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Maude: It's for all of us to show that we're changing

Speech at Conservative Spring Forum 2006

"It is a great time for us. We're on the up, and for the first time for a long time. So you're not going to get the usual Maude gloomfest today. We've moved ahead. Today people want to hear from us. People are joining us - some 25,000 since December. And people are joining us from other parties - people who were campaigning against us less than a year ago.

Tomorrow you'll hear from the Labour candidate who stood against me in Horsham, Rehman Chishti.

Rehman is typical of the many, many people today who are feeling for the first time that the Conservative Party is their natural home. People are starting to feel good about the Conservatives again, and we should be feeling much better about ourselves.

Our outlook today is so much better that when I suggested a few days ago that it was still possible that we might not win the next election it was thought worthy of a newspaper headline! That's how much expectations have changed.

Why has it changed so much? A big part of it is down to David Cameron. People really do think he is the goods: high intellect, deep integrity, serious principles, gives strong leadership to his party, is willing to take tough decisions, as well as having flair and charisma. People think - and how right they are - that David has all the qualities they want in the future PM.

We now need to convince them that the whole party has changed. The need to convince them is obvious. In the last three elections we only attracted around one third of the voters. To win we need nearer one half. So people need to see that the party we are asking them to support now has changed from the party they decided not to support only last May.

My point is this. It would be wrong for us to expect David Cameron to carry the entire burden of persuading people that we've changed. As a party we vaunt our belief in personal responsibility.

We must all take personal responsibility for the success of our shared venture, not contract it all out to the leader.

One of the challenges of change is that the Party selects candidates in our most winnable seats who taken together are more representative of today's Britain. We can't make that happen from the centre. We can and we will provide a priority list of outstanding candidates to choose from. It'll be balanced between men and women and it'll include many extremely talented black and minority ethnic candidates. That part we can do from the centre.

The rest is up to you, the Party in the constituencies. It's for all of us to show that we're changing.

That's why we published 'Built to Last' some weeks ago. It's a statement of values, aims and direction. We'll consult widely in the Party over the next few months and then ask party members to vote for a revised version in the autumn.

No one should be mistaken - this is a serious hard-edged Conservative prospectus. Trusting people; shared responsibility; society not being the same thing as the state: these are all central tenets of Conservatism.

They mark a sharply different direction, markedly different values from the statism, authoritarianism, interference and ever higher taxes that Labour espouses.

But some have said that Built to Last is too broad. Lots of people could agree with it, we're told, who aren't "proper Conservatives". As if that's a bad thing. It's a long time since we've been accused of being too inclusive, of appealing to too many people.

Let's not kid ourselves. Our appeal still needs to be broader.

So why should we seek to define people out of our party's appeal by telling them that they're not "proper Conservatives"? We need to define our conservatism so that more people are attracted to us not fewer. Otherwise we can never win and never have the chance to put our principles into practice in the service of our country and our communities.

This amazing party of ours has one purpose and one purpose only.

We exist to campaign to secure the election of Conservatives into public office so that we can serve our communities and serve our country. We are not a supper club. Nor a savings bank. Nor a polite debating society.

We could have chosen to become a society debating in ever smaller rooms about what is the very purest essence of "proper Conservatism". But we decided in December not to be that inward-looking backward-facing exclusive brethren.

Instead we decided to become an outward-looking future-facing modern compassionate party.

We elected David Cameron as leader. We elected him with an overwhelming mandate to change our party to make us electable once again. To make us a modern compassionate Conservative Party that is a credible and appealing alternative Government.

If we are to be a credible alternative Government we need money in order to build and to campaign. For every party leader and party chairman money is a constant concern.

And let's face it, it's one of the reasons people have become cynical about politics and politicians is the impression they have that large donors and lenders can wield disproportionate influence, effectively buying power and patronage.

We need to remove that impression. That's why David asked Andrew Tyrie to produce proposals for comprehensive reform of party funding, which we've now published. Those proposals include a cap on donations by individuals and organisations.

