Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP – Conservative Party Conference 1998
Chairman, my Lords, ladies and gentlemen.
It is a particular privilege to address you for the first time as Deputy Leader.
I think I can say in all modesty that the role of deputy is one for which I am uniquely well-qualified having been married to Gail for 20 years!!
Have you enjoyed your week?
Wasn?t Ann Widdecombe fantastic on Tuesday, I don?t know what she?s on, but if they make it available on prescription, the NHS will be bankrupt by Christmas.
We were all relieved that Michael Howard was let out of Brixton gaol in time to give his speech – probably the only speech at this conference which was written behind bars rather than in bars.
It was a fantastic speech.
Clearly, Prison worked for him.
And then yesterday afternoon, wasn?t Hague stunning……..and didn?t her husband speak well too.
He laid into the Labour Party.
He laid out a vision for us.
Of course one person who wasn?t here was Tony Blair.
He spent the week in China.
He feels quite at home there.
It?s the one place they?re as tough on dissent as they are in the Labour Party.
Of course, he was too busy to actually meet any of their dissidents……… though he still found the time to give a job to one of ours.
William Hague has given me responsibility for the renewal of our policies.
My job is to produce the new policy programme which will win us the next election.
And I promise you this.
That?s what we?re going to do.
And today, I want to tell you how we are going to set about that task.
You know it?s ironic we need to renew our policies, not because they failed.
But because they succeeded.
In the 80s and 90s, we faced enormous challenges.
Let us never forget we?d inherited from Labour a country declining into a banana republic.
But our policies reversed that and gave our nation back its faith in itself.
We suffered from the worst industrial relations in Europe.
Now they are among the best.
Our economy was stagnating under nationalisation.
We injected enterprise and dynamism through private ownership.
Running at over 25 per cent, inflation had destroyed a quarter of people?s savings in a single year.
We brought it down to the lowest level for a generation.
We can be immensely proud of our Conservative Government?s record.
And we owe Margaret Thatcher and John Major a huge thank you for that achievement!
As a result of their achievements, we left Labour a Golden Economic Legacy.
Gordon Brown tries to denigrate it.
He should remember the comment of a previous chancellor who said of this Labour government, and I quote:
“rarely, if ever, has a government had such cause to be grateful to its predecessor when it comes to the economy”.
Those aren?t the words of Ken Clarke – they are a direct quote from Denis Healey.
We didn?t expect a thank you from Gordon Brown.
But it is sickening to see Labour frittering away our hard-earned legacy with their policies of tax and waste.
They said they would end Tory boom and bust.
Well, congratulations on ending the boom., anyway.
Growth is down under Gordon Brown.
It is a remarkable fact that next year with growth down and taxes up, every extra penny earned in growth by the hard working people of Britain will be taken in tax by the government.
Today, I?d like to set out the framework that will guide our policy renewal.
It will lead directly to an election winning programme……. which is seen by the British people to be:
– in tune with their hopes and concerns
– focused on the real challenges facing Britain
– free from rash commitments
– and firmly rooted in the Conservative centre ground.
First, our policy renewal will be based on Listening to Britain.
Second, the overall thrust of our policies will prove beyond doubt that the Conservative Party is generous and caring.
It is time we repudiated the absurd caricature of Conservatives as the selfish party.
The truth is that Conservatives, not least most of you here today, are more involved than many people in charitable, church and community work.
And the most fundamental Tory principle of all…….. is a belief in personal responsibility and obligation to others.
So let?s have no truck with Labour?s claim to have a monopoly of compassion.
Third, policies for a caring society don?t begin and end with public spending.
Despite what Labour say, the amount the state spends is no index of compassion.
So……… we will promote the voluntary sector, boost charities and strengthen families.
Fourth, our policies for the public sector must improve actual results, not simply increase inputs.
The key question is not how much extra you spend on health and education.
It?s: ?Are patients being treated more speedily, cured more successfully and cared for better; and can pupils read, write, and pass exams??
