Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Ancram: Beware another four years of Blair

Addressing Conservative Party activists in Hendon, the Rt Hon Michael Ancram QC, Chairman of the Conservative Party:

"The finishing line of this election is finally in sight. It has indeed seemed a long campaign, stretching back to the start of the year.

This feeling of length itself has almost created a perception that Britain's political landscape has somehow become fixed and unmoving. That this election campaign was in some strange way being fought on a different level somewhere else.

And that was the precise perception that Mr Blair and his strategists were trying to achieve.

This election for them has not been - to coin their favourite phrase - the people's election. It has been the spin doctors' election. All about rhetoric and presentation, nothing about substance and grim reality.

And with his familiar supine reaction, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats has gone along with this. Only William Hague has had the courage to take the political debate to the people and to take the rough and tumble which goes with that.

Blair has fought what could best be called a virtual election. Packaged and marked Do Not Touch, wheeled out on sanitised and cordoned visits, a nauseating mix of presidential style films of self-glorification and unchallenged speeches.

And the public, the real people, those who know the harsh difference between the rhetoric and the reality, have been kept resolutely at bay.

And on those very rare occasions when reality intruded upon virtual reality - Blair meeting Sharron Storer outside the Birmingham hospital, Straw being slow handclapped by the police, Milburn ducking a confrontation with Britain's nurses - then the carefully spun programme faltered in confusion and only resumed its artificial course when the public were safely excluded again.

Virtual elections may be a sign of the times. But they do no favours to the democratic process.

If elections are meant to hold parties and politicians to public account, virtual elections are designed to protect them from the public. And that is what Blair wanted.

He does not want the truth of four years of Labour failure to be too closely examined. He does not want the glitzy but empty document which was his manifesto to be too closely scrutinised. He does not want the cost of his new election promises to be too closely calculated.

He wanted an election about image rather than substance, about background mood music rather than about stark and present reality.

He has not wanted to know about schools on four-day weeks and overcrowded classes. He has not wanted to be reminded of patients lying for days on trolleys because there are no beds or operating capacity to treat them at the time they need it. He has treated almost with scorn the GPs dire message to him in their ballot announced on Friday.

He has not wanted to have his memory jogged about fuel prices, stealth taxes, rising violent crime, chaotic asylum policies, and evaporating manufacturing jobs. Although, throughout the campaign these grim realities have stared him in the face, sometimes even had a go at him, he quite patently has not wanted to know.

His strategy has been to persuade the electorate that everything in the garden is rosy and that a vote for him on Thursday carries no risks.

It is an unremittingly deceitful strategy. He has in effect created an information dam behind which to hide the truth.

It is a dam which will burst on 8 June. And then the true extent and the continuing threat of foot and mouth will become clear and the rate of slaughter will take off again. I would not put it past Blair's media management for us all to find out later that revelation of the truth on the latest situation on foot and mouth, and action to resolve it has deliberately and dishonourably and damagingly been delayed until the election is over.

And then after June 8 the worsening state of our hospitals will also emerge. And the growing stress in our schools and on our teachers will boil over. And petrol prices will soar.

But by then in Blair's planning the election will be over. The strategy of deception and the triumph of spin over reality would be complete.

This strategy is so transparent that it should be laughable. It should be, but the fear remains that some people could still be taken in.

As we approach polling day Britain could be stumbling towards a post-election scenario, which few have been allowed to understand and, if they had, even fewer would want. It is a scenario in which the values, the standards and rights, the characteristics which go to the heart of our Britishness could be lost forever.

The carefully choreographed cult of Blair could create the false backdrop behind which the traditions and habits and cultures which in the past have made us great, could finally be undermined and ultimately destroyed.

That is why we cannot let this happen. That is why we must not let Blair put our fellow citizens into a state of hypnosis which would allow this to be perpetrated on them.

That is why today I say to Britain - Beware!

Beware before it is too late. Beware while there is still time to take another course, because once these things are lost they will not easily be regained, or rebuilt or restored.

And don't be misled by those who for reasons of their own agenda tell you that the outcome of this election doesn't matter. Don't be taken in by those who tell you that there is nothing of importance at stake.

They could not be further from the truth. Almost everything at the heart of our great democracy is at stake.

At stake is the Britain which many of us honour, where merit is rewarded and public service valued.

Yet Blair believes in a Britain where public service and merit should be replaced by the culture of cronyism, the size of your financial support for New Labour, and your friendship with Blair.

A Britain where every public position is a gift of patronage in the hands of a party which apparently feels quite at ease with Irvine, and Mandelson, with Robinson and Vaz.

The great British tradition of public service for its own sake will be buried forever.

At stake too is our British expectation that our democratic process is naturally underpinned by truth.

