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Bourne: Welsh Conservatives. Winning in 2007

Speech at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth.

"Mae'n blesser mawr i siarad yma heddiw. It is a great pleasure to speak here today.

With just over six months until the Welsh Assembly election, this is Rhodri Morgan's nightmare.

Blair won't go quietly. Brown is thwarted. The Welsh Conservatives are breathing down his neck. And Mike German is on the phone.

Next May cannot come soon enough. Poised to overtake Plaid Cymru in votes and seats, we are Labour's main challengers in Wales.

While Labour is in disarray, Welsh Conservative support is gathering pace. And that's because we are changing. We are offering something different.

David Cameron has been at the forefront of that change and I would like to thank him for all his support to us in Wales. He is an inspirational Leader and is doing an outstanding job.

Our shadow Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan has also been first-class - a big thank you to her.

But, as ever, it is the party members on the ground who are owed our greatest gratitude. Thank you to every member here today and back in Wales who is working tirelessly for the party.

You are the ones who are ensuring that change is being made across Wales. You are showing how Welsh Conservatives are serious about tackling the challenges in our communities.

Labour is divided. Welsh Labour MPs have led the charge for the Prime Minister's resignation - defeat in Blaenau Gwent gave them a signal loud and clear and the party is bracing itself for more losses in the Assembly election.

Unsurprisingly, there is no more talk of the dynamic partnership between Labour in Westminster and Wales.

No more talk of how Rhodri works well with Tony. Blair is seen as an electoral liability and Welsh Labour will be keener than ever to remind us of clear red water.

We know Rhodri wants Blair out and Brown in - surely it is only a matter of time before Rhodri is up in Fife with a gift for the Brown baby. But it'll take more than that.

Whether he likes it or not Rhodri Morgan is defending his own record. And he's got a lot to answer for.

His government has brought us longer waiting lists, bloated bureaucracy, soaring council tax and a stifled economy.

The development of choice in public services has been rejected outright; the pursuit of doctrinaire socialism has jeopardised progress.

Labour has lost the trust of the Welsh public and broken manifesto commitments on hospital waiting lists, free home care for the disabled and free school breakfasts.

Naturally we will get the predictable election sweeteners and the gimmicky headlines from Welsh Labour over the next few months but so be it.

What Welsh Conservatives are offering is meaningful and lasting. We have been working hard on our manifesto.

The vast bulk of that time has been spent talking to interest groups, schools, unions, businesses, charities and party members about the direction of our policy - can I thank you for your part in this.

We are in the final stages of refining those ideas and look forward to campaigning on them.

Our manifesto will be an exciting and coherent platform for government.

Focussing on good local services, a first class NHS, an excellent education system, a strong economy and a sustainable environment.

The possibilities for primary powers mean we have even more tools at our disposal to offer the Welsh people significant policy differences and we will make the most of the new Government of Wales Act, whatever its shortcomings and imperfections.

Encouraging localism recognises that local people best understand local problems.

In Wales, to an even greater extent than England, we have seen Labour suffocate public services with red tape and a 'government knows best' mentality.

An explosion in the number of people employed in central administration, with diktats and initiatives flowing from Cathays Park in Cardiff, often leave our public services overwhelmed and unresponsive - and through no fault of hardworking staff. I want to do away with all that.

I believe the devolution of power to local people - to teachers and parents, health professionals and patients - will transform communities.

Flexibility over the curriculum will give teachers the freedom to inspire our children.

Encouraging local links between schools and businesses will open exciting vocational training opportunities.

Schools will have greater control to instil a disciplined learning environment.

Parents can choose the school that best suits their child's needs.

In health too, the focus must be on the needs of the patient, the family and the community not on the bureaucratic grind of central government.

With a Welsh Conservative government, the crucial role of local GP surgeries will be enhanced.

NHS walk-in centres will help frontline services.

Local people will have a say over the future of their hospitals. The voluntary sector will be given an elevated role.

When things go wrong it is often voluntary groups that pick up the pieces.

Volunteers who step in to help with drug addicts, cases of alcohol abuse and domestic violence are truly local heroes.

And this is an area where I believe much more can be done. We can learn more from the experience of voluntary organisations and offer more support.

The Labour Welsh Assembly government has paid lip service to the role of social enterprises - often voluntary or non-profit making - but has failed to realise their full potential.

Dwr Cymru Welsh Water does excellent work in educational centres across the country; SIREN in Brecon works with ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed making furniture from recycled timber - making a real and positive difference to the surrounding area.

But there are many more social enterprise ideas that need encouragement.

Welsh Conservatives will help local people build the social economy to create a better local environment and a stronger community.

