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Maude: We will fight for Britain's interests

Speaking at a Conservative Party pre-election rally on the South Bank today, the Rt Hon Francis Maude, Shadow Foreign Secretary, said:

"I was, almost literally, born into the Conservative Party. My father went into politics in 1950, having spent some of his prime years as a prisoner of war. I and my brother and sisters grew up believing that politics is a high calling; built on deep beliefs and high principles. In my family the idea that you went into politics for yourself was laughable.

So it was pretty easy for me to be a Conservative. My brother and I went to a direct grant school; a school independent of the state but where most of us were paid for by the state: a real public/private partnership.

I grew up with the notion that a strong society is one bound together by the bonds of mutual obligation; that the strong have a duty to help the weak. Family tragedy can bring home to you how much we depend on each other.

Is it bad that we have a hospice movement that is supported by the voluntary work of families and communities, rather than depending on the government?

I was proud to serve in Conservative Governments that were prepared to be unfashionable; that were ready to take on the received wisdom. We may not have got everything right but we always did what we thought right. We did what we did not for ourselves but for our country.

And I find it hard to understand why you would come into politics if you don't believe in your country. I spent part of my childhood in Australia; and when I was on my sabbatical from politics in the mid-nineties I lived the global economy as an international investment banker. I know better than most how interconnected today's network world has become. Britain can never be isolationist; can never turn her back on the world.

We must be an internationalist country, yes. But we must above all be a country. How can we remain a proud independent country if we have lost the power to govern ourselves? When we have become nothing more than a province of a United States of Europe?

In the sixties and seventies people like my father resisted the sad assumption that Britain was condemned to an inevitable decline. They fought the defeatist notion that the socialist ratchet was irreversible. It is for our generation to resist the sense that it is inevitable that we lose our power of self-government. It is for our generation to fight for the return of some powers from Brussels, to reject the idea that the ratchet of EU integration can never be reversed at all.

It is for our generation to fight for it. And we will."

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