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Maude: Britain today needs a successful and appealing Conservative Party

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2005

"Hello, everyone. I'm Francis Maude. I'm the one who isn't standing for the leadership.

This week we remember our former leader Ted Heath, who died so recently. Ted became Prime Minister against all the odds. The first Tory leader from a working-class background, few thought he could win in 1970.

A man of enormous strength and integrity, you had to respect him even when you disagreed with him. An inimitable presence - we miss him and we honour his memory. Ted knew that being Opposition leader is the toughest job in politics - it's relentless and thankless.

I'll say more about Michael later in the week, but just for now let's say a huge thank you to the man whose brave and disciplined leadership made Conservatives start to walk tall again - our leader, Michael Howard.

This is, quite simply, one of our most important conferences ever.

Back in May, Michael said we needed time to debate the future of the party. To understand what today's Britain requires from tomorrow's Conservatives.

This conference marks the last stage of that debate. And it must mark the start of a journey to success. That journey starts here.

And I've got some tough things to say. Some people won't like it.

But it's got to be said, so I'm not going to apologise. I was almost literally born into this party. It's in my blood and bones. At our best we're a wonderful party. We can excite, inspire, enthuse. At our best we're knitted into Britain's communities; we're attuned to how people live, to their hopes, their fears, their dreams. At our best we're a can-do, contemporary, get-down-to-it, trust-the-people party that nothing can stop.

I grew up in this party, I'm proud of it, and I love it. I just hate the fact that we don't win; that we can't serve our country in Government. Now's the time to be brutally honest with ourselves.

Britain today needs a successful and appealing Conservative Party more than ever - this Labour Government is failing Britain, and people know it. They've rumbled Blair and they're rumbling Brown.

So Britain really does need its Conservative Party: one that can win election to office, that will confront Britain's challenges and that does serve our country. Today we are not such a party.

I don't claim to know all the answers, nor I suspect will any of the platform speakers you'll hear this week. But I do know that we have no chance of solving the problem until we understand it.

Soon you'll elect a new leader. I haven't a clue who you'll pick. But I know this - whoever it is, on its own it won't be enough. We need much more than a new leader.

We need to show that we know and understand and can reflect today's Britain. Today we don't.

We need to offer a compelling vision of tomorrow's Britain that inspires the young who are Britain's future. At the moment we haven't.

This is my point: no leader can do this alone. It's for all of us in every single thing we say or do. It means every MP understanding that what he or she says, and how he or she behaves, can damage or enhance the entire party.

You in this hall work your socks off to get us elected, and I want to thank you for that. You're entitled to expect us not to make it tougher than it already is. We bang on about personal responsibility.

All right, let's make a pledge, then, each and every one of us, whether we're MPs or councillors, professionals or volunteers.

An end to one side blaming another.

One party, one purpose. Let's resolve together that each one of us will take personal responsibility for the success of our journey.

And that means taking personal responsibility for change. We're starting here.

This week we'll show a face of the Conservative Party that's too little seen. Community projects in urban areas where Conservatives haven't been much in evidence lately. Small scale; nothing dramatic. But community action doesn't mean expecting the Government or council to sort out every problem - it means us rolling up our sleeves and helping to make lives better.

It means taking personal responsibility for our communities. You'll hear from our councillors about their successes - these are real local heroes, champions for their communities.

Today we're the biggest party in local Government, and people need to see what hard-working Conservatives can do in action; doing real things in real communities that genuinely improve people's lives.

And that's what makes politics worthwhile. It's also what makes us win.

So we'll show you what today's Conservatives are already doing to improve today's Britain.

This conference also marks the beginning of a leadership election. We won't have hustings. But we won't pretend it isn't happening either. All the candidates will talk to you directly, in five broad debates.

I'm not encouraging heckling - but we won't throw them out either. We couldn't get the bouncers - Tony Blair cornered the market. Because we believe in open debate I'd encourage you to heckle from the microphone in the times we have for floor contributions.

Our debate themes reflect the concerns people have in their daily lives - Today's Britain - and what they expect from their Government - Tomorrow's Conservatives.

I've been called a moderniser. I'll put my hand up. Guilty as charged. I do want the party to change. We've always known when to change and when to stand firm. Modernising? It's one of our Party's greatest traditions.

After 1945 and again after 1975, two great leaders gripped this party and forced it to confront the realities of contemporary Britain. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher made us the most forward-looking of the parties; the party most appealing to younger voters; most in tune with the way they wanted to live their lives.

So in 1979 we had more support from younger votes than from older ones. These great leaders modernised the party. Both times we won. And won and won.

Both times we rescued Britain from a failing Labour Government. When those leaders brought our party up to date, we didn't stop being a Conservative Party. I don't want us to change into a different party.

I want us to be a serious principled Conservative Party - but one that's capable of winning, so we can put our principles into practice.

Three times now we've asked people to elect us. And three times they've said "Thanks, but no thanks."

Yes we made progress - we have 54 new MPs: talented, likeable and more broad-based. Yes we got more votes than Labour in England. But the stark facts are these.

