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Ancram: Party Conference Speech 2000

Call Election Now

This is the Conference which I believe with all my heart can set us on the road to victory at the General Election.

"One of the most sickening sights at Brighton last week was Blair and Brown praising themselves for having given Britain a strong economy. Let's get one thing absolutely straight right at the start.

"They inherited from us in 1997 inflation at a 30 year low. They inherited the fastest growth and the lowest taxes in Europe. They inherited the most rapid falls in unemployment anywhere in the European Union.

"And it wasn't Tony or Gordon who achieved our strong economy.

"That golden legacy was a Conservative achievement delivered by John Major. And what a pleasure it is to see John and Norma here with us today. This Conference will be about winning. We know we can win, because over this last year we have won time and time again.

"And we come to this conference with our opponents in disarray, their cover blown, their image shattered and their hollowness exposed.

"I would like personally to thank those who work with me at Central Office. David Prior and John Taylor. Tim Collins, Nigel Evans, Steve Norris and my PPS Stephen O'Brien. Rick Nye, Amanda Platell and Stephen Gilbert and all our professional staff. To them all my heartfelt thanks.

"But my greatest thanks go out to all of you.

"You are the troops who through rain and shine take to the streets to deliver the message, to convert the doubters and to bring in the vote.

"We may plan. You deliver. We may direct the battle. You fight it and you win it. Since we last met there have been many battles and many victories.

"You have defied the political pundits. In fact I think of you as the "Pundit-Busters". 600 'pundit-busting' gains at the local elections.

"A staggering 'pundit-busting' first place in the London Assembly elections and a strong second place for mayor. And every week a constant stream of 'pundit-defying' local by-election gains.

"These are your victories which have turned the tide and I thank you for them. And now the opinion polls are showing what we have known for some months. The rigid political mould of the last eight years is broken. Now there is all to play for. We know, and more importantly so do our opponents, that we can win.

"It has not all been plain sailing. We lost Romsey. But on the same night we blew the Liberal Democrats away in many of their heartlands. So let me give Charles Kennedy due notice. We will take Romsey back. And along with it we are determined to take back more than 30 of your seats. From Cornwall to Colchester, from Torbay to Twickenham, from Somerset to Southport we will take you on and we will beat you.

"Two weeks ago Kennedy proclaimed that his party was "in touch with the British people".

Don't kid yourself, Charlie. Not on scrapping the Pound nor on putting up petrol taxes, you ain't. Nor on anything much else. The only person Chat Show Charlie is really in touch with is Mr Blair, plotting pacts and coalition.

"He has reduced his once great national Party to a mere faction within the politics of the left, supine in the face of New Labour, and grovelling for political crumbs.

"Liberal Democrats may still be the dirtiest fighters in British politics. But so rank is their hypocrisy, so naked their cynical ambition that this time nothing will save them from the justified contempt of the British people.

"No wonder Kennedy describes us as the enemy. We are indeed. An implacable enemy that will not rest until we have driven his party from the seats they took from us.

"So we come to this conference believing in ourselves and believing we can win. We have spent these last years building a formidable political machine. We are ready for the fight.

"Last week Mr Blair told us that he too was ready for the fight, that he relished the fight. Well, I have a challenge for him.

"If these words are more than mere rhetoric, if he is so certain of his so-called mission, so confident that he has got it right, then let him call the election now.

"Let him emerge from the shelter of his spin-doctors' nests. Let him agree to debate face to face on television with William Hague during the election. And then let the people judge.

"Or was all of his brave speech last week just another cynical regurgitation of Spin?

We are ready to let the people decide. Are you, Mr Blair? Are you?

"Last week in Brighton the Labour Party talked a lot about us. They attacked us, they vilified us, they challenged us. Well this week we are going to talk a lot about - us as well. And for the same reason. Over these last months we have established ourselves as a genuine government in waiting - and Labour know it. I don't mind their attacks. I welcome them.

"Because every lie and every insult tells me that they believe we can win, and that they are running scared. This week will show how right they are to be scared of us. Where we have vision they have lost their way. Where we have new ideas they have only tired undeliverable promises. Where we have answers they have only empty gestures.