For all aspects of the Welsh economy, the dampening effect of Labour's bureaucratic and befuddled thinking is the obstacle to prosperity.

We will liberate small and medium sized businesses from the heavy handedness of state interference, enabling them to breathe life into our towns and villages - it is only then that we can begin to truly tackle the deprivation that haunts too many parts of Wales and hope to close the gap between Wales and the rest of the UK.

Grasping the nettle of a lack of affordable housing will also ensure a long term future for our communities.

I want to see much more support for child care, so that families are more able to juggle work with home life.

This will feature strongly in our manifesto.

I want poverty rooted out in rural areas as well as our towns and cities.

We need to learn the lessons of the mistakes made with Objective One and build on positive examples of economic policies in Ireland and elsewhere.

We need to play to our strengths. Tourism is one of those strengths and for good reason. The Welsh landscape is breathtaking.

There is nothing I enjoy more than walking in the Cambrian Mountains, on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path or in the Brecon Beacons and the beauty of the Welsh countryside is close to my heart.

People travel the world to enjoy our mountains and valleys, for a piece of our Celtic charm. Surely this is worth safeguarding.

Tackling climate change means taking tough decisions - looking seriously at alternative energy sources and our future security.

Green steps are something that government and individuals need to do together. Recycling means less waste. Improving public transport means leaving our cars at home.

Cutting down on food miles means local farmers benefit. Less landfill. Less pollution. Environmental benefits. Health benefits. Economic benefits. It's a political no-brainer.

Aside from our environment, one of the other things that makes Wales so special is our cultural identity.

World renowned for our age-old love of song, rugby and language, Welsh culture is also growing in new ways with exciting film ventures, innovative dance productions and the development of adventure sports.

Wales has a new confidence and Welsh Conservatives intend to build on that. We have a rich and fascinating heritage worthy of a National Records Office - at home in Wales, not in Kew in London.

Welsh artists deserve their own National Art Gallery, so do we all.

And we need to review the Welsh Language Act to ensure that we are making proper headway towards a truly bilingual Wales.

This means not only improving Welsh medium education and the use of Welsh in business but also protecting both Welsh and English speakers.

Welsh Conservatives have a clear vision for Wales which is head and shoulders above anything from the other parties.

Plaid Cymru have been writing to Santa Claus early this year with their wish list.

The credit card nationalists are giving away money without a second thought to how they would fund their policies in the long term.

Outdated, outflanked and out of favour, Plaid wants to create a Wales more befitting of the 1950s than the twenty-first century, Wales without technicolour.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems have thrown in the towel before the election, hoping that their old Labour lovers will take them back again.

Vote Lib Dem get Labour. Jenny Willott is in charge of back-room operations for the Lib Dem Assembly election campaign.

As Mike German puts it, she will be "making sure our candidates are saying the same things at the same time".

She really must have the hardest job in Welsh politics.

Over the past year, we have seen defections from Labour, Plaid and the Lib Dems to the Welsh Conservatives. There will be more.

There was a collective sigh of relief in Wales last week when Rhodri Morgan said that he might not be First Minister this time next year.

His plans for retirement in 2009 are in shreds, thank goodness - a dithering and tired leadership inspires no one.

Wales will be better off without the bungling incompetence of the Clown Prince of Wales. Peter Hain is worried too.

The Secretary of State for Wales has promised a bare knuckle fight to stop the Conservatives.

He knows all about bare knuckle fights after all he had two trying to stop Rhodri Morgan becoming First Minister - he's not got the stamina for the full twelve rounds. So it's up to us.

Change is never easy but the results make it worth it. I've had to make some tough decisions over the past year or so. I've had to take some political risks. But they have paid off.

And now Welsh Conservatives are in the best shape for a generation.

I passionately believe that Welsh Conservatives have the vision and policies to make Wales a better place to live.

And I would like to thank you all for your support while those changes have taken place - but we cannot standstill.

Welsh Conservatives have reached a watershed. A defining moment. The gains we have made in 2003 and our progress since then has simply put the building blocks in place, important but not enough.

Now we need to step it up another gear. Turn our message up a notch. Raise our game still higher. We are the only alternative to a tired and lost Labour government.

For some time in the Assembly it has been abundantly clear - it's us or it's them. No other party makes the grade.

The only credible alternative; the only centre-right vision for Wales; the only choice.

The policies we have for the next election mean a bright and exciting future for Wales.

Localism. Choice. Strong public services. Bilingualism. A thriving economy. A sustainable environment. It's straightforward.

In six months, if we keep working hard, keep listening, and keep changing, the Welsh political landscape will be different.

Welsh Conservatives will take Wales in a new direction."

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