Our share of the vote overall rose by less than one per cent - yes, that's right: less than one per cent.

Among Britain's four million ethnic community, we're in third place.

Among women, we lost support. Fewer women than men voted for us, for the first time since women got the vote.

Among what should be our core vote - graduates and people working in business and the professions, we lost support.

Among younger voters, we lost support.

North of Birmingham, we lost support.

In the great cities outside London, we lost support.

I'm going to tell you about three constituencies.

Bristol West. Leeds North West. Cambridge.

Once upon a time these were natural Conservative seats. Not any more. But it's worse than that. Not only have we lost them all, but in all three we're now in third place.

We got 26% in Bristol West

25% in Leeds North West

And 16% in Cambridge.

We need to understand why. Was it our candidates? No. They were great.

Was it our policies? Not really. People liked our policies - until they found out they were ours. Look at this chart.

It shows the approval rating of our immigration policy before it was identified as a Conservative policy and then once they knew it was ours.

Support halved. This chart tells its own story.

So was it because Labour was invincible and Tony Blair some kind of genius?

Hardly. Labour's national vote slumped - to less than they got in 1979 when they lost.

The pendulum did swing. But it didn't swing to us. It swung to the Lib Dems.

So what's the problem? For me it's one simple word. Values.

Honesty, generosity, respect for all, compassion, fairness are all good values; that's how we try to live our own lives. But people don't see these values in our party. Don't take my word for it. Look at what people say.

Only one in three thinks the Conservative Party shares their own values.

Half think we care about the well-off, not the have-nots.

More than half think we're stuck in the past.

58% think we don't care about ordinary people.

64% think we're opportunistic.

And 67% - two out of three - quite simply think we're out of touch.

I'll tell you a story.

I was campaigning in Crawley, next door to Horsham.

We had a brilliant candidate, Henry Smith; he got a huge 9% swing from Labour; ended just 37 votes short of a stunning win. He really deserved to win; next time I promise he will.

We talked to someone who used to vote for us. As we left, Alison, my wonderful chairman, said: "Ouch! I wish the whole party could hear that."

So I'll tell you what this former supporter said to us. She said our policy of abolishing all tuition fees was "just to help the rich".

"Help the rich?" I replied. "No, no, it'd help every one."

"Yes but it would help the rich, wouldn't it," she pressed. "Well, yes, I suppose it would," I replied.

"That must be why you're doing it.

"And anyway," she continued, "your party doesn't approve of me."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because I'm a single mother."

So there it was. A natural Conservative voter; hard-working, trying to do the right thing for her family, community-minded.

She thought we weren't a party for people like her. It wasn't our leader. It wasn't our candidate. It wasn't our policies. It was the values she saw in our Party.

She saw a party that just wanted to help the better-off. She saw a party rushing to judgement on single mothers.

And she saw a party quite simply out of touch with how people like her have to live their lives day by day.

Tough for us to hear. And even tougher for us to cure.

Winston Churchill once observed:

"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened."

If we're going to be trusted by the public, we've got to show that we can confront uncomfortable truths, not tip-toe daintily round them.

Why should people think we're being honest with them if we won't be honest with ourselves?

So what do we do?

Our party believes in diversity, not uniformity. We should be the natural home for the millions of Britons of immigrant origin.

But today - we're not.

Because too often we've sounded like people who wish they hadn't come here at all, rather than celebrating their contribution to our culture and economy.

Our party's committed to tackling failing schools and cutting crime. We should be the natural home for people who live in our great cities.

But we're not.

Because too often we've sounded as if we're just a countryside party.

Our party believes in letting people make their own choices and live their own lives. We should be the natural home for younger voters, as we were in 1979.

But today we're not.

Because too often we sound like people who just don't like contemporary Britain.

Our party believes in the family and in letting people decide for themselves the right balance between work and home. We should be the natural home for young mothers.

But we're not.

Because too often we sound like people who think the only good mother is a married mother.

If we want to change what people think of us, then we have got to change.

Change the way we behave, change the way we talk, so people see the Conservative Party for what it really is - a party for all Britain and all Britons.

We can't sit back and do nothing when we're incapable of carrying our message and our purpose into large parts of the country.

We'll fail in our mission if we fail to do whatever - and I mean whatever - it takes to put that right. Today's Britain expects no less from tomorrow's Conservatives.

I've got one more thing to say to you.

I think we're the luckiest people in the world. We live in a fantastic country full of amazing people. They're cheerful, creative, optimistic, generous, resilient.

We must now go on a journey with them, and every journey starts with a new beginning.

Our party has in past times known great, great days. But we have no God-given right to survive, let alone to succeed.

We've succeeded in the past because those who went before had the courage and the vision to embrace change, to confront the world as it is, and to resolve to make it better.

The privilege of serving these amazing people is the highest privilege there is. We'll have to earn it. It won't be easy. It won't be painless or swift.

But if we hold to our purpose, as I know we will, there will be greater days ahead.

Let the journey begin."

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