Below is the text of the speech made by Liam Fox at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth on 4 October 2004.
Welcome to Bournemouth to this, our last conference in Opposition.
At this conference, a renewed and reinvigorated party will set out a clear and hopeful alternative for our country – one that promises freedom and security.
And we begin by reclaiming as our party colours the red white and blue that reflects our pride in our country. We will never surrender the colours of our flag to those on the dangerous fringe of British politics. We are the party of all Britain and all Britons.
Under the leadership of Michael Howard, we have become by far the biggest party in local government. On June 10th when millions of voters went to the polls, we pushed Labour into a humiliating third place. We triumphed in the London Assembly with our best performance since the early 90s. We have more women in local government. office than any other political party. And recently we showed that we can win again in the cities, for example, in Millwall in London, our first seat in Tower Hamlets for 40 years.
All talk and no action
Over the past year our membership has grown so that we now have more members than the Labour Party and the LibDems combined.
Remember what he said? 24 hours to save the NHS. Yet despite spending billions of pounds of your money look what’s happened. There are too many managers, too many filthy hospitals, too many people waiting for treatment – and you can’t even find an NHS dentist.
Remember he said education, education, education? But Labour have wasted billions on bureaucracy. There is too much paperwork for teachers and too little discipline for pupils.
He said tough on crime tough on the causes of crime but guess what he forgot. He forgot to be tough on the criminals, so crime, especially violent crime, is out of control. And to make matters worse, too many sentences are far too lenient.
Too many people live in fear in Blair’s Britain, a Britain crying out for more respect, more discipline and decent values.
And what about our security? At a time of greater threats from abroad what do we get from Labour? Cuts to the Army. Cuts to the Navy. Cuts to the AirForce. We will soon have a smaller navy than France for the first time since the seven years war ended in 1763.
And isn’t it shameful that this Government sent our servicemen and women to Iraq to fight without the proper equipment to protect them and keep them safe?
Then there’s asylum. Labour have lost control of asylum. Under Labour, Britain has become a soft touch. People look to us, the Conservatives, to get a grip on the system.
Of course, if you are Prime Minister, if you get five summer holiday freebies and spend more time out of Britain, these things might not matter to you .
But all these things do matter. They matter to all the people who have seen Tony Blair break his promises. Pensioners, patients, parents, pupils, taxpayers, students, our servicemen and women. Each and every one betrayed by Tony Blair.
No wonder people no longer believe a word he says. He is all talk and no action. No matter what he promises at the next election, nobody in this country will be able to trust him.
Of course, if you can’t trust Labour you could always try the Lib Dems.
They want to ban smoking but legalise soft drugs.
They want to license prostitution, but ban the sale of goldfish.
They want the age of criminal responsibility to go up but the age at which you can buy pornography to come down.
And they want prisoners all to have the vote – presumably because every inmate would support them.
They want a tax on zoos and a tax for regional assemblies. One MP wants cocaine to be sold from licensed premises.
They haven’t changed. They’re still a Party that likes to get high – high on taxes but low on integrity.
But a LibDem vote is not just a wasted vote, it is a dangerous vote.
Their crazy law and order policies would be even softer on crime than Labour. And their European policy would sell Britain out with a single currency, a single constitution and a single European defence policy.
They know they can never win office in Britain. But what they can never achieve in this country they would conspire to impose upon the British people from Brussels.
It will fall to Michael Howard and the Conservative Party and everyone here in this hall to restore trust in British politics.
Let me tell you about Michael Howard. He gave me my first political job. Come to think of it, he may have given me my last one.
Michael is not always the easiest person to work with. He knows what he thinks and what he believes in. He likes a good argument – a very good argument.
He wants evidence and fact, not supposition and prejudice – and when he makes up his mind, he can be one of the most stubborn people I’ve ever met.
But not only is he one of the most fair and decent people I’ve worked with, but his case will always be based on reason and he will always put his country before his party.
What a contrast to our current Prime Minister, whose moral vanity means that he believes he is always right. Even his own Party can now see through the lame excuses from the lame duck Prime Minister.
The scale of our task
This Conservative Party last threw out a failed Labour Government under the brave and historic leadership of Margaret Thatcher. We owe her so much.
We were faced with a broken economy crippled by socialism. Our task this time will be just as great.
Not only will we have to restore trust in politics itself, We will have to restore the balance of power between the government and the British people.
Over the last seven years Labour have eroded more and more of our freedoms. They have created a pocket money society where the government takes more and more of our money to make more and more decisions on our behalf and they leave us with less and less income and less and less control over our own lives.
New Labour have hit us with new taxes. New taxes on pensions. New taxes on homeowners. New taxes on business.
And it is not just more taxes. They now intrude into every nook and cranny of our lives. They tell you how to do your job and how many hours you are allowed to do it for. How to bring up your child – even what to feed them. They extended means testing, so that pensioners who have spent their lives trying to be independent of the state now have to declare their savings to the ever more intrusive taxman.
This is not the nanny state – that makes it sound too cuddly – this is the intruder state, which is eroding our historic liberties, strangling our self- reliance and suffocating our freedoms.