We have reluctantly concluded that if a cap were to be introduced some modest extension of state funding would be unavoidable.

We don't like it. We don't want it. But perhaps you can't have it both ways. You can't just wish away the impression of undue influence through big donations and at the same time remain ultra purist about state funding. Parties have to be funded. And don't I know it.

So reform is needed. The current framework isn't working. And reform needs to be comprehensive.

It needs to include the scandal of trade union funding for the Labour Party. The conventional wisdom is that the relationship between Labour and the unions no longer matters. The days when deals were stitched up over beer and sandwiches in smoke filled rooms in Downing Street are long gone. Tony Blair himself promised that unions would get 'fairness not favours'.

Well it's not quite that simple. Who have been Labour's biggest donors since 2001? It's not Paul Drayson, not Bernie Ecclestone, not even the munificent Lord Sainsbury.

It's Unison, the GMB, Amicus and the TGWU. Those four unions alone have given over £27 million to the Labour Party since the beginning of 2001. And the total for all unions is over £47million - about two thirds of Labour's funding.

What, you may ask, do they get in return? It wasn't beer and sandwiches at Number 10. This time it was something much more mouth-watering than that. This time Labour and the unions got together two years ago, and the result was a lip-smacking deal that would have made the brothers of the 1970s proud.

The Labour Party granted the unions over 60 policy concessions - from watering down anti-strike legislation to support for European employment regulation. In return? Yes, you guessed it. The unions bankrolled Labour's general election campaign.

And it doesn't stop there. There's now a union 'modernisation fund'. Last month, this doled out £3 million of taxpayers' money to the unions.

These unions, who so desperately needed £3 million of taxpayers' funds, who at the same time are giving Labour £12 million a year.

So let me make it quite clear. If there is to be agreement on reform to party funding, it will have to include an end to the corrupt cronyism of Labour's union dependency.

In the meantime we have serious work to do. This Spring Forum is all about change. We have to be that change.

Which is why one of the first decisions I took as party chairman last summer was that, for the first time in our history, we would come here, to hold the Spring Forum 2006 in the great city of Manchester.

For too long we have been left out of the debate of the future of our big cities. That's not good enough for a Party that wants to represent the whole of modern Britain.

And it is more than a symbolic gesture, that we come to Manchester - a city that has done so much with urban regeneration, but at the same time, has some of our country's most deprived wards.

Over these few days, David Cameron, members of the Shadow Cabinet and many of you, have volunteered to help in Social Enterprise projects in some of these wards. To get their hands dirty - literally.

• We'll be clearing up the open spaces in Hullard Park

• Decorating a family centre in the same area

• Out on the streets with the Street Pastors in Moss Side

and loads of other places.

For many Conservatives, this is nothing new - we've been fighting for Social Justice in our country for generations. And here in Manchester, over Spring Forum, you will have the opportunity to interact with some wonderful individuals and organisations that share our vision of a better Britain for all.

And this evening we're all going out campaigning. Professionals, councillors, candidates, MPs, volunteers. Going out together as one team, one party to do the only thing the Conservative Party exists to do - to campaign to get Conservatives elected into public office so they can serve their communities by putting Conservative principles into practice.

These local elections really matter. We have candidates nominated in more wards than ever before. We're fighting in London, and in all the great cities of England. We're fighting just to get a toehold in Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool.

In Salford, next door to here, we've gone from no councillors a few years ago to nine today, including one who's joined us from the LibDems.

We're fighting to tighten our grip in Birmingham, Coventry, Leeds and Bradford.

And we know we can win, because we already are winning. Already we're the biggest party in local Government. Just yesterday a 21 year old Conservative candidate, James Duddy, won a ward in Bromsgrove long held by independents - and won with a stunning 71% of the vote.

We know we must win.

We must win not for ourselves, or for our party.

We must win for our communities and our country - so that we can serve.

If we change and we show that we are changing. If we change so that no one has a flicker of a doubt that we are truly a modern and compassionate Conservative Party.

If we do all that - we'll win. And more than that, we'll be worthy of it."

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