Michael Portillo – 1997 Speech to Centre for Policy Studies

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Portillo to the CPS at the 1997 Conservative Party Conference held in Blackpool on 9 October 1997.

I was delighted to be asked by the Centre for Policy Studies to give this lecture. But as a member of the Cabinet which led the Conservative Party to its greatest ever defeat, and as a former Member of Parliament who lost to Labour on a 17 per cent swing, you will understand that I am not here to lecture anyone.

On the Friday morning, the day after the general election, even before Tony Blair had arrived in Downing Street, I received a telephone call of condolence from Lady Thatcher. But it was condolence delivered in her inimitable style. It was a call to arms and to renewal. She reminded me how after the defeat in 1974, the party had to rebuild, and in particular begin again its work on ideas and policy. That was when the Centre for Policy Studies was founded, and I for one hope that the CPS will be a source of new thinking in our present difficulties. But that process cannot be based on nostalgia for old ways of thought. An idea whose time has come can quickly become an idea whose time has gone. The value of the CPS’s work has always been its originality and its fitness for the day. Even the enduring principles upon which a party should be founded must be given contemporary forms of expression.

Let us begin by recognising the scale of our defeat and of our problem. Perhaps as one who went in an instant from being in the Cabinet to being a member of the general public, I am qualified to offer an opinion. I do not accept the view that the Conservatives lost the election of 1997 because we abandoned one-nation Toryism or split the nation. We did not. I will return to that point in a moment. The causes of our defeat were different. I would like to identify what I believe to have been the four principal factors.

First, the party became associated increasingly with the most disagreeable messages and thoughts. Much of that linkage was unjustified, but since it is what people thought – what people still think – it must be appreciated as a deeply-felt distaste, rather than momentary irritation. We cannot dismiss it as mere false perception. Tories were linked to harshness: thought to be uncaring about unemployment, poverty, poor housing, disability and single parenthood; and considered indifferent to the moral arguments over landmines and arms sales. We were thought to favour greed and the unqualified pursuit of the free market, with a “devil take the hindmost” attitude.

Second, we abandoned almost completely the qualities of loyalty and the bonds of party without which party effectively ceases to exist. Some of this was ideological. Passions about the future of our country rightly fired people up, but wrongly led them to attack and despise their colleagues. Part of it was egotistical. There were MPs anxious to oblige whenever the media came looking for dissent, seizing the opportunity to be famous for fifteen minutes. But now we are out of government, their views are sought more rarely, and their once-famous faces are fading in the public memory.

We must re-discover the old instincts that led Tories to support one another and to rally round. Loyalty was never a secret weapon: it was because it was so visible in public, and reinforced in private, that it was so effective. The impact of disunity upon us is clear to see. The party must in the very near future learn again to display the camaraderie and common purpose that are fundamental to a party’s prospects. Our new leader, William Hague, has every right to expect our loyalty publicly and privately. If he does not get it, we stand no chance of being re-elected. He has shown that he will lead. Now the party must show that it can be led.

Third, we were thought to be arrogant and out of touch. Much of it may have been no more than personal mannerisms that grated on the public after years in office. Some of it was insensitivity – using the language of economics and high finance when people’s jobs and self-esteem were at stake. And when people looked at the composition of our party, they thought it too elderly, or too vulgar, or too out of touch in vocabulary and perceptions, or in some other way, unfamiliar and unrepresentative.

Fourth, there was sleaze. I did not believe all that Conservatives were accused of . Even today, I do not think that wrongdoing was any more prevalent in our party than in others, and I expect the rotten boroughs of the Labour Party to prove as much in coming months. But it was certainly bad enough. Sleaze disgraced us in the eyes of the public. Their perception was of corruption and unfitness for public service. Such distasteful perceptions can endure and do us damage for a long time.

We should face these issues head on and deal with them. The last years profoundly disappointed our supporters, and disgusted many others. Those of us who were in the parliamentary party, and those of us who were in the government, bear a particular responsibility.

But let us also be clear about our successes and achievements. The Labour Party is determined to create the myth that our eighteen years represented a period of misery and failure. So let me deal briefly with what really happened.

