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Highlights of David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party conference

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 4Here are the highlights of David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party conference - the first time a Conservative Prime Minister has addressed the conference since 1996.

He opened by thanking the leaders who saw the party through the years in opposition:

"William Hague got us back on our feet. Iain Duncan Smith helped us get back our heart. Michael Howard gave us back our confidence."

He also paid tribute to "the greatest peacetime Prime Minister of the twentieth century":

"Next week, Margaret Thatcher celebrates her 85 th birthday. She'll be doing it in Downing Street and I know everyone in this hall will want to wish her well."

He also thanked all the party members who worked for the party and helped return it to government, before defending his decision to seek a coalition rather than attempt to form a minority government:

"I know there are a few who say that we should have sat tight, waited for our opponents to fall out and brought in a minority government. But a minority government would have limped through Parliament, unable to do anything useful for our country. The voters left us with a hung parliament and they wanted us to respond responsibly, to do the right thing, not play political games. So I set out to form a strong, stable, coalition government. And I want to thank Nick Clegg for what he did."

He summarised what he and Clegg have in common:

"Not just lots of shared values, like wanting a country that is more free, more fair, more green, more decentralised. But a shared way of trying to do business. Reasonable debate, not tribal dividing lines. Give and take. Respect when you disagree. Trust. A sense that politics shouldn’t be so different from the rest of life, where rational people do somehow find a way of overcoming their disagreements. Nick Clegg is not just sitting in government trying to win a few concessions here and there. The Liberal Democrats are proper partners, getting stuck in, making big decisions, shaping what we do and taking responsibility. That’s why we can form a proper government and you can be proud of what we’ve done together.

 On the difference between the Tories and Lib Dems on AV, he reiterated what he told ConHome earlier in the week:

"I don’t want to change our voting system any more than you do. But let’s not waste time trying to wreck the bill – let’s just get out there and win the vote."

He went on to deliver a long list of Conservative policies already being delivered in government:

"200 new academies. 10,000 university places. 50,000 apprenticeships. Corporation tax – cut. The jobs tax – axed. Police targets – smashed. Immigration – capped. The third runway – stopped. Home Information Packs – dropped. Fat cat salaries – revealed. ID Cards – abolished. The NHS – protected. Our aid promise – kept. Quangos – closing down. Ministers’ pay – coming down. A bank levy – coming up. A cancer drugs fund – up and running. £6 billion of spending saved this year. An emergency budget to balance the books in five years. An EU referendum lock to protect our sovereign powers every year. For our pensioners – the earnings link restored. For our new entrepreneurs – employees’ tax reduced. And for our brave armed forces – the operational allowance doubled. Look what we’ve done in five months. Just imagine what we can do in five years."

On Afghanistan and defence, he reiterated the messages Liam Fox gave this morning:

"We are not in Afghanistan to build a perfect democracy. No dreamy ideas.  Just hard-headed national security – pure and simple. Almost every terrorist who took part in 9/11 was trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. If we left tomorrow those training camps could easily come back, because Afghans are not yet capable of securing their own country. But we will not stay a day longer than we need to. British combat forces will not remain in Afghanistan after 2015."

"Since becoming Prime Minister nothing has shocked me more than the complete mess of the Defence budget we inherited. So our Defence Review will match our commitments with the resources we’ve got. This will mean some big changes. But I promise you this: I will take no risks with Britain’s security. That’s why, when more and more countries have or want nuclear weapons, we will always keep our ultimate insurance policy, we will renew our nuclear deterrent based on the Trident missile system."

There was a scathing attack on Labour's legacy...

"They left us with massive debts, the highest deficit, overstretched armed forces, demoralised public services, endless ridiculous rules and regulations and quangos and bureaucracy and nonsense. They left us a legacy of spinning, smearing, briefing, back-biting, half-truths and cover-ups, patronising, old-fashioned, top-down, wasteful, centralising, inefficient, ineffective, unaccountable politics, 10p tax and 90 days detention, an election bottled and a referendum denied, gold sold at half price and council tax doubled, bad news buried and Mandelson resurrected, pension funds destroyed and foreign prisoners not deported, Gurkhas kept out and extremist preachers allowed in."

... but not everything is Labour's fault, he said:

"The state of our nation is not just determined by the government and those who run it. It is determined by millions of individual actions – by what each of us do and what we choose not to do. Yes, Labour failed to regulate the City properly. But they didn’t force those banks to take massive risks with other people’s money. Yes, Labour tried to boss people around and undermined responsibility. But they weren’t the ones smashing up our town centres on a Friday night or sitting on their sofas waiting for their benefits. Yes, Labour centralised too much and told people they could fix every problem. But it was the rest of us who swallowed it, hoping that if the government took care of things, perhaps we wouldn’t have to. Too many people thought ‘I’ve paid my taxes, the state will look after everything’. But citizenship isn’t a transaction – in which you put your taxes in and get your services out. It’s a relationship – you’re part of something bigger than you, and it matters what you think and feel and do. So to get out of the mess we’re in, changing the government is not enough. We need to change the way we think about ourselves, and our role in society."

