Leader's speech, Blackpool 2003
Iain Duncan Smith (Conservative)
Commentary:This speech was Duncan Smith’s last as Conservative Party leader. Here, he expressed his support for the Iraq war, but condemned the government’s treatment of the scientist and former UN weapons inspector, Dr David Kelly. Dr Kelly had been identified as the source of claims reported on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the government had knowingly exaggerated the intelligence on Iraqi WMD in the run-up to the invasion, and he committed suicide shortly after giving evidence to the Parliamentary committee that was investigating this scandal. Duncan Smith also attacked New Labour’s record in government and pledged to improve public services, cut taxes, give people more choice in health and education, increase the number of police officers on the streets, allow fewer asylum seekers to enter Britain, and offer the public a referendum on the European Constitution.
Two years ago, I stood for the leadership of this Party. We’d just lost a second general election. We’d seen a good man resign and we’d gone through a lengthy leadership contest. Labour were 20 points ahead in the polls. Let’s face it: we were being written off. I knew that unless we could define what we stood for, unless we could find policies that would benefit everyone in our country, no one would even listen to us. Well, today, I have delivered. I stand before you with the most radical policy agenda of any party aspiring to Government since 1979.
They said we couldn’t win the elections in May. And we did. We are the largest and fastest growing party of local government. We’ve the largest and fastest growing political youth organisation in the country. My mission is to take the Conservative Party back to government. I won’t allow anything or anyone to get in my way. We must destroy this double-dealing, deceitful, incompetent, shallow, inefficient, ineffective, corrupt, mendacious, fraudulent, shameful, lying government once and for all.
I say to everyone here today: You either want my mission. Or you want Tony Blair. There is no third way. To those who doubt and to those who deliberate, I say this: Don’t work for Tony Blair. Get on board. Or get out of our way. For we have got work to do. And to the Prime Minister I say this: The quiet man is here to stay and he’s turning up the volume. Government - never there when you need it, always there when you don’t.
The Conservative Party has always stood for hard-working, law-abiding people. And we stand for them again today. On their side against the most dishonest and incompetent government of modern times. A government that’s never there when people need it, but always there when they don’t. Think about everyday life. You struggle to get to work because the traffic’s jammed. Where did all that extra petrol tax go? More and more of your day is spent dealing with government’s petty regulations. They waste your time, they wear you down. You work longer, too - to make up for the extra tax you’re now paying. You get home late - to find your daughter’s been bullied at school. You know it’s not the teachers’ fault. The Government won’t let them exclude the bullies. They’re the same gang that stole your son’s mobile last week. The police don’t have enough officers to catch the culprits. So they offer a crime number instead, as if that’s good enough. And then Gran’s on the phone. Her operation’s been cancelled again. It seems the doctor says he must give priority to other patients to meet Tony Blair’s targets. Gran doesn’t count.
Government - always there when you don’t need it. With its extra taxes and bureaucracy. Never there when you do. Never there in the fight against crime. Never there to give you and your family the schools and hospitals that you have paid for.
Blair must go. You don’t expect the earth, just a fair deal. But in Labour’s Britain, Government is on people’s backs, but never on their side. Tony Blair’s in your face when you don’t need hassle.
Out of the country when you need help. Labour isn’t working... again. People have seen through Labour, and they’ve seen through Tony Blair, too. He said he had no plans to increase taxes then increased them sixty times. He promised to be fair but plundered the lifetime savings of people preparing for retirement. He pledged to be tough on crime - but gun crime has doubled. Do you remember he said he’d be whiter than white? Or do you most remember Eccelestone? Geoffrey Robinson? Mandelson’s home loan? Mittalgate? The Hinduja affair? Mandelson - again! Scandal after scandal. Scandals that revealed this government’s dark side.
But these were just a curtain-raiser for this Prime Minister’s blackest act. This government used Dr. David Kelly as a pawn in its battle with the BBC. His death was first and foremost a tragedy for those who loved him, but it shamed our country. It shamed our whole political system. Immediately after Dr. Kelly’s death, Tony Blair said he’d had nothing to do with his public naming. That was a lie.
Tony Blair chaired the meetings that made the fatal decisions. He is responsible. He should do the decent thing and he should resign.
