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Howard: The Britain I believe in

"It's a great pleasure to be here with so many friends.

Two years ago when I launched my leadership election campaign I said "We must look forward not backward".

It was such a good phrase … that I repeated the same sentiment again a week later when I became leader.

I believed it then and I believe it now. And it's what I want to talk about this afternoon. Because today I want to share something personal with you: the Britain I believe in, my hopes and aspirations for our country.

The country we should be. The country we can be. The country we must be.

But we need a government that recognises how hard families work and rewards them for their efforts.

Some of you may know that Sandra and I live in Kent. Now our house certainly wouldn't win first prize in a beauty contest. In fact it's quite ugly. But it has one of the most glorious views in Britain.

It looks down over the mysterious beauty of Romney Marsh and out across the Channel. And when I look at that view I think about Britain's history and about her future.

My constituency sent a representative to Simon de Montfort's Parliament, England's first Parliament, in 1265. And it's sent them to every Parliament since.

It was on the Romney coast, some say, that William the Conqueror first tried to land on our shores.

From my kitchen I can see container ships going along the Channel - bearing their cargoes to and from all corners of the world. And it reminds me that Britain's greatness is built on our trade, on our openness, on our integrity, on our companies that can take on and beat the best in the world.

For me, the most moving experience of recent weeks has been learning about the quiet heroism of Private Johnson Beharry VC. And it's not just for his bravery. That humbles all of us who have never served in combat.

That a young man from Grenada, a small island in the Caribbean, with deep and long-standing ties to Britain, should become the first living recipient of the Victoria Cross in 36 years says something remarkable about Britain too.

It reminds us that Britain is bigger than the area bounded by the shores of this island and that for many people beyond our shores British values stand for something in the world.

On a clear day, when the sun's shining, from one corner of our garden, I can even see France. And much though I love France, I always think how intensely grateful I am that I was born on this side of the Channel.

I am deeply proud of being British. I'm proud of our history, our traditions. I'm proud of the contribution our country has made to the world. And I'm confident that Britain can make an even greater contribution in the years ahead. I'm proud of our past and I want to be proud of our future.

Elections, whatever else they may be, are potent reminders of what has kept Britain great. They are the chance for people to hold the powerful to account. And they decide the values which will govern all our futures.

My hopes for Britain are rooted in the values of the hard working families who make our country the best in the world: rewarding enterprise; encouraging individual responsibility; and a pride - no matter what our colour, creed or religion - in being British.

Governments cannot do everything - but if they govern with the right values then they can make a real difference.

The Britain I believe in will reward people who do the right thing: the people who work hard, pay their dues, bring up their children to respect others. The people who don't expect something for nothing.

I want to take this opportunity to do something politicians rarely do - and that is to say thank you.

Politicians often boast about what they themselves have achieved. I want, instead, to pay tribute to the real achievers in our society.

I want to say thank you to all those families who work hard to raise children with the right values.

Bringing up a family in modern Britain isn't easy.

I remember when our first child Nick was born. I was in my thirties and getting going in my career. Like all parents, I wanted to provide them with a secure future.

So I worked hard. And that often meant I didn't get home until very late - or not at all if I was away working on a planning inquiry, which I frequently was. And especially in the early years that sometimes made me feel like a bad parent.

So I understand how hard it can be to balance work and home life.

The Britain I believe in will give hard-working families the support they deserve. Those people who play by the rules, pay their taxes, respect others and ask for nothing from the State but good local services need a government which never forgets what a struggle life can be.

A government that cuts bureaucracy so that taxpayers get value for their money.

A government that restores discipline at school so that children get the start in life they deserve.

And a government that delivers cleaner hospitals so that patients can go into hospital secure in the knowledge they'll get better not worse.

As Florence Nightingale once said "the very first requirement in hospital is that it should do the sick no harm".

I also want to say thank you to all those who work in our public services.

Teaching, medicine and policing are more than jobs.

They are professions, professions without which no decent society can function.

Public service is a noble calling which should be honoured and rewarded. No, not should be, must be.

Just as parents know best what is right for their children, so professionals have the clearest vision of what is right for our schools and hospitals.

Government should trust and support teachers in their mission to pass on the best of what has been thought and written to the next generation.

Government should give doctors, nurses and matrons the freedom to exercise their professional judgement.

And government should allow the police to fight crime - to follow the instincts which take brave men and women into the police force - by freeing them from the shackles of political correctness and paperwork.

Respect for public service means trusting professionals.

And that means a government that's prepared to take a blowtorch to paperwork.

A government that won't patronise doctors and teachers with the dogma of the politically correct.

And a government that realises true progress doesn't depend on hitting artificial and arbitrary targets.

There are another group of people I want to thank, whom we don't thank enough.

Those inspiring men and women who take risks to run British business - big and small.

Civilisation was spread, and the wealth of nations was increased not by governments but by trade.

And today our business community is responsible for our continued prosperity: the wealth we enjoy, which pays to support the weak and the vulnerable in our society; the careers they create for our children and grand children; and the innovations which reflect our native genius and attract investment from across the globe; they all depend on our entrepreneurs.

Business needs a government which rewards risk taking and rewards hard work.

A government prepared to make the tough decisions needed to cut waste and bureaucracy so that it can lower taxes and reward families for their hard work.

A government with the courage to untangle the tax and benefits shambles which turns hard-pressed entrepreneurs into unpaid social workers.

And a government which will get the interfering, constantly inspecting, over-regulatory, profit-shredding State out of your hair and back in its box.

Britain's hard-working families, its dedicated public servants and its wealth-creating entrepreneurs need a government solidly on their side - a government that recognises and rewards their efforts.

And that government can best help them by applying a simple philosophy: reward people who do the right thing.

Reward parents who raise children to respect others, reward professionals who follow their vocation, reward businessmen and women who take risks to guarantee our future prosperity.

Rewarding them means trusting them - with more of their own money, more control over their destiny, more freedom to believe in their dreams and to see them come true.

At the root of the difficulties we face today is the failure to reward those who do the right thing.

What does it say about our country when its government lets people get away with doing the wrong thing?

As the child of immigrants I want Britain to benefit from controlled and limited immigration.

But the cultural richness and economic vitality which immigration can bring are endangered by a system which turns a blind eye when the rules are abused, which is openly exploited by criminal gangs and which places a strain on communities with already over-stretched public services.

The balance between rights and responsibilities in Britain is out of kilter. Too many people now believe that they are no longer wholly responsible for their actions. And the rights culture rewards those who don't play by the rules.

"I've got my rights" has become the verbal equivalent of two fingers to authority.

The so-called Human Rights Act has allowed arsonists to escape expulsion from school, killers to win the right to pornography in prison, and travellers to set up illegal encampments in defiance of planning laws.

I believe fair play matters. The same rules should apply whatever your background, whatever your religion, whatever your sex. We are all British. We are one nation.

That's why I don't believe in special rules for special interest groups. And I'll carry on talking about fair play even though I'm attacked for it because I will never be stopped from saying what I know is right.

I believe respect matters. Respect for others. Respect for the law. Respect for property.

What does it do to a society when those who think they don't have to play by the same rules as the rest of us - those who show no respect for others - are rewarded by the law, win compensation in the courts and never have to take responsibility for their actions?

It corrodes the common good on which our society depends.

It undermines the sense of fair play which is such an essential part of being British.

And renders threadbare the ties which bind us together as a people.

The Britain I believe in would put a premium on fair play, on order and on respect.

That's why we should not tolerate abuse, whether by people smugglers who trample over our borders, criminals who work the system for their benefit or freeloaders who demand special privileges without shouldering their responsibilities.