Mr Cameron defined the spirit of the Big Society:

"It’s the spirit of activism, dynamism, people taking the initiative, working together to get things done... The countries that succeed will be those that find new ways of doing things, new ways of harnessing the common good, better alternatives to the old-fashioned state and we’re on the right side of that argument. Here at home, at this year’s election, the result may not have been clear-cut when it came to the political parties. But it was clear enough when it came to political ideas. The old way of doing things: the high-spending, all-controlling, heavy-handed state, those ideas were defeated. Statism lost...society won."

"The big society is not about creating cover for cuts. I was going on about it years before the cuts. It’s not government abdicating its role, it is government changing its role. It’s about government helping to build a nation of doers and go-getters, where people step forward not sit back, where people come together to make life better... We can build a country defined not by the selfishness of the Labour years but by the values of mutual responsibility that this party holds dear."

He emphasised the urgency of dealing with the deficit:

"We have acted decisively – to stop pouring so much of your hard-earned money down the drain. And it’s stopped us slipping into the nightmare they’ve seen in Greece, confidence falling, interest rates rising, jobs lost and in the end, not less but more drastic spending cuts than if you’d acted decisively in the first place. Our emergency budget showed the world that Britain is back on the path of fiscal responsibility. It took us out of the danger zone – and the man we have to thank for that is George Osborne. The world has backed us. Our credit rating – the mark of trust in our economy – has been preserved. The International Monetary Fund, the G20, yes even the EU. They support what we’re doing... I promise you that if we pull together to deal with these debts today, then just a few years down the line the rewards will be felt by everyone in our country."

He lambasted Labour - "the people who mortgaged Britain to the hilt in the first place" - for its economic record:

"You [Labour] want us to spend more money on ourselves, today, to keep racking up the bills, today and leave it to our children – the ones who had nothing to do with all this – to pay our debts tomorrow? That is selfish and irresponsible. I tell you what: these Labour politicians, who nearly bankrupted our country, who left a legacy of debts and cuts, who are still in denial about the disaster they created, they must not be allowed anywhere near our economy, ever, ever again."

The Prime Minister prepared the audience for the cuts to come:

"Reducing spending will be difficult. There are programmes that will be cut. There are jobs that will be lost. There are things government does today that it will have to stop doing. Many government departments will have their budgets cut by on average 25 per cent over four years. That’s a cut each year of around seven per cent. Of course, that’s big. But let’s remember, a lot of businesses have had to make the same or bigger savings in recent years. And when we’re done with these cuts, spending on public services will actually still be at the same level as it was in 2006. The spending cuts we do have to make, we’ll make in a way that is fair."

He then moved to the theme of fairness:

"Fairness includes protecting the service we most rely on – the health service. We said five years ago we were the party of the NHS and now in government, by protecting NHS spending from cuts, we are showing it. And as we work to balance the budget, fairness includes asking those on higher incomes to shoulder more of the burden than those on lower incomes. I’m not saying this is going to be easy, as we’ve seen with child benefit this week. But it’s fair that those with broader shoulders should bear a greater load. And I think it’s time for a new conversation about what fairness really means. Here’s what I think. Yes, fairness means giving money to help the poorest in society. People who are sick, who are vulnerable, the elderly – I want you to know we will always look after you. That’s the sign of a civilized society and it’s what I believe. But you can’t measure fairness just by how much money we spend on welfare, as though the poor are products with a price tag, the more we spend on them the more we value them. Fairness means supporting people out of poverty, not trapping them in dependency."

There was then a strong passage making the point that you cannot help people out of poverty just by throwing money at them:

"For too long, we have measured success in tackling poverty by the size of the cheque we give people. We say: let’s measure our success by the chance we give. Let’s support real routes out of poverty: a strong family; a good education; a job. So we’ll invest in the early years, help put troubled families back on track, use a pupil premium to make sure kids from the poorest homes go to the best schools not the worst, recognise marriage in the tax system and most of all, make sure that work really pays for every single person in our country."

Continuing on the fairness theme, he added:

"Fairness isn’t just about who gets help from the state. The other part of the equation is who gives that help, through their taxes. Taking more money from the man who goes out to work long hours each day so the family next door can go on living a life on benefits without working – is that fair? Fairness means giving people what they deserve – and what people deserve depends on how they behave. If you really cannot work, we’ll look after you. But if you can work, but refuse to work, we will not let you live off the hard work of others."

Next came the recipe for engendering growth:

"It will be the doers and grafters, the inventors and the entrepreneurs who get this economy going. Yes, it will be the wealth-creators - and no, those aren’t dirty words. When you think of a wealth-creator, don’t think of the tycoon in a glass tower. Think of the man who gets up and leaves the house before dawn to go out and clean windows. Think of the woman who sits up late into the night trying to make the figures add up to make sure she can pay her staff. I can’t tell you how much I admire people who leave the comfort of a regular wage to strike out on their own... We need to get behind our wealth creators. That’s what we’re doing. Dealing with the deficit so interest rates stay low. Slashing red tape. Cutting the small business profits rate, corporation tax and national insurance contributions for new businesses."

