My dear Chums - welcome to Manchester,
Welcome to our Conference,
And welcome to the start of the General Election.
Since we met in Birmingham 12 months ago a lot has happened
To our country,
To the world economy,
And to the challenges faced by our Party
After a bruising political year, we remain ahead in the opinion polls.
After June’s elections we have over ten thousand councillors
...in the north
In the south.
More than the Liberal Democrats and Labour combined.
We are the only political party to have an MEP in every region and every country that makes up the United Kingdom.
And to confound all the pundits, we outpolled Labour in Wales – a feat last achieved when Lloyd George was a lad.
To cap it off, just when Gordon Brown was sloping off on his holidays, we elected the youngest member of the House of Commons - Chloe Smith in Norwich North.
Won’t it be a wonderful moment when Chloe takes her seat in parliament next week?
Well done Chloe, and well done all of you who worked so hard on that campaign.
Now there are some people who will tell you that because of these results, the General Election is in the bag.
And all we have to do is sit back and enjoy the view.
A bit like Neil Kinnock in Sheffield in ‘92
Well take a tip from your Uncle Eric - that is just not the case.
Be under no illusion, the General Election is not in the bag.
We still have a mountain to climb.
To form the next Government, we need to gain 117 seats – something not achieved by the Conservative Party since 1931.
We need a swing greater than Margaret Thatcher’s in 1979.
Because of the way parliamentary boundaries are drawn Labour still has an inbuilt advantage over the Conservatives.
Now, there is a popular saying in politics that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them.
That is not enough for me,
And I know it’s not enough for you.
And it is not enough for David Cameron
We are not going to sit by and just watch the Labour Party implode
We want to earn each and every vote.
We don’t want to get people’s votes just because we are not the Labour Party
We want to earn people’s votes
Because we want a mandate for change.
We will make bold announcements.
By the end of this week, we will have clearly demonstrated to you, and to the rest of the country, that our Party, led by David Cameron has the answers to rebuild our broken economy, mend our broken society and put the trust back in politics.
We will also lay down a clear set of tests by which a Conservative Government will be judged.
A test firmly rooted in social justice.
Measured in those communities that have been abandoned by Labour.
Those run down estates,
Those children in sink schools,
The unemployed - particularly the long term unemployed.
Those communities forgotten and neglected by Labour
I know in my heart that David Cameron’s shadow cabinet team has got what it takes to tackle these challenges.
Just ask yourself, who would do a better job?
The decisive George Osborne or dithering Alistair Darling?
The determined Theresa May or Yvette Cooper?
The wise William Hague, or banana man David Milliband?
The experience of Ken Clarke,
His Lordship Peter Mandelson First Secretary of State for....well just About Everything
Actually, you know Gordon Brown is in serious trouble when he recalls Peter Mandelson to the Cabinet - and 12 months later
he is still there!
Of course, there were rumours last week that Peter might want to join a Conservative Government.
He has even started using my catchphrase – he’s now calling journalists “chums”.
Well at least that is what I think he had said, but my hearing is not what it was.
Now Gordon Brown likes to talk about dividing lines – about the differences between us and Labour.
We are not about dividing lines - we are about drawing people together - uniting people for the common good.
Sure, there are differences
Unlike Labour, we will achieve our aims through social responsibility not state control.
By giving power back to people and communities, not handing it over to unaccountable bureaucrats.
They want remote Ministerial control from Whitehall.
We want decentralisation, transparency and local people in charge.
And we want accountability.
So when Gordon Brown talks about fair votes, and changing the voting system
We say yes!
We will introduce fair votes and reduce the cost of politics in the process.
We will make all constituencies equal in voting size ending the system that devalues the votes of some at the expense of others. And in the process we will reduce the number of MPs initially by 10%
Furthermore, the first election under a Conservative Government will be fought on these new boundaries. We will deliver fair boundaries. Now that’s fair votes.
So friends, this is going to be a decisive week in British politics.
A week where we must prove that our whole party is ready for change.
A week where we show we will not de deflected.
We will not be distracted.
And we will show we are united in our determination to bring change to the country as a whole.
So I say to the Labour voter who feels let down by the once great party of the working man.
Who feels angry at the abolition of the10p tax hitting Britain’s poorest,
cuts in the NHS,
who is not prepared to send our soldiers off to war without the proper equipment -
I say join a truly progressive party who want to be judged by how we treat the poorest in society.
To the Liberal Democrat voter worried about ID cards, social justice and climate change.
I say vote for a party with Liberal Democracy firmly at its heart and that can deliver in Government
And to all those union members worried about spiralling debt, job losses and the neglect of thousands of young people consigned to a life without a job and without a sense of purpose.
I say to them vote for a party determined to get Britain working and to give our young people the life changing experience that only a job can bring.
I make this appeal above the heads of party leaders, union officials and newspaper editors.
Join us. Trust us with your vote. And help us change our country for the better.
Trust us, and we will not let you down.