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Michael Howard- Election launch

"What this election is all about"

The choice before voters on May the fifth is very clear.

They can either reward Mr. Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons.

Mr. Blair's Labour Government has lost the plot.

Hardworking families - honest people who do the right thing, who respect others, who provide for their children, who look after their homes and contribute to their local communities are being taken for granted by Mr. Blair.

People are fed up that their hard work is not recognised or rewarded.

Patients worry they'll pick up an infection in hospitals which are dirty when they should be clean.

Pensioners worry not just about going out at night but during the day because crime is out of control.

And parents worry that their kids can't learn in class because there's too little school discipline.

And all this despite Mr. Blair's huge, stealthy tax increases.

Imagine another five years of it. If you're thinking: "We shouldn't have to settle for this", then I say to you today: don't.

Britain is the fourth richest country in the world.

We can afford world class public services - the good, local schools and clean hospitals that hard working Britons deserve.

There is a better way.

By rewarding people who do the right thing - who play by the rules - we will build a brighter, better future for our country.

That's why, six months ago, my Party published a Timetable for Action - a bold public commitment to get a grip on the tough issues facing Britain today.

We will reward hardworking Britons who do the right thing by giving them value for money and lower taxes.

We will clean up our hospitals by giving matrons the power to close wards that are infected with MRSA.

We will cut crime by each year putting 5000 more police officers - real police officers - on our streets and introducing tougher sentences for burglars and drug dealers.

We will reduce immigration by setting an annual limit on the number of people who can come and settle in Britain.

And we will restore discipline in our classrooms by giving head teachers control over their schools.

Education has the power to transform lives.

I know.

I come from an ordinary family.

My parents ran a shop.

We didn't have any special privileges.

But I was lucky enough to live in a town with a first class state school.

At Llanelli Grammar School, discipline was at a premium.

Teachers were respected.

And that ethos meant we all learnt the basics.

Ambition, excellence and hard work were encouraged.

It was the best start any child could have in life.

Fifty years on, I want everyone to have that quality of education.

And my goodness, we've got a very, very long way to go.

Teaching is a noble profession.

Teachers simply want the satisfaction - the sheer joy - of inspiring the next generation, and of passing on that most precious commodity, knowledge.

Of course we know that in some schools, thanks to the commitment of inspired heads and dedicated, hardworking teachers, standards are rising.

But despite all the millions of pounds that have been spent, one in three children still leave primary school unable to write properly.

When I travel round the country, perhaps the most heartbreaking sight I see is the children who've dropped out of school.

Youngsters going off the rails - each of them a story of lost opportunity, but also a warning of the kind of country Britain will become if we don't change direction.

Let's be clear - the quality of Britain's education system today, will determine our success as a society tomorrow.

I read stories of ill discipline in our schools with horror.

I remember my teachers as people I respected. If children don't learn respect for authority in class, they're much less likely to respect others when they grow up?

So we will give head teachers back control over their schools.

They will have the power to expel disruptive pupils.

No meddling bureaucracies - no ifs, no buts, no nonsense.

I will not allow the minority to ruin the education of the majority.

But a child's future is far too precious simply to be written off if they are expelled from school.

Today, too many expelled children drop out of education and get into crime.

That is why a Conservative Government will create Turnaround Schools for persistently disruptive pupils to put them back on the straight and narrow.

We will invest heavily in these schools so that troubled youngsters get the help they deserve: learning the basics, reading, writing and arithmetic; a practical skill so that they can get a job when they leave; drug treatment if they need it.

Education is, for me, more than a policy area, it's a passion.

A passion rooted deep in my own experience - my own education.

I know that every child is good at something.

The challenge of education is to unlock the individual talents that each child has within them.

We need to invest more in all schools if we are to build an education system fit for the twenty first century.

That's why a Conservative Government will spend an extra £15 billion on our schools in our first term in office - that is at least as much as Labour.

We'll be able to spend more on what matters by cutting back on wasteful spending and unnecessary government activity - like Strategic Health Authorities, unelected regional assemblies, the New Deal.

These are tough decisions.

I make no apology for that.

Leadership isn't about doing what's easy.

It's about doing what's right.

Some people say I shouldn't talk about difficult issues like the abuse of our asylum system and those travellers who stick two fingers up to the law.

But we cannot make Britain a better place if we sweep difficult issues under the carpet.

Everyone knows you won't fix a problem if you aren't even prepared to discuss it.

I'm not prepared to appease special interest groups because I believe passionately in fair play.

We are all British and we should all have to play by the same rules.

Nor will I be distracted from doing what I believe is best for Britain by the smirking politics of Mr Blair or the woolly thinking of the Liberal Democrats.

So on each of these issues - on rewarding those who work hard and have contributed to our country, on schools, on hospitals, on crime and on immigration - we have a detailed, published Timetable for Action so you can hold us to account.

Look for this commitment in your paper, check it on the net, put it up on your fridge door - hold me to it.

And beware yet another election where Mr Blair says one thing to get your vote on polling day and does something quite different afterwards.

Mr. Blair is already secretly grinning about the prospect of his third victory.

Well you don't have to settle for that.

If you're thinking what we're thinking, it's time for urgent action on the things that really matter:

- Reward for hardworking Britons;

- School discipline;

- Cleaner hospitals;

- More police; and

- Controlled immigration.

So I say again, the choice before voters on May the fifth is very clear.

They can either reward Mr. Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

Or they can vote Conservative, to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard working Britons.

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