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Jeremy Hunt: Making our country a winner again

We’ve had a good session.

We’ve heard that competitive sport, self-discipline, stretching yourself to the limit – are things that really matter for young people.

Kelly’s a double Olympic gold medallist – but for most of us this is not about gold medals.

It’s about creating a society that brings out the best in young people: boosting confidence, improving academic performance, encouraging healthy eating and even bringing down crime.

It’s about the values of competitive sport, values that Labour has never really understood.

Case against Labour

Labour claim to love sport. But their culture of health and safety madness and political correctness is destroying the foundations of what sport should be about.

Like the school in Sunderland that eliminated competitive races because it said the ‘pressures’ of winning and losing were too much for the children.

Or the school in Watford that cancelled sports day because the grass was damp.

Or the school in Cumbria that banned conkers because of fear of nut allergy.

What sort of society have we become when the scouts are banned from carrying penknives?

Where parents are banned from taking photos of their children in sports competitions?

Or – worst of all – when 11 million parents are branded as potential paedophiles by being forced to go through a CRB check before giving a lift to their children’s friends?

You won’t stop child abuse by turning every parent into a suspected paedophile. But you will close down thousands and thousands of after school sports clubs and a Conservative government will not allow that to happen.

Bringing back competitive sport

One of the interesting things about this job is that you start to see things differently. When I see Andy Murray winning at Queens, or the England Cricketers off the Ashes, or our footballers qualifying for the world cup, you don’t just think about the trophy.

You think of the school walls those players first kicked a football against; the faces of parents, teachers and coaches who encouraged them every step of the way; and the parks and playing fields where they had their first taste of triumph.

And you realise that the path to every sporting success is strewn with disappointments and setbacks. Churchill said success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.

Our children need to learn that too.

I learnt it because when I was at school, I was so useless at ball sports I was banished to the cross-country running team. No offence to cross-country runners but that’s how a lot of us started it...

So when we say we’re going to bring back competitive sport, it isn’t because we only care about life’s winners.

Quite the opposite.

If we don’t teach children to cope with failure and disappointment when they are young, how will they cope with life’s setbacks when they grow up?

If we don’t encourage them to take risks and try new things when they’re young, how can we expect them to become the entrepreneurs, groundbreakers and pioneers of the future?

Labour’s funding crisis

And what about the funding for sports that Labour so often boasts about?

National Lottery funding for community sport has been decimated, down by more than half since 1997.

Now times are tough and central government coffers are empty.

Which is precisely why the National Lottery was set up – to protect those areas which matter to our national life but inevitably come low on Treasury spending priorities.

Which is why we will return the Lottery to its original pillars, stop government ministers from helping themselves to lottery cash, and make sure that the people’s millions goes to the people’s good causes.

No Olympic legacy

But the biggest failure of all has been to fail to plan for a lasting legacy for the 2012 Olympics.

Do you know how much of that £9.3 billion budget has been put aside to create a lasting legacy of increased sports participation in our schools?

The answer is not one penny.

The Olympics will be fantastic for Britain. But they are also a once in a lifetime opportunity to inspire young people to take up sport.

Our solution

So a Conservative government will put that right. I am pleased to announce today that the idea recommended by Dame Kelly Holmes’ Olympic Legacy Commission, namely to set up a Schools Olympics, has our full support and will be implemented by a Conservative government.

Let’s democratise the Olympics. Let’s not just have them in the stadium in London for three weeks only. Let’s have them in every school, in every town, in every city and every county not just in 2012 but every year from then on.

Let’s use the London Olympics to bring back school sports league tables, with a proper system of town, city, regional and national heats.

Let’s use 2012 to bring competitive sport – and sporting values - within the grasp of all young people.

Another type of winning that needs to happen

There’s another type of winning that needs to happen, one that can only happen if all of us here do our duty and put David Cameron into Downing Street.

That’s to help our country start winning again.

We are a country of winners. Like Trinity College Cambridge, where I was a few weeks ago, which has 31 Nobel Prize winners, more than the whole of Russia or Sweden or Italy.

But it isn’t just our scientists. It’s our writers.

And our philosophers.

And our explorers.

And our Leaders.

At our best we have always had the power to transform not just ourselves but the world around us.

At our worst we sit on our laurels, allow complacency through the door and forget the dedication, inventiveness and resilience that has always been the hallmark of our success.

That complacency has summed up the last 12 years of this wretched, rotten, deceitful and incompetent Labour government. They spent all their time telling us how well Britain was doing whilst systematically undermining the very foundations of that success.

So when our revolution in school sport inspires the next generation of children to identify new talents, try new things, and stretch themselves to their limit, it’s not about getting more gold medals: it’s about identifying the talent in all of us for the benefit of all of us. And making our country once again the winner it can be and will be again.

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