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6 March 2011

Full transcript | David Cameron | Speech to Conservative Spring Conference | Cardiff | 6 March 2011

"When we came into office ten months ago, we inherited a dreadful mess."

By David Cameron

It’s great to be back in Cardiff. This time last year I said the dragon of Welsh Conservatism would roar once more…

…and look what happened last May. From Aberconwy in the North, to the Vale of Glamorgan in the South…from the mountains to the valleys, the message rang out…

…the Conservatives are back – back in Wales, back in government, back serving the country we love once more.

And this wasn’t just the pendulum swinging our way again.

It was because of the out-and-out hard work of the team here in Wales.

The team at the top – Cheryl, Nick: thank you for everything that you’ve done.

And to the team on the ground…

…you fought that election last May with guts, with passion and with perseverance…

…and we will need every ounce of that fighting spirit for the Assembly elections this May.

Let us get out there and show Labour that they cannot take Wales for granted.


And together we must tell people about the policies that you campaigned for and we are delivering.

We said that work should always pay…

…and today, thanks to Iain Duncan Smith and his brave reforms of welfare, that is what is happening – we are ending that benefits culture once and for all.

We said we’d had enough of politicians handing British powers over to Brussels as though they were theirs to give rather than ours to keep…

…and now thanks to William Hague and the referendum lock he’s bringing in, that can never ever happen again.

We said – you know what? – here is a novel idea: isn’t it time our children learned about the great history of our country in school?…

…and I can tell you that thanks to Michael Gove, our island story is going to be told once more.

We said we’d freeze council tax – we’ve frozen it.

We said we’d cap immigration – we’ve capped it.

We said we would honour those fighting out in Afghanistan to keep us safe at home.

And the operational allowance for our brave servicemen and women – we have doubled it.

So my friends we’ve begun to fix all those things that need fixing in our country…

…and we can’t expect the media to tell people about it – we’ve got to get out there and do it ourselves.

I get a lot of letters these days, and a lot of emails, and I have to say they’re something of a mixed bag.

But I did get this email just a couple of weeks ago from a man from Leicestershire called Ray.

This is what Ray said:

“Dear Sir, as a long-time Labour supporter, I find myself horrified at this government.
When you were elected, I was determined to despise every move you made and rub my hands in glee each time I heard of the latest new horror you were about to inflict on this country. I’ve been gearing myself up for months to have a good old rant about you. Then you have to go and spoil it. The policies you are making, the changes you are making, appear to be good for this country. Please do something horrible before my world is shattered.”

I’m sorry Ray – I’m going to keep on disappointing you.

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So people tell me lots of things. There’s never a shortage of advice in this job.

But I tell you – I’ve never heard anyone say this:

“What I really want – what would really restore my faith in politics – is the Alternative Vote system.”

We’re amongst friends, so let’s be clear what the campaigners for AV want us to do.

They want us to ditch a voting system that has served our democracy for centuries…

…that is used by almost half the electors on the planet…

…and that, yes – is simple, it’s clear, it’s decisive, which time and again has given people the power to kick out tired governments.

And for what?

Do you realise that under the system they propose, candidates who come third can actually end up winning?

Just think about that.

Just imagine it’s the Olympics, London 2012.

We’re all watching the 100 metres.

Usain Bolt powers first over the line.

But then he gets to the podium, it’s the guy who comes third who gets the gold.

We wouldn’t put up this in the Olympics what on earth are we doing thinking about it for our politics.

Let me ask everyone in this room a couple of questions:

Do you want a system so undemocratic that your vote for a mainstream party counts once, while someone who supports a fringe party like the BNP gets their votes counted several times?

Do you want that?

Do you want a system so obscure it’s only used by three countries in the whole world – Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea? Do you want that?

So – no to AV.

Let us take our argument to the British people…

…let’s give it everything we’ve got…

…and let’s win that referendum in May.


When we came into office ten months ago, we inherited a dreadful mess.

A broken economy. A broken society. A broken politics.

The worst of this inheritance was the state of the public finances.

I will never forget sitting down, going through the books and seeing some of the spending decisions that were made by the last government.

They had left a £38 billion black hole in the defence budget.

One pound out of every four we spent was borrowed.

We were spending – this country was spending £120 million a day – that is each and every day – just on paying the interest on our debt.

