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Bourne: Welsh Conservatism – changing to deliver

To the Welsh Conservative Party’s Annual General Meeting in Llandrindod Wells.

"Diolch am y gwanoddia I siarad yma heddiw.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our elected officers, our President Carole Hyde, the National Chairman, Lyndon Jones and our Party's National Director, Matthew Lane.

These people work unceasingly for our Party in Wales. Through their hard work and effort, they are moulding an organised and united Party that is galvanised, ready to fight next year's election. The Party in Wales has never looked in such good shape.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we have seen over the past year, our Party is changing.

Under David Cameron, the Party is adopting a re-invigorated and dynamic approach, which, for the first time in years, has seen us lead the political agenda across the United Kingdom:

¿ We are leading on the environment and climate change, the most fundamental issues that affect the world today;

¿ We are challenging the government on another global concern, to make world poverty history;

¿ We are leading on social justice issues, offering a broad agenda to tackle the root causes of family and community breakdown, drug and alcohol dependency, household indebtedness and deprivation;

¿ And we are leading the way in trying to reform our public services - unlike the government that just continues to throw money at them without the necessary reform.

David Cameron's reforming policy zeal is a modern approach to the changed political environment which we find ourselves in today.

Far from abandoning our core values we are applying them to 21st century Britain.

We are confronting the tough challenges that we face in our communities and showing the public that we have the vision and solutions to deliver quality public services that everyone in Wales and the UK want and deserve.

These are not short-term fixes but robust, well-thought out policies. Through these policies the Conservative Party is showing that things will change.

By contrast, look at the tired Labour government.

They are hopelessly split between those who want the Prime Minister to go on until next year and those who want him to fall on his sword - we have seen from Charles Clarke that there are plenty of people queuing up to push him on to it.

You have 'two jags' Prescott who has become the most expensive referee in Britain.

I have heard he is handy with his fists should things get out of hand between Blair and Brown.

And when Margaret Beckett is presented as the solution to our foreign policy dilemmas, then we all know the government has lost its way.

Just as Condoleezza Rice recovers from her trip to Blackburn, she has a caravanning holiday to Derby to contend with.

Our party is pursuing a positive, reforming approach across the United Kingdom but nowhere more so than here in Wales.

David Cameron is leading the way by stating that decisions should be made locally.

This means increased localisation, where important decisions affecting the day-to-day lives of communities are made closest to the people.

In Wales the only way to deliver that objective is to make the devolution process work.

We need to get real! It is my policy. It is Cheryl Gillan's policy. It is David Cameron's policy. It is our policy.

The Party in Wales has made the important and right decision to commit itself to making the National Assembly work for the good of the people of Wales.

This essential reform has created a new strong working relationship between Conservatives in Wales and Westminster, proving that we are working together for a better Wales.

No clearer example of this renewed relationship has been in the support that we are receiving from David Cameron and his shadow team for work that we are undertaking.

The way we have sowed these seeds of change for long-term growth of the Party in Wales has already yielded results:

¿ We are leading the agenda on major issues like public services, the environment, the Welsh language and the economy.

¿ We have had a number of successes in the Assembly, working with other opposition parties in defeating the government on fundamental concerns, most recently securing a public inquiry on the crisis in the Ambulance Service in Wales - a cause even Brian Gibbons could not resist voting for!

¿ We have secured extra provisions in the government's final budget for pensioners and rural schools.

¿ We abolished university top-up fees for Welsh domiciled students.

¿ We established new NHS frontline services with walk-in health centres.

¿ We are generally increasing our Party's membership.

¿ We are drawing people to us from other political parties.

I am particular pleased to welcome to the Party Alison Halford, who was a very well respected colleague as the former Labour AM for Delyn and Cllr René Kinzett, a very effective councillor in Swansea. I look forward to working with them in the future.

We have made considerable strides but we need to go further. Our objective is to see a Conservative political agenda delivering a successful, prosperous and vibrant Welsh nation.

That may mean working with other opposition parties, on occasion, to see that that objective is met.

Welsh Conservatives are practical and we will always put Wales first and see how best Conservative policies can be delivered.

In just over nine months time we will be contesting the National Assembly elections, which will provide the people of Wales with the opportunity to dispose of a Labour administration which is tired in its approach, devoid in its thinking and which has floundered in its delivery.

Over this last year our Assembly team has undertaken major preparatory work, engaging a large number of Party members and external organisations across Wales through our policy review.

This important process will culminate in a manifesto which is distinctly Welsh in its formulation and in its content, offering exciting Welsh solutions to Welsh problems.

We will show the Welsh public that we are a Party which is listening and changing.

Unlike Labour's approach over the last nine years that has allowed too many to suffer for too long. In May next year, it is time to say enough is enough.

I am an extremely fortunate group leader to be heading up such a talented and exceptional team of Assembly Members.

I am determined to do everything I can not just to return our existing members next year but to increase our number from the very excellent group of candidates, who are chomping at the bit to contest next year's elections. I will be working hard to ensure this happens - I know we all will.

The other opposition leaders are certainly envious of what we are achieving. After all, look at the condition Plaid is in.