But, of course, he won’t. He won’t do the decent thing. He never does. He won’t even tell you the truth. Six years after Tony Blair entered Downing Street - people no longer believe a word he says anymore.
And his promises of ‘jam tomorrow’ are least believed of all. The day when we drive Mr. Blair out of office cannot come soon enough, and that day is fast approaching. When you next feel a hand on your shoulder, Mr. Blair, it won’t be that hand of history... It will be grip of the British people dragging you from office.
Tough on tax, tough on the causes of tax
Being a taxpayer has become the hardest job in Britain. At the heart of the Conservative Party’s fair deal will be a fair deal for taxpayers.
Across the world, our competitors are cutting taxes because tax cuts create jobs, wealth and growth. But in Britain the tax burden is rising. And it’s rising fast. Mr. Blair promised the British people that he had ‘no plans to increase taxes at all.’ No plans? Tax on mortgages. Tax on pensions. Tax on house buying. Tax on petrol. Tax on marriage. Tax on self-employment. Tax on cars. Tax on health insurance. A 70% increase in council tax. An £8bn National Insurance hike, a tax on jobs.
Mr. Blair has taken money from people struggling to make ends meet and poured it into schemes that will never work. Labour’s waste of taxpayers’ money is a crime. A crime that hurts pensioners and low paid workers most of all. For some families, Labour’s tax rises mean no holiday this year. The children’s clothes must last even longer. Millions have to work extra hours to make ends meet.
Labour has raised taxes but not improved Britain’s public services. The Conservative mission is to reform public services and to be a lower tax government than Labour. We’ll he tough on tax and tough on the causes of tax!
The greatest cause of increasing tax is increasing waste. 70% of taxpayers think Labour wastes their money. And they’re 100% right. This Labour Government will never give taxpayers value for money. But Conservatives will.
In local government, Conservatives already deliver better services for less tax. As Michael Howard said yesterday in his excellent speech, Conservatives believe in low taxes. We will always be a lower tax government than Labour. And yes... We plan to cut taxes.
We are fortunate to have Michael leading our Treasury team. Michael, I understand that relations are not so rosy in the red corner. I’ve heard that the only colour Carole Caplin won’t allow in Number Ten is brown.
Gordon Brown is the biggest tax raiser in British history. But Charlie Kennedy wants to raise them even further, except on wines and spirits, of course. The Lib Dems want a local income tax, a regional income tax, and a new 50% tax band. They pretend to be reasonable but they’re not. They don’t want to give convicted paedophiles, rapists and murderers tougher sentences, they want to give them the right to vote. It’s madness - utter madness.
In fact, I’ve just heard that the Lib Dems are being investigated by trading standards. On all ballot papers they’ll have to have an asterisk after their party name: Warning: contains nuts.
We all in this hall know that the Liberal Democrats are no joke. Their campaign book instructed them to ‘be wicked, stir endlessly, act shamelessly.’ And that’s exactly what they do. They promise things they know they’ll never have to deliver. They are not a fit party for government and we are going after them.
Fair deal policies
Conservatives are the only real alternative to Labour. Only we will properly reform public services. Only we will give choice to parents and patients. Let me be clear what I mean by choice. Choice in public services means peace of mind. It means you won’t be stuck with second rate services.
It means there’ll be an alternative school or hospital if you need it. Under Labour, only the wealthy can buy choice. Conservatives will give every parent and every patient that choice. No child left behind in a failing school - because our Better Schools Passport will give every parent the power to get their child into the right school. The Patient’s Passport will give every patient the right to the treatment they need anywhere in the NHS, and if they have to go outside the NHS, we’ll help them.
Students won’t leave university saddled with a £30,000 debt. We’ll scrap Labour’s tuition fees and we’ll stop top-up fees, too. Violent crime and disorder have rocketed under this Government. And the asylum system is a disaster spiralling out of control. While Tony Blair travels the world, the world is travelling here. As Oliver Letwin has pledged, under the Conservatives there’ll be 80,000 fewer asylum seekers - and 40,000 more police officers. That’s twelve more police forces the size of the Lancashire Constabulary.