And yet even with these bills piling up, Labour were still signing blank cheques and giving the green light to multi-million pound projects we couldn’t afford.

And we’re still uncovering them today.

Because of those PFI contracts, in one hospital it cost £333 to change a light-bulb.

What on earth did they think they were doing?

I say, let’s make this a light-bulb moment for the country: never, ever trust Labour with your money ever ever again.

They were setting up our country for the complete car crash of falling market confidence, higher interest rates, higher taxes, more bankruptcies and more job losses.

But in the end, this isn’t just about the economics.

It’s also about the morality of it all.

They were happy just to pass these debts on to our children because they didn’t have the guts to do something about it.

Now, we have set out a credible plan to balance the books. We are making the necessary cuts in public spending.

Yes, the road ahead will be hard; this year in particular.

But the plan is right.

Our credit rating has been confirmed. Market interest rates are lower. We’re on course to balance the books by the end of this Parliament.

What we’re doing might not be popular – but it is the only way.

The other way is the cowardly way, the irresponsible way…

…and that has never, ever been the Conservative way.


But I want to be clear about something today: our plans for government go so much further than just sorting out the deficit and balancing the books.

Remember who we fought the election for.

I know who I fought it for.

The stream of mothers who told me they were desperate to find a good school for their children.

The people who told me they were sick of going out to work knowing their neighbours were on benefits – but had no intention of getting a job.

It was for the businessman who wrote to me in tears because he was going to lose everything he worked for – all of it crushed under the weight of regulation.

That’s who we fought the election for.

Now remember what we fought the election for: our values – the Conservative values that we knew could improve people’s lives and make our country better.

We believe in responsibility – doing the right thing even if it’s the difficult thing, and understanding our obligations to others.

That is why I am so passionate about building a bigger, stronger society.

The idea at the heart of this is something everyone in this room instinctively understands.

That if we want a better country and a stronger society, we must all play our part.

That’s why we’re opening up public services, devolving more power, encouraging a new wave of volunteering, asking people to take more responsibility…

…because responsibility is what the Big Society is all about.

We believe in real fairness.

Not the phoney fairness we’ve seen in this country for too long, where people who do the wrong thing get rewarded and people who do the right thing, who work hard, pay their taxes, who stay out of trouble get punished.

We mean real fairness – yes, help for those who cannot help themselves…

…but also that sense that reward should be linked to behaviour.

It’s fair that when someone goes to work, they give something of what they earn to support the person who can’t work.

But here’s the deal: the person who can’t work, needs to prove it – and if it turns out they can work but they refuse to: they cannot live a life on benefits.

We also believe in real compassion.

With the spending cuts we’ve got to make, we have made the conscious choice to look after the most vulnerable people in our country.

We’ve protected the NHS – and by the way, the Conservatives are the only party in Wales promising to do the same here.

We’ve protected schools – with extra funding for children from poorer backgrounds.

We’ve protected the families with the least – with an extra £180 in tax credits in this year alone.

And we’ve protected our elderly too – by finally doing what every government promised but never ever delivered…

…and that is restoring the link between earnings and pensions.

This sort of compassion is in our nature.

Go to almost any community hall, any neighbourhood association or any charity sale up and down the country and you’ll find members of this party.

And just as we show compassion at home, so we show it abroad too.

While Labour were doing those dodgy deals with dictators in the desert…

…remember, we – the people of this party – were out volunteering in Rwanda, building schools and teaching English, showing what real compassion means in practice.

I know that for some protecting the aid budget is a controversial decision.

But just think about what it means.

It means that in four years’ time, we won’t just have paid down our deficit.

This country will also have vaccinated more of the world’s poorest children than there are people in the whole of England.

We’ll have provided access to safe drinking water to more of the world’s poor than there are people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.

Because of what we’re doing, mothers who otherwise would have died agonising deaths in childbirth will actually see their babies go on to be children and grownups.

With your hard-earned money, we are saving lives – and everyone in this country should be deeply proud of that.

Let’s show that same solidarity in our support for those out on the streets of North Africa and the Middle East today.

When Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister, this party stood by those who wanted to reject Communism and embrace freedom.

And today, this party stands for and stands by those reaching for freedom in the Arab world.

On Libya, our strategy is clear.

We will continue to intensify pressure on that regime.