Labour?s already failing this test.
Their early pledges are running late.,
Last week John Prescott was strutting around like Mussolini trying to get the trains to run on time.
How about getting their pledges to run on time?
Labour?s policy of measuring success by how much it increases public spending ……..is a recipe for tax and waste.
It?s not how much government spends that matters, it is what it does for the people.
Fifth, welfare reform will be right at the core our strategy.
In a growing economy…….. lower tax can be combined with increased resources for priority public services.
But……..that can only work if we stop welfare spending from crowding out other programmes.
Sixth, whenever we reform, we will make sure that decisions are taken as close as possible to the people they affect.
Parents and patients must have more say; head teachers and family doctors must have more powers………. and we?ve got to have greater confidence in local government.
Churchill told us to ?trust the people?.
It was right then and it?s right now.
Seventh, we will not move off the Conservative centre ground……. just to differentiate our policies from Labour?s new rhetoric.
We will adopt policies because we believe in them…….not because Labour doesn?t believe in them.
Eighth, when we oppose measures which Labour introduce, we will not automatically make knee-jerk commitments to repeal (or for that matter retain) them.
Only nearer the election will we be able to decide which of their damaging measures need to be reversed…….. which need to be reformed and which are, unfortunately, ?eggs that cannot be unscrambled?.
Ninth, we must, nonetheless, start thinking now about how to restore balance to our constitution.
As William Hague said yesterday, Labour?s constitutional upheaval has so destabilised it……. that we will have to make some changes to restore its balance.
Last, but most important…….. a common theme of all our policies has to be extending freedom.
I?m talking about freedom from the Nanny State in Britain…….. and freedom from the Superstate in Europe.
Let?s free our country from bullying, pettifogging, bureaucratic, unnecessary, unwanted interference………wherever it comes from.
Those are the guiding principles for our policy renewal.
Now, let me tell you more about Listening to Britain.
We need to listen to people from all walks of life.
And that?s what we have been doing………and that?s what we will keep doing.
We will learn about people?s aspirations and the challenges our country will face.
Then we will lead……….by developing policies based on Conservative principles.
And let me make that absolutely clear.
Listening does not involve leaving our principles behind.
On the contrary.
As we Listen to Britain………we find our values are shared by the vast majority of British people.
And where our fellow Conservatives abroad have based their renewal on listening exercises, they haven?t abandoned their principles.
Far from it.
Listening led them to adopt forthright Conservative programmes.
And they have gone on to win outright Conservative victories!
In Canada, the Ontario Conservatives listened, published what they called their Commonsense Revolution and were catapulted from third place back into power.
In the US, the Republicans listened, published their ?Contract with America?…….. and won control of Congress for the first time in thirty years.
It worked for both of them.
And it will work for us.
Make no mistake.
Listening to Britain is an election winning strategy.
We will listen; we will win.
And when we have won, we will go on listening.
Next, let me explain why welfare reform has got to be central to our strategy.
Even with policies to improve the performance of our public services……. we will still need to devote increased resources to health and education to achieve the rising standards everybody in this country wants.
In a growing economy, tax revenues grow faster than incomes…….so we can still combine higher expenditure on critical services with lower tax rates.
But……..that?s only if we tackle the growth in social security……. which has been the main factor driving up public spending and taxes.
For fifty years……. social security spending has risen twice as fast as the economy.
It has taken an ever bigger share of national income.
Over five years I demonstrated that welfare reform is possible and popular.
My reforms at last began to tame the growth in spending.
For the first time we set it on a downward path.
Tony Blair claimed that, because he could stifle opposition from the left…….. Labour could do better still.
He said “New Labour is about cutting the welfare bill”.
Labour?s Welfare Reform horse fell at the first fence.
A hundred Labour MPs refused to support reforms of Lone Parent Benefits.
With Tony Blair, it was not backbone……..but backdown.
