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Hague: the forces of Conservatism are on the march

As Conservatives and politicians of the centre right we could, of course, hardly be meeting on a more auspicious day. Today we join in the celebrations that are taking place for the inauguration of George W Bush as the 43rd President of the United States of America.

"The US Election might have been close, but it undoubtedly represented a great victory for George W Bush and for our fellow IDU founder members in the US Republican Party. On behalf of us all I should like to send President Bush our warmest congratulations and wish him every success in what I am sure will prove to be a distinguished Presidency.

"George W Bush's triumph in America, gives us all - both on the right and the left - much to think about. But for me the lessons of that result are clear.

"It signalled to the world at large that the forces of conservatism are no longer in retreat.

"It showed that the dominance of parties of the left, that has characterised global politics in the past decade, is not something we have to take for granted.

"It made clear that the left wing governments can be beaten even where they are operating against the background of apparently benign economic circumstances.

"It demonstrated beyond doubt that if they are presented with a set of clear, coherent and common sense conservative policies then the electorate will respond positively.

"Above all it was the clearest possible signal that the political tide is turning back in our direction towards the policies and values of the centre-right.

"They are policies that value above all the freedom, not just of individuals and families to run their own lives independently of the state but also the freedom of sovereign nations from tyranny and aggression.

"They are the policies that promote enterprise and opportunity, that give back to hard working people more of what they earn.

"They are the policies that promote more choice combined with greater personal responsibility.

They are policies designed to build up first class public services for all, without falling into the trap of looking to the state to answer every social problem or to become the sole provider of those services.

"And they are the policies that seek to strengthen the rule of law and democratically accountable institutions of government.

"None of that is to say that we should agree on every dot and comma of those policies. As I have said before, unlike socialists and parties of the left we do not believe in a one size fits all dogma to be applied universally irrespective of circumstance or the condition of the patient on whom the experiment is to be tried. For all of us our conservatism derives from the traditions, habits and shared experiences of each of our respective countries.

"As a consequence the British conservative tradition is not identical to that of the United States any more than the conservative tradition in Australia is the same as that in South Africa.

"Each of us, at any particular time, will face different challenges that require different solutions. But what makes us what we are, to take the theme of the next session of this forum, are the common instincts and approaches that we share, that can be summed up in a famous phrase as "the conservative habit of mind".

"It was those conservative instincts that that helped George W Bush win an election against an incumbent Vice President, during a period of American economic prosperity and stability and in defiance of the predictions of the political commentators.

"George W Bush recognised the strength and appeal of the basic Conservative message, of cutting taxes, of reducing the size of government, of waging war on crime and of building up strong and effective defence.

"He understood that to win elections Conservatives and parties of the centre-right must appeal to what in Britain I call the great mainstream majority - the very people whose values are so despised by the left wing elites.

"But the Bush formula went significantly beyond that. He realised that on its own, just restating those elements of the Conservative agenda, however right they are, would not be enough.

"At an early stage he grasped a fundamental reality for any Conservatives and parties of the centre-right in the new millennium - that in order to take on the left and to beat the Third Way, we had to develop bold and distinctive social policies that would address what is known as the quality of life agenda.

"So he emphasised his commitment to education reform and to giving parents ever greater choice and diversity. He stressed the importance of genuine welfare reform. He talked about pension reform. He spoke about the importance of local voluntary initiatives.

"And, significantly, he took his new social agenda to new audiences and social groups. He devoted time and effort explaining it to those people who had never voted for the right, and perhaps never will, in order to demonstrate his commitment to the new Conservative social agenda.

"As the result last November showed it is an approach that worked in the United States for George W. Bush and I believe it is an approach that can work - and bring renewed electoral success - for Conservatives everywhere.

"In America the new Conservative agenda was tested against the forces of the left and the Third Way and was not found wanting. In Britain, armed with my own radical new Conservative agenda, I am looking forward to testing it again shortly.

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