The Conservative Government took a country that was on the brink of being ungovernable and restored the authority of government and the ability of management to manage. We replaced a debilitating corporatism with a climate of opportunity. We turned sullen nationalised industries into high quality public services fit for a modern economy. We pioneered the view that the job of government was not to create wealth itself, but to establish the conditions in which enterprise could flourish. That insight is today shared by virtually every government in the democratic world. In that context we talked about the benefits of the free market.

But we never argued that free markets were everything. We increased sharply spending on social security (not because of unemployment, but to help more people and pay higher benefits) and on health and education. We were determined to modernise our economy and to make Britain competitive, but we softened the effects of industrial change with policies to help the inner cities, with regional aid and training programmes for those without work. Ministers fought successfully to attract inward investment and to win contracts abroad. We were anything but laissez-faire. Above all we pursued policies that brought Britain success. At the end of the Tory period we had a greater proportion of our people in work than our European neighbours. We had growth and low inflation. The strength of the British economy is now recognised without any carping. Everyone knows that that was our work.

Nonetheless, at his conference last week, Mr Blair made the point that twenty years ago the IMF came to bury Britain, but now they praise us, claiming into the bargain that New Labour has friends everywhere. In fact, the IMF can praise Britain only because they believe socialism has been buried. It is the economic policy of the last government that has friends everywhere, but some of them in this country will yet prove to be false. I well remember the verdict of the IMF on the Labour government. I shared the feeling of national humiliation brought upon us all by the men who were Mr Blair’s role models at the time. I recall my own sense of despair for the unemployment and waste that would follow from Labour’s enslavement to the trade unions and their refusal to govern in the interests of all the British people.

Labour’s new statements of policy are an accolade to our government. Labour says it has accepted our reforms. They signed up to privatisation, trade union legislation, free enterprise, low levels of income tax and even Conservative-set levels of public spending. The 1990s did not discredit Conservative party policies. They produced a humiliation for Labour as it gradually voiced support for all that it had once opposed. It could be elected with a huge majority only because it had come to sound like a Conservative party. Mr Blair’s great insight was that to avoid continuing electoral humiliation, his party had to accept intellectual humiliation. For many in the Labour party, winning power in that way has been a bitter and degrading experience. Those people cringe when they hear Gordon Brown lecturing fellow Europeans on the need for flexible labour markets, so validating Conservative thinking. They loathe his commitments on taxation, such as they are. No wonder that they now hate us so much.

I emphasise this. There is much for the Conservative party to learn and to put right. We shall do it. But that is not to say that everything that we did in the past was wrong. Very far from it. We have many achievements of which we can be proud. The Conservatives did things in the last eighteen years that were imaginative, radical, and good for our people. They were copied by many abroad and by our opponents at home.

It is important too that we maintain clear markers as we make changes in the party. It would be a great mistake for us to try to copy Labour’s techniques and style in the belief that that offers a recipe for future success. There is a phoneyness and insincerity that clings to Labour, as it must to a party that was willing to say anything to get elected. Labour is the party of fashion, bending day-by-day to catch the wind blowing from its market researchers. The Conservatives need to be attractive, but we will not become lifeless bodies borne on the changing tides of populism. If Labour remains wedded to fashion, then its time may be short indeed for nothing is so certain as that fashions change. When I see Mr Blair basking in the glow of Noel Gallagher, I remember Harold Wilson’s love of being pictured with the Beatles or Ena Sharples. But rubbing shoulders with idols does not guarantee that the star dust will stick, and infatuations with politicians pass quickly.

Our task is quite different from the one that Labour faced in opposition. They modernised in order to marginalise their core beliefs. We must rebuild our party on central Conservative principles applied to today’s new challenges. If we adhere to principles through changing times, we will win respect, at a time when Labour’s modishness will look as tired as Harold Wilson’s HP sauce and Gannex mac.

The Conservative message is attractive, and if properly explained it touches a chord with the majority. Its main elements can be summed up by the words choice, aspiration, opportunity, duty, and compassion.

