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Ancram: Welsh Conference Speech 2001

I am delighted once again to be here in Wales.

I arrived here first in 1997 and I will never forget the warm support you gave me at that difficult time.

We were all then involved in a mission. A mission to stand in the way of the tide which had only weeks before swept away all our seats in Westminster, a mission to show that the Welsh Conservatives were still a force to be reckoned with, a mission to fight the unthought-out onrush of devolution.

The odds were stacked against us.

But I learned then the spirit and courage of the Party in Wales, a spirit that would never give up, a spirit that would fight on whatever the odds, a spirit which made me proud to be a conservative.

And we so nearly won.

Today I am here on a new mission. A mission which will restore the voice of Welsh Conservatism to the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster.

Two years ago you began our revival in Wales with the election of Conservatives to the National Assembly. Now we must complete that process by winning Westminster seats at the coming election.

I must pay tribute to the Party in Wales, to all of you here who work so hard. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I want personally to thank your chairman Henri Lloyd Davies who is not only a valued colleague on the Party's Board but also a tireless campaigner in Wales.

I must also thank Leigh Jeffes and Roger Williams for their invaluable dedication and commitment.

I pay tribute to Nick Bourne and your Assembly members. They have not only kept the flame of Welsh Conservatism alight in the Assembly, but they have shown themselves to be the most formidable party in Wales.

I pay tribute also to Jonathan Evans who is such a true Conservative voice for Wales in the European Parliament.

And I must thank your team at Westminster. Bob Walter who is tireless in ensuring that the interests of Wales are fully aired at Westminster.

And the man who will lead the election campaign here in Wales, Nigel Evans. Nigel is a battler, always ready to take the fight to the enemy.

What better man to ensure that the Welsh Conservative standard will flutter proudly and defiantly throughout the coming campaign, and to deliver victory.

We are going into this campaign to win.

We do not yet know when we will be called to action. I have the party on full alert. We are ready to hit the ground running whenever Mr Blair decides to fire the starting gun.

Your prospects here in Wales are better than for a long time.

Look at the recent local by-election triumph in the Vale of Glamorgan - on which I warmly congratulate all those involved.

Look at the commitment and enthusiasm in our party across the length and breadth of Wales.

I have no doubt that in Wales you can win.

And you must win.

There are strange folk around who tell you that it doesn't really matter who wins the next election, that all the parties are the same. Where have they been?

The truth is that that if Labour were to win again, we would see irrevocable changes.

No coming back in five years time saying we got it wrong and we would like another chance. There would be no other chances.

No chance to keep Wales' distinct voice in the Westminster cabinet once Labour had abolished the Secretary of State for Wales. Your voice gone forever.

No chance to save the Pound which would be scrapped by Blair in a rigged and unbalanced referendum. And here in Wales you know better than most about rigged and unbalanced referendums.

Our currency gone forever.

Oh yes, the Pound is certainly at stake.

As is the countryside.

The march has rightly been postponed, but the problem remains undiminished.

Foot and mouth poses an appalling threat not only to farmers in particular but to the countryside in general.

But long before foot and mouth the countryside was in crisis.

Agriculture in crisis because of unfair competition and because of soaring overheads caused by over regulation. Rural transport in crisis because of the vicious stealth tax increases on fuel. Rural post offices and shops in crisis because of the government's undermining of the services which made them viable.

Jolted into activity by the foot and mouth crisis, Blair may now belatedly weep crocodile tears about the future of the countryside.

In reality he couldn't care less for the countryside. He doesn't understand the countryside.

If he did, he would have understood the crass insensitivity of pressing on with the Hunting Bill when those whose lives would be directly affected by this legislation are not able democratically to respond.

We care about the countryside.

We share the desperation of those whose livelihoods are under threat, whose industries are in crisis, and whose way of life is being constantly eroded.

We will provide real answers.

We will fight for the countryside. But to save it we must win.

And we can win.

Because in the end it is not newspapers which will decide the election, but real votes cast in the privacy of the polling booth.

I read the opinion polls. I have to say that they make me even more determined. They certainly do not reflect what we are finding on the ground.

All our canvassing, all our polling, all our evidence on the doorsteps tells us that there are thousands of voters, disillusioned with Labour, who are now coming back to us.

And even more who, fed up with broken promises, will never vote Labour again but remain to be persuaded to give us their support.

There are more than enough to win the general election.

Labour have let Wales down.

They promised the earth and they have failed even to deliver the scratchings.

They promised a better health service. Tell that to the patients who are waiting even longer for the treatment they need! In Wales the waiting list increases are a total scandal.

They promised better education. Tell that to the teacher increasingly snowed under by paperwork.

They promised to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. Tell that to the victim who has seen police numbers fall and violent crime rise!

They promised not to raise taxes. Tell that to the hardworking families who find themselves some £670 a year worse off because of Gordon Brown's 45 stealth taxes.

They have raised the breaking of promises to a new art form. And people know it.

They see a government overblown with power, all spin and no delivery, and out of touch.

They see the posturing, and the cynical belief that having taken the electorate in with false promises last time they can do so again.

This week we have seen even more promises.

Gordon Brown on Wednesday handed back only a small proportion of the money he had filched from people in stealth taxes, and then had the gall to pretend this was generosity.

The '10p on, 1p off' Chancellor who believes that people are so gullible that they will not have noticed the stealth taxes!

