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Ancram: Spring Forum Speech 2001

Conservatives Will Win the Battle Ahead

We stand today at the gateway to victory in the coming election

We are the forces of conservatism who with fire in our hearts and faith in ourselves can secure that victory.

I read the left-wing commentators who mock us - and I have nothing but scorn for them.

I hear the faint hearts who write us off - and I have nothing but disdain for them.

I see the opinion polls, and they make me more determined yet.

We have one purpose - to win. And this gathering is not about whether we will win, but how.

This Forum is our opportunity to set out and to discuss the policies upon which we must build our victory.

My task is to set the scene.

First, we are ready. Ready now if Blair decides to cut and run. Indeed, ready whenever he calls the election. And ready to win the County Council Elections too.

Our campaign machine is fired up. Our finances are improving, our canvas returns are encouraging and our morale is high.

And I want to thank all of you for all your hard work and enormous commitment which has done so much to achieve this. You are key to the election ahead. And it is you who give me great confidence.

We have a battleground of the 180 seats that we need in order to win the election. The reports from them all are highly positive.

Voters returning to us. Voters deserting Labour but undecided yet how they will vote. More than enough between them to deliver us victory.

Also, 32 of these seats are Liberal Democrat, and the signs in them all are excellent.

From Romsey to Richmond, from Taunton to Twickenham, from Hazel Grove to Harrogate, and at all points in between, people are seeing the Liberal Democrats for what they really are.

They are fed up at the sycophancy with which this increasingly directionless party has attached itself to Blair's coat-tails.

They are alarmed at the implications of the Liberal Democrats' three clear policies: raising taxes, integrating Britain into a Euro-superstate and scrapping the Pound.

They see only too well the damage these policies would do to the already devastated farming and fishing industries, and to small businesses and shops as well.

And, as a result, in all these seats there are now clear signs of substantial swings away from the Liberal Democrats and back to us.

So my message to the Lib Dem MPs in these seats is - to coin an old Liberal phrase - go back to your constituencies and prepare to find another job.

The truth is that the Liberal Democrats today are leaderless, rudderless, and pointless.

In an election which will decide the government of this country they are now quite simply an irrelevant and a wasted vote.

All they have done is to give comfort to Tony Blair as his groupies at Westminster and his patsies in Cardiff and Edinburgh.

We look forward with relish to the coming campaign when we will drive them back into that obscurity which they have so richly earned.

It is to that campaign that I now turn.

There are still some commentators who try to tell us that it doesn't much matter who wins the election.

Let them just look at what is at stake.

Let them consider those things which will be decided irrevocably at this election, where there can be no coming back in five years time to say we have changed our mind and can we have another chance. There would be no other chance.

Take just three issues.

Our Currency, because if Blair wins the election he will stop at nothing to ensure that the Pound is sacrificed to his ambitions for a European "superpower" with at its centre the Euro.

Oh yes, the Pound is definitely at stake - and we will fight tooth and nail to keep it.

Our Constitution, because Blair is hell-bent on neutering the House of Lords and on undermining the House of Commons so that neither will any longer be able to hold his Government to account.

Oh yes, our Constitution is definitely at stake - and we will fight to defend it.

Our Countryside because, for all their sudden and carefully timed concern at the dreadful outbreak of foot and mouth, Blair and his cronies still don't understand the real crisis the countryside is suffering.

When will Blair understand that the faces which Prescott recently mocked as 'contorted' are there because his government still will not listen? When will they stop taking satisfaction at the postponement of the Countryside March and begin to comprehend the real fears and sadness behind it.

That this march was a desperate attempt to make heard the cries of those in the countryside whose economic infrastructure is being ravaged, whose way of life is being obliterated, whose livelihoods are being destroyed and whose farming is crumbling before their very eyes.

Oh yes, the countryside is undoubtedly at stake at this election - and we will fight to save it.

And crucially at stake is integrity.

I came into politics because I believe in public service and in the integrity of public office and public life which is so essential to our democracy.

Over these last months I have watched this integrity undermined, devalued and ignored.

And the chief culprit is Tony Blair.

I, and surely more and more of us each day, regard him with undisguisable contempt.

Contempt for his moral cowardice, contempt for the way in which he never accepts responsibility for the failings of his ministers and his government, contempt for the way that everyone else is always to blame but him.

Yet it is he who, by his cynicism, has devalued integrity in politics. It is he who, by his false statements, has devalued the meaning of truth in politics.

It is he who, by his contempt for them, has devalued our democratic institutions. It is he who, by his indifference to his ministers' breaching of them, has devalued standards in public life.

Anything goes as long as it enables him to retain power!

There is now a growing stench at the very heart of New Labour. From the mendacity of Mandelson to the venality of Vaz to the arrogance of Irvine to the brazenness of Blair, the integrity of government is being destroyed.

And if Blair disagrees with this let him come and debate it with William Hague on television - or is he running scared?

Today Blair stands only for the pursuit and retention of power at all costs.

And nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the breathtakingly cynical way in which he and his cronies are now making blatant election promises.

But none of these promises are new.

Better hospitals, better schools, better law and order, better transport, bigger pensions, targetted tax reductions; all the same old promises from 1997, all in the same old words. And Blair has the brass neck to accuse the British people of cynicism! Well, the real cynicism is his belief that the British people can be so easily taken in again.