"This is our chance to show that far from the shores of extremism upon which our opponents seek to place us we are the party of the mainstream sharing the values of the mainstream majority in this country.

"We believe in the family. So do the mainstream.

We believe in doing the right thing. So do the mainstream.

We believe in less government doing more and doing it better. So do the mainstream.

We believe in Britain. And so, thank goodness, do the mainstream too.

"This then is our chance to show that we have genuinely listened and continue to listen to the British people, that we understand their concerns. And that we are responding with common sense policies which go to the heart of those concerns and which can be delivered to every family in the land. We will show that we understand the very real fears of people who are ill but cannot get the treatment they need at the time they need it. For them we can and will provide the assurance of a day and a doctor they can count on.

"We will show that we understand the very real concerns of the mother who believes that the education system is letting her child down but feels powerless to do anything about it. Or the young dedicated teacher who just wants to teach but finds herself constantly undermined by a mixture of indiscipline and the weight of bureaucracy. That is why we are committed to giving greater freedom to schools, to reducing regulations on teachers and giving all parents more choice.

"We will demonstrate that we share the very real fear of the young and the old who feel vulnerable to the increasing violence in our society today. We will put victims first and we will make sure that the law does too.

"We will show too that we share the anger of so many hardworking families whose standard of living is being eroded by stealth taxes, not least the tax on fuel. We will demonstrate that we will be a government of lower taxes while maintaining the quality of public services.

"We will show that we respect the dignity of the pensioner by recognising their right to choose their own priorities in how they spend their pensions and by providing more for them to do so.

"We will show that we recognise the problems of the countryside. John Prescott may contemptuously deride those who fight for their village schools and shops, their jobs and their way of life - what he calls "contorted faces". Let me tell him what has contorted those faces.

Living under a government that doesn't understand the countryside, doesn't care about the countryside and can't be trusted with the countryside. And at the next election the countryside will repay his contempt with interest - by kicking Labour out.

"And we will demonstrate that we - just as the Danes - mind about our currency, which is why we will fight tooth and nail at the next Election to keep the Pound. And we will prove that we mind about our country.

"That in the face of the nationalist challenge from within we remain the Party of the Union and that at the next election we will fight to defend our nation's unity.

"And what is more within a devolved United Kingdom, I tell you that we will do what Mr Blair refuses point-blank to do - we will restore fairness to England. We will show too that we are now the only major party that believes in Britain, a Britain in Europe but not run by Europe. Blair and Brown may pretend otherwise. But they are preparing already in the months ahead to surrender more of our rights of self-determination and to move us further down the slippery slope towards a European Superstate. We give notice again today that we can never accept that. Nor will the British people. And we will fight it with all the strength at our disposal.

"This then is the programme of a Party which is prepared for government and of a team which is more than a match for the other side; for a start because it is a team!

"Contrast that with Mr Blair's napoleonic self-delusion last week that he alone can lead his party and the country to the Promised Land. And see this week the reality dawn.

"Blair knows now for the first time that he can lose. And he knows now for the first time that we can win.

"Just remember where he and his cabinet began three and a half years ago with the golden economic legacy inherited from John Major, with massive public goodwill, with an unassailable parliamentary majority and with a fair political wind behind them. And they've blown it all!

"They`ve squandered the economic legacy. So much money spent, so much money wasted, and what have they got to show for it? The Health Service deteriorating. Schools under greater pressure. Transport at a standstill. Crime rising and police numbers falling. Taxes going up. And nothing delivered. They've blown the goodwill by failing to keep the promises they so cynically made. And instead of apologising they have just made a whole lot more!

"They have devalued the integrity of politics by Spin and lies and distortions until nobody believes the words any more. And they have spilled the political wind because when the storms came they showed they were incapable of handling them.

"Blair's own reaction to crisis is revealing, as we saw in the face of the fuel protest last month. His first reaction was to go into hiding, sending out pathetic sidekicks like John Reid to take the flak for him. Then to emerge briefly from his bunker to blame everyone except himself. And finally with mind-blowing arrogance to deride the genuine anger of the vast majority of the British people.