We will continue to state clearly that international justice has a long reach and a long memory, and those who commit crimes against humanity will not go unpunished.

We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by this crisis, and continue to demand access for aid agencies to reach those in need.

And we will continue to plan, with our allies, for every eventuality.

But let me repeat one thing, it is time for Colonel Gaddafi to go.


Now in just over two weeks’ time, George Osborne will present his Budget for Growth.

That’s why today I want to focus on another value that runs deep, really deep in this party.

It’s about the hunger to get on in life.

The spark of initiative.

The courage to make your dream happen.

The hard work to see it through.

I’m talking about enterprise.

Enterprise is vital for our economy – we all know that.

In this country we have got to to undertake a fundamental rebalancing of our economy.

Less debt, more saving. Less borrowing, more investment. Less dependence on financial services, more new industries, exports and trade.

But for we Conservatives, enterprise is about more than money, more than the economics of growth and GDP.

We understand that enterprise is not just about markets…

…it’s also about morals.

We understand that enterprise is not just an economic good, it’s a social good too.

We understand this because we understand what it’s like…

…in a way that our opponents simply don’t.

Look – I know – all political parties have their fair share of lawyers, lecturers and advisers. I should know

…and a lot of them work very hard.

But I think one of the great things about our party – the Conservative Party – is that at our roots we are the party of builders and businesswomen; electricians and engineers; roofers and retailers.

At its beating heart this is still a party of start-ups, go-getters, risk-takers.

What drives us is getting things done – and what drives us mad is the bureaucracy, the forms, the nonsense that get in our way.

We’re the party of practical men and women, people with a passion and a mission to build a business and see it grow…

…not just for the money, not for the glory but for the simple reward and deep satisfaction of seeing your efforts pay off.

We are the party of enterprise.

And let me tell you – right now, right here today in Britain 2011, we have got the most almighty job to do.

Because for over a decade in this country the enemies of enterprise have had their way.

Taxing. Regulating. Smothering. Crushing. Getting in the way.

There is no shortage of enterprise in this country.

You see it in the 30,000-plus new firms that were started in January this year alone.

I see it in the ideas and the energy of all the entrepreneurs I meet…

…I get to meet some extraordinary people in this job. British people selling curries to India and fashion to France.

The enterprise culture is alive and well in this country…

…now we just need an enterprise government to go with it.

So I can announce today that we are taking on the enemies of enterprise.

The bureaucrats in government departments who concoct those ridiculous rules and regulations that make life impossible, particularly for small firms.

The town hall officials who take forever with those planning decisions that can be make or break for a business – and the investment and jobs that go with it.

The public sector procurement managers who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business and who shut out millions of Britain’s small and medium sized companies from a massive potential market.

So you want to know my strategy for growth?

When people say ‘spend lots more money’ I say forget it – Labour spent it all.

There’s only one strategy for growth we can have now…

…and that is rolling up our sleeves and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to start a business to grow a businesses.

Back small firms. Boost enterprise. Be on the side of everyone in this country who wants to create jobs, and wealth and opportunity.

I know there’s an enterprise culture in this country.

I know that we’ve got the people, the ideas, the talent, the energy to make things great.

And I’m going to make sure this government does everything it takes.

So I can tell you today, the Budget in a few weeks time will tear down the barriers of enterprise and be the most pro-growth Budget this government, this country has seen for a generation.


For a lot of people there’s one simple barrier – they just don’t have the money.

They’ve got a great idea but they’re out of work so they can’t bring it to life.

That is where our New Enterprise Allowance comes in.

If you’re unemployed and have a sound business plan we’ll give you a package of support worth up to £2000 to get you started.

In the very first month of this scheme up in St Helens in Merseyside over two hundred people came forward.

This is really going to take off – why? Because we know it worked when it happened before.

Go to major department stores in this country and you’ll find Superdry clothes -a British brand that’s gone global and is worth tens of millions of pounds.

And you know how it started?

From a market stall in the eighties, by a guy who’d been unemployed for nine weeks, but who got one of Margaret Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowances and the hand up that he needed.

But sometimes it’s not the money to start up that holds enterprise back but the money to keep going – the cash flow.

So many businesses are finding it hard to get credit from banks today.

We’ll we’ve got another £10 billion for small businesses from the banks…

…and my guarantee to you is this: I’m going to watch those banks like a hawk and make sure they deliver for Britain’s small business men and women.

