Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2003
Next June, Britain will vote in the European Elections. And, this time, they matter more than ever. We must win in June to give our Party the platform for victory at the next General Election.
In 1999, we beat Labour in the European Elections, and became the largest UK party in Brussels. Earlier this year, we notched-up another great success. We are now the largest party in local government in Britain. And next year we have a clear aim. We must - and we will -win the European Elections.
Be in no doubt. A vote for Labour or the Liberal Democrats next June is a vote for the European superstate. A vote for the Conservatives is a vote for a strong Britain in Europe.
This is the most fundamental of choices - and I promise you this. We in this Party will always put Britain first.
I lead an outstanding team of MEPs. With 36 Members, we are the second largest national force in the European Parliament - and by far the most effective.
I want to thank every one of them.
I particularly want to thank my Deputy, John Bowis, whose work on health and the environment has won him respect throughout Europe.
And, today, I want to pay a special tribute to a great Conservative parliamentarian.
Until he retired because of ill-health last week, Lord Bethell had served this Party in Europe and at Westminster for over thirty years. Foremost among his achievements has been his work on behalf of the people of Gibraltar. Thanks to Nick, next year, the people of Gibraltar will have, for the first time, the right to vote in the European Elections.
We won that right. So let us say it loud and clear. The Conservative Party will never abandon the people of Gibraltar. That is a pledge you'll never get from Labour. They have already tried once before to negotiate away Gibraltar, got found out and had to cover their tracks.
Talking of shabby Labour deals, we read recently that when Neil Kinnock cashes his retirement cheque next year, Tony Blair has his replacement all lined up.
So which of his cronies will get the job? Stephen Byers? No, he messed up when he tried to bury bad news. Geoff Hoon? No, he just is bad news. Alastair Campbell? No, he's already left to cash in on the bad news!
No, step forward Peter Mandelson. The man with more comebacks than Frank Sinatra.
So, it's goodbye Neil, hello Mandy. The politically dead replaced by the politically undead. Old King Cole bows out, the Prince of Darkness steps in. What a circus.
But you have to say, the European Commission and Peter Mandelson have a lot in common. They deserve each other. Both have problems with accountability. Both have had trouble over their finances. And both want Britain in a federal Europe.
Well, Mandelson and the Commission might deserve each other. But Britain deserves better.
For now though, the Prime Minister apparently still has confidence in Neil Kinnock as the Commissioner responsible for clamping down on fraud and waste in Brussels.
Indeed, last week in Bournemouth, the Prime Minister got the loudest cheer of his speech by declaring that everything he had ever learned about leadership, he learned from Neil Kinnock!
So there you have it.
Neil Kinnock - Role Model! Tony, if Neil Kinnock is your role model in life, the source of your inspiration, the reason you get up in the morning, is it any wonder your wife's been turning to Carole Caplin for domestic advice?
No wonder this Labour government is daily losing the confidence of the people. They have a Prime Minister whose reputation for trust has collapsed; the product of six and a half years of his own deceit and spin.
Labour and Europe
And nowhere has the Blair deceit been more evident than on Europe.
This is the Prime Minister who was committed to joining the Euro - promised a referendum - but now lacks the guts to ask the British people what they think.
The Prime Minister who lectures the rest of Europe on economic reform, but forces Britain into the job-destroying Social Chapter.
The Prime Minister who says no to a European defence policy, but then does a devious backroom deal with the French and Germans.
The Prime Minister who said he saw no need for a European Constitution, but now says it's vital to have one.
And finally, the Prime Minister who refuses to give us a referendum on that Constitution.
The European Constitution.
The German government has called it "worthy of the word historic",
The French government has described it as
"setting up a new political age" and
The Spanish government says it is
"a legal revolution, with no precedent."
And the British Government? They claim it's just a 'tidying-up exercise'.
Who do they think they're kidding?
Tony Blair does not trust the people of Britain when it comes to Europe. I say, why should we trust him?
This Constitution fundamentally changes the relationship between the nations and peoples of Europe and the EU.
And what's in it?
European laws to have constitutional primacy over our national law;
A Europe-wide Prosecutor with powers over our criminal law;
A European President and European Foreign Minister;
Our national veto swept away in over 30 areas of policy, including asylum and immigration.
Powers on this scale should never be given away without the consent of the British people.
If a referendum is good enough for the people of Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Denmark, then I say it is good enough for the people of Britain.
The Future of Europe.
This year, something good has happened to the EU. The peoples of ten more European states have voted to join.
In the European Parliament, we are already working closely with our sister parties from these countries. Many of them share our vision.
They, like us, want a Europe built on open markets and free enterprise.
A Europe that is a partner, not a rival to America.
And, a Europe of co-operating, but independent nation states.
Delivering for Britain
We will continue to work with our allies to deliver our pledges.
We are working to deliver for farmers, fishermen and the countryside.
We are the Party that delivered the only public inquiry into the Foot and Mouth disaster. Labour refused to have one in Britain. It was Conservative MEPs who forced the Government to take responsibility for its failures. And we have ensured that Labour incompetence can never again inflict such a disaster on Britain's countryside.
We are delivering for British taxpayers.
We are the Party that delivered the downfall of the disgraced Santer Commission. We lifted the lid on the flaws in the EU accounting system exposed by the whistle-blower Marta Andreasen. And we have done the same with the "vast enterprise of looting", exposed at Eurostat in recent weeks.
We are delivering for British business.
We are the Party that's saved hundreds of thousands of jobs by fending off expensive new European regulations. And we are the Party that daily challenges and breaks down barriers to British businesses trading throughout Europe.
And we do all this in the teeth of relentless opposition from Labour and their Euro-socialist allies.
Labour MEPs consistently support new Social Chapter legislation. They want more trade union powers. European collective bargaining. More employment regulation. They want to take British industrial relations back to the 1970s.
Tony Blair said last week there would be no return to the days of Arthur Scargill. It's all very well telling your Conference Tony, but try telling it to your MEPs.
As for the Liberal Democrats, well, we know where they stand. Brussels is good, the nation state is bad. They believe in more Europe, so they vote for it any time they can. The Euro? They want it now. A federal Europe? The sooner the better. Get rid of the British veto? Just say the word. They would even give up Britain's seat on the UN Security Council. And why?
Because Charlie Kennedy is determined to be Europe's voice in Britain.
But we Conservatives are proud to be Britain's voice in Europe.
A Conservative victory
The record is clear. Conservative MEPs have delivered for Britain. Only we offer a fair deal in Europe, not the spin and deceit of Labour or the sly opportunism of the Liberals.
We have principles based on values, beliefs that have their roots in the common sense of the British people - and a passionate desire to defend Britain's national interest.
We know we speak for the British people on Europe. We share their instincts to be in Europe, but not run by Europe. And we have the chance next June to give the people a real choice.
A federal Europe with Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Or a Europe of nation states with the Conservatives. This is the battleground. This is the choice.
So, I say to Conference today.
We need your support, your hard work, and your commitment in the campaign ahead.
We have confidence in our vision of Europe. Confidence that we speak for the British people. Confidence in ourselves.
That is why we won the last European elections. And together, confident, determined, united, we will win again in June - and bring closer the day of the next Conservative Government."