Truth for Mr Blair is an uncomfortable concept. It is in his unprincipled world an encumbrance upon the free exercise of spin.

Misleading the public, or the House of Commons, no longer seems to matter. The truth today is what Blair wishes it to be. And if tomorrow the truth needs to be different, then the truth will be changed.

Democracy ultimately depends on respect for truth. New Labour depends on avoiding it. The value of truth in our democracy is certainly at stake.

As is the chance to build a Britain of less government and more individual freedom.

Blair has taken regulation and interference to undreamed of heights. Burdens on business, burdens on teachers and nurses and farmers and police, all increasing the power of the state to direct, and all reducing the ability of the people concerned to get on with their jobs.

Freedom may be a much-bandied word, but to those drowning in an ever-increasing sea of red tape it is a very real word - and it is very much at stake.

And while talking about freedom, the freedom and independence of our country, of Britain itself, is at stake.

For all Blair's weasel words on Europe during this campaign, we now know the real agenda which he is pursuing. He has often spelt it out, normally when he is abroad, always when he thinks we are not listening.

He wants to scrap the Pound with all that the surrender of economic independence would entail. He wants a more integrated Europe, a super-power, a superstate.

One thing is absolutely clear. What he wants is incompatible with the continued existence of the United Kingdom as we know it.

You can vote for Britain or you can vote for Blair, but you can't vote for both.

And that is what is at stake.

So let us not believe the honeyed words that this election doesn't really matter. This election matters, and it matters profoundly.

There will be no coming back in four years time to ask for a chance to change our minds. It will be too late.

We must decide now, and we cannot afford to get it wrong.

We have to cut through the mists of spin, we have to face stark reality and we have to make our choice.

That is why I say Beware, now, today. For none of us may come this way again.

Nor can we pretend that we don't know what life under another Blair Government would be like. We know all too well, because we have been through it all before and we are told by Blair that we would go through it all again.

Last time it was the 'Third Way', it was 'Cool Britannia', it was 'modernisation', it was 'new'.

Were Blair by default to get in again, next time it would be some 'Cool Britannia Mark II', some New Britain.

We cannot be sure what it would be like inside Blair's New Britain for there are many wild promises but almost no detail. And experience tells us to take Blair promises with an enormous pinch of salt.

What we do know is that while Blair's New Britain might welcome some, it certainly would not welcome all. For many in our country, Blair's New Britain would be a cold and unwelcoming place.

If you are old, don't expect a warm welcome in Blair's New Britain.

Your face simply won't fit with the image required by Blair and his spin-doctors. Make no mistake, once the election was over, the cynical contempt for the elderly which led two years ago to the 75p pension increase would firmly reassert itself.

As Labour's parliamentary chairman once indiscreetly made clear, Labour holds no candle for pensioners. The truth is that if you are a pensioner, Blair's Britain is not for you.

If you are sick, don't expect a warm welcome in Blair's New Britain.

Your clinical needs would be over-ruled by the politically distorted priorities of Blair's waiting list targets. The unmet needs of patients and the scorned judgement of doctors and the suffering of seriously ill people parked on trolleys in often dirty hospital corridors would continue to be swept under the carpet.

The grim truth is that if you are waiting for a serious operation, Blair's Britain is not for you.

If you are a motorist, don't expect a warm welcome in Blair's New Britain.

Blair would continue to persecute the motorist through swingeing fuel taxes - taking petrol up to £6 a gallon, punitive parking charge proposals, and the abject failure to maintain and improve Britain's crumbling road system.

Blair will never understand from the comfort of his official car that for so many people the car is not a luxury but often the only realistic means of mobility. He is too out of touch to see that taxing motorists by stealth hits hardest those who are worst off.

If you need your car, Blair's Britain is not for you.

If you live and work in the countryside, don't expect a warm welcome in Blair's New Britain.

Blair has never understood the delicate economic balance of the countryside. He would happily preside over its transformation into a non-productive giant theme park managed only for visitors. Agriculture would be sacrificed on the altar of centralised control. Farming would wither and die.

If you live and work in the countryside Blair's Britain is not for you.

If you earn over £30,000 a year, don't expect a warm welcome in Blair's New Britain.

You would be clobbered by massive tax increases - up to 50p in the £ - from the clearly intended changes to the National Insurance Contribution ceiling.

And there would be no welcome in Blair's Britain for all those who fear crime or have been the victims of crime, as convicted prisoners continue to be released early back onto the streets. Your fears would continue to be mocked with crocodile tears by a party which never puts the victim first.

Nor would there be any welcome in Blair's Britain for the teacher or the nurse who will continue to be swamped in unnecessary and time-consuming regulations. Just expect more of the same, because imposing regulations makes Blair look busy in his New Britain. And looking busy is more important for Blair than getting it right.

