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John Major - Brighton Rally

In a speech to a Conservative Party rally in Brighton, the Rt Hon John Major:

Some years ago, I promoted William Hague into Cabinet and so I know his worth.

He's a shrewd, straight-talking Yorkshireman - not English, mind you, Yorkshire - who thinks for himself and says what he thinks. And in this election, he's fought a courageous campaign and sailed well above the other leaders with his campaigning skills.

So that's what he is.

Let me tell you what he's not.

He's not a public relations concoction. He can't weep a tear from either eye - on cue and straight to a camera. If some see that as a fault, it's a sad reflection on political life: such gifts are for soap operas not Government. William is suited to Government not soap operas.

And he has one priceless asset: he tells the truth as he sees it, which is a welcome product brand in these days of soundbite and spin.

I am contemptuous of spin.

Spin is first cousin of deceit. Of course, every political Party puts the best gloss on its record and the electorate know that. But the Labour Party have carried spin far beyond gloss and towards bare-faced deception. Their skill is to take a part truth and twist it beyond any acceptable meaning.

Their tactic is not new. It was their standard behaviour up to and during the last election. You may remember their scare story that we were going to end the State pension as we know it. Untrue, of course, and they knew it. Yet - from Tony Blair downwards - they repeated the lie daily to scare the most vulnerable voters of this land into the Labour Party's ballot box. Beware, they may try something like this again: probably that old favourite - a total distortion of our Health Service plans - will be wheeled out yet one more time.

But, as Labour vie for the Booker Prize for fiction about us - we should retaliate only by telling the truth about them. We have nine days to do that: to open the eyes of the electorate to the truth beyond the spin.

First tax.

Yes. We put up taxes in the last Parliament. We put them up 1.3% a year as we came out of recession - rather less, in fact, than the 2% increase each year in the 1980's. Labour has put them up 4.8% a year with no recession.

Many of their rises are regressive and punitive - such as the huge tax on Pension Funds which will reduce the retirement income of millions.

Labour's extra taxes on business alone add up to £5,000 million a year, at a time when our government should be increasing the competitiveness of our companies and not hampering it.

Labour have got away with this only because they inherited such a strong economy in 1997 - no wonder they continually hark back to the late 80's and early 90's when they refer to our Conservative record and ignore the golden scenario we left them in 1997.

Even their posters, you know the ones, Mr Boom and Mr Bust - use statistics so old they pre-date my period as PM and the arrival of William Hague and Michael Portillo to the Cabinet.

And all this from the PM who bleated last week that the statistics showing a wider poverty gap should be ignored as they were two years out of date. Why then, Prime Minister, do you use figures against us that are a decade out of date?

Let me give the PM more up to date figures about our record: when the Conservatives left office in 1997: Interest Rates were 6% and falling; Inflation 2.5% and falling; Unemployment 1.6 million and falling. And tax was far lower than today.

The promises Labour have made suggest more tax rises to come, and I am not surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused to rule out NIC's increases: it would be the classic Labour way to soak the middle income groups, whilst still claiming tax rates had not changed.

And it would be classic Labour spin: an essential untruth presented as a pledge kept.

As for our proposed £8 billion tax cuts, they should easily be delivered: they are, after all, only a small proportion of Labour's increases in tax during this Parliament. We should not be hesitant about returning tax payers' money to taxpayers.

Second, Trust:

In 1997, the Labour Party campaigned on the slogan of trust. "Trust me", said Mr Blair. They even produced a pocket-sized card, on the top of which was stated boldly: "Keep this card and see that we keep our promises….let us be judged on our performance".

So let us do just that: let's separate fact from hyped-up fiction: the fact is that Labour has failed to deliver - unambiguously - on every one of its five "early pledges". Every one. Any examination of their record is damning.

Of course, they wriggle, and they are good at it. They are the masters of nods and winks, of selective briefing of one policy for The Sun and the polar opposite for the Financial Times; of phoney figures; of hidden tax rises not announced in the Budget speech, but smuggled out later; of announcing the same expenditure again and again to give the impression it is additional spending; of claiming credit for the results of Conservative policies which, in Opposition, they opposed at every turn.

But, behind all the smoke and mirrors, class sizes are not generally lower. Many are higher.

Young offenders are not dealt with more speedily.

NHS waiting lists are massaged down - by the ingenious trick of not letting many patients on to the list at all, and by treating minor cases before more serious ones. Only Labour would have stooped so low.

250,000 young people are not off benefit: but, there again, there weren't that number on benefit at the last election, so that's hardly surprising.

As for not increasing income tax, Labour offer us another trick with distorting mirrors: they've put up other taxes instead, by the equivalent of 10p on the £ on income tax.

All of this: fact as opposed to fiction.

So much for trust. Perhaps such shady behaviour is the Third Way - but either way, they do not deserve a second term.

The whole nature of this Government has been a let down.

They were, you may remember, to be "purer than pure". But it was the last Conservative Government that set up the Commissioner for Standards: it is this Labour Government that has withheld evidence from the Committee and refused to co-operate with their inquiries. Labour have only themselves to blame as their own behaviour begins to destroy the public's trust in them.

As the charge sheet builds up, Labour respond to criticism with an hypocrisy that is simply breathtaking. If they stepped back from their spin they would see that - after only four years in power - their many deceits and hypocrisies suggest they have lost their moral compass.

They have lost their balance too. Any news coverage not entirely "on message" is thought to be part of a plot: a sinister conspiracy by the BBC and others to do them down. If Labour believe that, then they truly are in need of medical treatment.

Such are the delusions of too much power, too large a majority, and too much slavish support from a Liberal Democrat Party, ever willing to sacrifice principle for a sniff of influence.

It is that swollen majority too, that has led them to be so intolerant in Government they respond to any criticism by attacking the critic - although it is usually behind-the-hand briefing, not the bunched fist response of Mr Prescott. How wise of the Government to give him a team of protection officers so that the public can walk the streets in safety.

Labour spun that famous punch brilliantly - but am I alone in believing that Mr Prescott's response was more that of a street-corner delinquent than a Deputy Prime Minster?

"He acted by instinct", said Labour. Yes he did. But it was the sort of instinct that lands young football fans in trouble.

"He didn't look", said Labour. How lucky for him that the egg thrower was not a women or child or someone elderly.

And what did the Prime Minister say?

"John is John", he said. A pathetic line that will, no doubt, be favoured by the best friend of every punch-first, think-later hooligan around the country. And this from the Prime Minister who promised: "Trust me, I'll be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime". But then, of course, Tony is Tony.

Before I end, let me say something about the Conservative Party.

I joined the Conservatives on the first day I was eligible to do so and will remain a Tory 'til the day I die.

Our Party has served our country - in Government - more often, longer and better than any other political Party in the Western world.

We have suffered great defeats before - in 1906 and 1945 - and have always bounced back. We can do so once more.

Labour came into Government in May 1997 with unprecedented goodwill and a thumping majority. They have squandered it all. Today, they are neither loved nor trusted.

We Conservatives should encourage every elector to look beyond the soundbite, beyond the spin, beyond the fiction, and see them as they are: an Emperor with no clothes and a Government with no credibility.

The polls suggest the nation is sleepwalking to catastrophe: our job is to wake them up.

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