Let me take those words in turn. We believe that government, even where it plays a critical part in our lives, as it does for example in health and education, should organise things so that people have choice, and so that there is diversity in the sorts of service on offer. There is dignity in choice. It emphasises that no system can or should believe that it knows best. Everyone, even people in need, maybe especially people in need, have a right to choice. Choice is also the means to improvement in the service to all. There is always a better way to do things. We can adapt the ways in which we care for people, or the ways we teach children, according to evolving technology and changing ethos. Where there is choice, those providing services are free to adapt what they offer, and have the incentive to do so. Different teachers doing things differently, or different doctors, offer the public a comparison. It may be that one of them has hit upon something that is clearly better, at least in the general opinion. That means that other patients and parents will want to see the same method or approach adopted in their surgery or school. In that way choice leads to innovation and then to a widespread improvement.

But if government is unwilling to allow diversity, this process will be choked off. Labour still thinks in terms of uniformity. Its objection to fund-holding GPs is that some people may get a better service than others. The logical response to that should be to encourage all GPs to become fund-holders as soon as possible, so that the advantages of the system may be available to everyone, not put the system under threat. Labour’s attitude to grant-maintained schools is similar. Again, logically if those schools are offering something that others cannot, then the government should encourage parents to consider pushing their own school towards GM status. If the government really believes that GM schools are no better than others, then there is no reason to tamper with their independence.

Choice brings progress. We can walk only when we allow one foot to move in front of the other. The other foot then catches up and passes it. The government should not be resentful of, or hostile to, diversity. It is only by allowing those with good ideas to edge ahead, and helping others to catch them up and then pass them, that our country can move forward.

My next word was aspiration. We all hope in this life. We hope to make the most of the gifts we have been given. We hope to improve ourselves. We look forward to achieving the goals that we have set ourselves, or to winning the plaudits of those whose opinions matter, such as our parents and our teachers. We aspire to be part of an improving world, to play our part in making things better. We look to leave something behind: our reputation, an example to someone else, children who can remember us with love and pride.

There is nothing wrong with aspiration. Indeed, without it we are certain to fail to achieve our potential. Of course there are materialistic aspirations too. Adam Smith considered that the urge to better oneself is the driving human impulse from which “public and national, as well as private opulence, is originally derived”. In the 1980s the Conservatives were associated with aspiration and we inspired people to believe in themselves. Labour sought to discredit both our policies and the notion of self-improvement, denouncing those who looked for something better as greedy and selfish. Some were, but many were not.

Today, Labour has nothing to say to that majority who believe that, given the chance, they could make something of themselves. Labour is the leveller. Labour is the state. Millions of people in the public services are about to discover that Labour has nothing for them. No improvement in services, because they are suffocating the dynamic of creative change, no improvement in status and no advance in pay. People in business will discover that Labour is unsympathetic to profit, and ignorant of the struggle that is involved in running and building a business. Labour is ever on the lookout for an opportunity to launch a crude populist attack on the wealth creators. Those who look to do things better and to be something better, whether they work in the public or the private sector, are, as ever, a constituency that the Conservative party understands and must address.

It has recently been argued by Ian Gilmour and Alan Clark that the Tories have been brought to their present state of affairs because, from the accession of Mrs Thatcher onwards, they abandoned one-nation Toryism. With due respect for two of the party’s most eminent historians, it is worth taking a moment to put the counter-argument.

For about a century, from the time of Disraeli, a Tory party that was led mainly by aristocrats, expressed its deep concern for social conditions in the country, and often played a distinguished role in improving them. That was much to the credit of our party, and brought great electoral success. But the form that it took was necessarily a product of its time. It is more than thirty years since we were led by an aristocrat, and the rise of Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major each demonstrated that the Conservative party now believed in, and provided a model of, a modern form of one-nation Toryism. Gone was any hint of patronising attitudes towards “the poor man at his gate”. Britain had become a single nation in which people from the humblest backgrounds could rise to the highest offices.

Our task was to make such translations easy and progressively more unremarkable. It was a theme pursued by the Heath and Thatcher governments, and it was summed up by John Major’s aspiration to create a classless society. Through all three premierships, more money was spent on health, education and social security, and much work was done to increase opportunity.

During the Thatcher years, we were accused of departing from one-nation politics in particular because of our economic policies and because of the riots.

Huge changes took place in British industry. It was brave to allow the modernisation of Britain to proceed at such a pace, but time has proved the wisdom of doing so. Britain’s economy is now well-placed to compete and create jobs. Countries like Japan, whose policies in the 1980s disguised growing inefficiencies in their companies, in fact merely postponed to today the problem of closing uncompetitive businesses. Britain by contrast has greatly improved job security today, because of the approach we took fifteen years ago.

