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Davis: We cannot accept second rate public services

In a speech to the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool this afternoon, the Rt Hon David Davis MP, the Chairman of the Party, said:

"Not since 1984 in Brighton, when the Conservative Party lost so many friends and family, has our conference been so dominated by our determination that terrorism must not prevail.

"The thoughts of all of us are with the men and women of our armed forces who, as we speak, are fighting to rid the world of the threat of death and destruction terrorism brings. They are fighting to defend the values of democracy and civilisation. They are fighting to allow us to continue what we are doing here today.

"So now, as at Brighton, we know what we must do.

"We must go on with our daily lives as normal.

"United and determined - as British people always have been - to stand for freedom and justice.

"We must show the world that this free democracy can never be cowed or bullied by terrorism.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, as President Bush has so rightly said, good will triumph over evil.

"None of us will ever forget the atrocities of last month.

"Our first thoughts and prayers were for the thousands of victims, their families and all those who loved them.

"No words could ever express the sympathy each of us feels for them and the utter contempt we have for those who destroyed their lives.

"Today those thoughts and prayers are also with our servicemen and women, and their families at home, now that military action has begun.

"Many of us know some of those servicemen and women who are going into action.

"They know the job they will have to do.

"There's no one in the world better equipped to do it.

"And we all owe something to them. We owe it to them to show that we and the whole country stands united behind them.

"Iain Duncan Smith's response to this crisis has been absolutely right.

"He moved at once to pledge our party's unswerving support to the British Government and the United States in their determination to respond appropriately to the events of September 11th.

"At times such as these we Conservatives remember we are Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Loyal to the Crown, loyal to our allies, and loyal to our country.

"Let this Party today send a message, loud and clear, that we support our Government and support President Bush - before, during and after they take all the necessary action to fight and destroy international terrorism.

"We have good cause to be grateful to America.

"She came to the rescue of democracy twice in the 20th century.

"She stood alongside us in the Falklands War,

"We have often talked at our Conferences about the Special Relationship between our country and the United States. We need to uphold that Special Relationship now more than ever.

"The dignity and courage of the American people has been beyond words.

"The response of the American government has been measured and wise.

And the support of the British people will be unflinching and resolute.

"And to the armchair critics of military action, we say this: terrorism cannot be appeased; it must be fought; and it must be defeated: and those leaders, like George W. Bush, who have the courage to confront it are the true guardians of the liberty you enjoy.

"Madam Chairman, we are right to proceed normally with our conference, just as we did in 1984.

"As Iain said, this Conference is a part of our democracy, and democracy must triumph.

"That is why we decided not to cancel this Conference.

"I believe we should begin by paying tribute to William Hague.

"William's brilliant oratory and his performances in the House of Commons inspired us all.

Through all the difficulties he faced, his spirit never once failed

"I, for one, will never forget the courage and dignity with which he, with Ffion at his side, faced up to our defeat in June.

"So I know you will join me in thanking him and Ffion for all they have done for the Party.

"William also gave us our new democratic constitution.

"For the first time we have a leader elected by you, the Party members.

"Iain Duncan Smith has a mandate no Party leader in British history has ever enjoyed.

"A mandate from over a quarter of a million voters in a one-man one-vote election.

"And I am sure I speak for every Party member and supporter when I say this:

"We have had our debate; we have elected Iain overwhelmingly; now is the time for everyone in our Party - and I mean everyone - to put aside past differences, work together, and give our new Leader the united and loyal support that he deserves.

"You elected Iain because he shares your sense of decency and tolerance, your belief in duty and responsibility. And above all, your love of freedom and of your country.

"You elected him because he is a man of clear, straightforward Conservative principle.

"Someone who will do what he says he will do.

"Someone who knows the meaning of the word service - and, speaking as one who knows him well, someone it is an honour to serve.

"But you also elected Iain because he is ready for radical change, to make life better for everyone.

"Let's be clear.

"If the Conservative Party is to change Britain, we must change ourselves.

"We will have to stop speaking to ourselves as we have too often in the last ten years- self-indulgently and self-destructively. `

"There are some who believe that change means aping New Labour.

"That is superficial and wrong.

"If we abandon our principles, we will never deserve power.

"Conservative principles of individual freedom, choice and personal responsibility are not ephemeral. They are enduring and fundamental.

What we have to do is to apply those enduring principles to modern problems. And we will.

"It's essential that we listen and learn.

"I do not mean a PR campaign.

"And, what's more, I do not mean focus groups!

"I mean getting out and getting alongside the people who make this country - the teachers, the businessmen, the charities and volunteers, the doctors, nurses and other health workers, the farmers struggling to keep our countryside alive, the police, the parents, the local councillors and all those who serve others.

"That's where this party naturally belongs - with them, alongside them, part of them.

"And that's where I want it to be.

"We forget sometimes. Most people in this country don't spend their time talking about politics.

"They are too busy working hard to make ends meet, worrying about rising taxes, standards in their local hospitals and local schools and safety on their local streets.

"They are the job-creators who want to run their businesses without constant interference from the State.

"They are the motorists who want to drive their cars without being taxed to the hilt and lectured that they are socially irresponsible.

"They are the parents who want to be free to build and live a better life for themselves and their children.

They are the youngsters who want to go out in the evening without being mugged by hooligans for a mobile phone.

"They are the pensioners who don't want handouts, but who simply want dignity and life without fear.

