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A conference star turn from Eric Pickles

A strong performance both in style and substance from the Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles at the Conservative conference in Birmingham this afternoon.

There was a personal account about his own political journey:

I wasn't always a Conservative.

I was born into a Labour family.

My great-grandfather was one of the founding members of the local Independent Labour Party.

As a 14 year old, my birthday present was a book by Leon Trotsky.

Aptly, 'the Revolution Betrayed'.

Not exactly Harry Potter.

Trotsky rightly warned of the oppressive bureaucracy of the Soviets.

But it was the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia that made me join the Conservative Party as a protest.

Gradually I became a Conservative.

A Tory that has a burning dislike of oppressive state bureaucracy.

A Tory that knows that prosperity and fairness is best delivered
through freedom.

Now, I came from a humble background.

And I am proud to be both a Member of Parliament and a member of David Cameron's Cabinet.

It was the Conservative Party that helped me get where I am today.

Among the welcome themes was a pledge to increase awaresness of the reinvigorated the Right to Buy. "I can pledge my department will be talking direct to tenants to inform them of their Right to Buy," he said.

On giving council housing allocation preference to the armed forces he said:

Some Labour councils are turning their back on our Armed Forces.


Because there could be some "equality issues" - well,

I don't mind discriminating in favour of our military heroes.

There was also confirmation that the funded council tax freeze for another year. There were strong messages on the Green Belt, travellers and "tough love" for troubled families.

He added:

And we've scrapped Labour's plans for an expensive and intrusive council tax revaluation, and Labour's plans for new taxes on your home improvements.

We want to make it easier for families to improve their home and build a new conservatory.

Labour want to tax it!

We have also cut business rates for small firms, doubling their rate relief.

Bit by bit, we are pulling back the burden of regulation imposed by Labour.

Clamping down on loony health and safety,

Stopping the gold-plating of Euro Directives and equality rules,

Opening up more government contracts to small and medium firms.

And we have scrapped Whitehall rules which forced up parking charges and made it impossible to park in town centres.

Now, councils need to do their bit to help.

And to encourage that, we are giving councils a financial stake in their high street.

From April, councils will keep more of the money they raise in business rates.

No longer will it all be snatched back by Whitehall.

So councils will have a direct interest and motivation to see their local economy grow and develop.

Mr Pickles also described his geographical journey from Yorkshire to Essex:

Now, I'm proud to have been born and bred in Yorkshire, but Essex is my home now.

I have been transformed from a Yorkshire TYKE to an Essex TOWIE.

My constituency is the location of the television programme The Only Way Is Essex.

It's fun TV and we all enjoy it.

But there is another Essex Value that runs deep in the DNA of our Party:

- if you work hard, you can go far.

It's a message well understood by Margaret Thatcher, John Major and by David Cameron.

And it's this:

It doesn't matter where you're from, it's where you're going that counts.

He concluded:

In my Ministerial office, I've placed reminders of what it means to be a Conservative.

A bust of Disraeli.

A poster of the great Winston.

A momento of the magnificent Margaret.

But over my left shoulder is a photograph that often catches the eye of visitors.

Ché Guevara.

The Cuban Revolutionary.

Smoking a very large Havana cigar.

It's there to remind me: that without constant vigilance - the cigar-chomping Commies will take over.

Well, that isn't going to happen on my watch.

After more than two years in government, I've learnt that cigar-chomping Commies come in many guises.

We may be in Coalition, but we are doing sound Conservative things, and we should be proud of what we're doing.

Proud of taking on the vested interests of oppressive bureaucracy,

Proud of cutting back waste to pay off Labour's overdraft,

Proud of rewarding those who work hard,

And proud to be at the front of a revolution.

A very Conservative revolution that will allow Britain to deliver.

Thank you.


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