We have all learned the hard way the lessons of Labour's 1997 election promises.

My constituent who believed Blair's promise in 1997 that the waiting list for her operation would get shorter but who is now waiting even longer - she isn't going to believe that this time Blair will make the Health Service better.

Or my constituents who believed that Blair would be 'tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime' but who instead have seen police numbers falling and violent crime rising - they are not going to be taken in by Blair's rediscovered interest in law and order.

And all those people who believed Blair in 1997 when he said that he would not put up taxes, but who have suffered from rocketing stealth taxes on fuel, on pension funds, on savings, on council tax. They will not be taken in by the tired old assurances from Blair that the tax burden will not increase.

And if Blair disagrees with any of this let him come and debate it with William Hague on television in front of a selected audience of these people.

Our campaign, in total contrast to Blair's, will be credible and deliverable. Blair has given promises a bad name. We will offer only achievable common sense solutions.

When we tell pensioners that we will protect their savings from tax, that we will give them real choice as to how they receive their pensions, we must show them that we can really deliver this for each of them and that we will.

When we tell parents that we want to spend more money on educating their children and less on financing the educational bureaucracy, we must show them that we can deliver this in their local school.

We must show the patient who is seriously ill that she will get medical treatment when she clinically needs it and not at the whim of some politically motivated target.

We will take our message to the doorsteps, and we will show that these are real policies for real people dealing with real problems in their own lives.

There is however something even more fundamental.

We live in a world which has lost its values. There is a moral vacuum at the heart of our political life which is both corrosive and destabilising. Blair offers no response because his own abandonment of principles lies at the very root of it.

But we can respond because it goes to the very heart of conservatism.

We believe that values and standards still matter, that principles still count for something, that it is important to understand clearly what is right and what is wrong. These are the navigation points by which society must regulate and direct itself.

We must cast off the corrupting blanket of political correctness.

We must have the courage to proclaim those beliefs and principles which make us conservatives.

We believe that moral standards and ethics are essential to a strong society.

We believe that each human being is unique with his own ambitions and fears, all of which require diversity and choice and freedom to flourish.

We believe in the family as the basic building block of a strong society, that marriage matters, and that bringing up children within the security of marriage is to be encouraged.

We believe in responsibility, that it is a core conservative instinct to accept responsibility for oneself and for one's family and for those who need help within our community. We believe that to be a good neighbour and to support voluntary effort is profoundly conservative.

We believe in doing the right thing, in working hard, in saving, in respecting the law, in helping those who are less able to help themselves, not because we are told to but because it is in our conservative nature to do so.

And if in proclaiming our beliefs we are derided by the politically correct and the liberal elite, we must wear this derision as a badge of honour for we will be reflecting the beliefs and instincts of the vast majority of the British people.

Above all we must proclaim our belief in our country, in our United Kingdom.

We must fight to see that national pride is once again respected and valued - and that our flag is too.

The Union Jack may be a flag of convenience for Tony Blair, to wave when it suits him.

For us it is the emblem of the United Kingdom. That glorious amalgam of traditions and cultures coming together as One Nation. That United Kingdom which has been such a force for good in the past and can be again.

We are the Conservative and Unionist Party. Our belief in the United Kingdom is fundamental and we will never betray it.

Yet our United Kingdom is under greater threat today than at any time in my political life and we must fight to protect it.

Threatened from within by the forces of nationalism feeding, particularly in England, on feelings of unfairness arising from Blair's bungled devolution.

Paradoxically as unionists, and for the sake of the Union, we must now try to make devolution work. Where there is destabilising unfairness we must redress it, beginning with ensuring only English votes for English laws.

And threatened from outside, from those in Europe who would build a Euro-superstate with its own government, its own army, its own foreign policy, its own economic policy and its own currency.

I know and you know in our deepest gut that such a Europe is quite simply incompatible with the United Kingdom as we know it. That is why we cannot sit back while Blair seeks by stealth to submerge us in the European 'superpower' which is his dream.

That is why the days of surrendering further sovereignty must end.

That is why we say in Europe but not run by Europe, and that is why we will fight with all the political force at our disposal to preserve our rights of self-determination.

It is a fight we must not lose.

So at the coming election we alone of all the parties have a vision we must fight for.

A land where freedom counts for something again, where standards matter again, where people matter again, where the family matters, where the law matters and where our country matters once more.

And if Blair disagrees with any of this let him come and debate it with William Hague on television.

We have a hard battle ahead.

We will need to be resilient. We will need to be quick-footed and shrewd. We will need to be human and warm. We will need to be confident and determined to win.

And there is one person who embodies these, our leader William Hague.

I know no braver, no more resilient, no more determined, no more committed, no more shrewd, no more believing a politician than him.

He has over the last four years pulled this party from the edge of the abyss. Now he can lead us to victory.

I know that you like I will serve him with pride in the battle that lies ahead.

His will be our voice. And what will start as a voice here in this hall at Harrogate will soon outside become a shout and then, in the country beyond, a battle hymn.

And when finally the election is upon us, it will grow into a great national roar which can drive this discredited lot from office, and replace them with a government which really does believe in our values and in our country again.

We alone have the vision, we alone hold the high ground, we alone have the will. And above all we alone have the common sense.

This is our formidable armoury.

Let us take up our arms - and go out from here and win.

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