Speech By Giles Chichester Mep, Chairman of the Conservatives in the European Parliament, to the Welsh Conservative Party Conference
Mr Chairman, Fellow Conservatives, Ladies & Gentlemen,
I am honoured that my first speech to a Conservative Party conference as Leader of the Conservative Members of the European Parliament brings me to Wales.
I am particularly delighted that your kind invitation means I have an opportunity today to pay tribute to one of my most distinguished predecessors, Jonathan Evans.
Little more than two years after being elected to the European Parliament, Jonathan was elected to lead our delegation - a leadership defined by humour, courage and determination.
Jonathan ensured that our Conservative delegation enhanced its reputation as an effective force campaigning for a Europe which does less but better, which respects the rights of its member states and which avoids unnecessary interference in all our lives. Jonathan was our man at the helm for the European Election of 2004 when our Party gained a notable victory.
He brought to the leadership of our delegation a clarity of thinking, a practical insight and a gift for focusing on the essential, skills no doubt honed by his career in the law with Leo Abse & Cohen and later with Eversheds.
We have appreciated his down-to-earth approach to political leadership. He has a sure touch for understanding grass-roots concerns and translating these into political action. It is little wonder that as a candidate he has outperformed the national trend at every election he fought, and succeeded in taking the Brecon and Radnor Constituency from the Liberal Democrats in 1992.
The skills he brought to bear as Leader of the Conservative Delegation were deployed in several other areas of the Parliament's work. He has earned a reputation as one of the Parliament's leading experts in field of financial services. And after completing his term as our delegation Leader he was entrusted with the key position of Chairman of the Parliament's delegation to the United States and joint Chairman of the Transatlantic Legislators' Dialogue.
Jonathan is of course a politician with what was once described as 'hinterland'. His fundamental humanity, which has guided his work in the European Parliament, is exemplified by his longstanding commitment to the children's charity, the NSPCC. And of course he is a fanatic for sport, and in particular a committed supporter of Cardiff City - well, not even Jonathan is perfect.
Perhaps above all during his time with us in the European Parliament, we have particularly valued his sensitive political judgement. Jonathan was able to meet the challenges he faced with a calm and steady Leadership, providing reassurance and direction.
It is going to be a hard act to follow.
Jonathan, on behalf of all my Conservative colleagues in the European Parliament, thank you for all you achieved.
Ladies and Gentlemen, you will no doubt recall that Jonathan was a minister in the last Conservative Government. I have no doubt he will, very soon, be a minister in the next Conservative Government, a Government for which have been waiting for too long but which cannot now be far away.
Under David Cameron's determined, focused and forward-looking Leadership we will surely soon rid our country of Labour's tired, lame and increasingly incompetent administration.
In little more than 12 months time, we will fight a nationwide election for the European Parliament, an election that may be little more than a few months or so ahead of the next general election.
Building on the excellent work you have accomplished in last year's Welsh Assembly elections, and on the efforts of our colleagues across the United Kingdom, we need
¿ to mobilise our supporters to deliver a blow to this government from which it will never recover;
¿ to send back to Brussels a strong contingent of Conservatives able to defend and promote our interests; and to send a signal to the government that their days are numbered.
If we hold to our present course there is no doubt Labour will lose the next election... and they are certainly developing quite a knack for losing things:
¿ computer disks in the post;
¿ foot and mouth compensation for Welsh farmers;
¿ the number of prisoners in Welsh police stations.
Their record for incompetence and mismanagement grows ever longer.
The idea that the change of personnel in Number 10 would somehow reinvigorate this worn-out government didn't last long did it?
Gordon Brown barely got through last Summer.
The country was promised a new direction......Just one? It seems we got a new direction every week.
¿ First, there was going to be an election apparently to give Brown a 'fresh mandate'.....
Then we were told there was really no need for one after all.
¿ After that we were told that Brown was not going to be able to sign the Lisbon Treaty because, alone of the 27 Heads of Government, he was a bit busy in that morning....
Then it turned out he could find time to sign the Treaty - but only if he could slip in quietly when no-one would notice - (in his dreams!)
¿ And then of course we were going to have a referendum on the new treaty,
but then on second thoughts, we are told it wasn't really necessary after all either.
Brown has turned into the Grand Old Duke of York of British politics. Such incoherent and indecisive leadership would be an amusing spectacle if the stakes were not so high.
The Lisbon Treaty is of such importance that the promise given to the British people that they would decide should not be cast aside by Labour for the sake of political convenience. They promised the nation a referendum and we in the Conservative Party demand that they fulfil this pledge.
We favour a referendum not because it is expedient but because it is right.
The British Constitution belongs to the people not to the government.
No government should seek to exploit a position of temporary power to impose a new constitutional framework on us all.
If a party wants to alter the way in which we are governed, it must either state its intentions clearly in its election manifesto and invite public support, or it must put the question to a referendum so the people can decide directly.
Yet this government is attempting, in a toxic mix of cowardice and arrogance, to trample on one of the most fundamental conventions of our democracy.
They promised the people of Britain a referendum at the general election. And now they tell us it is not necessary after all.
Because it is not the 'Constitutional Treaty', it is the now the 'Reform Treaty'.
Ah, that's all right then!.....
Deleting the reference to a European flag and anthem does not make it any less important; changing the title of the European 'Foreign Minister' to 'high representative' does not alter the office. The Reform Treaty, like the Constitutional Treaty, gives the Union a legal personality, it expands its powers in key areas of justice and home affairs, and it gives it a new role in foreign policy.
But, still we are told it is not the same treaty.
Who are they fooling? Are you fooled? Do you think the Welsh people are fooled?
I'll tell you who they are fooling - they are fooling themselves. They are fooling themselves if they believe that the people of the United Kingdom will fall for this kind of shameless, self-serving, and superficial nonsense.
They might get away with it in parliament - but not in public.
The price they will pay at the next election will be nothing less than they deserve - the electorate will return the full measure of the contempt currently being shown them by this tottering Labour administration.
The Liberal Democrats are no better, trying to cover their embarrassment over their u-turn on holding a referendum on the Reform Treaty with the fig-leaf of a referendum on our EU membership.
The attitude of this weak government's attitude to the referendum is symptomatic of the decay at its heart.
Promises and pledges mean nothing. They just don't listen.
Well, in just over twelve month's time they will have to listen to the verdict of the British people. A resounding victory for the Conservative Party in the European Eelections will reinforce our position in the Parliament to promote the interests of our country and point the way to ridding our country of this tired, shallow, incompetent administration.
The prize is within our grasp - we can get it if we really want it!