past.

And we must reflect that --- not just in our words --- but in our attitudes.

In today's Britain, the vast majority of people regard equality between man and women as so obvious it doesn't even need stating.

And yet, for too long, in too many parts of this Party, the assumption has been that politics is a man's job.

And the other parties aren't much better.

But Margaret Thatcher proved that your ability to lead your country depends on your talent and your courage, not on whether you are a man or a woman.

And for the small minority who don't accept women --- or black or gay people --- as their equals, I've got a message.

Don't think you'll find a refuge from the modern world here.

There is no place for you in our Conservative Party.

Because every day that we are unwilling to embrace a future in which all men and women respect each other as absolute equals -- is another day we will be out of government.

But I'm optimistic.

I know we're moving forward.

That's why our benches have been swelled by great new MPs like Adam Afriyie, Shailesh Vara, Maria Miller, and Anne Milton.

I know that all of you, the real Conservative Party, are with them and with me.

And anyone who wants to stop us had better get out of our way.

I spend much of my time focusing on how the Conservative Party has to change.

I do it for a reason.

I want us to win.

And not just win, but govern --- and govern well.

That's the third thing the Conservative Party needs to do.

Focus on exactly what it means to govern well.

In 1979, the bonds of state dependency were obvious.

They tied down our economy and made us a laughing stock.

Today, the bonds of state control are often invisible.

But they are there --- and they are tightening.

The difference is that New Labour prefer to run everything remotely by dictat and regulation.

That way they get to interfere all they want, but can pass the buck when things go wrong.

We should be willing to turn all that on its head.

I want us to reject BIG government --- government that tries to do everything and ends up achieving nothing.

The hands-on, control-freaky, government-knows-best mindset that Labour, new or renewed, can never escape.

But I want us to reject SMALL government too --- and with it the assumption that politicians have no responsibility for peoples lives.

So let's put the myth to rest once and for all.

Size doesn't matter!

Just because government is often part of the problem…

Doesn't mean it can never be part of the solution.

Instead, I want the Conservative Party to stand for GOOD government.

Government's job is helping people live their lives --- throughout their lives --- as they raise and protect their families, build their careers, and save for their retirements.

Listening to people's needs, and taking responsibility for the things that matter to them.

Making sure they get the education and healthcare they deserve, keeping them safe, providing a fallback should life take a wrong turn, and helping them with the childcare or the care home place they need but can't afford.

Of course, we all know that, often, the best thing government can do is simply stay out of the way.

To allow people to give their time freely to help others --- as I know so many of you do.

But sometimes, to do its job, government needs to get stuck in.

So good government has to be prepared to be active, strong, and effective --- whenever it needs to be.

Good government should be both idealistic and pragmatic.

Idealistic in what it aims to achieve.

Ruthlessly pragmatic in how it sets out to achieve it.

There is no need to choose between the two.

And if it does its job well, the impact of government can be enormously beneficial.

If it does it badly, it can be oppressive and corrosive.

Labour don't understand that.

We do.

If the Conservative Party could only change the way we conduct our politics, and restore respect in government…

Then people would take a fresh look at us.

If we could show not only that we are comfortable with modern Britain --- but that we reflect modern Britain…

Then people might listen to what we have to say.

But they won't listen for long if we don't hold their attention.

We don't just need to convince them that we want the things they want --- world-class education, better healthcare, safer streets.

We need to show them--- how we can make it happen.

And we won't KEEP them interested --- if we just talk about dry academic concepts like localism, decentralization, and the size of the state.

So let's start speaking the language of people --- talking about the concrete things we would do to improve their lives --- focusing on what should happen in the public services, not just on how they are structured.

Because if we paint a picture of the good Conservative Government that we know we can be --- then we can win the next election.

I stand before you today as the Conservative Party's first ever Shadow Secretary of State for the Family, and for Culture, Media, and Sport.

Supported by my excellent team, Malcolm Moss, Hugh Robertson, Hugo Swire, Andrew Selous, Tim Loughton, William Astor, Arthur Luke, and Trish Morris.

You know, I've been struck recently by the similarities between politics and sport.

Just a few years ago, England lost to New Zealand and we were called the worst cricket team in the world.

This summer England beat Australia --- to become the best in the world.

So have faith --- anything is possible if you work hard enough to achieve it.

The other highlight of the summer was London winning the Olympic Games with the bid team lead by Seb Coe.

Wasn't it great to see a Tory winning a vote against the odds?

Winning AT the Olympic Games requires years of sacrifice, hard work, and single-minded dedication.

Winning an election is much the same.

A successful athlete must give up the nights out and the fast food.

If the Conservative Party is going to win the gold medal in four years' time --- it too is going to have to give up some enjoyable but ultimately damaging vices.

Ya-boo, opportunism, intellectual self-indulgence, ideological obsessions, quick fixes, and easy answers.

I'm afraid they've all got to go.

But then there's something else as well.

London's bid to host the Olympic Games involved not just graft but vision --- not just perspiration but inspiration.

And that's what we, the Conservative Party, have to offer too.

You see, you can win a race without the crowd on your side --- by training hardest, by being the best.

And, of course, you won't win if you're not.

But you can't win an election like that --- no matter how good you are.

To win an election --- to be confident of victory --- you have to inspire people --- you have to make them want you to win.

I hardly need to tell you how successful the Conservative Party can be --- when it inspires people with the possibilities of change and progress.

Margaret Thatcher inspired people.

She gave them a glimpse of a better future.

And she delivered it!

So let's inspire people again.

Let's find that confidence and belief that for so long we seemed to have lost.

The confidence to dream.

The belief in our power to achieve.

This week we begin to set our new course.

We have four years' of work in front of us.

They will go past in the blink of an eye.

So we have to choose the right path --- right now.

Let's remind people what a Conservative Government can achieve.

Let's inspire them with what the next Conservative Government would achieve.

And let's be ready --- once again --- to transform our great country."

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