Is this the sort of Britain we want ?
Where professionals are told how to do their jobs?
Where there is a speed camera round every corner not to make us safer but to lighten our pockets?
Where the rights of the countryside are decided by the bigotry of urban class warriors? Is this what we want?
New Labour have created a society where people increasingly feel that there is a growing gap between the law and justice. People feel that their burglars will never be caught, but they will be if they drive at 35 in a 30 zone.
And they wonder what is the point of the law if, when you fail the tests for asylum, you are still allowed to stay in this country.
Worst of all, New Labour have created a tyranny of political correctness. A tyranny where decent, ordinary people feel intimidated. They know there are things that need to be said, but they are afraid to say them.
Well, we are not afraid.
I thought it was outrageous for the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police to tell us that “gang rape” is a politically incorrect term . Apparently it should be called group rape. Well, frankly, I couldn’t care less about the sensitivities of rapists – what about the sensitivities of the victims of rape?
If a husband kills his wife in their home it’s not ” a case of domestic violence”- it’s murder. Let’s call it that.
And drunk youngsters on street corners who threaten old people are not guilty of “social disorder”, they are yobs, they are thugs and they are hooligans.
Its time to start saying things as they are.
A Conservative alternative
Britain is crying out for a new direction and this week we will give it. People are tired of Labour’s words. Tired of soundbites and empty promises. They are tired of being preached at.
They want action. And this week we’ll tell them what the next Conservative Government will do – and how we will make a difference.
Andrew Lansley will show how we will get our hospitals clean, get money through to doctors and nurses and give patients the opportunity to choose where and when they get their treatment.
David Davis will show how we will cut police paperwork, put more police on the beat and stop the early release scheme that puts the public at risk by letting dangerous criminals out too soon.
Tim Collins will show how we will restore discipline in schools and give parents the opportunity to choose the best school for their child.
We will show how we will stop Labour’s reckless defence cuts and make sure we have the armed forces to do the job.
And we will set a firm timetable for a referendum on the European constitution. If we win an election in May we will hold a referendum before we meet at next year’s Party Conference- a pledge that only the Conservative Party can deliver. We will campaign for a No vote. And we will get a No vote.
We will show that you can get a grip on asylum and stop Britain being a soft touch. It is not ” a lurch to the right” but an overdue response to the real anxieties expressed by the British people. If we do not deal fairly and clearly with these issues then there are those on the shadowy extremes of British politics who would love to exploit them.
We need a fair but firm system that helps genuine refugees. We will introduce a points system like they have in Australia. It will give priority to those who want to come to Britain to work hard and make a positive contribution to our country.
And, for the first time, we will set a ceiling on the number of people who can come into the United Kingdom each year.
Cleaner hospitals, discipline in schools, an end to political correctness, police on the beat, support for our armed forces, control of our borders and the British people controlling their own future in Europe.
A Conservative Government delivering freedom from fear and the security to enjoy our liberties.
A timetable for action
People are fed up with talk. They want action. They don’t want vague promises. They want to know exactly what a Conservative Government would do – and when.
That is why, that at this Conference, will do something that has never been done before. We will set a timetable for action. We will set out what we will actually do in our first day, our first week, our first month in office. So that people will know how to judge our performance, so that we can be held to account – so that we can restore trust between the government and the people of our country.
We will show that there are huge differences in the way we see our future. Political parties are not all the same.
I don’t know about you, but one thing that makes me mad is when people say Tony Blair’s really a Conservative. He’s even had the nerve to compare himself to Margaret Thatcher. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, we know Margaret Thatcher, we worked with Margaret Thatcher – Mr. Blair, you’re no Margaret Thatcher.
Tony Blair has raised tax and wasted our money. He has presided over an explosion in crime. He has lost control over the asylum system. He has failed to deliver his promises on health and education and he will sell us out on the European constitution. He’s no Conservative.
There is a fundamental difference between us and Tony Blair. On tax, we’re right and he’s wrong. On crime and asylum we’re right and he’s wrong. And on health, education and especially on our future in Europe, we’re right and he’s wrong.
All across this country, there are natural conservatives looking for leadership, for a place to go. They have forgotten what we stand for because we have stopped telling them. So, for those who wonder if they are natural conservatives, let me say this with all due respect to the Governor of California.
If you believe that the first duty of the government is defence of this country, then you are a conservative.
If you believe that you should keep more of your own hard-earned income, then you are a conservative.
If you believe that those who save for themselves and their families should be rewarded not penalized, then you are a conservative.
If you believe that government should give us the tools, get off our backs and let us get on with our lives, then you are a conservative.
If you believe the law is for the security of the law abiding and to punish not to excuse criminals, then you are a conservative.
If you believe that we are a nation of individuals whose talents and diversity should be encouraged, you are a conservative
And if you believe that the British people should have control of their own destiny, then you are a conservative.
We must tell these things to the British people with clarity and courage. We can restore trust in politics.
There is an alternative.
You can make a difference.
Less talk, more action.
For the sake of this country the fight starts today.