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Maude: A Conservative future

Extracts of his speech to the Welsh Conservative Party conference in Cardiff.

"We have a great team here in Wales. And do we need it! This May's Welsh Assembly elections are a watershed not just for the party in Wales, but for the party across the UK.

We have a huge challenge - to show what we know is the case that - that Welsh Conservatives are no longer the underdogs of Welsh politics but the coming force - the force of the future.

It's more and more likely Nick [Bourne] and his team will be in a position to convert Conservative policies into real action after the May elections.

Conservatives have spent the last eight years trying to make the Assembly work for the people of Wales.

And let's be quite clear about it.

The Assembly is here to stay - abolition is no longer an issue. People may not love it.

They may - and do - increasingly dislike the Labour administration that comes out of it.

But there is little appetite to get rid of it.

And the mission of Conservatives at our best is not to seek to turn the clock back but to face the future - to reform what needs to be reformed and to work within the institutions that exist to serve our fellow countrymen.

That is what Nick and his team are going to do.

And they're going to do it with confidence, knowing that in Wales as in the rest of Britain Conservatives are the future.

Rhodri Morgan used to be the Labour Party's biggest electoral asset in Wales. He is now their biggest electoral liability.

He loves to be a joker, does Rhodri - always fancies himself as the life and soul of every party. But now the joker has turned into a joke - and one in pretty poor taste at that.

But we're on his case. Nick and his team have secured some real successes:

Secured a review into cancer services in Wales.

Committed the Labour Party to the principle of nurse-led NHS walk-in centres.

Secured new legislation restricting development on playing fields.

Secured a wide ranging review into hospital bed blocking to ensure vulnerable patients receive appropriate treatment and are cared for with dignity

I'm really optimistic that we'll do well.

Partly because we've got such a great team in Wales.

But also because people are starting to change what they think about the Conservatives.

Gone are the days when we were locked for years on no more than a third of the vote.

We won the local elections last year, hitting 40% of the vote.

We've had our longest uninterrupted run of opinion poll leads for twenty years.

And more and more people are joining us from other parties, as I said earlier.

A huge amount of that improvement in our standing is down to a fellow called David Cameron.

He burst into the political firmament only a bit more than a year ago and became within weeks its brightest star.

People see in David not just all the flair and charisma you could want but also high intelligence, conviction, principle and a temperament well able to cope with all that an unpredictable dangerous world can throw at the leader of a great nation.

But it can't be just David, nor should we place on him the whole burden of taking us all the way to the electoral success we seek and that the country deserves of us.

We need to show that the whole party is changing; that we are in touch with and in tune with today's Britain and today's Wales.

We have to show that our concerns are the same as the public's concerns. And number one concern for the public is the state of the NHS.

I'm glad to say that people now think, rightly, that the NHS is our number one concern as well.

And we need to show by our behaviour, how we speak and the language we use, that we are people fit to be trusted with the leadership of a great country.

That when we differ we do so with respect and tolerance.

That we will use language respectful of other people's sensitivities.

For people won't believe we will treat them with respect if we don't even treat each other with respect.

The doctrine at the centre of modern Conservatism is that of social responsibility.

By that we mean that we are less arrogant about the ability of politicians and Government to solve every problem, that we are all in this together.

Parental responsibility, civic responsibility, corporate responsibility, personal responsibility: at Britain's best all these combine to create a country secure but dynamic; proud of its past but content with its present and excited by its future.

We meet today at a crossroad in the life of this amazing country.

The era of Tony Blair is drawing to its sorry, tawdry close.

An era that began with such high hopes and so much goodwill.

An era that began with good intentions of combining social justice, economic strength, and first class public services.

And over its long drawn out decline an era that has seen the withering of those hopes; the squandering of that goodwill; the gradual failure to deliver on those good intentions.

So as Tony Blair is led off the stage that he has dominated for so long, we see Labour bracing itself without enthusiasm for his replacement by Gordon Brown, the big clunking spider at the centre of the Labour web; the man who is above all responsible for ensuring that Tony Blair's good intentions could not be delivered.

Our task is to show today's Wales and today's Britain that there is a better alternative.

That we do not have to march back into a past tainted by frustrated hopes and failure.

That there is an alternative where hope and optimism combine with competence and realism to deliver a bright future.

A Conservative future.

It won't happen by right or by accident.

It'll happen if we all go out and work together and campaign together and fight for our country's future.

It'll only happen if we earn it.

We're going to make sure we do earn it.

We're starting today and we won't stop until the job's done."

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