The worst strife of the period surrounded the miners’ strike. It was essential to stand up to industrial militancy and challenges to the rule of law. As it turned out, that important point could not be carried without conflict. Perhaps there is now a danger of forgetting how much was at stake. It may be that today’s Labour party has a clearer understanding even than we do about how much an end to militancy mattered to the conduct of democratic politics.

But in any case, it does not make sense to me to argue that we lost in 1997 because of the alleged departure during the 1980s from a traditional concern for the unity of the nation. The voters in the elections of the 1980s and in 1992 seemed to recognise the case for our policies. John Major’s government, building on the successes already achieved, was different in tone and style from Mrs Thatcher’s. In no sense could John Major be mistaken for a “two-nation” politician, and his concern for social issues was palpable. It was shared throughout his government.

I conclude both that the Tories never departed from a one-nation approach, but rather updated it for their times; and that even if we were portrayed by some as having abandoned our traditional position in the 1980s, it is plainly unhistorical to attribute the defeat of 1997 to that.

My third word was opportunity. We can never rest from the labour of creating more opportunity. More opportunity for people to have the operation that brings them relief from pain. More opportunity to own your home and shares. More opportunity to enter further and higher education. More opportunity to work, in Europe’s most dynamic economy. Government has to be proactive to prevent sclerosis in the system that limits opportunity. Above all, opportunity is about education. It is the ladder by which our children can climb, leaving behind the disadvantages of birth and background and ascending to the heights of their potential. During all our eighteen years we battled against the so-called progressives whose educational theories had become remote from the world of real children in the classroom. The measure of our success is that David Blunkett now says that he expects parents to complain to his ministry if teachers refuse to adopt whole-classroom teaching or teach literacy by traditional means. Does he not blush when he says it or when he looks back to his days running Sheffield? Let us hope that what he says now signals a commitment by all in education to equip our children with the basic skills, and with the competence in the new technologies, that together lead them to self-fulfilment and success in the world of work.

Now I come to duty, and to the most fundamental misunderstanding about the modern Tory party. It has always been the Conservative view that we all have duties. Those who are successful, powerful, or rich, have special duties. People who achieve in life should be willing to put something back, and to share with others the joy and the fruits of doing well. We are social animals and society is what we make it. We cannot pretend that society is a given state of affairs that we are powerless to influence or change, because it is we who are society.

That is what Mrs Thatcher meant when she said there is no such thing as society in the abstract. There is no unalterable Marxist structure which robs individuals of free will, or excuses any of us from the acts we undertake or from which we refrain. We must not try to escape our responsibilities by making something we call “society” the scapegoat for the evils and bad behaviour that we feel unable to alter. Each of us must, in our own way, in our families and in our communities, do what we can. None of us would wish to live in a grabbing and inhumane society made up of greedy and selfish people. Our enemies may have sought to attach such people to the Conservative party, but they have nothing in common with our beliefs.

The last word I used was compassion. It is an essential ingredient in Conservatism. We have never lost it, but the world does not believe that. Our reputation has suffered because Conservatives don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. They don’t like humbug or display. Their compassion is largely of a practical sort: what can we actually do about the problems that we see around us? That is why Conservatives are to be found in such large numbers working for voluntary organisations. Conservatives have a scepticism about panaceas and about the possibility of government solving problems with a flourish of a pen. But that common sense approach must not mask the fact that concern for others and magnanimity are important qualities of Conservatism, and the instinct for social cohesion transcends the nation. The policies that we followed in government provided for a large-scale increase in prosperity and new opportunities for millions of people. To take just one example, the overall position of women was unrecognisably improved by the opportunity for so many to work and earn decent money. But not every one prospered from being in work, and we did not overlook that. Peter Lilley as Secretary of State for Social Security devoted much intelligent effort to improving the help that government could bring.

Conveying to the British people accurately and feelingly the true Conservative position on those five words will do much in itself to render us re-electable. The CPS will have a lot to contribute on those and other subjects. Caring about ideas and winning the battle of ideas, are important ingredients in our future success. Freed from the burdens of office, we can apply our Conservatism anew to the present circumstances of our country. I would like to give some examples. In the second half of this lecture I shall point out those areas where I believe the release from the responsibility of government also frees our party from the grooves in which we were travelling. I shall deal with the devolution of decision-making, employment policy, government regulation and government’s proper approach to people’s personal relationships.

