Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Davis: Conservatives must walk tall again

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2005

"There are moments in history when normal politics has to stop.

Ten to nine on 7th July this year was just such a moment.

Four bombs went off in London killing over 50 people.

The aim of the terrorists was to divide us. But they failed.

The British people stood united against that common threat.

As the Opposition we stood firm with the Government. Some people said we were too co-operative. I don't agree.

At times like this you pull together. It's what the enemy fears and it's what Britain would expect from the Conservative Party.

We have always put this country first, and we always will!

This Party Conference was the victim of terrorism in 1984. Some of you were in Brighton then. Some had friends killed or injured. Margaret Thatcher said then: "This attack has failed and all attempts to destroy democracy will fail".

And I can tell you this: this new threat will fail too.

We aren't the kind of people to be broken by terror. We won't appease it. And together, as One Nation, we will confront it!

Only the day before the bombings, we'd had news of a very different kind: that Britain would host the Olympics.

When we cheered Kelly Holmes running for her two Olympic gold medals, when we shouted for Amir Khan as he boxed for silver, did we think for a second about their colour or faith or background?

No. We just cheered for them and we cheered for Britain.

I want to see a Britain that's utterly blind to race or colour, that celebrates difference, but that celebrates Britishness too. And let's face it, in recent years we haven't celebrated it enough.

Most of us are proud to be British. I am. You are.

But there's a tiny minority who aren't. There are places where hatred of our country and our way of life has been allowed to fester. And it's gone unchallenged.

We stood by as young men became strangers in their own country.

So I agree with Trevor Phillips, the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality: we can't accept a widening gulf between our communities.

And we mustn't accept it when people living here can't speak English…or won't subscribe to Britain's democratic values.

It's a disgrace when this country becomes a second home for people that other countries regard as a deadly threat.

Since 7th July, Britain hasn't deported a single extremist. France deported five.

I don't often say this, but sometimes the French get it right!

And if the French won't tolerate people who pose a danger to their country, why on earth should we?

But it turns out that we can't actually remove these people. You know why? Because Labour's Human Rights Act is stopping us.

This Act is itself a threat to one of our most fundamental human rights… the right to safety and security.

It must be overhauled to allow the Government to deport people who pose a threat. And if it can't be overhauled it must be scrapped.

And if we don't know who's coming in and out of the country - and if potential terrorists can move about freely - then frankly we don't have borders at all.

We must take back control of our own borders!

We will stand firm against terrorism. But this doesn't mean that we will sign up to everything that Tony Blair proposes.

We need laws that lock up terrorists who threaten us.

We don't need laws that detain 82 year-old refugees from Nazi Germany who have the temerity to disagree with Jack Straw!

You don't defeat terrorism by sacrificing the fundamental freedoms of ordinary citizens.

And I give you this commitment: The Conservative Party will never give in when it comes to fighting terrorism. But we'll also never give up on our fundamental freedoms!


Tony Blair said he'd be tough on crime.

At last year's Conference, I showed you a video about Victor Bates, whose wife Marian was shot dead in a robbery.

It turns out that her murderer was a burglar, sex offender, and drug addict. And he was walking around with an electronic tag. Or more exactly without a tag because he'd torn it off.

It's what Labour call being under "intensive supervision".

And he was free, of course, to murder Marian Bates. If he'd been in prison, she would probably be alive today. That's why prison works.

But too few criminals are in prison.

They're out, because the police have failed to detect them or because the courts have failed to imprison them. But they're also out because this Government won't build the jails to hold them.

A Conservative government would change that.

We would recruit the police to catch these criminals.

We would build the prisons to put them away and keep them off our streets.

We would ensure those prisons are places where inmates get an education, get clear of drugs and get back on the right track.

We would put the safety of decent citizens first. And that's what I mean by being tough on crime!

Our society is getting more disorderly. Drunk and disorderly. Binge drinking is turning our town centres into a vision of hell every Saturday night.

And can you believe it? Labour's response is to make it easier to drink all day and all night.

It's a policy so completely, so utterly ridiculous I am amazed it didn't come from the Liberal Democrats!

The answer to too much drinking is more drinking? You couldn't make it up.

As with drink, so with drugs. They downgraded cannabis. The police were against it. The doctors were against it. The Government's own drugs tsar was against it. But still the Government went ahead.

Maybe it sounded alright in Islington. But we know what it really meant in the most deprived areas of our inner cities more drug pushers, and more ruined lives.

This policy is stupid, dangerous and wrong.

Tony Blair talks about the causes of crime.

We hear a lot about those causes - drink, drugs, a lack of school discipline. They're all very real and they're all getting worse.

But the single biggest cause of rising crime and social problems is obvious: it's the breakdown of family life.

We need strong families.

My mum was single. So I'm the last person to judge anyone when I say this. It is in all our interests, single, married, black, white, young, old, gay or straight, to keep the family strong.


