“We meet in the shadow of a third consecutive election defeat.
Defeated by a government that has…
…complicated the tax system…
…dumbed down the education system…
…demoralised the health system.
…and bankrupted the pension system.
…made promises that no-one believes…
…passed powers to a European Union that nobody trusts…
…and set up Regional Assemblies that nobody wants – and nobody ever voted for.
And still we were defeated.
We were defeated by a government that won fewer votes than any in history.
But let’s not blame the electoral system. Let’s not take comfort in solid, but slow progress. Let’s have the courage to say: they’ve failed, but so have we.
And let’s resolve here, at this conference, when we put defeat behind us, failure behind us, to look ourselves in the eye and say: never, ever again.
Why we are Conservatives
I joined this party because I love my country. I love our character. I love our people, our history, our role in the world. This is the only party that understands and is proud of what we’ve been and who we are.
I joined this party because I believe in freedom. We are the only party believing that if you give people freedom and responsibility, they will grow stronger and society will grow stronger.
I joined this party because I believe in aspiration. This party, the Conservative Party, is the only party that wants everybody to be a somebody, a doer not a done-for.
That’s the spirit we have to recapture. I want people to feel good about being a Conservative again.
Aspiration is enabled by education.
How cruelly it is disabled by Labour today.
When one fifth of children leave primary school unable to write properly.
When one million school children play truant each year.
And when the very essence of aspiration – social mobility – is going backward in this country.
There are far fewer children from state schools going to our best universities. And it’s getting worse.
What have Labour done?
Created an exam system where sixteen per cent means a pass.
Where parents of children in failing schools have no redress and no way out.
And we’re now a country where “failure” is called “deferred success”.
The Government introduced the National Literacy strategy. It’s a good idea – in fact it was Gillian Shephard’s idea.
But why can’t children be taught to read with synthetic phonics, a method that works?
Treating every child as if they’re the same fails the child who’s struggling and the child who’s not.
So why can’t we have streaming and setting to help all children reach their potential?
We’ve got to win the great debate about education in this country.
To give choice to parents. Freedom to schools. And to fight for high standards.
We must cast away the progressive theories and the all must have prizes culture that’s done so much damage to so many children for so long.
And we must win the battle over education for another vital reason.
Parents with disabled children have to fight for everything.
Just imagine what it’s like when the special school that gives their child the love they need, the care they need, the therapy they need, and yes, the education they need…
…when that special school is threatened with closure.
I’ve seen it, and it breaks my heart.
Labour’s idea of compassion is to put every child in the same class in the same school - and call it equality and inclusion.
But I say that’s not compassion … it’s heartless, it’s gutless, and it’s got to stop.
That’s why a Conservative government will save special schools.
Everyone knows that education, like our other public services, desperately needs radical reform.
And who’s the man standing in the way? Gordon Brown, the great roadblock.
Everyone knows that our economy needs lower and simpler taxes.
Who’s standing in the way? The great tax riser and complicator, Gordon Brown.
Everyone knows that business need deregulation to compete with China and India.
Who’s standing in the way? The great regulator and controller, Gordon Brown.
How are we going to stop him?
Tony Blair can’t. God knows, he’s tried hard enough.
There’s only one group of people who can stop him – and that is we in this room.
There’s one thing Gordon Brown fears more than anything else…
…a Conservative Party that has the courage to change.
So let’s give him the fright of his life.
There are some people who say “all we’ve got to do is wait for the economy to hit the rocks, for Gordon Brown to be more left wing than Blair. All we need is one more heave.”
I think that’s a pathetic way for a great party to behave.
One more heave means one more defeat.
I don’t want to hang around and wait till something turns up – do you?
Some say “hit Labour harder, and the electorate will come to their senses.”
I say that’s rubbish. People know that Labour have failed. They want to know how we will succeed.
I don’t want to let them down – do you?
Some say that we should move to the right.
I say that will turn us into a fringe party, never able to challenge for government again.
I don’t want to let that happen to this party – do you?
We don’t just need new policies or presentation or organisation or even having a young, passionate, energetic leader…though come to think of it that might not be such a bad idea!
We’ve got to recognise that we’re in third place amongst under 35s.
That we’ve lost support amongst women.
That public servants no longer think we’re on their side.
That the people with aspirations who swept Margaret Thatcher to power have drifted away from our party.
We have to change and modernise our culture and attitudes and identity.
When I say change, I’m not talking about some slick re-branding exercise.
What I’m talking about is fundamental change, so that when we fight the next election street by street, house by house, flat by flat…
…we have a message that is relevant to people’s lives today, that shows we’re comfortable with modern Britain, and that we believe our best days lie ahead.
I want to be able to say to the mum who’s thinking “how will I pay for Christmas” and worrying how to get the kids to school…
…yes, we want to leave more money in your pocket, but we know the value of good public transport too.
So we’ll share – that’s right we’ll share - the fruits of economic growth between tax reduction and public services.
To the people living in our inner cities of all races and religions, grappling with the problems caused by family breakdown, poor housing, and low aspirations…
We know we have a shared responsibility; that we’re all in this together; that there is such a thing as society – it’s just not the same thing as the state.
So just as we said to business leaders in the 1980s, go to our inner cities, create jobs and wealth and opportunity in Enterprise Zones…
…so we should now say to the voluntary sector leaders whose solutions are working where the state is failing, we’ll set up Social Action Zones where we set you free to turn neighbourhoods around.
To the family trying to keep their heads above water to provide for their kids and to give them the time they need, we’ll say…
…yes, we believe in the family because the most important thing in the world is that children are brought up in a stable, loving home.
So we’ll help you with childcare. We’ll make sure the benefit system helps all families get together and stay together. And we’ll support marriage because it’s a great institution – so we’ll back it through the tax system.
To the new parent who worries about the air her kids will breathe, the state of the parks where they’ll play and the food that they put in their mouths, we’ll say…
…yes, the Conservative Party understands that the quality of life matters, as well as the quantity of money.
To the young student whose horizons are broader than these shores, broader than Europe, we’ll say…
…yes, the Conservative Party wants Britain to be a proud, self confident, outward looking country that engages ethically and enthusiastically with the wider world.
And when we talk about foreign affairs, we don’t just stand up for Gibraltar and Zimbabwe but for the people of Darfur and sub-Saharan Africa who are living on less than a dollar a day and getting poorer while we’re getting richer.
That’s what I mean by change.
We’ve got to change our culture so we look, feel, think and behave like a completely new organisation.
Young People – Politics
By changing our culture we can change politics too.
When I meet young people they tell me how sick they are of the whole political system.
The shouting, finger-pointing, backbiting and point-scoring in the House of Commons.
That’s all got to go.
I want young people to see politics not as a waste of time but as a way to change the world.
I want every young person in this country with ideas and talent and energy says yes!...
…I want to make a difference, I’ve got something to offer, I will get involved.
So let’s build together a new generation of Conservatives.
Let’s switch a new generation on to Conservative ideas.
Let’s dream a new generation of Conservative dreams.
There is a new generation of social entrepreneurs tackling this country’s most profound social problems.
There is a new generation of business men and women who are taking on the world, creating the wealth and opportunity for our future.
We can lead that new generation.
We can be that new generation.
Changing our Party to change our country. It will be an incredible journey.
I want you to come with me.
We’ll be tested. And challenged.
But we’ll never give up. We’ll never turn back.
So let the message go out from this conference…
…a Modern Compassionate Conservatism is right for our times, right for our party - and right for our country.
If we go for it…
If we seize it…
If we fight for it with every ounce of passion, vigour and energy from now until the next election…
…nothing and no one can stop us.”