Labour wants to end the right to buy. John ‘three homes’ Prescott wants to take the right-to-buy away from other people. Well we’re not afraid to fight you on that one, John. And I tell you this - this time the punch is coming from the right! Conservatives will always support the right of people to own their homes. And we’ll extend the right-to-buy to one million housing association tenants. And we’ll use the proceeds to end the outrage of children having to grow up in temporary accommodation. The right to buy is back.
All of Labour’s policies take power away from people. Labour always say, ‘trust us.’ Conservatives will be different. We’ll trust you. With these and other policies, I am ready to fight this Labour Government. Policies that will make lives better. Policies that are Conservative through and through. Policies that will win votes.
A fair deal for pensioners
Our Party is sometimes accused of being an old Party. I think, by the way, it’s meant as an insult! Well, when I became an MP, my father told me: always respect pensioners. And remember, these are the people who put us here. Who gave us the freedom to be who we are. They deserve decency and respect. They’re not getting it. Gordon Brown has forced an extra million pensioners onto the means test. Two out of every three pensioners are now on social security. For many people the means test has made it unprofitable to save for retirement. More means testing, more tax, less savings. What a mess.
So we will raise the basic state pension, in line with earnings, to ensure that future generations of pensioners never have to go begging for social security. The abolition of the means test is supported by the savings industry. It’s supported by millions of pensioners. And it’s supported by me. Most important of all, it’s the right thing to do.
Love of this country flows from one generation to the next, but Labour wants Britain to be something that it’s not. They are embarrassed by our island character. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Blair would risk Britain’s prosperity by scrapping the pound. Every European government that has given its people a referendum on the Euro has seen them reject it. That’s why Tony Blair doesn’t have the guts to hold a referendum, he knows what we all know he would lose. So we may have frightened him off holding a referendum on the Euro for now. But we are now faced with an even graver danger. A threat to our very nationhood. The Euro would take away our power to decide our economic policy. But the European constitution would take away our power to decide who governs Britain.
Think about it. Our country: no longer able to control immigration. No longer able to choose its allies. No longer able to use British soldiers to defend our interests abroad. Unelected Commissioners would have the final say in almost every government department - affecting every aspect of our daily lives. Yesterday the Conservative Party launched a nationwide campaign. In every constituency in Britain, Conservative associations will be collecting signatures for a petition to Parliament. That petition will demand that the British people have the final say on the constitution in a referendum. Mr. Blair, the powers you hold are not yours forever. You hold them in trust. In trust from the British people. Powers not yours to give away.
If the Government does not give the British people a say on the new constitution, that will not be the last word on the matter. Make no mistake - I will fight with all my strength to defend the British people’s right to govern themselves. And I put the government on notice. Michael Ancram and I will lead the campaign across the nation to fight for a referendum. We will fight at next year’s vital European elections. We will fight in Parliament. We will fight at the general election. And I promise you: I will fight, fight and fight again to save the country that I love.
Europe and the world
Conservatives want to build a New Europe. Not a single state with its own currency and constitution, but a Europe of sovereign, enterprising nations. A New Europe, focused on today’s problems, not the problems faced and overcome by Europe’s founders. Fighting debt, disease and terrorism, environmental destruction and poverty. In the post September 11th world, global poverty is a challenge to our security. The poor countries of today may become the rogue nations of tomorrow.
Everyone on earth has the God given right to live in a free country - protected by the rule of law. That’s one of the reasons why I supported the war in Iraq. I know some say the war was wrong. And I respect their opinion. But I believe the world is better off today because Saddam Hussein is no longer running Iraq. I’m not going to twist or turn with the prevailing wind. I won’t play games with the defence of Britain. We’ll leave that for the Liberal Democrats. Conservatives will never undermine our armed forces. We’ll always back them.
For Mr. Blair, politics is everywhere and everything. So, during the next election don’t he surprised when Labour play dirty. A Prime Minister that lies about his own record won’t hesitate to lie about us. A government machine willing to smear the Paddington train crash survivors and Dr. Kelly won’t think twice about smearing me. A political party prepared to use the tragedy of September 11th to bury bad news will do everything it can to hide the scale of its own failure.
Did you see Tony Blair’s performance in Bournemouth last week? Did you? Did you hear that speech?
