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Strathclyde: Blair has failed the British people

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2004

"This week a renewed Conservative Party stepped forward with a programme for action to bring new hope to Britain.

On Tuesday Michael Howard captured the mood of a nation longing for something better than this shambles of a government.

Michael spoke as our next Prime Minister.

A doer - not a talker.

Trustworthy - here and abroad.

A man ready and able for the biggest job in Britain.

He will not let Britain down as Mr Blair has let us down.

And if you want to know why all of us have got to work our socks of for Michael in the coming months - just think ahead to the day after the election - waking up in a Britain rid of Tony Blair and all his cronies.

Campbell, Brown, Blunkett, Byers - just yesterday's cold mashed potatoes.

What a day of bliss for us to be rid of them.

And as the removal van drives away from No.10, I tell you this - a majority of Labour people will be cheering with us to see the back of him.

Over the last year I have travelled across Britain.

Wherever I go I find people yearning for commonsense and decency, for hope in place of deceit and failure.

I meet good men and women afraid to go out on the streets.

Pensioners terrified of losing their homes if they fall sick.

Students enraged by betrayal over fees and debt.

We all know those people.

Everywhere the message is the same.

Police, teachers, doctors drowning in paper to keep a growing army of bureaucrats in business.

Everywhere - people who trusted Tony Blair, who believed his promises, feel let down - sick to the gills of spin and lies.

Tony Blair's Britain is not the Britain most people live in.

It is a parallel world of upside down priorities where those who rule us have lost contact with the real world.

It is a world where Ministers spend millions advertising against alcohol, but legislate for 24-hour binge drinking in every high street.

Where so-called human rights lawyers swarm like flies to cash in on asylum laws that are the soft touch of the world.

Where Ministers mouth slogans about why we should save for our old age, then mount the biggest smash-and-grab raid of all time on pension funds.

And, now, with all the problems we face, what is Tony Blair's latest master plan?

A vendetta against the countryside.

Only in Blair's Britain will convoys of police cars pour out of our cities to stake out country lanes, while van-loads of muggers drive in the other direction into towns stripped bare of police.

It is utter lunacy.

And if there wasn't enough strife abroad, Tony Blair has decided to sow strife and division here at home.

The opposite of all a British Prime Minister should work for.

And he promised us in 1997 it could only get better.

I hope the Lords can promote a sensible compromise over hunting.

We will try - but already the government say they won't listen.

Instead, they will use the cudgel of the Parliament Act to crush any point of view other that their own.

This foolish, unnecessary crisis sums up Labour's blunderbuss attitude to our constitution.

For centuries this country prospered and changed without the social upheavals that scarred so many others. It did so by a unique combination of laws and traditions, self-imposed restraints, an innate sense of decency and tolerance and a willingness to compromise and respect others.

New Labour have kicked this constitution around with all the subtlety of a mindless yob booting a tin-can up the street.

Every time they abuse our constitution, a bit of freedom dies.

Any half-way sensible government would cherish our unique constitution. But, sadly, New Labour cannot conceive of any wisdom greater or more lasting than timing a press release for the one o'clock news.

Seven years ago Mr Blair said that he would improve the way we are governed.

Seven years later everything he has touched he has made far worse.

Once upon a time Britain was admired throughout the world for the honesty of our politics, the integrity of our institutions, the fairness of our elections.

Today for the first time in 100 years we have widespread fears of voting fraud - a direct result of Labour forcing all-postal ballots through parliament, ignoring countless warnings.

Five times the House of Lords tried to stop them - five times the government insisted on having their way.

Well, you can count on this -

The next Conservative government will end fiddling with our voting system.

We will restore integrity and simplicity to the electoral process.

And we will reaffirm the right, fought for by men and women over generations, for every British citizen to cast a secret vote in a ballot box at a polling station.

It is a scandal Labour ever took that right away.

They came to power calling themselves a people's government.

But day by day they have grown away from the people.

At two successive elections Tony Blair pledged the British people a referendum on the euro; but it has never happened.

So why should anyone believe that if he is re-elected he would hold a referendum on the EU Constitution?

Time and again, the Prime Minister has said that he relishes an honest debate over Europe. But time and again he runs away from any such arguments.

There is only one party that will not push Britain into a European state - and that is the Conservative Party.

