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Cameron: Ending the Blair era

Speech at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square, London

"Let's be clear about what happened in Parliament this week. Tony Blair lost his authority. But it was worse than that. When my government comes to the House of Commons and asks for extra powers to combat terrorists. Every bone in my body wants to agree with them and do what we need to do to protect the public. There's much in the Bill that's so right, and there are so many other things that should be done: border police, intercept evidence available in court, funding for the security services.

But 90 day detention without charge was just too long. The Home Secretary knew it. The Labour Party knew it. The Conservative Party knew it. Colleagues who served in Northern Ireland during internment and saw friends die knew it. If the Prime Minister had chosen to be a statesman he would have made a compromise for the good of the country. Instead he played the politician and tried to turn it into a stick to beat the Conservative Party. He even used a Downing Street press conference to challenge the Conservative leadership contenders. How pathetic.

But his shallow, populist campaign, playing politics with national security, was defeated. People have seen through his bluster and his phoney moral righteousness. The message is clear: if you're on Tony Blair's side, you're on the losing side. As Michael Howard said, he is in office but not in power. In office without a purpose. A weak Prime Minister, unable to stand up for the changes Britain needs. He can't stand up to the public sector unions. He can't stand up for Britain in Europe. In all his career, there's only one group of people Mr Blair has ever stood up to: the Labour Party. Well this week they stood up to him.

I don't know how long Tony Blair will last. Six months? A year? It doesn't really matter. The Blair era will not end with Tony Blair's exit from No.10. Because the Blair era is about more than Tony Blair. It's about a style of government and an approach to politics.

The Blair era is about spin, soundbites and short term tactics, where we need a long term strategy to meet the challenges Britain faces.

The Blair era is about marching yobs to cashpoints, banning drink on public transport, policies cobbled together to get newspaper headlines instead of being thought through in the public interest.

The Blair era is about a centralising, bureaucratic mindset that controls and regulate, where we need to set our people, our businesses and our voluntary organisations free to do their best.

The Blair era is about half-hearted and timid reform, where we need bold and confident action - on public services, on climate change and pensions.

Gordon Brown cannot end the Blair era. He spins and twists the truth even more. He's even more addicted to PR gimmicks. He's even more of a control freak. He's even more timid on public service reform. He has all Blair's vices and then some. Blair and Brown are rooted in the past. Their ideas were shaped in their battle against Thatcherism in the 70s and the 80s. They don't understand what our country needs today. They're not equipped to help us face the future. They're yesterday's men; exhausted volcanoes; empty shells of the bright-eyed reformers the country voted for in 1997.

Now it's time to choose the future, not the past.

NEW VOTES, NOT CORE VOTE

Let's be clear about our duty as a Party. This Party is not a debating society. This party is not a newspaper column. This Party is a vehicle for enacting Conservative principles, in government, for the good of our country.

The only way to end the Blair era is to elect a Conservative Government. And the only way to elect a Conservative Government is to change the Conservative Party. We have a duty to provide an alternative at the next election that people want to vote for. Not just the people who vote for us today. But people who haven't voted for us in enough numbers for a very long time: young people, women, professionals, public sector workers, people living in our great cities. We need new votes, not just the core vote.

So our Party faces a clear choice in this leadership contest. Do we move to the right, or do we fight for the centre ground? Do we stick to our core vote comfort zone, or do we reach out? Do we repeat the mistakes of the past, or do we change to win the future?

That is our choice. If we get it right, we can end the Blair era. If we get it wrong, the Blair era stays

- under new mis-management: more spin, more headline-chasing, more bureaucracy, more centralisation, more spending, more borrowing, more waste, less reform, higher taxes - from Gordon Brown.

A MESSAGE OF CHANGE, OPTIMISM AND HOPE

I don't want that to happen. I don't want to let our country down, and let down the people who Blair and Brown have let down. To those people we must have more to say than a replay of our favourite old tunes.

If all we have to say on the economy is up-front personal tax cuts, what do we have to say to the millions of people in our country who don't pay income tax but who are still living in poverty?

If all we have to say on education is "bring back 20 grammar schools", what do we have to say to the parents of children in the 26,000 schools where standards are falling and Labour are failing?

If we have nothing at all to say on the environment, on the quality of life, on climate change, what do we have to say to the young families who worry about the state of their neighbourhood and the state of the planet?

At the next election, I want us to have a message of change, optimism and hope.

To the young black man in Lozells in Birmingham I want us to say: yes the Tory Party believes in creating wealth through economic liberalism - lower taxes, less regulation and a smaller state. But we also believe in eliminating poverty through economic empowerment. We will fix the broken rungs on the ladder to prosperity by ending Labour's welfare bureaucracy and liberating the voluntary sector to help you start a business or find a job.

To the young black woman on Question Time who told me of her fears for her children's education, I want us to say: yes, the Tory Party believes in school autonomy and parental choice. But we also believe that Government has a role and a duty to raise standards for your kids by enforcing rigour throughout the system. We will insist on proper teaching methods, on discipline in our classrooms, we'll sort out our exam system, and end the progressive theories that have done so much damage.

To the young family concerned about dirty streets and public spaces, the hassle it takes to get around, the environment that their children will inherit, I want us to say: yes, the Tory Party knows about the quantity of money. But we also care about the quality of life. We will give power to local communities to revive our cities; we won't treat the environment as an afterthought; we'll show leadership for the long-term on climate change.

To the young professional woman who thinks that this Party is not interested in her life, her challenges and her contribution, I want us to say: yes, the Conservative Party is for you. We will fight for better childcare, we will fight for equal pay and we will fight to end the scandal of women's under-representation in the Conservative Party in Parliament.

That's the message I want us to have at the next election. That's the message - the only message - that will end the Blair era. That's a message for the future, and it's time for this Party to choose the future, not the past."

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