The Conservative party is committed to Britain, to British interests and to British commercial interests. Of course, I think that Britain’s relationship with Europe is a most important question. But I will not talk of it tonight. Europe is a word that tends to make people deaf to everything else you say, and I would rather be heard on other issues today.

The Britain we defend is undergoing huge constitutional change, to much of which we are opposed. But the Conservative party is not an organisation for the turning back of clocks. For example, the Scots are to have a parliament. That is their choice, and we must accept it, unless and until experience leads them to a change of mood. Our interest and duty is clear. We must offer effective participation in the new chamber. We must ensure as best we can that the government of Scotland is carried on well. In particular, since Labour is creating extra tiers of government we must ensure that the new body does not suck towards itself responsibility for decisions that should be taken at local level. We must conduct ourselves in such a way as to make unattractive the plans of the nationalists who wish to use the new institutions to promote separatism and the dissolution of the Union.

We must re-assert our confidence in decision-making at the local level. Contrary to the general perception, it was a strong theme of our last government as we passed powers to hospitals and schools. But the extremism of some councils led us to limit the powers of local government. Nonetheless, the policies of partnership, put into practice by Michael Heseltine, led some of the worst Labour authorities to reform. Some of them were led by him to accept again the central role of commerce in the life of our cities. We re-awakened their civic pride. The Labour party promises the electorate that it will bring its remaining rotten boroughs into line. Let us hope so. In any case let us make clear our belief in the importance of local government and our willingness to trust the people. Our representatives in local government will provide the foundations of our recovery. We are already winning seats in local elections. But electoral considerations apart, Conservatives are de-centralisers by nature. It is one of the reasons we distrust the idea of centralising power in a federal European Union. Let us ensure that our policies are consistent across the piece and that at every level we defend the democratic right to decide political questions at the most local level that is practical.

The reforms that our government made in industrial relations were some of the most important changes, enabling Britain to become modern and competitive. Labour has still not grasped what makes employment grow and I fear that their decision to sign the social chapter will cost our country many jobs. To judge by the energy with which Labour advocates flexibility in labour markets, I guess they fear it too. But they have given up the British veto and we can anticipate a steady flow of legislation, against which we have no protection, that will impose on Britain the job-destroying inflexibilities of our neighbours. Continental labour legislation is often highly prescriptive. Such legislation is ill-suited to our times. In an economy transformed by technological change, in which work patterns have changed so much, Labour’s employment policies contradict their claims to be economic modernisers. Compulsory union recognition and the social chapter are remnants of attitudes to the work place which have become anachronistic.

We must not blame only legislation at Community level. It makes me laugh to hear the last government portrayed as a mad worshipper at the shrine of the free market. We were rather notable regulators. We passed volumes of new rules and laws interfering with almost every aspect of business and social life. Some of it was thoroughly justified. Regulation has a proper role in protecting people as employees, investors and customers. But we should not believe that we made great advances in reducing the size of the state. Nor I hope will this government be complacent about the burden that it can impose on business and social activity if we are to compete effectively and if people are going to perform their duties of care towards one another.

There must be no confusion about what we want. We look for flexibility at work because it is the critical quality in a modern economy if we are to produce anything close to full employment in a world of rapid change and extraordinary competitive pressures. Flexibility is not a means to provide poor or basic conditions at work, but rather the key to enabling people to be in work and to improving their terms, conditions and perks. The better those terms are, the more contented people will be, and so better motivated and more effective at winning business. That in turn will underpin their job security and make possible further increases in their quality of life at work. The extraordinary feature of the last twenty years has been that an old economy like ours has adapted so well to change, providing opportunities to work for such a high proportion of our people. Conservative policy must both preserve the flexibility that has enabled us to do well, and encourage the development of increasingly enlightened policies in business to make work satisfying and enjoyable, and spread a feeling of security even in a world of change.

