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David Cameron: Taking on vested interests

Since the beginning of the year, we have been setting out the choice at this election. Five more years of Gordon Brown.

Or change with the Conservatives. New energy, to get Britain moving. But change doesn't just happen. Change isn't easy.

It's hard because there will always be people who want to preserve the status quo even when it isn't working in everyone's interests.

To maintain their privileges.

To maintain their position.

To make sure that the way things work suit them, rather than everyone else.

They're called vested interests, they are the enemies of change and often they will use any means to block progress.

So any politician who thinks they can just sweep in and implement their plans is sorely mistaken.

You can't bring about political change unless you confront those who want to protect the status quo come what may.

Political leadership means standing up for the people - and standing up to those who act against their interests.

What does that mean?

Put simply, you can't change Britain unless you take on vested interests.

<h2>VESTED INTERESTS</h2>

That idea lies behind the progress of our country.

It was only when people stood up to a despotic King that our rights first came enshrined in Magna Carta.

And it was only when Parliament stood up to planters, merchants and ship owners that the slave trade was abolished.

And it's an idea that is written in the history of our party too.

Peel, took on landowners, repealed the corn laws and brought cheap food to everyone.

Disraeli, took on some of the richest in the land, introduced factory reforms and protected people from exploitation.

And Margaret Thatcher's government was defined by taking the side of the people against the powerful, the vested interest...

...those whose survival depended on keeping things as they were.

Take her union reforms.

She recognised that as long there was a closed shop and no proper ballots, power would lie with the big union barons.

They would continue to hold governments to ransom, to drag this country down, and to bully their members.

So she took them on.

She broke the stranglehold of the union barons and gave every worker an equal right and equal say.

Vested interests broken - people empowered.

The same is true for council house sales.

Before her reforms, the system predominantly favoured one set of people...

...local authority bureaucrats who controlled huge budgets and wielded huge power because they decided who could live where.

So Margaret Thatcher took them on.

She gave people the right to buy their own homes, invest in their future and take control of their lives.

Vested interests broken - people empowered.

And then there's the denationalisation of industry.

We saw that the growth of state power and state patronage, of state employment and state subsidies, gave massive power to a few people at the centre.

The big bosses, the union leaders, the politicians and civil servants who were in control of multi-million pound industries.

So Margaret Thatcher took them on.

She stripped companies like British Telecom of their monopolies...

...broke up failing monoliths like British Leyland...

...gave people choice, the opportunity to buy shares and created a truly popular capitalism based on enterprise and aspiration.

Vested interests broken - people empowered.

One vested interest after another was taken on and defeated.

Unions were given back to their members.

People were given greater power and control over their lives.

Business was set free to grow and create wealth.

Real change happened.

<h2>LABOUR WEAKNESS</h2>

Compare that to Gordon Brown.

Everyone knows that our public services are too bureaucratic, too badly managed, in urgent need of reform.

But did the Prime Minister allow that reform to happen?

No - because he's too terrified of upsetting the union barons, losing their votes and their money.

So, for instance, Foundation Hospitals were neutered and Academy School freedoms weakened all at the behest of the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown.

The vested interests triumphed and the people lost out.

Powerful lobby groups proposed a third runway at Heathrow that would cause great damage to our environment, but did the Government take them on?

No - they gave the runway the green light.

Again, the vested interests triumph and the people lose out.

Look at the government's failure to ensure either fairness or effective regulation when it comes to powerful interest groups in the City of London.

For years, non-domiciles did not pay their fair share of tax while enjoying the benefits of living in this country, but did the Government do anything meaningful about it?

No - not until the Conservatives first proposed a non-dom levy in 2007.

Taxpayers funded the biggest bank bailout in our history.

And what did the Prime Minister do?

Did he stand up for the taxpayers who had put up £850 billion of their hard-earned money to save the banks?

No.

He refused to even contemplate separating retail banking from the most risky financial activities like proprietary trading.

He refused to bring in stronger regulation by the bank of England

Once again, under Gordon Brown the vested interests triumph and the people lose out.

And now we see it again with the British Airways strike.

This threatens the future of one of Britain's greatest companies along with thousands of jobs.
But will the Prime Minister come out in support of those people who would cross the picket line?

No - because the Unite union is bankrolling the Labour party.

So the vested interests triumph and the people - including those cabin crew staff who don't want to go on strike - suffer.

From the BA strike to public sector reform and his approach to the City of London, Gordon Brown has consistently given in to special interest groups and shown that he is unable to deliver the change that the country needs.

<h2>CONSERVATIVE CHANGE</h2>

That change can only be led by a Conservative government.

Since becoming leader of the Conservative Party, I have rolled up my sleeves and argued for what is right, not what is convenient.