We will not sign up to the EU Constitution - not now, not ever.

But it is not only in Europe that Mr Blair shows his contempt for what other people think.

In Parliament he rarely bothers to turn up to listen or vote.

If those protesters who broke into Parliament the other week had asked him the way to the Commons chamber, they'd never have found it.

Under the guise of so-called modernisation, Opposition rights to challenge ministers have been reduced.

No.10's grip has got stronger - Parliament has grown weaker.

MPs have less power today than before Mr Blair promised to improve their lot.

It is the same story in the Lords.

We were promised reform - instead, Tony Blair flooded the House with more new peers more quickly than anyone before.

We were promised a House of Lords chosen by the people - what we have is a House half chosen by one man.

Two-thirds of all Labour peers owe their place to Mr Blair.

No medieval ruler could ever claim as much.

Even today, whenever Labour debate the future of the Lords they flinch from the word democracy like a vampire recoils from garlic and sunlight.

The my-pal-Tony system of government has never been more flagrant.

No wonder so many young people are cynical about politics.

Charles Kennedy says we should look at the LibDems.

Well, I did look.

And the first thing I read was that 300 Liberal Democrats had asked Charles Kennedy to send them to the House of Lords.

We always knew LibDems were a modest lot.

But even Lloyd George didn't go that far.

They'd have to rename the party, not the Liberal Democrats, but the Liberal Aristocrats.

People say there are no dividing lines in British politics.

But on the constitution the dividing line is as sharp as light and dark on the face of the moon.

A Conservative Government will strengthen Parliament, uphold the powers of the Upper House and protect individual freedom.

Labour want to weaken the Commons. They want to strip the Lords of our ability to compel Ministers to think again. And they want to use the Parliament Act to force through unpopular and ill-considered laws without proper scrutiny or revision. It is a straightforward choice.

As soon as Parliament meets we will scrap Labour plans to twist procedure further in favour of government.

We will never allow the House of Lords to become just a rubber stamp for ministers; And we won't use the Parliament Act to bypass Parliament on issues of conscience.

Shortly, Caroline Spelman and Bernard Jenkin will tell you how we will also build on our experience as the largest party in local government and let local communities make local decisions.

For a start we will never abolish our much-loved counties.

Instead, the first act of our new local government Minister will be to call for the Department's biggest dustbin and dump John Prescott's plans for wasteful regional assemblies straight in it.

Clunk!

Hundreds of millions of pounds saved on Day One.

We will also cull the barmy army of bossyboots who so flourish under Labour.

They now dictate vast chunks of our national life.

Who goes to university, what a local council can do - even the size of a chocolate bar - are decided by unelected zealots utterly aloof from the taxpayers they live off and order about.

These people are accountable to no one except themselves - and the buddy-buddy networks that appoint them.

We all know the score - a new Quango's announced; there is a Labour crony on the board; a glossy new logo; and a shiny new office block for the droves of in-house lawyers, self-styled risk controllers and project facilitators, who scan the jobs pages, looking for the next cushy number at the public's expense.

Not any more under a Conservative Government.

We will also end the threat of political interference in the courts.

On our first day Michael Howard will name a Lord Chancellor.

He will be a lawyer - and he will sit in the House of Lords.

Unlike Lord Falconer our Lord Chancellor will not demean his office by trying to abolish it.

Instead, he will abolish Labour's unnecessary Department for Constitutional Affairs.

The office of Lord Chancellor protected judicial independence for centuries.

There has never been a whiff of political bias or corruption.

So why are Labour meddling with the appointment of judges?

I think we all know the answer.

Mr Chairman, never, under a Conservative government, will any judge or any magistrate be appointed for any reason other than merit.

I will tell you another office that should be filled purely on merit.

I will give you a clue -

The front door is black - and has No.10 on it.

The present occupant has had two chances - and blown them.

In eight years of spin, broken promises, and hopes unfulfilled, he has let our country down.

Thirteen years of Blair is what Labour will offer at the next election. This great country deserves better than that.

It is time to revive our country's values: fairness and tolerance, justice and realism, enterprise and independence.

It is time for a change.

It is time for integrity.

It is time to restore trust to politics.

And it is time for Michael Howard and this Conservative Party to serve our nation again."

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