For all his bluster, our Prime Minister is spineless – …….. no backbone, all wishbone.
Since then…….. every Labour welfare reform has involved increasing spending – not cutting it.
Spending tax payers money is the easy bit.
Making savings is much tougher.
But when the going gets tough, Labour get spending.
Over five years I announced savings mounting to ?18 billion a year.
In a single year…….. Labour have announced plans which will add ?5 billion a year to welfare spending.
So much for New Labour cutting the welfare bill.
Tony Blair talks about the hard choices, but…….. he takes the soft options.
A year ago Frank Field was told to go away and think the unthinkable.
This year he was just told to go away.
Tony Blair decided to sink the unthinkable.
And the one man of integrity in this government resigned.
Now Alistair Darling has got the job.
But as far as Labour is concerned, there is never going to be a good time for serious welfare reform.
No wonder the new Social Security Secretary is known as “Not Now Darling”.
Although, Labour have backed down from welfare reform…… they are ploughing on with what they call constitutional reform.
In fact, they?ve embarked on the most reckless constitutional upheaval …….. since Oliver Cromwell.
Conservatives believe constitutional reform should be evolutionary not revolutionary.
We should build on what works, repair only what is broken……… and adapt to what is new.
Labour seem determined to destroy things that work well in practice
simply because they don?t conform to some theoretical dogma.
They remind me of the Treasury Mandarin………. who first opposed a scheme from a Minister on the grounds it wouldn?t work in practice.
But when the Minister pointed out it worked in practice elsewhere, the
Mandarin replied: “Maybe, Minister, but it doesn?t work in theory”!
The next step was to be PR, but even Tony Blair has got cold feet.
Mr Blair went to America recently to meet Bill Clinton, who knows all about the Third Way.
They discussed their mutual political philosophy.
He came back with a few ideas.
He?s denied it for months, but now he is willing to admit he ?s had an inappropriate relationship with Paddy Ashdown.
He knows it says in the Labour Manifesto that there is going to be a referendum on PR .
When asked what this means, he now says …….it all depends what the meaning of is is.
One thing Labour?s reforms have in common……… is that they all create a bigger political class which is less accountable to the people.
They want more layers of politicians, more power for the party bosses, more jobs for their cronies and more political decisions…….. made by unelected judges, lawyers and civil servants.
Labour want to give the political classes power over the people.
We want to give people power over their politicians.
Labour may tell us they?ve abandoned old-fashioned socialism.
But ……… their instinct is still to tell us what to do, to control our lives, and to regulate our businesses.
At home the Bossyboots Brigade tells us what we can eat and drink ……. when to put the children to bed.
And now they plan to send round secular vicars to tell us what to believe.
A new role for Derek Nimmo….. All gas and Gauleiters
We?ve got to counter this authoritarianism…… with policies that give individuals the freedom and information to make their own choices……their own decisions.
And even more worrying Labour sees the creation of a federal Superstate in Europe as their last chance……. to re-establish state control over the economy, over business and over people?s everyday lives.
That is an undesirable objective……. requiring an intolerable loss of national freedom.
Now that our Euro ballot is successfully complete, we can spell out a wider vision for Europe based on extending freedom
– where people are free to travel, live, work and study without unnecessary obstacles
– where businesses are free to trade and invest with minimum regulation
– and where nations are free to govern themselves with the minimum of interference.
It?s no secret to anybody in this hall…….that we?re up against a formidable PR machine.
But…….. sound bites are no match for sound policies…….our sound policies.
Labour spin each audience a different story.
But people are beginning to rumble that.
The pop world was told that Tony Blair was the epitome of cool.
But even the rock star, Noel Gallagher, now realises:
He?s not a ?Prime Minister with Attitude?
just a ?politician with platitudes?.
Labour spin a different story for Conservative voters.
And we must stamp on it hard.
Please deliver us from the notion that Tony Blair is really a good Tory in Social Democratic clothing.