So Beware! Blair's New Britain isn't designed for any of you.

And if you have pride in your country then certainly don't expect a warm welcome in Blair's New Britain. Blair tells us that patriotism is about surrendering sovereignty, about treating the Union flag as a flag of convenience rather than an emblem of all that is best in our country.

Blair quite simply does not believe in Britain. It is time that Britain stopped believing in Blair.

So to all of you I say again - Beware! Your face doesn't fit in Blair's New Britain.

And there is yet another reason for rejecting Blair. Never in recent history has a government handled the nation's affairs quite so incompetently.

Take the Dome, which has for no apparent benefit cost the British public £1 billion. It still stands as a monument to Blair's utter incompetence.

He brought it in over budget, he filled it with tat, he failed to attract enough people to come to see it - and now he can't even get rid of it. And nor can he blame it on anyone else.

Blair was more than ready to claim personal credit for it when he thought it was going to work. The first paragraph of his election manifesto, indeed!

It now stands as the perfect embodiment of New Labour - all gloss and shine on the outside, but completely devoid of any substance inside. It epitomises Blair's incompetence.

Then there was his mishandling of the Foot and Mouth crisis which has led directly to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of healthy farm animals, and which has cost farms and rural businesses billions of pounds and untold anguish. And the mishandling goes on with new outbreaks defying his self-satisfied claim that the course of the crisis was "in the home straight".

This is incompetence on an enormous scale. And so far there has not even been the first flicker of an apology to those who are the devastated victims of this crass incompetence.

And then there is his incompetence on health and education and law and order.

It is actually quite difficult to put vast extra sums of money into public services, as Blair has told us he has done over the last four years, only to emerge with those same services getting ever worse. Yet that is the history of Blair's first four years. So why should we believe he will do any better over the next four.

Blair is an incompetent manager.

He is, in many ways, the epitome of 'pigeon' management. Fly in, make a mess, and then fly out again.

He offers an economic prospectus which none of us can regard with anything but the deepest suspicion. He offers a view of Britain, which leads only to uncertainty and mistrust.

But there is a Britain you can vote for on Thursday, there is a Britain you can trust, a Britain you can have pride in again.

Not Blair's New Britain, but a Conservative Britain.

A Britain where values and standards and ethics matter again, where public service is an honourable pursuit again, where integrity and truth underpin our democratic institutions again.

A Britain where people matter again, as individuals with their own dreams and fears and aspirations, as families with their own responsibilities and expectations, as communities where each and everyone has the potential to be a good neighbour, and where we don't walk by on the other side.

A Britain where we care for those in our communities who are less able to look after themselves, not because the state requires us to but because it is an instinctively Conservative thing for us to do.

A Britain where hard work and doing the right thing are rewarded, where respect for the rule of law is encouraged and where pride in our country is no longer mocked as politically incorrect.

A Britain where we strive for less government, less regulation and less interference from the centre, where we restore the right to make decisions at the most local level that can realistically be achieved.

After all, who in the end knows better what is right for a school than the school itself. And who knows better what is right for a hospital than the hospital itself. Or the teachers and the doctors who work within them.

We offer a Conservative Britain which values the United Kingdom and will fight in the face of corrosive nationalism to hold it intact.

A Britain which cherishes our rights of self determination and which while strengthening our role in Europe will never allow ourselves to be submerged in a Europe which would seek to run us, to dictate to us, and ultimately to swallow us.

A Britain which will keep our identity and which will keep the Pound.

Ours is a Britain which will respect the elderly, which will put the patient first, which will help the motorist, which will sustain the countryside, which will reduce tax, which will put the victim before the criminal, which will lift the burden of bureaucracy from nurses and teachers.

A Britain which believes in itself, its history, its cultures and its flag.

That is the Britain which we offer to voters on Thursday.

And that is the choice.

A Britain under Blair which accepts the second rate. Or a Britain under William Hague which aspires to being first rate again.

Remember, you can vote for Britain, or you can vote for Blair, but you cannot vote for both.

William Hague, alone of all the party leaders, has taken his campaign to the country. He has tested it in the fires of public opinion.

He has in enormous measure demonstrated his courage and his determination, his vision and his trust in the true democratic arena of the hustings. William Hague speaks for the mainstream of our country. His vision is the vision of mainstream British people.

And with him we speak with the true voice of the British people, because we understand the British people. We understand their longing for self-belief and self-confidence again. On Thursday the British people have the chance to vote to be proud of their country again.

We stand at the crossroads of our future. Not only our future but those of generations to follow us depend upon choosing the right path. We ask you only to think carefully before you make your decision to ensure that the way you choose is right.

And in doing so have pride, have confidence and have belief.

Choose us, and take back your country."

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech