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Saatchi: What we want is action

Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2004

"For 20 years, I was up there in that projection box, at the back. Fiddling with the lighting or the volume to make sure the person standing here would look good or sound good.

Now, thanks to Michael Howard, here I am. And I hope somebody up there is looking out for me.

It just goes to show, all things come to those who wait. Including election victories.

What a long wait that's been.

When's it going to end?

Wouldn't it be great if we could see the future? Know what will happen?

What if there were a law like the laws of physics or chemistry, which could tell you what was going to happen?

Over the centuries, there have been many heroic attempts to find such a law of politics.

Plato was the first to try… no joy

Aristotle had a go…he didn't make it either

Machiavelli thought he knew a thing or two about politics, but in the end he concluded that at least half of what happened was the result of 'fortuna' - otherwise known as sheer luck.

Politics has not yet found its Newton.

Until now.

So now I am going to ask you to set your watches, note the time and the date and then you'll be able to say to your children and your grandchildren, "I was there".

I was there the day the world first heard 'Saatchi's Law'. Now, you may say that's a bit immodest. But I don't know, some people have a street named after them, some people an avenue or a park, or a bridge. For the lucky few, even an airport. So I say, why can't I have a law.

Here is the law. The political equivalent of the law of gravity. Unbreakable, at least on this planet.

Satisfaction = performance - expectation.

This law states that labour will lose the next general election.

Look at the workings of the law on the reputation of the prime minister.

I'm going to put it up on the screen.

But before I do, if there are any labour voters watching, you should turn off your TV now. You don't want to hear this.

Consider how expectations were raised.

Labour, they said, had a big idea. They would combine social justice with economic competence. With that magic combination, they asked, "who needs the Tories?" with labour you could have it all.

Let's do social justice first.

Let's look at people living below the government's official poverty line. it turns out that, incredibly, they pay income tax. Unbelievably, poor people pay more tax than rich people. Labour presides over a mad world in which the poorest pay 63% of their income in tax to this Labour government.

Perhaps it's alright because maybe they get great public services from the government in return.

I don't think those people queuing round the block for a dentist in Scarborough would agree.

Neither would the researchers at Bristol University.

The proof? Cancer survival rates for the poor are half what they are for the rich.

So much for social justice.

Let's look at economic competence...

Labour do have a management system. It's called 'the five year-plan'. Now where did they get that idea from? The world's first five-year plan was published in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on 1st October 1928. The plan covered the five-year period from 1928 to 1933.

It laid down, for example, that the number of eggs to be eaten per head of population between 1st October 1928 and 30th September 1933 was to be, 155. the allowance of boots was to increase - from 0.4 of a pair in 1928, to 0.7 of a pair in 1933. the plan set 50 targets for the whole of Russian industry and agriculture.

Today, the department of education and skills has 18 targets; the home office has 20; the recent comprehensive spending review had 130 different performance targets, and the NHS plan has 400 targets.

To set, monitor and report on all these targets, more managers are required. that is why the society section of the guardian, where the government does its recruiting, now routinely weighs more than the times and the sun put together.

Staff at the government car and despatch service are up 29%; home office executives are up 71%; the immigration and nationality directorate is up 126%; the financial services authority now has twice as many staff as the treasury which created it; and Postwatch, the body which supervises the regulator Postcomm, now has three times more staff than Postcomm itself.

Recently, the government said it would address this problem with mergers of departments. they have already had one such merger. they merged the department of social security with the department of employment - to create the department of work and pensions. Result? Another 33,000 employees.

Mind you, the government now says it will sack 100,000 state workers. Perhaps it will, but elsewhere it is hiring 350,000 more to give a net increase on its own figures of 250,000.

Who are all these people? The new hirings include the staff for a new inspectorate, OFFA, the office of fair access, which is currently recruiting 300 inspectors to combat suspected fraud by students seeking to avoid the government's new university fees.

Or perhaps they are in some of the bodies which have been giving their helpful assistance to the NHS - such as the national institute of clinical excellence, the modernisation agency, the national service frameworks, the commission for healthcare audit and inspection, the commission for health improvement, the commission for patient and public involvement in health, the patient advice and liaison service, and the complaints advocacy service.

In all, the government is recruiting 800,000 people at an annual cost of £19 billion. a few of them are doctors, nurses, teachers and policemen; the rest are like the Russian stationmasters who sent out empty trains in the middle of the night in order to hit their targets.

So much for economic competence.

How did they think they would get away with this? did they think the people were morons and they could just talk Their way out of it? maybe they did.

So it was that recently the government had a great day. in the morning, it lifted 700,000 children out of poverty. by lunchtime, it had halved the inflation rate. in the afternoon, it doubled the effectiveness of the NHS. How did they do it? by changing the definition of 'poverty' all those children were saved at the stroke of a pen. By changing the definition of 'inflation' they eliminated it. By changing the definition of 'output' they achieved a 100% improvement in the NHS.

This is why the statistics commission, in a little-known ruling, found that this labour government had breached 'the letter and the spirit' of its code by using 'unreliable figures' for 'political reasons'. People didn't need the statistics commission to tell them that 'spin on statistics' applies not just to the 45-minute claim in the Iraq dossier, but to most government announcements.

The public, because they know everything, have worked all this out. They understand the law.

Expectation. High.

Performance. Poor.

Satisfaction. Low.

We've now had seven years of labour's moralising. Seven years of preaching. Seven years of high fallutin' philosophical claptrap. Seven years of grand schemes, visions, and plans.

And what have we got to show for it? Nothing, except a level of public cynicism about politics that is unprecedented. The British people have had a masterclass in messianic man, with stars in his eyes gazing at the promised land at the end of the rainbow.

So, instead, Michael Howard presents…an action story. Why? Because we've had talk. We've done talk. We're sick of talk. What we want now is action.

It has its own poetry. Making things work, getting the job done.

Every family in Britain has its own dream. They don't need Tony Blair's dreams imposed upon them. They've done valhalla. They're just trying to get from a to b. the government already employs 7 million people. It's enough. They just want someone to make things work.

I go to my washing machine. I press the button. It works. Is it asking too much for the government to do the same.

To make things happen - actually, really happen - requires a conservative with his feet on the ground, not his head in the clouds. a man of a particular kind. a completely different kind of man to what we've had.

The kind of man Michael Howard is - an idealist without illusions.

His offer? Conservative realism.

Not labour's la-la land.

His message? By their deeds shall ye know them."

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