Speeches recovered from the Conservative party’s online archive More…

Pauline Neville-Jones: We need to renew our pride in being British

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am going to talk to you about our approach to national security.

In July the terrorist threat level was lowered - for the first time since 7/7. This is testament to the work of the police, security services and armed forces.

I pay tribute to them.

To their diligence and professionalism. 

And to their courage and sacrifice. 

These are the qualities that assure our safety at home and help keep threats from our shores.

But we must not be complacent.  Terrorists change tactics.

What happened in Mumbai last November could happen here in the UK. 

Not suicide bombers, but an attack by gunmen killing people in the streets, besieging hotels.   Paralysing the city for days.

This great city of Manchester has known terrorism in its time.  Imagine what such an attack could do to the city fabric and local economy.

This country overcame the IRA and we shall overcome current threats.  But, as with the IRA, we need to be organised.

We must plan against the worst.

Mumbai needed a military response.  Three years ago I called for dedicated military support to the emergency services.

They will tell you they want and need certainty about this.

But has Labour listened?  No. 

By not planning properly, they are leaving us unnecessarily vulnerable. 

So a Conservative Government will create a military homeland command.  A command dedicated to the security of our territory, its seas and airspace.

Of course, it's not just Labour's failure to plan.  A bigger thing is missing.  It's called leadership. 

Just look at Afghanistan.

Success there is vital to security here. 

But a war is being approached with a peacetime mentality and a peacetime footing.

And Gordon Brown has failed to explain why Afghanistan is so important to this country's national security.

That is not leadership. 

Leadership is being provided by William Hague and Liam Fox.

Ladies and Gentlemen, failure in Afghanistan could  have revolutionary consequences in that part of the world.

It would certainly have a radicalising effect worldwide.

It is radicalisation - individuals adopting extreme ideas and beliefs that lead to terrorism - that is the long term challenge we face.

Abroad and in this country too.

How does Labour tackle this problem? 

They let preachers of hate come into the country to spread their venomous message.

This is Labour style liberalism.  Letting the threat spread.

A Conservative Government will keep such people out.

Labour, instead of keeping them out, turns the state's power against you and me. 

In the name of security, they want to keep all our emails on a vast data base.  And abuse national security powers to poke in our dustbins. 

Haven't they got the wrong target?  The Nanny state is bad enough.  But she is now grooming Big Brother.

I don't think that anyone in this hall wants to be part of such a society.

As Dominic Grieve pledged recently, a Conservative Government will reverse the rise of the surveillance state.

We will maintain liberty along with delivering security.

And there is something else. 

What has happened to being a British subject? 

To being equal citizens of this country? 

With rights and obligations to each other?

At last, in its twelfth year in power, Labour admits that multiculturalism has failed.  John Denham said as much.

But when it comes to countering terrorism, Labour still treats people according to ethnicity and creed rather than as citizens.

How does this create loyalty in society?  Or a sense of belonging?

We need strategies which bring different people and communities together.  A Conservative Government will do this.

We also need to renew our pride in being British.

Identity lies not in cards but in hearts and minds. 

In a shared sense of history as a basis for the future. 

As Michael Gove has said, we should teach history properly in school.

Identity also lies in our values, which Labour has neglected.  How are newcomers to our society meant to recognise them and accept them? 

Ladies and Gentlemen, the point is that real security lies in the society we create.  And in the responsibility we take individually.  

Government cannot provide total security against every threat in life. 

We know that the weather will be more violent.  Natural disasters are just one example.

Government must certainly lead. But we, in our communities, should also contribute. 

We must know how to prepare for emergencies.  And how to respond when things go wrong.

Despite Labour's best endeavours to stifle initiative, the tradition of volunteering in this country is still alive and strong.  

We should build on it together.

I believe that our society will be freer, safer and more cohesive if we rely less on the state and more on each other.

And with the next Conservative Government, led by David Cameron, that will be our approach.

Keyboard shortcuts

j previous speech k next speech