"They are the teachers, the nurses, the doctors, the policemen, the firemen, the paramedics and ambulancemen - all those in public service who want to get on and do a good job without being smothered in bureaucracy and red tape.

"Madam Chairman, we will speak for all those people.

"Britain - thanks, let me say, to the work of Conservative governments - is the fourth largest economy in the world.

"So we can't accept that patients are still dying unnecessarily in our hospitals, patients who would survive if they were in France or Germany.

"We can't accept that many of our pupils are leaving schools unfit to cope with the modern world, too often illiterate and innumerate, too often without respect for themselves or for others.

"We can't accept constant rises in violent crime, and petty lawlessness rife even in the depths of the countryside while our police are shackled to filing cabinets.

"We can't accept more and more people being trapped by a welfare system that pays out money to the well-off, but still lets down our pensioners and the poor.

"We can't accept that parts of our great inner cities should be areas without hope and we can't accept that there is anyone in this country who does not feel they are valued, they are respected and they belong.

"No Conservative can accept these things.

"No Conservative will ever accept them.

"The next Conservative government won't just talk about these problems, it will deal with them just as soon as we return to power.

"There will be no no-go areas for modern Conservatives.

Abraham Lincoln once expressed a fundamental truth when he said: "You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong".

"That is why Conservatives have always believed in restraining the growth of government and giving power back to individuals.

"Our Conservative principles are as true and relevant today as they have always been.

"Our centralised health system is failing. But it can deliver better health care if we give more doctors more freedom and patients more choice.

"Our centralised education system is failing. But we can improve standards if we give schools more freedom and parents more choice.

"But the people that lose out everywhere are not the strong or the able. They are the weak and the vulnerable. They are the people without choice and without opportunity.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I grew up on a council estate, the son of a single mum. But I was really lucky: I had a good home and I went to a good state school. My teachers did not have it easy; I was a wild kid, and my school reports did not read like a roll of honour.

"I was the kind of lad about whom the metalwork teacher wrote, 'Give this boy the job and he will finish the tools.' Or the English teacher who wrote, 'The slow onset of legibility in this boys handwriting merely serves to reveal his utter inability to spell.'

"But despite all that, those great teachers, that good school, gave me my chance in life.

"Today, too many millions have been denied that chance. I want all our children to have the same access to decent schools, whatever their background, wherever they live.

"People know how bad things are. They don't just want to hear us criticise. They want to know that we can make things better.

"That's why we will never oppose just for opposition's sake. At the next election we must be able to offer a distinctive and attractive alternative.

"We have already started. At the weekend I announced the creation of the Shadow policy unit, to bring in expert talent to work on modern conservative ideas for the long term.

"But I want you, the Party members, to be equally involved. So I intend to re-launch the Conservative Policy Forum. It will have an important new role to play in renewing our policy.

"We will seek out and listen to expert opinion, and discuss views with an expanded network of Conservative professionals and academics.

"We will look at the best examples of how services are delivered in other countries, and in Conservative councils in this country, and we will learn from them.

"In our schools, hospitals and police forces people are working hard to deliver services, often against the odds. We must learn to be more critical of the system, and less critical of the people who work in it.

"Talking about the issues that matter is the route to electoral success. And it is the most potent means of attracting new members and support.

"I want to encourage the most talented of our generation to become candidates and help us to win back the seats that should be ours.

"The Conservative Party should be open to everyone. I want us to attract more women, more people from the ethnic minorities, more young activists, people from every walk of life and every corner of Britain.

"We will do this by shaping relevant and decent policies that are attractive to everyone, not by quotas or gestures that undermine the very principles of freedom and equal opportunity for which we stand.

"I want you to know that so long as I am Chairman the associations will be the foundation of our party and their voice will always be heard in my office.

"I know that you, our hard working activists, want more help on the ground.

"We will send more resources to the frontline, where you need them.

"One of the first things I will do is to set up a new unit to challenge the Liberal Democrats. They have been let off too lightly for too long.

"I gather that Mr Kennedy thinks he should be Leader of the Opposition.

"Well, I can understand that. It won't be long before the Liberals can celebrate their first 100 years in opposition!

"Not that they are a real opposition - they are in the Big Tent with Labour. They support the same tax rising, high spending, intervening left wing agenda.

"But to tell the truth, I don't want the Conservative Party to be the Opposition either.

"I want us to be the government.

"Do you know what I feel?

"I feel it is high time we picked ourselves up, remembered who we are and what we stand for, and what this Party has achieved.

"It is time to walk with more confidence, and talk with more passion.

"It is time to stop apologising for the past and start looking to the future.

"We're already once again the largest political party in Britain.

"We're winning elections locally - in five years we have gained 2500 councillors.

"Next year we will again be the largest party in the council chambers of England

"The Conservative Party was the greatest political force of the twentieth century and of the century before that.

"My ambition is simple.

"To set us on the way to being the greatest political force of the 21st century, too.

"That's our agenda for modern Conservatives.

"So during these three days we will show how we will begin to find real solutions to the real problems that people in Britain face.

"Because the time will come when thoughts turn again to our schools and how we must not fail a new generation of children.

"The time will come to improve our hospitals and give our patients the standards patients in France and Germany enjoy.

"The time will come when we need to rebuild our economy, and make our businesses competitive, if we are to prosper.

"But today we think of our armed forces in action.

"Today we honour the risks they are taking to protect our democracy, our country, our very way of life.

"Today the Conservative Party unites with the whole country in giving them our admiration and our support."

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