The Conservative party needs to be as much of a pro-business party as ever before – indeed more so since Labour is now posturing on that ground. We must be willing to defend the role of incentives and profit. But we must be clearer in our advocacy of responsible and self-enlightened capitalism. In economic terms, that is a capitalism that derives the greatest possible benefit from human capital. In more everyday terms, it means that our best companies are also those who treat their employees best; consulting, informing and stimulating them. It remains the case that such arrangements are best achieved voluntarily. This government is on the wrong track in trying to force union recognition, and is having to backtrack on the minimum wage. Tories, however, must embrace the co-operative mood in business, not least since that new spirit has come about as more people have come to understand our message that we need constantly to improve our efficiency and competitiveness if we are to move forward and create more jobs.

There are a few neanderthals left today in the trade union movement. But the Conservatives will want to be part of a dialogue that can include all those who genuinely want to see our businesses succeed, excluding only those who still want merely to ossify British industry or defend vested interests.

As you will see, I believe that it is extremely important for the Conservative party to deal with the world as it now is, rather than re-fight battles that we have already won, continuing to flog a dead dragon, as it were. This must apply also to our attitude to the personal relationships that people choose to enter. This is an area where we got into some bad scrapes when we were in office.

First, let us deal with sexual misdemeanours amongst MPs . William Hague is right to make a clear distinction between, on the one hand, misconduct of a financial nature or some other betrayal of public trust, and on the other hand, problems in personal life, such as marital breakdown. A betrayal of public trust must lead to resignation, and we shall watch carefully how thoroughly Labour does in fact clean out its Augean stables. But private problems and indiscretions should not normally lead to the end of a person’s career. A sense of proportion is, it seems, returning, as we see from the way that recent problems have been reported. You may think less highly of someone who exhibits weakness in his private life, you may choose not to support or re-elect him, but we should not require people to be driven from office in those circumstances.

The Conservative party has always voiced unreserved support for the family. We believe that children are best brought up in stable family arrangements with two parents. But we admire those many people who are doing an excellent job raising children on their own. The important thing is that people recognise the responsibility they have when they conceive children and do all they can to provide a warm, caring and balanced home for them. Our society has changed. For good or ill, many people nowadays do not marry and yet head stable families with children. For a younger generation, in particular, old taboos have given way to less judgemental attitudes to the span of human relationships. There remain many other people to whom the new norms seem all wrong. The Tory party is conservative and not given to political correctness. Still the party never rejects the world that is. Tolerance is a part of the Tory tradition. I believe that the Conservative party in its quiet way is as capable as any other of comprehending the diversity of human nature. That must go hand-in-hand with policies that reinforce the responsibilities that every parent has for his or her children. That is an area of proper concern for politicians representing the legitimate interests of our society.

Now, a word about tactics. There are two things that the Conservative party needs very badly. One, I mentioned, is loyalty. If we cannot re-invent it we cannot govern. The other is patience. I read somewhere that there was frustration with William Hague for not yet coming up with the next big idea. I accord that remark the prize for the silliest thing said since the election.

The public is not yet ready for such an innovation from us, even if a big idea were a thing to be conjured up at will. People need a rest from us, and we need time to reflect and listen and come to understand one another better than we have of late. We certainly need to do a lot about ourselves. We need better and different organisation. We need a broad and stable financial base. We need to spread our appeal and attract different sorts of people: different ages, social types, ethnic groups and cultures.

As for policies, we should be in no great hurry. Get straight what are our core beliefs. Sort out the confusions and false signals that arose while we were in government. Take a fresh look in the new circumstances. But there is no call to rush headlong into inventing new approaches.

Our party will renew itself. The new intake of MPs is of extremely high quality. Just as happened with Labour, those new people will be the engine of our revival. Ministerial office will be theirs, but they must bide their time patiently too.

On the night of the election I wished our new government well, and I do so again. Conservatives are patriots and we wish to see our country succeed. You will not see us gloat over national reverses, nor talk down our successes, as Labour did when we were the government. We wish to see Britain behaving honourably, being an influence for good in Europe and the world. We wish to see the economy remain strong. We do not look to defeat Labour on the back of national failure. There will be sufficient grounds without that to argue for their removal.

I do not underestimate Mr Blair or his achievements. In the years before the election he skilfully laid bare the areas of life and policy where the public felt dissatisfied and angry with the Conservatives. He did not win merely by default, but because of his talent for capturing the public mood. We will learn from that.