You know, I sometimes wonder if that guy lives in the same world as the rest of us. You see, in BlairWorld, things can only get better. In BlairWorld, crime is down. In BlairWorld, taxes are low. In BlairWorld, the trains run on time. Last week he ended his speech with an air of omnipotence. ‘Let it be done,’ he commanded. You see, in BlairWorld, Tony thinks he’s god. But people don’t live in BlairWorld. They live in the real world. Bedevilled by the daily hurt and failures of your government, Mr. Blair.
Last week in BlairWorld, Tony boasted about winning against crime. On the same day, in the real world, a brave woman in Nottingham was shot dead defending her daughter from robbers. Last week in BlairWorld, Tony claimed that the economy was strong. On the same day, in the real world, 550 workers at Britain’s oldest commercial shipbuilders were made redundant. Last week in BlairWorld, Tony talked tough on asylum. On the same day, in the real world, bogus asylum seekers escaped from one of his pathetic detention centres when they should have been deported months ago. Tony Blair’s alright for the telly but he’s all wrong for the country. In the real world he’s failing Britain. And everybody knows it. Gordon Brown knows it. He’s even started to smile.
The IDS card
I know what I believe, I know what I value. This card sets out my beliefs. I believe in hard work. In rewarding people who play by the rules. In small government. I believe in punishing criminals. In trusting nurses, teachers, police officers. I believe in a low tax economy. I believe we all have a special duty of care for the most vulnerable people in our country - children, pensioners and the poor. And, most of all, I believe in the sovereign right of the British people to govern themselves. This card sets out my priorities for government. The priorities of the great team I’m proud to lead.
Theresa, our Chairman, and the front bench teams in the Commons and the Lords. Thank you all. In our first term in Government, our policies will deliver a fair deal for everyone - no one held back and no one left behind. Fundamental to my Conservatism is this double commitment: a belief in aspiration and a belief in security for all.
Conservatives will always back the high achievers, the entrepreneurs. Life’s gold medallists. From their endeavour, all of society can progress. Conservatives want individuals and families to fulfil their potential and we trust them to build a society that respects everyone.
I’m appalled at the waste of talent - the depth of untapped potential - within today’s Britain. Talent and potential that the challenges of our time desperately need. But which are suffocated by a government that steals the oxygen from other living institutions.
Only when government steps back will people and communities be free to build something better. You see, I’m proud to be a Conservative. Proud of our achievements. Proud of our ambitions. Proud of the Conservative way. Because it works for all the British people.
Let me tell you why I’m in politics. It’s certainly not for the newspapers headlines we get. It’s for the people in the film we just saw and the millions just like them. Jim Doherty is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. He runs a family support group in Glasgow’s Gallowgate. He told me: ‘We have already lost so many of our children to drugs. The battle were fighting now is to save our grandchildren.’ Jim looked me in the eye, and said: ‘Don’t promise the earth. Just give me something to hold on to. Just give me hope. We’ll do the rest.’ Jim, David, Janis, Frank, and Ita, you have my word. I won’t let you down.
Conservatives must win the next Election. Not for ourselves, but for the hardworking, law-abiding people of Britain. Government’s on their backs when they don’t need help, never on their side when they do. Over the last few days, many of you have said to me: ‘I bet your job’s tough.’ No. Well, actually, yes, it is tough. But it’s not as tough as seeing your children destroyed by drugs. Not as tough as having a child with special needs and seeing their school closed. Not as tough as watching the business you’ve built up by your own hard work shut down by Labour’s taxes. I’ve got to be tough for these people.
You can hear, steady as a heartbeat, the hurt and anger of the people of this country. This Labour government cannot hear them above the racket of its own spin and the rattle of its own demise. But I’ve heard them, I’ve heard their anger. Anger about the children on your street, mugged on the way home from school. Anger about your child, her hope destroyed by drugs. Anger for your mother, in agony because her operation has been cancelled again. Anger at the way your pension savings have been eaten away.
These are the people I am in politics for. These are the people who brought me here. These are the people who sustain me. The most remarkable, determined, compassionate and tolerant people on the face of the earth. They are the British people. They are why I am here. They are why you are here.
Everyone in Britain deserves a fair deal. We must be on their side.
Our mission, our duty, is to bring them hope.
To fight for them.
To be strong for them.
To be here for them.
And, together, we must win for them.