Speech to Conservative Party Spring Conference 2004
Who would have believed when we left Blackpool last year that the party would now be enjoying such renewed fortunes. We have 20,000 new members, increased funding, ahead in the polls and winning seats in areas we never imagined to.
The Party has a rejuvenated self-confidence and enthusiasm.
You may also be pleased to hear that we will be 'banning the bucket'. You the workers do quite enough without being squeezed once again tomorrow!
The British people are growing more and more disillusioned with the Government, with their failure to deliver on education, health, crime, asylum and pensions. Cynicism is growing.
Labour may be better dressed and better spoken that it once was - with the possible exception of John Prescott - but they are still the same tax and spend Labour.
Their use of language is also deeply misleading. When they use words like 'empowerment' they really mean state control, 'localism' equals central government direction, 'enabling' amounts to means testing , 'competition' really means central regulation.
New Labour speak of fairness. It is one of their favourite 'buzz words'. But what is fair about follow up patients going blind in Bristol because Government targets had to be met for new patients?
What is fair when those who are not even UK citizens get onto the electoral register and cannot be taken off, thus diluting the voting power of British voters?
What is fair when a half-finished devolution settlement means Scottish MPs can vote on health and education policies in England, but never have to answer for their actions at the ballot box?
New Labour don't know what fair means. They only care that it is convenient for Labour.
There has never been a Government which has had so little regard for our traditions, conventions and heritage, or so much contempt for Britain's history and identity.
From their botched reform of the Lords to their attitude to country sports, from their planned sell out on a European Constitution to ditching the 'Crown' from the Crown Prosecution Service Labour have shown how self serving and self important they are and how little respect they have for what has gone before.
They see the UK not as a single nation but as a collection of regions. Everything must be renamed - called 'new' or modern; stripped of any historical connections and reduced to the lowest common denominator.
They are truly the most un-British Government we have ever had.
25 years ago Keith Joseph coined the phrase 'Pocket Money Society', where the government took more and more of our money and made more and more of our decisions for us.
It turned adult's earning into little more than children's allowances. The government made the big decisions while we made the small ones.
Anyone who looks at Britain today can see that we are drifting into the Pocket Money Society Keith Joseph warned of.
The government is spending more and more of our national income, taxes have gone up, red tape is strangling business and targets are holding back our teachers, police, doctors and nurses.
Even the pensioners who have worked hard all their lives and proudly steered well clear of the social security state, now find they are drawn into a confusing and frightening world of forms and officials. Those who treasured their independence and self respect must now lay their lives bare on an official form and go cap in hand for welfare in retirement, as a shocking 60 per cent now do.
As we have become a wealthier nation, we should have extricated ourselves from the grasp of the State.
But the opposite has happened; the Government's intrusion into people's lives has not diminished. It has become all pervasive.
It's not just that the Government is taxing more, with taxes appearing in every nook and cranny of life - new taxes on pensions, new taxes on business, new taxes on homeowners.
On top of that, working life is regulated, so that a nursing home manager with 30 years professional experience must now go to night school to get an NVQ is she is allowed to keep her job.
Their intrusion keeps getting worse. Safety regulations now threaten to make it compulsory for every new bath manufactured to come with a thermostat. The final insult is speed cameras, which mushroom, not around accident black-spots, but on clear stretches of road - there not to improve our safety but to lighten our pockets.
The 'nanny state', or more precisely the 'intruder state', is everywhere, and it is no coincidence it lies at the very core of New Labour.
It is threatening to New Labour to contemplate a future in which widening and shared prosperity gives people the chance to become more and more independent from government.
Those who wish to stand on their own two feet are scorned for wanting independence.
There is a sinister, destructive and punitive attitude to those individuals whose self-reliance threatens the socialist craving for control.
Like political drug pushers, the Third Way politicians peddle dependency through means testing, tax credits and handouts, so that, step by step, a free society becomes entangled in the dealer's controlling web.
We need to support those who share our view of the world. Those who stand on their own two feet and use their talents to help their communities, those who look after their families and obey the rule of law, those who want to help those who cannot help themselves, who put something aside for a rainy day. They expect dignity and they also expect the law to be on their side.
On the subject of crime; I have been burgled, And I would say to Charles Kennedy, I know first hand that burglary is not simply a crime against property, and I certainly do not think that first time burglars should be let off on their first try! I do not want to be given mission statements or to be politically correct. I want a society where people believe that law and justice are the same thing, and where victim support means that criminals are caught and given the appropriate punishment not excuses.
There is no doubt that we are at our most successful politically, and at our most socially cohesive when we are at our most meritocratic. And for a meritocratic party to be effective it must be minority blind. For us it does not matter where an individual comes from, who his parents were, or the colour of his skin. We do not see our society as a collection of minorities but rather as a wide spectrum of individuals all with their own talents; lets hear no more about the black vote, the gay vote, the grey vote. It is by the liberation of these individual talents that society achieves its greatest benefit. The Conservative Party judges people not on their background but on their aspirations. Those who were willing to bring their talents to the feast are welcome in a Conservative Britain.
All too often we in the Conservative Party are too modest to point out how we ourselves have benefited from the changes we have brought about not only in our own party but in society generally. I doubt if Michael Howard's parents ever believed he would lead the Conservative Party let alone be on the verge of leading it back to government. And my grandparents would certainly never have believed that their grandson could become chairman of the Conservative Party.
And there is another duty we have. We must never forget where we have come from as a nation. Too many of the third way politicians seek not only to manipulate the present but rewrite the past.
As a country, and as a party we should not be afraid to look back on, and learn from, our history. Britain's centuries long and benign impact around the world did not happen by accident, but because visionary people chose to broaden their horizons, and in doing so introduced British values and institutions to all points of the globe.
And for all those politically correct apologists who will inevitably throw their arms up in disgust at the characterization of our history, I proudly assert this - for every so-called blot on our copy book, I'll show you a hundred achievements, not something which your political models could come within light years of matching.
So we have a clear and proud view of who we are and will clearly set out principles behind the programme which we will be presenting to the country at the next election. It is a bold task, replacing the intruder state with control for taxpayers, professionals and citizens.
The Conservative Party must be bold in making the case for conservatism. Our intellectual renaissance will be the foundation of our political recovery.
We will do it not because it is easy but because it is right.
Not for ourselves but for the people of the country.
Not for the Conservative Party, but for the United Kingdom.
We have the leader. We have the confidence. We have the direction.
This party is back in business. At last there is an alternative."