Today the Labour government looks very strong and confident. But problems lie ahead. They don’t know where they are headed, and that is dangerous. Mr Blair’s great achievement is directionless leadership: he appears to be in control, but no one knows to where he is leading. I have made many mistakes in my career. I suppose we all have. But few people have been consistently wrong on all the great issues that faced our nation over the last fifteen years, as Mr Blair was. Last week, in a speech which was much acclaimed, Mr Blair failed to define the purpose of his government . I perceive no ideological roots. I can detect no sense of direction. Labour has a strong sense that it cannot undo what we did. But they do not understand why it was right to do it. They do not accept the politics of freedom and choice that lay behind our agenda. Labour grasped that it had to adopt our rhetoric. But they will in the end be judged not on what they say but on what they do.

Labour has been guided by the wish to destroy us; and by the determination to be re-elected. That is not a recipe for governing well. You cannot run an administration forever on the principle that you are unwilling to do anything that offends. You cannot substitute focus group government for cabinet government. Labour is a coalition brought about to win power. That will to win power is the one idea that the members of the government hold in common. But with the passage of time, that will prove an insubstantial glue. The signs of division may today be no bigger than a small crab in a jar, but they will grow.

This government is too bossy, too contemptuous of parliament, too self-satisfied and too little criticised in the media for its own good or for ours. The wheel of fortune turns and that which once appeared fresh, with the passing of time goes to seed.

I have set out the many things that we must do to present ourselves again as attractive and suitable for government. But on top of all that, what the Tories need is patience. Principles we already have. Opportunities there will be. Our time will come again.

Michael Portillo – 2001 Speech on Trusting the People

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Portillo, the then Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, on 6 June 2001.

As a very young man I was attracted to the Labour Party. The idea of high tax and high government spending seemed socially responsible. But over time I saw that Labour’s way didn’t work. The combination of the government’s spending more than the nation could afford, high taxation and devaluation just dragged the country down.

The greatest single difference between Labour and Conservatives is the same today as it has always been. Labour believes that society changes for the better because of what government does; we believe it is people themselves who bring about social improvement.

That’s why Labour talk of how much Government will take from the people and spend, and all their recruitment targets, as though the Government always spent our money well, and as though extra people could be recruited to public service like turning on a tap.

We believe in trusting people, their aspirations and instincts. Labour believes in government and bureaucrats, we believe in people.

Labour believes it’s compassionate and socially responsible to take money away from the people who earned it and spend it on their behalf. Well it depends. Not when Labour takes it from the poorest people. Not when it comes from hitting their pension funds. And not when the government complacently tolerates waste and inefficiency.

But worse than that, it’s not morally defensible if we weaken people’s resolve to take responsibility for themselves. We believe that our society is better if people believe that their first duty is to be independent if they can, and to build up their sense of self-worth. People who take responsibility for themselves are better able to take responsibilities for their families too, and more willing to recognise their responsibilities towards their neighbours and their community.

Those obligations to oneself, family, and community cannot be subcontracted to government. We believe that when a person has paid his taxes that is not the end of his obligations towards others, but the beginning. And indeed the greater your success in life, the greater is your personal obligation to put something back.

A society that overtaxes and penalises success, leads people to believe that once they’ve paid their taxes, they’ve done their bit. A society that overtaxes the poor leads them to believe they can never escape poverty by their own efforts.

A society that forces too many into means-tested benefits deepens the poverty trap and embitters those who tried to be prudent and thrifty.

Whether Britain can compete in the coming decades will depend on whether we free people from excessive tax and regulation. Whether we have a society of which we can be proud, depends on whether we can convince more people of their inalienable responsibilities.

Under Labour we are headed in the wrong direction: away from the responsibility society towards the dependency society.

Our approach to public services also rests on trusting people. When we say that we want head teachers to control all the school budget, that’s not just because we think people close to the ground make better decisions than those in distant bureaucracies. It’s also because when you trust someone, when you give them the power of initiative and authority, you bring out the best in them. They flourish and exceed all expectations even their own. I saw what a head teacher in a grant-maintained school could achieve with children from underprivileged homes, who learnt self-esteem and the value of hard work.

Labour has always believed in centralisation, but New Labour’s control fetish has made it still more intolerant of diversity. Uniformity is the enemy of improvement. We passionately believe freedom and diversity deliver progress.