The people of Wales will not so easily be taken in. There was nothing in this cynical budget for the farmers or hard-pressed rural industries. Labour apparently don't need Welsh rural votes!

Nor anything to stem the haemorrhaging of manufacturing jobs in Wales - Labour apparently believe these votes can take for granted.

The people of Wales now have the chance to hit back by showing that they will not be taken for granted or taken in.

Not even by the Liberal Democrats!

They know that this parody of a party have sold out to Labour in Wales, that they have become Blair's patsies in the National Assembly, and have forfeited the right to be taken seriously anymore.

They know that Liberal Democrats stand for very little, but what they do stand for is not what people want.

Immediate scrapping of the Pound. Higher taxes. Political union in Europe - with all the consequent damage to our farming and our fishing industries, and our small businesses too.

They are now a dangerous irrelevance; leaderless, rudderless and pointless.

We must sweep them from the face of Wales.

And then there is Plaid Cymru.

Never trust nationalists who say that they are prepared to seek accommodation. Nationalism by definition is an absolutist creed. It is corrosive and incapable of compromise.

If we believe in Wales within the United Kingdom then we must fight Plaid with all our political strength.

And if we need any persuading of this, we only have to listen to the recent nationalist rantings of Plaid Cymru's Simeon Glyn from Gwynedd.

Let's be clear. Plaid Cymru are the thin end of the wedge to the final unbundling of the United Kingdom. We must take the battle to them and we must win.

Our task is to go onto the doorsteps to persuade people that we are worthy of their support.

We need to show that what we are offering is based on common sense, is relevant, is credible and that we can deliver it.

We must show that when we offer patients a doctor and a day they can count on, that we have the means to deliver it.

We must persuade parents that we want to spend more money on their child's schooling and less on the educational bureaucracy.

We must be clear that when we propose the removal of tax on savings, the taking of a million pensioners out of tax, of giving support to married couples with young children that we can deliver them all.

We must show that we have a clear vision of the society we wish to see.

A society in which the individual matters again, in which the family and marriage matter, in which ethics and standards and belief in hard work matter.

In which respect for the rule of law matters.

Where freedom and enterprise ride shotgun to responsibility, and to sense of community and to never walking by on the other side.

We will stand up to the intimidation of political correctness and proclaim our principles.

We will respond to the likes of Paul Starling, of The Bevan Foundation, who wrote this week that 'the vacuum at the heart of Welsh politics is palpable, public despair more so'. We will respond by setting out our values which can fill that vacuum and address that despair. We will show that in this darkness we bring hope.

And we will show also that here in Wales our belief in the United Kingdom continues undiminished.

We accept that we live in a post devolutionary era and that we must make devolution work - work for Wales and for the United Kingdom too.

That is why when we return to government we will initiate an independent commission to advise how best to make the Assembly really work for the whole of Wales.

We must destroy the nationalist myth that you cannot be proud to be Welsh and proud to be British at the same time.

It is part of our Britishness, and central to the strength of our Britishness, that we are Welsh or Scottish or Irish or English.

We can be intensely proud to be Welsh and British at the same time. That is what the Welsh Conservatives have always been and will always be.

Our pride is seamless because we are the Conservative and Unionist Party. We are the party of the United Kingdom and we will never betray it.

Just as we will never cease to fight with everything at our disposal to retain our identity and our rights of self-determination in Europe.

It cannot be consistent with our unionism to stand by while Blair and his Euro-federalist cronies manoeuvre to slide the UK into a European superpower with its own government, army, economic policy and currency.

Either we believe in the United Kingdom or we do not.

Either along with Tony Blair we see the Union Flag as flag of convenience to be waved only when patriotism is expedient, or we see it as the emblem of that extraordinary amalgam of traditions and cultures and nations which has been such a force for good in the past and can be again.

That is why we will never give in to the drift to European integration, and why we will fight against the European superstate.

That is why we will continue to proclaim that we will be in Europe but not run by Europe, that we will fight any further moves to surrender our sovereign powers to Brussels.

That is why we will fight tooth and nail at the election to keep the Pound.

The fight ahead will be hard. We know already that Labour's campaign will be dirty, vicious and personal. It has begun already.

We know that we will need courage and determination and vision and above all self-belief to win. We know that in William Hague we have the leader who will provide all these in spades and then some more. I am proud to serve him in the battle ahead.

We will take Blair head on.

Where he relies on spin we will arm ourselves with truth.

Where he treats the British people with almost open contempt we will speak with the voice of the British people.

We will be positive.

But we would not be fulfilling our responsibilities if we did not point out what another four years of this discredited lot would mean.

In so doing, we will be accused of being negative. I make no apologies.

Never let us forget how Labour got themselves elected?

They quite simply ran a vicious campaign of distortions and downright lies.

Do you remember? They set out to scare the pensioners. They said that we would abolish the state pension and leave the elderly to starve in the streets.

That was the politics of the coward and the sewer.

We won't sink to Labour's depths. But never ever again either will we let their blatant dishonesty triumph.

We will fight fire with fire. We will fight them as they have never been fought before.

We will attack them with everything we have and, when they start whining as they undoubtedly will, we will attack them again.

This motley bunch of self-satisfied, puffed up champagne socialists have set out to sweep away our history, to sweep away our independence and our pride.

Well, we will sweep them away. We will sweep this rotten and unprincipled and dishonoured gang from power and into the rubbish bin of history where they belong.

Let us start now. Let us start here. Let us start today.

Let us go out and win.

Cymru am byth - and good luck.

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