Hello and welcome to Spring Forum
and Welsh Conference 2021.
After the success of Virtual Party Conference
I’m delighted to be opening our first ever
Virtual Spring Forum and Welsh Conference.
A huge thank you to David Comerford, Angus Lloyd-Skinner and Kate Jenkins.
And the whole team at CCHQ
for all their hard work to bring you a jam-packed couple of days.
And I cannot thank my fantastic Co-Chairman Ben Elliot enough for all of the support
he’s given to the Party this past year.
He’s a tremendous asset working tirelessly to improve our
Party and raise the money which funds our campaigns.
Last year we cancelled Spring Forum,
so I’m so glad we’ve all been able to come together,
even if we can’t meet in person.
While we’ve had to stay at home,
this virtual format has been a fantastic way
for us to carry on with Party life.
And I cannot thank you all enough
for the role that you have played in this.
This past year has been challenging
but you’ve adapted to life online.
You’ve seamlessly moved AGMs
and selections online
You’ve become so adept at virtual fundraisers
that our Party is no longer known for raffles,
but for its virtual quizzes!
And events, like this have allowed us to
keep our party together while we can’t be together.
Friends, I can today announce that
we have over 200,000 members.
From the North East to the South West.
From Wales to Northern Ireland.
We’ve seen our membership grow in every region of our country.
This is a fantastic achievement,
in what has been a really challenging year for the Party.
And I want to thank you all for the work you’ve done
to reach out and get more people involved.
You are the ones that shape our Party.
You pick our leaders including our fantastic Prime Minister.
You deliver the leaflets that get Conservatives elected.
You are the bedrock of our Party and I want
to thank you all for everything that you do.
In the 2019 General Election we saw the power
you and our supporters can bring
You shape our Party and I need your help
to recruit even more members.
By all working together
we can build a bigger, better and stronger team
to help us with elections this year and beyond.
The past year has been like no other.
It’s seen us lose loved ones, COVID has put our lives on hold.
But it’s down to the determination of our
Prime Minister the brainpower of our scientists
and the hard work of our NHS
and social care workers and so many more
that we are on the road to recovery.
With every jab we make, we are one step closer
to stopping this ghastly virus in its tracks.
The past year has been so tough for so many
But it’s also shown the best of our country.
And I want to take this moment to pay tribute to people from across the
Conservative Party family, our MPs, our Councillors,
our Members, our Supporters
who have given up their time to help others.
It’s these small acts of kindness
that have helped keep our country together,
and also to keep our community spirit thriving.
With the huge efforts you’ve all gone to to control the virus
and the successful rollout of the vaccine,
I have no doubt that the Conservative Party family
will soon be able to meet in person again.
Now while we may not be able to come together today,
we can certainly get out campaigning.
So I hope you’ve rested your legs over the last year
because we’ve got a bumper crop of elections coming up
on Thursday the 6th of May.
Mayorals, Police and Crime Commissioners,
Councils, Scotland, Wales,
and now by-elections in Hartlepool and Scotland.
Friends, I have to level with you.
These are going to be a really tough set of elections.
We’re 11 years into Government
Heading into the 11th year of power,
the Thatcher Government had lost 3,000 council seats.
After 10 years in Government,
The Labour Party had lost over 4,000 council seats.
Now I don’t want history to repeat itself,
and there’s everything to play for in May,
but we must be honest about the challenge we’re facing.
We’re defending almost 2,000 council seats –
the largest of any Party
And thanks to your hard work
we’re starting from an incredibly high base.
In 2017 we saw our best performance in a decade,
gaining over 550 seats.
And the unexpected wins of the Mayors
in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough,
the West of England
Tees Valley and the West Midlands.
Those elections were when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.
In his four years of opposition
Corbyn lost over 500 council seats,
making him the worst performing Leader of the Opposition
in local elections since Michael Foot.
And let’s not forget those pesky Lib Dems:
In the 2017 locals, they recorded their worst ever result
since the Party was launched in 1988.
Now there will be a post Corbyn bounce
and the Lib Dems are looking for a revival
to bring them back from obscurity.
So we have to get out there
and do all we can to stop them in their tracks.
Because you and I know that
Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens and Independents
are just not up to the job.
Friends, I want to spend a little bit of time
talking about the new Labour leader.
It’s nearly a year since Keir Starmer became Leader of the Labour Party
and we still don’t know what he stands for.
Time after time he’s called for things
the Government is already doing.
He’s done three launch speeches that had nothing in them
because he simply doesn’t know what he believes in.
In place of any ideas, he’s trying to hoodwink voters
by claiming to represent their values.
Keir Starmer may claim he stands up for you,
but we all know that’s just not the case.
He loyally served in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet,
and we all know the risk he posed to our great country.
As leader, Starmer ordered his Party to vote against measures
to toughen up sentences for violent criminals
which keep our streets safer.
When we announced funding to help improve towns
Starmer’s response was to criticise where the money was going.
He suggested that these places didn’t deserve it,
rather than backing our efforts to improve where people live.
Starmer is too keen to score political points
than support this Conservative Government’s
efforts to level up the country.
But it’s not just Keir Starmer in Westminster
who doesn’t want to improve where you live.
Labour councils are too obsessed with
debates over toppling statues and renaming streets
to focus on what matters to you;
And Labour run Croydon, Nottingham and Liverpool
had been brought to the brink of ruin
by poor mismanagement by Labour politicians.
And let’s not forget the Lib Dems.
They’ve been delivering leaflets despite being warned
that this was in breach of the guidelines to keep people safe.
It’s clear that there is nothing they won’t do
for their own political gain.
I also know our friends across the borders
have tough fights too.
In Scotland where the SNP are fighting… the SNP…
The great Douglas Ross is offering a chance
to stop a second independence referendum in its tracks.
In Wales where the Coronavirus has shone a light on Welsh
Labour’s decades of failings,
Andrew RT Davies is offering people a plan to rebuild.
So wherever you are, let’s get out there
and bang the drum for our fantastic
Conservative candidates up and down the country.
I know the campaign so far hasn’t been normal.
As Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party and an avid campaigner,
I never imagined I’d be asking people not to campaign.
But it was necessary to help beat
the Coronavirus and keep people safe.
We have just over a month to get out there
and campaign responsibly on the doorsteps
and make sure the only thing we lose is our lockdown pounds.
You have displayed a great deal of responsibility
during this pandemic and I have every confidence you’ll
continue to operate in a COVID-secure way
by using this guidance and following the principles of
Hands, Face, Space.
So let’s dust off our delivery bags
and hit the streets to spread the word
about Conservatives in charge of your local services.
I look forward to joining you out campaigning.
There’s light at the end of the tunnel,
full of possibility, hope and the promise of new beginnings.
Let’s make sure it is even brighter
and make the most of this short, sharp
and cheerful campaign to get even more Conservatives
elected as Mayors, Councillors and PCCs.