I know what it's like to live in a tough neighbourhood.

I grew up on a council estate.

It's 69 years ago this morning that my communist grandfather joined the Jarrow march against unemployment.

So I wasn't born a Conservative. I chose to be a Conservative.

Because I came to realise something that every one of us here today knows:

Labour always ends up letting people down. And they let down the poorest and weakest in society most of all.

I became a Conservative because I believe that you don't make the weak strong by making the strong weak.

I became a Conservative because I believe that people have responsibilities as well as rights.

I became a Conservative because I believe in our nation and our institutions, and I can't bear to see them pulled down.

I was drawn into politics by Churchill's dream of a Britain in which "there is a limit beneath which no man may fall, but no limit to which any man might rise".

And that dream still inspires me today.

When I grew up, I had a chance. I went to a good local school. I got into university. I made my way in business.

Too many people don't have that chance today. The ladders of opportunity have been kicked away and it's harder to make your way up now.


I have a vision of a better Britain.

I want people who grow up today to know, that if they work hard, they'll be able to keep more of what they earn - because we'll cut taxes.

I want them to know that they'll have a first-class hospital in their city or town - because we'll rebuild the NHS to meet the needs of patients.

I want them to know they'll have a really good local school with classroom discipline and high standards - because we'll put parents and teachers in control.

I want them to know that their streets will be safer - because they'll have the power to put more police on the beat.

I want them to know that they can feel secure and fulfill their dreams - because they'll own their own home, or pensions, or shares.

This is the society of opportunity that modern Conservative ideas can build.

This is our vision of optimism and hope.

And talking of optimism and hope, let's not forget the sunniest character in British politics - Mr Gordon Brown.

Poor gloomy Gordon. He lives in hope of that long-awaited move from Number 11 to Number 10. He's packed his bags. He's packed his books. He's even packed his hair shirt. He's given up Prudence, and taken up with Patience.

But his neighbour's wife doesn't want to move!

But actually, the prospect of Gordon Brown running the country is no joke.

He talks about opportunity. But he's spent eight years entrenching welfare dependency.

He talks about reform. But he's spent eight years lining up with the unions.

He talks about ownership. But he's destroyed the value of pensions.

Gordon Brown is rooted in the past. He's driven by a socialism that's out of date, out of time and out of place in today's world.

That's why, for the sake of the country, we must take the first opportunity to turf him out of office!

Labour has deeply damaged democracy in Britain. And one of our first duties will be to restore it. At home, we'll devolve power to local government and local communities.

In Europe, we'll take back powers of self-government from Brussels to the British Parliament. Because the issue of Europe hasn't gone away, and it's not about to.

The drive to deeper integration never rests. So ask yourself this: if the Conservative Party doesn't speak up for Britain's interests, then who will?

We must. And I will!


Now some of you may have heard I'm standing for the party leadership.

And as you'd expect I've had lots of helpful advice from all sorts of people.

Some say turn left. Some say veer right. Slower. Faster.

If these pundits were driving a car they'd be off the end of Blackpool pier by now!

So let me make myself clear.

I'm not going to blow with every gust of wind from whichever direction it comes. Set policy to suit every cause. Or junk my principles when they seem inconvenient.

I've set a course. It's a course that can unite all sections of this party. And I also believe it's the right course for Britain.

It will mean changing how we work.

I want this Party to reach parts of Britain that we haven't reached for far too long.

Scotland and Wales. Our great cities in the North.

We need candidates from all backgrounds. More local campaigning. Policy making that is open to the world we live in.

Britain has moved on, and we must move with it!

But do you know what I want most?

I want Tories to walk tall again.

So let me tell you: I'm proud to be a Conservative, proud of our history, proud of what we achieved for our country.

I will not concede defeat to Gordon Brown and Tony Blair. I don't believe that our best days are behind us. I believe that the best is yet to come.

Yes: we need to debate our future. Yes: we need to agree on change. But we don't need a collective nervous breakdown.

So let's stop apologising - and get on with the job!

And let's remember that the only way we can win the next election is by being united.

So let's all bear in mind Ronald Reagan's eleventh commandment - "Thou shalt never speak ill of a fellow conservative".

What we need to win is a new idealism and a shared sense of purpose.

And that won't be done by dodging awkward issues or evading difficult problems.

It'll be done by taking risks, by taking a stand, and, in the end, by taking charge.

Our goal as a Party is power, but power with a moral purpose.

For us, government is a means; it isn't an end in itself. It's the means:

• to liberate those locked into dependence,

• to give a voice to those whose voices go unheard,

• And to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

We shouldn't want power on any other terms. We wouldn't deserve it, and you can be sure of this, we wouldn't get it either.

So let's go out from this conference and tell the British people what we really stand for.

Let's spell out our mission to change Britain and improve lives.

Let's speak with confidence and conviction.

And let's show that the Conservative Party is ready to lead again!"

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech