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Cameron: Offering a credible, competent alternative government

Press Conference at Conservative Campaign Headquarters

"In the local elections last week the Conservatives secured the best result at the polls since 1992.

It was a good night for us…… but we should be under no illusions.

We still have a long way to go if we are to win people's trust and become the next government.

I was elected as leader with a clear mandate to change the Conservative Party.

That process has begun……. but we have much more to do.

Now is not the time to slow down, but to accelerate.

The changes need to go faster, wider and deeper.

Faster - because with the Government imploding the need for the Conservative Party is growing.

Wider - to drive the revitalisation of the party into every part of Britain, including the north of England, where we fared less well last week.

Deeper - to make the change permanent, modernising not just our policies and our organisation but our culture and attitudes, so that we are unmistakably a modern and compassionate party.

This morning I want to spell out some of our plans for the weeks and months ahead to deliver this change.

One change will be holding regular press conferences to update you on Party change.

The Prime Minister's monthly press conference was a good innovation of Tony Blair's and I would continue the practice as Prime Minister.

I hope Gordon Brown will confirm that he will do the same - as he does have a tendency to disappear when the going gets tough.

Policy Groups

First, an update on policy development.

Each of our six groups is now up and running.

They are busy developing policy recommendations in response to the six challenges we have identified.

Let me give some brief updates.

The Social Justice Group is working on a "state of the nation" report on family breakdown, drug and alcohol dependency, community breakdown, educational failure and household indebtedness.

The first report - on family breakdown - has already been produced.

Others will shortly follow, before the group moves on to causes and cures.

The Public Service Improvement Group has held its first seminars.

Its key focus is addressing the question of how to release professionals in health and education from excessive central government direction, while assuring proper professional standards.

Our Quality of Life Group now has more than 100 people working within it.

It will soon receive the conclusions of our Electrical Energy Review.

The Group is considering the appropriate method of pricing carbon across the economy, in response to our request.

George Osborne's tax reform commission will shortly be publishing its first major paper on flatter and simpler taxes.

I want the policy groups - not stuck in London - but getting around the country and engaging with people and different interest groups.

So we will be holding open seminars - real opportunities for people to get involved.

The first of these will be held in Manchester next month, with others to follow in other cities around the country.

This policy process is the most engaging, the most open and the most comprehensive that any party has carried out in years.

Built to Last

Next, as you will remember, earlier this year we published our statement of the Party's aims and values, Built to Last.

We said that we wanted this to be debated by the Party as a whole, and that we would then ask the Party to vote on this document before the Party Conference.

That debate began at our Spring Forum in Manchester.

Today, I can announce that over the next few months we will hold a series of meetings, so that all Conservatives, in every region of the country, can express their views.

So as to ensure that everyone really does have a chance to say what they think, we are looking at innovative ways of holding these debates, including the internet and television.


Next, an update on parliamentary candidates.

Over the past few months we have been interviewing those people who want to get on to our Priority List.

Conservative-held constituencies and target seats will be expected to select from this list.

I've said many times that we need to have more women candidates and more candidates from black and minority ethnic communities.

Our aim is that the list will be representative of Britain.

On the current list, just over half are women, and just over 10% are from black and ethnic minority backgrounds.

It is my aspiration to keep it that way.

The process of selecting the candidates who will be on the first tranche of the Priority List is now complete.

Tomorrow, we will send out letters notifying those who are on it.

By the end of July, about 50 constituencies - some safe seats, others marginal - will have selected their candidates for the next General Election.

The priority list will be topped up as people are selected for those seats.

So it is an ongoing process. But as I have said, we will stop, look and review the situation after the first tranche.

If we have not made enough progress, further steps will be taken.

Winning in our cities

Finally, a major priority in the months ahead will be rebuilding our presence in Britain's cities.

This has already started in London. If you take a straight line from here to Heathrow, you would not pass through a single Labour or Lib Dem council.

And we also made progress elsewhere.

We now control a majority of councils in the West Midlands - Walsall, Dudley, Solihull and Coventry. We jointly run Birmingham, Britain's largest council.

We won the popular vote in Bristol.

And we won seats in places in Labour heartlands like Barrow in Furness, where we gained five seats in John Hutton's constituency.

But this is not enough. We clearly need to do more.

This is a self confident party. I am not going to run away from these issues, but confront and address them.

So tomorrow, in London, I will meet council leaders to discuss how we can change our organisation to meet this challenge.

I want to learn from their experiences what works and what doesn't.

Next Monday I will be chairing a meeting of council leaders, group leaders, party members and others in Manchester so that we can best understand about the issues we need to address, in terms of policy, people and party organisation.

I will be appointing specific shadow ministers to link with specific cities so that they can take responsibility for working with and helping our organisations in those cities.

And, in the months ahead, we will continue to hold more Shadow Cabinets out of London, so that the entire Shadow Cabinet is focused on this agenda.

A positive agenda

This is a positive, forward-looking agenda.

We're doing the long term policy work to meet the big challenges of tomorrow.

We are building a party and a team that is a credible alternative for Government.

The contrast with the Labour Party could be not clearer.

Incompetent - whether it is running our prisons or reshuffling the Cabinet.

Running out of steam, running out of ideas.

Divided from top to bottom.

We have heard talk of a dual premiership - but we have gone from dual control to no control.

This government cannot be renewed. It has to be replaced.

And that is our task:

To show that we are worthy of people's trust by offering a credible, competent alternative government, whenever the next General Election may be."

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