"That week of crisis showed all that is and always has been wrong with Blair and with New Labour. It showed that they don't listen. It showed the only answer they have is spin. It showed that in the face of pressure they are incompetent. It showed that in the face of public hostility they are frightened. It showed that when they are cornered they will always try to lie their way out.

"And it showed above all that mixture of arrogance and insecurity which is the hallmark of the bully through the ages. And the British people saw it all too clearly.

"I put no great store by opinion polls. They are snapshots. But these recent snapshots of the last few weeks show if nothing else that the magic of the mirage that was New Labour has gone, and gone forever.

"It didn't just happen in these last weeks. It began at the turn of the year and it began where-else but in the Dome. The Millennium Dome. What a corrupt and incompetent mess. What an enormous waste of money. Glitz on the outside, nothing much worthwhile on the inside, and not even designed to last. And we are told it can't be closed yet because it's saving jobs. Well one job, certainly. Lord Falconer's!

"But there's another Dome, another Big Tent, glitz on the outside, nothing worthwhile inside, very expensive and not designed to last. It's called the Blair Dome - sometimes referred to as the Government. It also has halls and zones.

"The Hall of Blame - with huge blow-up pictures of the Cabinet under a sign

saying: 'don't blame me, nobody told me what was going on'.

"The Wall of Love- covered in graffiti - Gordon loves Tony - Mandy loves Gordon - Prescott loves Mandy and Gordon - and at least one that's true - Robin loves Robin. And as background music the sound of sharpening knives.

"And then the Zones:

"The Promises Zone - full. The Delivery Zone - empty. The Truth Zone - completely empty.

"And at the very centre the Listening Zone - with a giant statue of Blair surrounded by a bank of TV screens all showing Alistair Campbell's face saying, " Don't listen to them, Tony. Take it from me; you're perfect." Two Domes: both going down the tubes. With one difference. The Millennium Dome can hardly be accused of causing queues!

"But at least with the fuel crisis Blair actually fulfilled a promise at last. He always said he'd get the country back on its feet! We have to win the election. There is too much at stake to lose.

"Our cause is about believing in Britain, in all its diversity and in all its aspects.

"I like many in our party came into politics because I believe in my country, because I believe in a society where it is worth doing the right thing.

"Where people matter as individuals with their own hopes and fears.

"Where decency and standards and ethics count for something. And I see all these being threatened by a Government which doesn't understand them. Our fight is to preserve them.

"That doesn't mean that Britain hasn't changed and cannot change. It has and it must, as indeed we must and we have too. But that change must build on values which are instinctively ours. It must remould them for a new century and a new generation.

"We look forward to a government which will stand up for the hard working family, which will stand up for every child and every pensioner and every person striving to make the most of their opportunities.

"We look forward to a Britain where proclaiming our ambition for our country will never again be described as extreme, where supporting the family will never again be attacked as extreme, where fighting for justice will never again be pilloried as extreme.

"A Britain based on freedom, on opportunity, on pride. A Britain which is good to live in, good to do business in and is still the best country in the world. These are our political beliefs and our vision. And Blair despises them. He and his government have set the distinctions and defined the choices. The real choice is very simple. You can vote for Britain or you can vote for Blair, but you can't vote for both.

"The fight ahead will be hard and it will be long. I can offer no easy passage. We must be disciplined and united in our determination to win. It will need courage. It will need resilience. It will need determination. It will need vision. It will need integrity. And above all it will need strength. And we have all these - in one person - in our leader William Hague.

"William, we have watched you in the difficult years when however hard the going you never once wavered, never once flinched, never lost heart and never let hold of the flame. You have kept us going.

"Now you will lead us in this great drive to win the general election. And we will serve you with pride.

"These last three years have not been easy. They have been gruelling. They have been wearing. They have often been dark. But there is today a new dawn lighting the horizon. It is the reawakening within our country of the spirit of reality, of generosity, of choice, of freedom. It is the renewing of our party and of our dream.

"Our task is daunting. Our goal is worthy. Our cause is Britain.

"Let us go on from here - and win.

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