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Hague: A Second Chance for Blair is No Chance for Britain

The first General Election of the new century is nearly upon us. It will be a defining moment not just for our Party but, more importantly, for our country.

We are the world's fourth largest economy. The possibilities brought about by new technology and global competition seem almost boundless. We even have a Prime Minister who tries to tell us that we've never had it so good.

Yet everywhere I go I am aware of a growing sense of unease that is spreading throughout the nation. And listening to the people I meet it is not difficult to understand why.

I talk to people who worry whether they are putting aside enough to retire comfortably. They are concerned about who will look after their parents when they can no longer look after themselves, and they wonder how their children will cope when they leave school or college to enter the world of work.

These same people look around them and see streets which are less safe to walk down, schools which fail to teach the standards and discipline that they once took for granted, and hospitals which were once this country's proudest boast laid low by crisis after crisis.

In the midst of general prosperity, we are saving less than we did nearly 40 years ago. As a nation we now pay more tax than we did during the War. And still our public services seem to deteriorate year after year.

While Britain's motorists feel the pinch of the most expensive petrol in Europe, the traffic jams are worse than ever and it takes nine hours to travel from Nottingham to London. The train journey between Manchester and Liverpool is longer today than it was in George Stephenson's time.

Remember when they used to say 'it's quicker by train'? Under John Prescott, it's now quicker by milk float.

While married couples are stripped of their tax allowances, consultants' waiting lists have climbed by 62,000 since the last Election, expectant mothers are lucky if they see the same midwife twice and doctors are being driven out of the Health Service because they can no longer practice as they please.

Remember the last Election, when Tony Blair claimed there were 72 hours to save the NHS. Thanks to him, more than 30,000 hours later, our Health Service lives in an era of uncertainty for doctors and patients alike.

While pensioners are penalised for saving and pension funds are raided by the Chancellor, violent crime is on the increase and police numbers are down across the country. We have fewer Bobbies on the beat, fewer special constables and fewer civilian support staff than we did in 1997.

Remember 'tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime'? Thanks to Tony Blair it is the victims of crime and law-abiding citizens who have the most to fear in Britain today.

In 1997 Labour promised 'a new life for Britain', instead the life is slowing draining out of Britain. Armed with a massive majority in Parliament, near universal goodwill and an unparalleled economic legacy, they have squandered opportunity after opportunity to prepare this country for the future. Worse than that, they are taking Britain back, step-by-step, to the 1970s.

It has taken less than four years for the public to understand what Tony Blair meant when he promised to 'govern as New Labour'. We have endured a litany of cronyism, stealth taxes, waste and spin. The vanity and self-indulgence of a cabal more interested in fighting each other than in fighting crime or improving our schools and hospitals and our transport system.

And now Tony Blair says he wants a second chance. A second chance for more waste, more stealth taxes, and more spin. Thank you, but no thanks.

A chance to spend more time and more of our money plotting to scrap the pound when the overwhelming majority of British people want to keep their own currency. No thanks.

A chance to sign Britain up to a European Army which risks undermining NATO, the very force that has brought us peace and prosperity. No thanks.

A chance to create a new European constitution, not to limit the powers of Brussels, but to lay the foundations for a European superstate. No thanks.

The plain truth is you cannot run a country you don't believe in. You cannot understand people when you hold them in contempt, and you cannot lead a nation whose hopes and concerns you do not share.

Labour's failure to deliver will rightly be a central issue at the next election. But give Tony Blair a second term and at the end of it we risk the ultimate failure to deliver - the loss of the very existence of our country as an independent nation.

Those who doubt it should consider this.

He's committed enough. Tony Blair is the leading Euro federalist in his own Cabinet.

He's wrong enough. He's called almost every big choice wrong in his two decade long political career.

He's ambitious enough. He wants a leading role for himself in European institutions whatever the cost may be to our country.

He's ruthless enough. He's shown again and again how promises of votes and consultation will always be loaded by him and no-one should think a Euro referendum will be any different.

So don't doubt this - encourage this man, help this man, support this man and the consequences are incalculable.

And don't think you can put it right next time either. For British independence and democracy there may not be a next time.

To prepare Britain for the future, you have to want it to have a future, as an independent country, as a world class centre for global business and as place where everyone can live up to their potential. Above all, to prepare Britain for the future you have to trust the people of Britain because they are its future.

So we will improve our hospitals by valuing nurses and doctors and trusting their professional judgement about who should be treated and when. Instead, today, Labour denigrates consultants and sets them political targets that are often at odds with what is best for their patients.

We will raise standards and discipline in our schools by giving teachers the time teach and headteachers the power to run their schools. But, today, Labour weighs down teachers with more and more paperwork and won't let heads take action against disruptive pupils.

We will fight crime effectively by putting more policemen back on the streets and allowing them to apply their common sense and experience. Yet, today, Labour has cut back on police numbers, handcuffed them with political correctness and put the rights of the criminal above the needs of the victim.

We will lift the burden of taxation and red tape on our businesses so that they compete more effectively and provide the jobs of tomorrow. Instead, today, Labour has saddled our firms with £5 billion worth of new regulations every year and presenting them with an annual bill of £5 billion in new taxes.

We will reduce the burden of tax on the people of this country so that they provide more for their families and contribute more to their communities by keeping more of what they earn. But, today, Labour is hitting the country with stealth tax after stealth and is offering nothing in return.

We will make our nation stand taller by showing everyone that as the world's 4th largest economy we can make a success of the Pound if we choose to and by making everyone understand that Britain wants to be in Europe, not run by Europe. Yet, today, Labour is spending millions preparing to scrap the Pound and doing nothing to stop us from sliding into a European superstate.

So there will be a defining choice at the next Election between a Party which trusts the people in this country and one which openly holds them in contempt; between a Party which believes in Britain and one which is ashamed of Britain; between a Party which offers our country a hopeful and confident future and one which offers a long slide back to the past.

The stakes could not be higher. The decision this country is about to make will shape all of our destinies not just for the next five years but for decades to come. That is why the entire Conservative Party is taking our message to every corner of the nation, every day between now and the Election. Britain has come a long way in the past 20 years. Too many people have worked too hard to build a better life for themselves and their families for Labour to try and throw it all away now. We owe it to our country to make sure that they do not succeed.

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