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Hague: We're ready for the election, and we're ready to win

Speaking to Conservative Central Office staff, the Rt Hon William Hague MP, Leader of the Conservative Party, said:

"The waiting is almost over. The hard work so many of you have put in over the last four years and the harder work you are about to put in over the next four weeks can soon be rewarded with the election of a Conservative Government.

We have come a long way together since 1997. We have reformed our party and made it more democratic and inclusive. Here at Central Office you have helped to create a professional organisation worthy of the new century and the important task that lies ahead of us.

Everyone from the staff who have improved CCO for the public and their colleagues alike, through the people who have helped to raise money to fight this Election, to our campaign staff, agents and ACDs who do so much out in the field and to the media and research officers in the War Room who make us more than a match for our political opponents; all of you have been waiting for this moment, for the chance to put everything we've learned to the test.

Make no mistake this will be one of the hardest fought election campaigns in modern history and if Tony Blair chooses to go to the country next week, and all the signs are that he will, we will be ready for him.

Yesterday the Shadow Cabinet were presented with our final plans for fighting the Election. Our MPs have been briefed, and this morning we finalised the manifesto on which we will fight. I have fought in every Election since 1979 in one role or another and I can tell you we have never been as prepared for battle as we are now.

Prepared to hold Tony Blair to account for his miserable failure to deliver on his promises.

Prepared to shine a light on the lies and distortions that have become the hallmark of this Labour Government and will be the central feature of their campaign.

Prepared to show Britain that there is a better way: a Conservative way based on trusting people and their instincts and believing in the country we all share.

Of course there are those who think the Election we are about to fight is of little consequence. Listen to the pollsters and the pundits and the first thing they will tell you is that the Conservatives can't win. These same people put us 30 points behind Labour six weeks before the European Elections in 1999. In case you or they have forgotten, we won that Election and doubled the number of Conservative MEPs.

They ignore the fact that up and down the country every Thursday, we are winning local government by-election after by-election and that we are consistently polling more votes than Labour and the Liberals. Remember this: every party that has been ahead in local elections has gone on to win the subsequent General Election.

Then there is the evidence of our own eyes and ears. I have talked to many thousands of people in this country over the past four years from all walks of life. So have all of you. And when I compare what I hear with what I read in the newspapers or see on the television, the same question comes back to me: if people are so keen to have another Labour Government why is it that you never meet any of them? Talk to real people, and I know what you all know: we can win.

Then there are those who say that it doesn't matter who wins; whatever the outcome on Election night, the result for the country will be the same, they say. Well they couldn't be more wrong.

This week marked the fourth anniversary of Labour's Election victory, though you could be forgiven for missing it. The Government was very anxious to let the occasion pass without notice. It is not difficult to see why.

Labour came to power in 1997 armed with a massive Commons majority, a huge amount of goodwill and the best set of economic conditions any Government has ever inherited. Never has a Party had so much, but achieved so little.

In four short years we have experienced the full cycle of New Labour: the admiration followed by the fascination then the disillusionment and now the contempt.

Tony Blair promised a new life for Britain, he told us all we deserved better. Well everyone in Britain deserves better than they have got from him. He has given us higher taxes, larger class sizes, longer waiting lists, a rise in violent crime and chaos in our asylum system. Now he stands in front of the country and says he wants not so much a second term, as a second chance.

If what has gone before is supposed to have been a rehearsal, the people of this country cannot afford to live through the final act.

Britain is being drawn step-by-step towards a European superstate. The very future of our currency is threatened and with it the ability to run our own economy in our own interests. People no longer feel safe in their own homes or walking down their own streets. Our Health Service is crumbling. Our transport system is in a state of decay and our schools no longer teach the basic values of discipline and civility.

And all of this at a time when Labour has piled stealth tax upon stealth tax: taxes on mortgages and motorists, on pensions and on marriage, on those people who can least afford to pay them.

No wonder I find a sense of deep disappointment and betrayal with the Government among the people I meet as I travel the country.

Labour has the cheek to accuse us of spreading cynicism and apathy about politics. But it was Tony Blair who promised he would 'save the NHS' and make 'education, education, education', his top three priorities.

Everyone knows that Labour has failed to deliver and no amount of lies and spin put out by them during this campaign can hide that fact. But people want to know what the Conservatives will do. We will start with our manifesto, the most radical and far-reaching document of its kind for a generation.

There are millions of undecided voters out there who are fed up with this Government, many of them have lost faith in politics altogether. They are sceptical about politics, but they are also curious. They want to know what it is we stand for. We will spend the campaign telling them.

To those millions who know that they are paying too much in tax, I say we will cut taxes. We will help savers, retired people and married couples with young children. And we will cut fuel duty, the most hated and regressive of all Labour's stealth taxes.

To the millions who feel that our schools no longer teach basic values and civility, I say we will offer discipline, standards and choice by allowing headteachers to run schools and make them accountable to parents rather than politicians.

To the millions who believe that our criminal justice system is no longer on the side of the law-abiding, I say we will put the victims of crime before the perpetrators of the crime and allow the police to get on with the job of enforcing the law.

To the millions who want to retain our currency and don't realise that the decision to scrap it has already been taken by Labour and their Liberal allies, I say the Conservatives will keep the Pound and this may be your last chance to save it.

And to the millions who see Britain as a place that should welcome those who are genuinely fleeing persecution, I say we will fix our broken asylum system, speed up applications and end the abuse so that we become a safe haven not a soft touch.

To all these people we will show that there is an alternative to Labour and the direction they are taking the country in. We will show that not all parties are the same.

We will demonstrate it not just by what we say but by how we say it.

We will start this campaign faster and finish it more strongly than any previous Election. We will talk directly to those who have suffered worst under Labour. We will not offer them the earth, the public has had its fill of false promises. Instead we will put forward a programme for government that is rooted in common sense, in people's every day experiences and in the way they would like to live their lives.

You will be working round the clock to make this campaign a success. And I promise you this, as long and as hard as you will all be working, the Shadow Cabinet and I will work just as hard. We will fight for every last vote, visit every corner of the country, meet as many people as we can every working hour of every working day.

We will show not only that we have the vision for our nation's future, but that we have the team to deliver it. Everything is now in place. Our advertising has been booked, our Election broadcasts have been shot, our manifesto is ready.

Above all we are ready. As our Shadow Cabinet has shown in exchange after exchange, every one of them is better than their Labour counterpart. Who would you rather have representing Britain at the negotiating table, Robin Cook or Francis Maude? Who would you trust to keep your taxes down, Gordon Brown or Michael Portillo? Who is more likely to scare the hell out of criminals, Jack Straw or Ann Widdecombe?

And, as important, you are better than your counterparts. In this room we have built up a group of dedicated professionals who working together are for more disciplined and far more formidable than the once famous Millbank machine.

But you also have something else they could never hope to possess: a set of principles. Principles that are shared by the mainstream majority of this country.

A belief in our nation and its future.

An understanding that our society is more healthy and our economy is more prosperous when people take more control of their lives and more responsibility for shaping their own destinies.

A determination that Britain can and must be a better place than it is today.

These are the principles which have sustained this Party through some difficult times in the past, and it is these principles which will be the foundation of our success in this Election and in the future.

Your job, my job is to make sure that everyone in this country knows that the Conservative Party stands for these things, that we value what they value.

Do this and we will not only enjoy victory, we will have earned it."

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