He added that he didn't believe in laissez-faire and and that "government has a role not just to fire up ambition, but to help give it flight" by creating university and apprenticeship places, a new generation of technical schools, a new Green Investment Bank and so on.

And there was a warning to the banks:

"There’s another way we’re getting behind business – by sorting out the banks.Taxpayers bailed you out, now it’s time for you to repay the favour and start lending to Britain’s small businesses again."

Mr Cameron paid a big tribute to Communities Secretary Eric Pickles for the work he is doing in his department to take power away from central government and give it to people:

"On May 11th a great shadow was cast over the empire of the quangocrats, the bureaucrats and the power-hoarders. He is the enemy of the bureaucratic state. Public chum number one. The big man on the side of the people. Eric Pickles. Eric has come in to government and hit the ground sprinting, leading the most radical shift in power this country has seen for decades. More freedom for local councils, to keep more of the money when they attract business to their area, to finance big new infrastructure projects and to run new services. More power for neighbourhoods,to keep local pubs open, stop post offices from closing, to run local parks, to plan the look, shape and feel of their area. New powers to you, to choose the hospital you get treated in, the school your child goes to. And because information is power, we’re bringing transparency to government."

The Prime Minister noted that "just pouring money into public services from on high, didn’t make the difference it promised to" under the last government:

"If anyone tells you that all we need to improve our hospitals and schools or keep our streets safe is more money, tell them, been there, done that and it didn’t work. So this is what radicalism means. No more top-down, bureaucrat-driven public services. We’re putting those services in your hands. The old targets and performance indicators that drove doctors, nurses and police officers mad – they’re gone. All that bureaucracy that meant nothing ever happened – we’re stripping it away. The big, giant state monopolies – we’re breaking them open to get new ideas in. Saying to the people who work in our public services - set up as a co-operative, be your own boss, do things your way. Saying to business, faith groups, charities, social enterprises – come in and provide a great service."

There was a dig at the former Education Secretary, Ed Balls:

"Ed Balls, the man who used to be in charge of education in our country, said one of the dangers of our schools policy was that it would create “winners”. Winners?  We can’t have that. The danger that your child might go to school and turn out to be a winner. Anti-aspiration. Anti-success. Anti-parents who just want the best for their children. What an unbelievable attitude from this Labour generation."

On Justice and Policing, he had this to say:

"Offenders who should go to prison will go to prison. Justice must be done. But we also have to recognise where the state is failing on crime. We spend £41,000 a year on each prisoner – and within a year of leaving half of them reoffend. There are 150,000 people in Britain today who get their heroin substitutes on the state, their addictions maintained by the taxpayer. We have police officers who spend more time on paperwork than they do on patrol. It’s here, that reform is needed most. So let’s get our best charities to help rehabilitate offenders, our best social enterprises to get people off drugs... I’ve seen what the police do for us – how they put themselves in the line of danger to keep us safe. So I want to give them more freedom.

He told police officers not to be afraid of elected police commissioners:

"On the way are new elected police commissioners that you can vote in – and kick out. Neighbourhood beat meetings where you hold the police to account. I say to every policeman and woman in the country – don’t be afraid of these changes. The more you’ve been controlled by the central state, the less people have respected you. I want to change that. More freedom for you to be out on the streets, policing the way you know best – and in a way local people support, that will mean more respect for the vital work that you do."

Mr Cameron talked about social action in terms of volunteering:

"There is such an appetite out there for people to play their part. Our job is to help them, encourage them, break down the barriers that stop them. So let’s scrap the health and safety rules that put people off. Let’s get community organisers to stimulate social action in our poorest areas. Let’s get going with National Citizen Service so more teenagers get some purpose in their lives. And today I can announce International Citizen Service, to give thousands of our young people, those who couldn’t otherwise afford it, the chance to see the world and serve others... When we say ‘we are all in this together’ that is not a cry for help, but a call to arms. Society is not a spectator sport."

He concluded the speech, whcih last just over an hour, by talking about his vision of "more powerful people":

"The knowledge in the heart of everyone – everyone – that they are not captive to the circumstances of their birth, they are not flotsam and jetsam in the great currents of wealth and power, they are not small people but big citizens. People that believe in themselves. A Britain that believes in itself. Not a promise of a perfect country."

"Yes, this is a new kind of government, but no, not just because it’s a coalition. It is a new kind of government because it is realistic about what it can achieve on its own, but ambitious about what we can all achieve together. A government that believes in people, that trusts people, that knows its ultimate role is not to take from people but to give, to give power, to give control, to give everyone the chance to make the most of their own life and make better the lives of others. Yes, we will play our part – but the part you play will mean even more. Your country needs you. It takes two."

"We’ll balance the budget, we’ll boost enterprise, but you start those businesses that lead us to growth... We’ll reform public services, we’ll devolve power, but you step forward to seize the opportunity. Don’t let the cynics say this is some unachievable, impossible dream that won’t work in the selfish 21st-century – tell them people are hungry for it. I know the British people and they are not passengers – they are drivers...  So come on: let’s pull together. Let’s come together. Let’s work, together, in the national interest."


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