Speech to the Welsh Conservative Party Spring Conference in Cardiff
Today I want to talk to you about a thing called hope.
I want to spell out why we should be hopeful both for the future of our party and our country.
And I want to encourage you all to ignore those who try to knock us and to stay focused on the task ahead.
I've been the Party Chairman for around 7 months. It's tough sometimes, but always worthwhile. And contrary to anything you may have read in the press recently I want to assure you that I have never once thought of giving it up.
It's rewarding because I get to see the very best of the Conservative Party.
I see the professionals and the volunteers who work night and day to get the Conservative message across to voters. I meet regularly with our elected representatives at different levels of government. And I also spend a lot of time meeting people up and down the country and listening to their concerns.
Often these people are former Conservative voters. People who supported us before and want to support us again. The sort of people this Government is hitting the hardest of all.
I know that there is an appetite for change in the country today - and I know we have the people, the principles and the policies to deliver it.
But as I said, being the Party Chairman is sometimes a tough job as well - and it wouldn't be right for me to ignore today the recent events within our party, which I'm sure you've followed here in Wales.
It seems remarkable now that so much was made of so little. Whether this was due to members of the media or members of our party - I don't know.
But I do know that we have now drawn a line under the affair.
Now is the time for us all to get behind Iain Duncan Smith and to focus our fire on our opponents. That's what the public want us to do. That's what we're going to do.
We can't keep talking to ourselves.
There are many people out there in the country who are looking to us to speak for them. They want us to voice their frustrations.
The people who have been let down by Tony Blair. The people who have been ignored.
People who rely on public services that at times can be excellent but are too often third rate.
People who have been paying for Labour's grand experiment for the past six years through their taxes - and who are now asking where all the money has gone.
We are going to be a voice for these people between now and the next general election.
But of course, here in Wales the test will come sooner.
In just two months time Wales faces a choice:
Change with the Conservatives or more of the same with Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Renewed hope or continued stagnation.
Wales is a proud nation with a proud history.
And Conservatives in Wales have a proud history too.
We meet here in the centre of Cardiff just a couple of miles from Cardiff Bay, where the regeneration of the docklands area has brought tremendous benefits to the Welsh capital and the surrounding areas.
That was a Conservative achievement.
It was a Conservative Government that passed the Welsh Language Act ensuring fair treatment for Welsh speakers across the nation.
And of course, it was Margaret Thatcher's Government that established the first ever Welsh language TV channel - and it's still going strong today.
These are the most visible signs of success - but in many other areas Wales is also doing well.
Crime in Wales, for example, is lower than in England. The results of some Welsh Police forces are no doubt the envy of many areas in England.
But beneath the surface, many things are going wrong.
I know some people say that Wales is a Labour area. Always has been. Always will be.
But to those people I say this: look at what Labour have delivered.
Look what they've delivered in the health service:
Longer waiting lists.
Fewer care homes.
A crisis in recruitment.
That's Labour's record for Wales.
A lack of discipline.
A string of missed targets.
And teacher morale at rock bottom.
That's Labour's record for Wales.
In the economy:
The third highest rate of unemployment in the UK.
The third lowest levels of income.
And the productivity gap between Wales and the rest of the UK getting wider.
That's Labour's record for Wales.
Is this what it means to be a Labour country?
Is this the only thing they have to offer?
Do you really want to live in a country where this is all you have to look forward to?
Or would you prefer to live in a country where people come first?
Where every single person is encouraged to be the best they can?
Where initiative and excellence are rewarded and not punished?
Where people are given a helping hand to help themselves and others?
Where Government gets off people's backs and doesn't tax them to death?
Where social justice is more than just a term in a New Labour phrase book?
If so: put your trust in us.
Because we are the only party with the ambition and the vision to deliver it.
And here in Wales I know we have the people too.
I visited the Assembly a few months ago. I met with Nick Bourne and his team. We discussed their plans for Wales - what they want to do and how they intend to do it.
I was impressed with the bold and ambitious agenda they are setting out.
And they have spent the past three years developing their credibility.
They have not been scared to be different and to speak out against the prevailing political consensus that is failing Wales
They have held the Administration to account for the way they are squandering the opportunity offered by Objective One status
They have led the opposition to Jane Hutt's plans to let bureaucracy run wild in the NHS
They know people shouldn't be penalised unfairly for using their car
They were in the forefront of the fight to hold a public inquiry into the handling of the foot and mouth epidemic - something that has still not been done here in Wales -
And they are the only party to oppose plans to spend millions of pounds on an unnecessary new building for the Assembly
I am confident they can go on to do great things in May.
Let me assure you, our party is in good health.
Only yesterday I was in Coventry at our Councillors' conference. They are looking forward to May's local elections. They're better organised and better prepared than ever before.
They will be campaigning on a record of success because through their consistent track record they have proved that Conservatives in government deliver results.
And the principles they apply as they do so are the same principles Nick and his team seek to apply here in Wales and the same principles we are pursuing nationally.
Principles of responsibility, freedom, choice and enterprise.
A belief in better services with low taxes.
A commitment to smaller, less cumbersome government - more local responsibility and community action.
These are the values that guide our policy-making. Strong Conservative values that have stood the test of time. Values we have brought to British politics in the past, and we will do so again.
They are the themes found throughout the policy document, Leadership with a purpose, that we published last year.
And you will see them clearly in the policies we go on to bring forward in the coming months and years.
But alongside the specific policies there is also a vision.
Britain under Labour is falling far short of where it should be.
Its spirit is being crushed.
People are weighed down by all the regulations and taxes imposed from above.
Hardworking men and women wonder why they put in so much effort for so little reward…..
- when all they see is their money being wasted by politicians and bureaucrats.
When they can't go into the city at night for fear of becoming a victim of crime.
When they spend longer commuting to work than anyone else in Europe.
When they linger on hospital waiting lists while other countries have no waiting lists at all.
When their child can't get into the university they want because they don't fit the model a politician has designed.
People know that they are paying more and more tax for less and less return - and they are becoming angry.
That's why they are turning away from mainstream politics.
That's why they are beginning to look elsewhere.
They don't think the mainstream political parties offer them anything anymore.
Well I can tell them that we do.
We will be their voice.
We will speak up for them.
Because we want to build a country for everyone.
We want to build a society in Britain where people and communities are empowered; where government stops interfering in every area of people's lives;
in short, a society where people are put first and politics is second.
This is a Conservative vision for Britain.
I believe it's a vision that the people of Britain share.
For too long we have allowed Labour to claim a monopoly on the politics of hope.
But now - with their credibility gone - people want a change.
And here in Wales you have the opportunity to choose it now. When the elections come in May they will be a test of ambition - a choice between those who are ambitious for Wales and those who are ambitious only for themselves.
We see this most clearly right now down in Cardiff Bay, where a large hole in the ground represents the real difference between the Conservatives and the others.
You can choose to be on the side of people or you can choose to be on the side of politicians.
Our opponents have made their choice - and it is the wrong one.
This is our opportunity to bring them to account.
That's why I believe we should have hope.
To those who say Wales is a Labour country, we say 'really? Well look around you'.
See what years of Labour rule have brought.
See what they have done with the trust you put in them.
And then look around for the alternative.
You can't choose the Liberals Democrats - tainted with Labour's failure in Wales.
You can't choose the nationalists - narrow-minded as they are.
But you can choose hope.
Hope for the future.
Hope with the alternative.
The alternative that wants to set you free.
The alternative that wants to get Government off your back.
The alternative that wants to put people first.
We are that alternative.
We are the only alternative.
We are the party that is ready to win again.