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Michael Howard - Election Launch

Birmingham

"What this election is all about"

The choice before voters on May the fifth is very clear.

They can either reward Mr. Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons.

Mr. Blair's Labour Government has lost the plot.

Hardworking families - honest people who do the right thing, who respect others, who provide for their children, who look after their homes and contribute to their local communities are being taken for granted by Mr. Blair.

People are fed up that their hard work is not recognised or rewarded.

Patients worry they'll pick up an infection in hospitals which are dirty when they should be clean.

Pensioners worry not just about going out at night but during the day because crime is out of control.

Parents worry that their kids can't learn in class because there's too little school discipline.

And all this despite Mr. Blair's huge, stealthy tax increases.

Imagine another five years of it.

If you're thinking: "We shouldn't have to settle for this", then I say to you today: don't.

Britain is the fourth richest country in the world.

We can afford world class public services - the good, local schools and clean hospitals that hard working Britons deserve.

There is a better way.

By rewarding people who do the right thing - who play by the rules - we will build a brighter, better future for our country.

That's why, six months ago, my Party published a Timetable for Action - a bold public commitment to get a grip on the tough issues facing Britain today.

We will reward hardworking Britons who do the right thing by giving them value for money and lower taxes.

We will restore discipline in our classrooms by giving head teachers control over their schools.

We will cut crime by each year putting 5000 more police officers - real police officers - on our streets and introducing tougher sentences for burglars and drug dealers.

We will reduce immigration by setting an annual limit on the number of people who can come and settle in Britain.

And we will clean up our hospitals by giving matrons the power to close wards that are infected with MRSA.

For me cleaning up our hospitals isn't politics. It's personal.

Three years ago my mother in law died from an infection she picked up in hospital.

Yes she was frail.

Yes she was old.

But she still enjoyed life.

And she need not have died.

Florence Nightingale once said that "the very first requirement in hospital is that it should do the sick no harm".

After eight years of Mr Blair our hospitals are failing in that most basic duty.

Let's be clear.

MRSA is avoidable.

We live in an advanced twenty first century country with ever more sophisticated healthcare.

Advances in medical technology have seen rare and congenital diseases tamed - eliminated one by one.

But Mr. Blair's obsession with targets has created a culture in which the super bug thrives.

It is a fact that doctors and nurses are prevented from closing wards they know to be infected with the super bug because of Whitehall targets.

According to a National Audit Office report, more than one in 10 infection control teams reported that their recommendation to close a ward or hospital to clean up the super bug was refused or discouraged by the chief executive because of - and I quote - "pressure on meeting performance targets".

In other words patients are dying because of Mr Blair's targets.

Well I trust professionals to take the right decisions.

I won't second guess them at every turn.

That's why a Conservative Government will scrap Whitehall targets for hospitals.

Medicine is more than a job. It's a profession - a profession without which no decent society can function.

Government should recognise the devotion and dedication of doctors and nurses and give them the freedom to exercise their professional judgement.

We won't allow target obsessed bureaucrats to get in their way.

And when it comes to cleaning up our hospitals, we'll put matron back where she belongs - in charge.

This is central to my whole approach.

It's called accountability.

When something goes wrong someone, somewhere should take responsibility.

Just as when something goes well they should get the credit - not the politicians.

But if we are to give hard working families the high quality hospital treatment they deserve, we must also invest more in healthcare.

That's why a Conservative Government will spend an extra £34 billion in the NHS in our first term in office - that is at least as much as Labour.

We'll be able to spend more on what matters by cutting back on wasteful spending and unnecessary government activity - like Strategic Health Authorities, unelected regional assemblies, the New Deal.

These are tough decisions.

I make no apology for that.

Leadership isn't about doing what's easy.

It's about doing what's right.

Some people say I shouldn't talk about difficult issues like the abuse of our asylum system and those travellers who stick two fingers up to the law.

But we cannot make Britain a better place if we sweep difficult issues under the carpet.

Everyone knows you won't fix a problem if you aren't even prepared to discuss it.

I'm not prepared to appease special interest groups because I believe passionately in fair play.

We are all British and we should all have to play by the same rules.

Nor will I be distracted from doing what I believe is best for Britain by the smirking politics of Mr Blair or the woolly thinking of the Liberal Democrats.

So on each of these issues - on rewarding those who work hard and have contributed to our country, on schools, on hospitals, on crime and on immigration - we have a detailed, published Timetable for Action so you can hold us to account.

Look for this commitment in your paper, check it on the net, put it up on your fridge door - hold me to it.

And beware yet another election where Mr Blair says one thing to get your vote on polling day and does something quite different afterwards.

Mr. Blair is already secretly grinning about the prospect of his third victory.

Well you don't have to settle for that.

If you're thinking what we're thinking, it's time for urgent action on the things that really matter:

- Reward for hardworking Britons;

- School discipline;

- Cleaner hospitals;

- More police; and

- Controlled immigration.

So I say again, the choice before voters on May the fifth is very clear.

They can either reward Mr. Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons.

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