People can still see that under the façade of political cosmetic surgery and rebranding, it is still a party of division and turmoil.

As for the Liberals, they do not know what direction they want to take or who should take them there.

Within the last year the national party has gone from champagne Charlie to Ming the mediocre.

Mike German is also seeking direction for the party in Wales. If you have ideas ladies and gentlemen, he would like answers sent to him on a postcard!

Building for next year is not a one way process. It is you, the officers, the members, the campaigners and the volunteers at the grass-roots that drive this Party on.

We are on a long road that will lead us to next May and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.

However, we have already seen the results of what dynamic campaigning can do with the fantastic breakthrough at last May's General Election.

Stephen Crabb, David Davies and David Jones set us on the road in Wales to future success.

This May we also made considerable gains in the English council elections.

I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate both Jon Burns and Margrit Williams for the tireless effort and abounding enthusiasm that they displayed through out the Blaenau Gwent by-elections, along with our by-election team.

In these recent elections, we have proved that if we campaign on a forward looking agenda, then there are no 'no-go' areas in Wales for our Party; there is no demographic group that is off limits to us; there is no door-step that we should feel daunted to approach.

We need to go beyond the 'winnable' target seats and challenge the political status quo.

We must show this tired and ineffective Labour government that there are no 'safe' places for them, that there are no Labour heartlands that are unattainable.

I say to all of you who are ready to canvass and campaign at next year's elections, in making those sometimes difficult trips into Labour strongholds, like Blaenau Gwent, you will find people who are ready to listen and in many cases, who are desperately seeking an alternative.

As I said at the start of this speech, we wish England every success this afternoon. It is certainly an exciting time in the World Cup as it enters its final days.

In watching some of those football players who have been hyped up by the media and tipped to do well but have just not delivered the performances on the pitch, I cannot help being reminded of Rhodri Morgan and his party. Some people said 'give this team a chance and it will do well'.

However, the reality is that it is deep into injury time and his administration is tired and jaded with nothing more in the tank to offer.

Led by a flagging Captain, who is always late for kick-off, they are desperately looking towards the substitutes' bench for a glimmer of inspiration.

But what have they got to replace him with? Brian Gibbons? Certainly not, he is likely to put the ball in the wrong net!

Carwyn Jones? Once showed potential but clearly does not have the stamina?

Jane Davidson? Talks a good game but hasn't produced it on the field.

They have failed to deliver any sort of performance for the people of Wales and have let their faithful fans in their heartlands down again.

I have no idea how they even qualified! It's time to show this government the red card.

After all, they have overseen a period of seven years where economically, Wales has drifted further and further away from not only its UK neighbours but away from other comparable European regions.

This economic failure is only too clearly evident over the past three months. Since Easter, we have seen the loss of over 1,600 jobs.

The government's economic mismanagement and strategic incompetence is causing havoc the length and breadth of Wales and is leaving homes and communities in tatters.

This Labour government has also failed to deliver on fundamental public services.

It has become perfectly clear that the Government has neither the strategy nor the vision to manage a health service fit for purpose in the twenty-first century.

Since Labour came to power thousands more people are waiting for treatment, trusts face multi-million pound debts, hospitals face closure, fewer people than ever before are seeing an NHS dentist, and the head of the ambulance service has resigned saying lives were being lost because he had not been given the tools to do the job.

Who dares to say that that the National Health Service is safe with Labour?

Similarly with the provision of education, thousands of young people are being let down by a government that is more interested in burdening head teachers and staff with initiatives and regulations, rather than allowing schools the freedom to deliver a high calibre and flexible education system that will narrow the growing skills gap in our business sector.

The Welsh economy of tomorrow depends on the quality of skills children receive today.

If we leave education in the hands of Labour, it is clear that our young people will simply not be prepared for the workplace and our economy will continue to falter.

Most importantly, let us not forget the shameful broken promises of this government.

They promised, very clearly, to provided free breakfasts for all primary school children in Wales by September 2006.

What have we seen?

Nothing but a costly gimmick that has seen only 2.4% of Welsh primary school children receiving those breakfasts.

The government had no intention of providing breakfast to all children - despite their promise.

They also promised to widen the access to Further Education and yet it has narrowed.

But the worst example of Labour's broken promises during this Assembly term has been their failure to honour their commitment to disabled people requiring home care.

They raised the hopes of this vulnerable group and for several years they reiterated their promise.

What have we seen?

The government unceremoniously drop the commitment just a few months ago.

This was nothing short of disgraceful and they should be utterly ashamed of their cynical promise.

This is Labour in 2006, breaking a solemn promise to our most disadvantaged community.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Conservative Party has always been a Party that is non-ideological, adapting to changing circumstances, thus giving us the ability to make reforms where they are needed but allowing us to conserve all the values that are good in society.

That is why in each generation we change, applying our values to new challenges.

David Cameron has made his intentions clear, that under his leadership it is time for the Party to change so that future growth is secured. He has shown us the direction that the Party must take.

Let us embrace that change here in Wales so we can deliver the success that this country so badly needs."

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