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Davis: A modern Conservative vision

Speech announcing Conservative leadership bid

"I am today announcing my intention to stand for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

I'm doing so because I believe that I am the candidate most capable of shaping an agenda for change, of uniting the Party, and of winning the next election.

I want to win for a reason - to change Britain and improve lives. I want people to enjoy the kind of opportunities and security that I've had myself.

Britain is a great country - made great by the character of our people, our culture, and our history. But our society today faces great challenges: pressure on family life and raising children; insecurity brought by relentless global competition; a sense that shared values of decency and tolerance are being lost.

We are an affluent nation, and yet too many people are left behind. The best off in society can move house or go private if they want to get their children into good schools. They can take out health insurance or pay if they fall ill and want to get treated quickly.

They can afford to live in a better neighbourhood with safer streets. But most families simply don't have these options.

People feel that the country is going in the wrong direction, but they also feel powerless to change the system. Turnout in elections is low, a culture of spin is turning people off politics, and there's been an erosion of confidence in our institutions. Britain is crying out for a more straightforward style of government.

I believe that the modern Conservative Party must have the courage to commit itself to radical change - because only this commitment can truly change the system, meet the challenges of the modern world and turn Britain in the right direction.

The heart of this change must be to empower people and let them realise their full potential. 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".

I want to build a new consensus for change, using modern conservative ideas to achieve the goal of social justice which for too long have been claimed by the left:

- opportunity for the many and not just the privileged few.

- public services as good as those of our European neighbours.

- a strong economy and a better society.

This vision of a better Britain is founded on a Tory idealism - a belief that a different kind of politics can offer new hope for our country and our people.

But in order to be able to change our country, the Conservative Party itself must change.

At the last election, we campaigned hard and gained a new generation of MPs. But our share of the vote was virtually the same as our second landslide defeat in 2001.

Less than a quarter of women under 55 voted for us. Our middle-class support has actually fallen since 1997. We delude ourselves if we believe that more of the same will be enough next time.

Modern Britain is a non-deferential, largely urban, diverse country. We need to reflect this reality within our own party if we are to build wider public support.

There are many lessons to be learnt from the successes of Conservative councillors in local government, where we are now the largest party.

- We must make our campaigning more effective and more local.

- We must attract more Parliamentary candidates who are in tune with contemporary Britain and can champion their communities.

- We must radically reform the way we work in and out of Parliament, opening up our policy discussion more widely.

Labour's culture of spin has opened up a gulf between the voters and Westminster. Most voters are turned off by, and tuned out of, party politics. To gain a new hearing we need to offer real change, not just a change of management.

This doesn't mean aping New Labour. We must be true to timeless Conservative principles of choice, individual responsibility and freedom - but we must apply these principles to today's problems.

- By lowering taxes and spending wisely we can build a strong, dynamic economy and give the poorest in society a fairer deal.

- By reducing welfare dependency, strengthening families and enhancing social mobility we can build a new society of opportunity.

- By widening ownership of property, shares and pensions we can extend power to the people and help them to realise their dreams.

- By returning power to local communities we can reinvigorate democracy and transform the accountability of government.

- By radically reforming public services we can deliver safer streets, better transport and first class local schools and hospitals for all.

- By standing for the shared British values of decency and tolerance which bind us all - single, married, black, white, young, old, gay and straight - we can build one nation.

- By returning powers to national governments in an Open Europe we can ensure that Britain is equipped to meet the challenges of a changing world.

A lot is made of my background, but actually I was very fortunate.

I lived on a council estate, but life wasn't bad.

I went to a good local school and I was taught well.

I got into university and made my way in business.

Life gave me a chance and I was able to take it.

But I went into politics because I saw that others never had that chance.

I haven't lost my anger at the injustice, complacency, bureaucratic inertia, and barriers that stand in people's way.

I haven't lost the idealism which drove me to reject the socialism which lets people down, and took me into the Conservative Party.

And I haven't lost my belief that Britain is a great country, but one in which life for so many people could be so much better.

So modern Conservatives will show that we're not in politics for ourselves.

We're not here to defend privilege or accept the status quo.

We have a real purpose - to change Britain and improve lives.

And let me repeat what that means:

- opportunity for the many and not just the privileged few.

- public services as good as those of our European neighbours.

- a strong economy and a better society.

This is my vision. A modern Conservative vision.

I invite my fellow Conservatives to join me now and build a party ready to govern Britain again."

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