Sometimes that means taking on vested interests.

Some people said don't do it, don't rock the boat, don't pick fights.

I knew our country needed a Parliament it could trust...

...that unless MPs were willing to show they understood the anger of the British people and change their behaviour then our democracy would emerge from the expenses scandal permanently damaged.

So I said to my MPs - before any inquiry did - we must apologise, pay back money, restrict claims and be transparent.

Scrapping Parliamentary subsidies.

Cutting the number of MPs.

Cutting the number of ministerial cars.

Cutting and freezing ministerial pay.

Full transparency over expenses.

Closing the final salary pension scheme.

It wasn't easy, but it was necessary - because this way Parliament can start to look the British public in the eye and say 'we're here to serve you, not ourselves'.

I knew our country needed restraint across government, because frankly we couldn't afford, and people wouldn't put up with, fat cats and bureaucrats spending and wasting more and more money with little to show for it.

So I said to the quango chiefs, the town halls, the government departments...

...all the officials that for too long have jealously guarded their budgets...

...that a Conservative government would bring transparency to everything they do.

Publishing every item of central government spending over £25,000 and every item of local council spending over £500.

Publishing every public sector salary over £150,000 and every town hall salary over £60,000.

Cutting the number of quangos.

It wasn't easy, but it was necessary - because if we open up the whole process of government we'll make it accountable to the people it serves.

I knew our country needed someone to demand some restraint from the market and stand up to big business...

...pointing out that companies have a real effect on people's quality of life, a real effect on our culture, so it's time to take some responsibility.

So yes, I have had battles with entrenched interests, including those in the corporate sector.

Opposing the third runway at Heathrow.

A right for every parent to request flexible working.

Changing advertising rules to stop the premature sexualisation of children.

Taxing banks to fund free financial advice

It wasn't easy, but it was necessary - and today I think big business knows it will be criticised when it ducks out of its social responsibilities if we're elected to government.

And I knew our country needed a modern Conservative Party to apply Conservative methods like encouraging responsibility and strengthening families to the great social problems that after a decade the centre-left have failed to get to grips with.

So I took it on a journey of change.

More women candidates.

More black and minority ethnic candidates.

Social action in our constituencies.

In touch with the modern world and modern issues.

It wasn't easy, but it was necessary - and now the public has a real choice: a modern, progressive Conservative choice at the next election.

So I believe this all points to one thing: that today, it's the Conservative Party that has the leadership, the energy, the strength of character to stand up to vested interests and make change happen.

<h2>FUTURE CHALLENGES</h2>

And we're going to need all that strength in the years to come.

I have no doubt that some of the changes we want to make will mean facing down some really powerful vested interests.

Not all of the policing establishment like our plans to make them more accountable to local people...

...but they need to understand that accountability is the best guarantee for getting the zero-tolerance, beat-based policing that will really cut anti-social behaviour.

Some union barons may use strikes to block progress on cutting the deficit...

...but they have to realise that unless we pull together and deal with our debts then the economy will not recover, more jobs will be lost and things will get worse.

And just take our school reforms.

We say - and we mean - that we will open up the market and allow churches, charities, parents and yes private schools into the state sector to set up new, small, popular and successful state schools.

We say - and we mean - that we want to restore rigour and discipline in the classroom, end dumbing down and the "all must have prizes" mentality throughout the education system.

I know that these things may mean a fight.

A fight with some teaching unions who want things to stay as they are and who oppose the flexibility we want to give to schools.

A fight with the educational establishment who built and backed the consensus on teaching methods that in my view have demonstrably failed.

And, yes, a fight against some local authorities who can find parent power, choice and diversity an uncomfortable blast of fresh air though the system.

People need to know that we both recognise the difficulties in driving change through and are prepared to take the difficult decisions in bringing it about.

And with the Budget this week, this is no time to shy away from confronting some of the biggest vested interests in our country - the banks.

We had the biggest bank bail-out in the world.

We can't just carry on as if nothing happened.

In America, President Obama has said he will get taxpayers back every cent they put in.

Why should it be any different here?

So I can announce today that a Conservative government will introduce a new bank levy to pay back tax payers for the support they gave and to protect them in the future.

No, it won't be popular in every part of the City.

But I believe it's fair and it's necessary.

<h2>CONCLUSION</h2>

This election is about choices.

Yes, choices between different visions and values; plans and policies; aims and ideas.

But there's also a big choice between two different styles of governing.

We've seen Labour's style.

It's feeble, it's weak, it panders to vested interests.

That's why they have wasted so many of their years in power and delivered so little real change.

The style we offer is different - strong, resolute, taking on those who block progress so we see change through.

From weakness to strength.

From elite power to people power.

From vested interests to the national interest.

That's the change we offer.

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