The Britain I believe in will accept its responsibility to the frail and the vulnerable. There can be no freedom without responsibility. We all have a duty to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

So putting the right values at the heart of government is central to my mission. And I believe that, given the chance, a Conservative Party which believes in recognising and rewarding Britain's forgotten majority could transform our nation.

I've set out a Timetable for Action. It states clearly and simply what we'll do and when we'll do it. It gives specific times and specific dates so that people can hold us to account for our actions.

I believe accountability matters. I don't promise the earth because I am only prepared to make commitments I know that I can deliver.

Our plan may be a practical one, but our vision reaches to the sky: a country run, at long last, according to a guide that no philosopher, no politician, no economist could ever match - the decent, common sense values of the British people.

A country where everyone has the opportunities they dream of, and the security they deserve.

I am impatient for improvement in our health service. I believe in a Britain where those who pay their taxes on time don't have to wait in pain or fear for the treatment that is theirs by right.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? We don't have to settle for this.

Those who do the right thing should have a health service that does right by them, with the freedom to choose the hospital they want, the right to a clean bed in a clean ward and the security of knowing they will be treated with dignity in old age.

I am impatient for improvement in our schools. I believe in a Britain where getting your children into the school that's right for them isn't an assault course or a lottery.

Parents shouldn't have to buy a house in the right area to guarantee a golden future for their children.

Are you thinking what I am thinking? We don't have to settle for this.

Parents should be trusted to choose. When you pay your taxes you should be rewarded with control over where your children go to school. And in return for handing over so much of your hard-earned money the least you deserve is a guarantee that teaching will be rooted in facts, exam standards will be rigorous and discipline will be at a premium.

And I am determined to change the way we fight crime. More of the same simply isn't an option. I believe in a Britain where the moral standards the majority live by are defended, upheld and protected by a criminal justice system which refuses to be neutral in the battle between right and wrong.

We have a right to expect that sentences will reflect the damage done to our social fabric by wilful defiance of the law.

Letting criminals out early because there aren't enough places for them in prison sends precisely the wrong message.

It signals a fatal lack of determination to uphold law and order.

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? We don't have to settle for this.

Citizens have a fundamental right to see their values, and their lives, protected by a government which is not prepared to sue for peace with criminals.

I believe in a Britain in which the priorities of our police, the judgements in our courts and the sentences criminals serve all reflect the common sense values of the British people.

And I believe in a Britain where the root causes of crime are tackled without fear.

Government cannot afford to send mixed signals on drugs, be indifferent to the conditions in which neglected young men and women grow to maturity or leave our prisons unreformed.

My hope for a transformed Britain springs from my passion for our country.

I'm in politics to serve.

And my satisfaction will come from knowing that those people who have no powerful friends, no wealth to jump the queue, no fashionable lobby groups to speak for them will, at last, see their values shape our country's future.

The forgotten majority, the people who work hard, play by the rules and love their country with a quiet pride, they deserve to be recognised and rewarded.

With cleaner hospitals they can trust.

Schools that open the gates of opportunity to their children.

And a criminal justice system which will not flinch from defending their families.

At this election, we in the Conservative Party have a historic opportunity, to put that forgotten majority in power.

Just imagine for a moment what our country would be like if the values of the hard working forgotten majority prevailed.

It would be a liberation.

With lower taxes and regulation slashed, our people would be freed to make the most of their talents.

With hard work rewarded properly and risk-takers recognised our economic future would be better still.

With the foundations laid for real, lasting, secure growth families would be able to keep more of their own money and our schools and hospitals get the investment they need.

With professionals free to make the judgements that matter, and citizens free to choose the services they need, the chemistry of competition would generate innovation and excellence in schools and hospitals.

A country with the fourth-largest economy in the world would at last enjoy the education and healthcare to match.

And with new confidence would come the ability to settle Britain's relationship with Europe in Britain's national interest.

It is time to liberate our nation.

To unlock its hidden potential, to trust its deepest instincts, to be led by the values of the forgotten majority.

It is time to reward those who do the right thing. It is time, at last, for a government that believes in Britain."

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