He?s put up taxes 17 times in 17 months.
He?s let public spending rip;
He?s opened the floodgates for Euro regulation of British business;
He?s made union recognition compulsory;
He?s torn up our constitution;
He?s undermined the United Kingdom;
He wants to abolish our currency;
and he?s giving away our independence.
If that?s Conservatism…….. I?m a rock star.
It may not surprise you to know that Labour are trying to steal our songs as well as our language.
It?s Karoake Conservatism.
A New Labour version of Land of Hope and Glory has been leaked to me.
It?s called Land of Pseudo Tories.
And it goes like this:
Land of chattering classes
No more pageantry
Darlings, raise your glasses
To brave modernity.
Who needs Nelson or Churchill?
The past is so passe
Britain?s now about Britpop and the River cafe?
God, this place is so frumpy,
Let?s be more like LA.
And, not to be outdone, Gordon Brown has tried to trump his neighbour with a new version of Rule Britannia.
Cool Britannia, where saving costs you more,
Unless like Geoffrey Robinson, your Trust?s offshore
Of course Blair is an improvement on Kinnock and Foot.
But is he any better than Callaghan, Wilson or Gaitskell?
The only real difference is that Blair deliberately confuses us……..he?s like a driver who signals right whenever he turns left.
Of course his driving force is not ideological.
I?ll tell you what he wants, what he really really wants……..it?s is not the third way.
It?s a second term.
So all he cares about is tomorrow?s newspaper headlines.
His Third Way between Socialism and Capitalism turns out to be … journalism.
And the best way to win a good headline……… is just to announce some new scheme to spend more taxpayers? money, interfere with business or tell us what to do.
So, the Third Way is a recipe for tax, waste and the nanny state.
Our Way, William?s Way. the British Way is a recipe for smaller government bigger citizens and greater freedom.
I believe the approach I have set out…….. will mean we can offer our country policies which will create a more responsible, generous and prosperous society:
– by giving people more control over their own lives
– by bringing decisions closer to those affected by them
– by promoting voluntary action and stronger families
– and by enhancing the quality of the public services on which we all rely.
I am totally convinced this is an election-winning vision.
Victory at the next general election will not be easy.
But…… I am convinced that we can win.
And I?ll tell you why.
The last two times Labour won a landslide, it did not guarantee them a second term.
After 1945, RAB Butler?s policy renewal helped us topple a Labour majority of 150.
And the 1966 Labour majority of a 100 disappeared four years later.
Labour?s support may be a mile wide, but it is only an inch deep.
We need not be daunted by Labour?s majority.
Nor intimidated by their arrogance.
Arrogance comes before a fall.
The path back has always been through winning control in local government.
It still is.
And we are already doing better in local elections than a lot of people realise.
Did you know that over all the by-elections this year, we have won the largest share of the vote.
And in those wards we?ve almost doubled the number of Conservative councillors.
Next year is a year of elections.
They pose a huge challenge to us.
And a tremendous opportunity.
12,000 seats in district and metropolitan councils
The first devolved elections in Scotland and Wales.
The first Euro elections under PR.
A loathsome system, but what an opportunity for us
If we can advance on those three fronts – what a tremendous boost that will be.
As the New Labour experiment collapses under the weight of broken promises, bankrupt businesses and the sheer absurdity of its own propaganda – as it surely will – the high ground of British politics will fall vacant once more.
Mark my words…..it will not be long before Britain seeks a party
– which will put principle before propaganda…….substance before spin.
– which will defend a 1000 years of British independence from European political union.
– which will renew the very fabric of our society and put the family at its core.
– which will free the people of Britain from the people?s Britain
– which will free their talents and ambitions to build the future they deserve.
The Conservatives are rising to the challenge…..and we?re coming back
The Conservatives are Listening to Britain……….and we?re coming back
The Conservatives are renewing our policies…….and we?re coming back
The Conservatives are coming back