What else is it that’s holding enterprise back?

I think even baby Florence could tell me this one. She tells me quite a lot of things in her own way. Tax and regulation.

So yes, we’re cutting corporation tax from twenty-eight percent to twenty-four percent…

…but there is so much more to do.

Someone joked to me the other day that the biggest growth industry in Britain this past decade has been the people writing the rules.

But the problem is, it isn’t a joke.

Every regulator, every official, every bureaucrat in government has got to understand that we cannot afford to keep loading costs onto business…

…because frankly they cannot take any more.

And if I have to pull these people into my office to argue this out myself and get them off the backs of business then believe me, I will do it.


But you know what, some people think that this is all government needs to do – cut tax and regulation and just get out the way.

I don’t disagree.

An enterprise government is an active government…

…using its power and clout to open up new opportunities for business.

Government is one of the biggest customers in the country.

We’ve got billions of pounds of contracts to be won…

…but for too long they’ve gone to the same old big players.

So we’re throwing open the bidding process to every single business in our country – a massive boost for small businesses, because we want them to win at least a quarter of these deals.

But it’s not just small business we need to get behind.

We’re smashing down the barriers for our big-ticket industries too.

Britain’s got a real edge in medical research.

In this country today we’re developing the drugs and treatments that are going to banish some of the world’s diseases and save countless lives.

But we cannot be complacent about the advantage we have.

That’s why we’re bringing in a new ten per cent tax rate on patent income – to encourage companies not just to innovate here but to invest here, to expand here, to employ here…

…and I’ve personally been on the phone to the heads of some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies to get them to do just that.

And here’s another thing I’ve personally been doing.

And that is selling Britain to the world.

I know some people are disdainful about that.

They see me loading up a plane with businesspeople and say – that’s not statesmanship, that’s salesmanship.

I say this: attack all you want…

…but do you think the Germans and the French and the Americans are all sitting at home waiting for business to fall into their lap?

Of course not – they’re out there selling their goods – and so should we in this country as well…

…and we shouldn’t listen either to those who say we’ve not got much to sell.

I’ve been to one of the most impressive, massive, hi-tech, large-scale manufacturing plants on the planet…

…and it’s right here in Wales, at Broughton.

There I saw hundred foot wings for the A380 airbus being made by some of the finest engineers…

…wings that are going to take flight in years to come.

Yes, of course we need to make more things in this country, but we already have many of the goods and services the world wants to buy.

So let me tell you: while there are contracts to be won, jobs to be created, markets to be defended – I will be there.

If it’s making sure Rolls Royce engines are in the world’s planes, I’ll be there.

If it’s making sure skyscrapers in the Gulf are designed by British architects, I’ll be there.

I’ll be there not just because it’s my job, not just because it’s my duty, – because I but because I passionately believe – no, I know that this country can out-compete, out-perform, out-hustle the best in the world…

…and I’m going to make sure I use every last drop of my energy to make sure that happens for our country.


So, let this be our vision:

A country not just back in the black but back in business.

A big society. A prouder people.

And we know the values that are going to get us there.

Responsibility. Real fairness. Compassion. And yes – enterprise.

I believe in this country’s future.

I’m so confident about what lies ahead.

And that confidence doesn’t come from here – it doesn’t come from me…

…it comes from out there – from you.

I’ve met ingenious inventors in our labs and razor-sharp kids in our schools…

…ambitious workers in our offices and factories…

…unbelievably dedicated professionals in our hospitals and our police stations…

… and in all these people collectively – in their initiative, their ideas and ambition – there is the promise of a better future.

At its best and at its most effective the Conservative Party has always been the one that understands the power and the promise lies not in government but lies with the people.

A great man said “set the people free” – and that’s what Winston Churchill did when he had his bonfire of state controls.

A lady said “there was almost nothing that the British people could not do” – and that’s what Margaret Thatcher proved, unleashing a wave of enterprise and initiative across our country.

Today let the same confidence ring out from this hall and this party…

…we believe in the British people and our power together to build a better future.

Together we’ll create the businesses…

…we’ll create the jobs…

…we’ll create the opportunities…

…we’ll light the spark of enterprise…

…we’ll fire our economy…

…we’ll drive our country forward.

And together we will do it.

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