Governments must not be resentful of, or hostile to diversity. We can only walk when we allow one foot to move in front of the other. The other foot then catches up and passes by. And it is only by allowing those with good ideas to edge ahead, and helping others to catch them up, that our country can move forward.

Governments without a deep-rooted commitment to freedom and diversity, are Governments wedded to mediocrity. Public services will never get better under Labour because they believe Government is the only engine of improvement. They are incapable of letting go: incapable of trusting people. Labour is intellectually timid, too bound up in ideology. Conservatives will be the party of progress and reform.

Michael Portillo – 2000 Speech to Conservative Party Conference

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Portillo, the then Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the Conservative Party Conference held on 3 October 2000.

Four years ago Tony Blair promised us a new Britain.

He promised taxes wouldn’t rise. But they have.

He promised shorter waiting lists. But they’re longer.

He promised smaller classes. But they’re larger.

He promised more police. But there are fewer.

He promised his government would be purer than pure. What a joke.

I feel so sorry for the many people who put their hopes in that man. They are so bitterly disappointed.

They were sold a dream and it’s just not there. And there hasn’t been a single word of apology.

Well, he did say the Dome hadn’t been a runaway success.

Not a runaway success? As I recall, that’s what people said to me after my defeat in Enfield Southgate.

It’s four years since I could address a party conference from the platform. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge. We’ve travelled a long distance since then: I have, you have, the party has.

I was devastated by my defeat at the time. It certainly didn’t feel like it at the time, but the British electorate did me a favour. My period out of parliament was a chance to connect with the Britain of today.

Now, as Shadow Chancellor, I cannot forget those experiences. My job is not just about dry economics. The quality of British life cannot be measured in material terms alone.

We are the party that understands how much the world has changed.

Our country would be stronger and its people more willing to take responsibility if we had fewer politicians passing fewer laws, raising fewer taxes and intruding less in our lives.

Young people reject the Labour Party’s bossiness, meddling, banning and regulating.

Britain has changed and the Conservatives have changed with it. For new generations of British people, old prejudices have been swept away.

The Conservative Party is a party for our times.

We are a party for people, not against people. We are for all Britons: black Britons, British Asians, white Britons. Britain is a country of rich diversity. That Britain was on display in Sydney. Athletes of every background united by a pride in Britain, and Britain united by its pride in them. Conservatives don’t look for uniformity, but for the qualities that mark people out as individual and exceptional.

We are for people whatever their sexual orientation. The Conservative Party isn’t merely a party of tolerance: it’s a party willing to accord every one of our citizens respect. Why should people respect us if we withhold respect from them?

We value people for what’s inside them.

We heard last week Labour’s smears against our policy on asylum seekers. That policy will re-establish public confidence in our controls. That frees us to give a warm welcome to those who come to Britain in fear of their lives.

That’s how my father came. Britain’s willingness to take in refugees defines us as a generous and responsible people. It’s a tradition that will be upheld by the Conservative Party.

We want people to aspire, to reach the heights to which their qualities can lift them.

While I was out of parliament I took a television camera into some housing estates. I saw a lot of poverty. But in a way what shocked me was not so much the absolute poverty – for many people had videos and their children wore Reebok trainers. What distressed me most was the poverty of expectation and ambition, the lack of hope for anything better in life to come.

But in a Saturday school organised by the black community in Sandwell, I found that aspiration: parents determined that their children should have a chance to fulfil their dreams. And education would be the ladder by which they’d climb.

Many Labour politicians climbed that ladder. But now they want to kick it away from others. For reasons of pure dogma, they destroy good schools: grant-maintained schools and grammar schools.

But they send their own children to exclusive schools. That’s Labour’s real policy on education. One rule for themselves, another rule for those they govern.

William Hague went to a state school. So did Theresa May. So did I. I had excellent teachers. We weren’t intimidated by public schools like Mr Blair’s. We thought we could do just as well as they did.

No state school should ever feel second class.

Every parent knows that a school is only as good as its head teacher. The Conservative way is to trust the head teachers and give them the money to spend as they choose. We will give them the opportunity to create great schools, to lift the sights of their pupils, and to transform their young lives.

This is our message to parents and teachers: we will set the schools free.

The next generation will want to be more independent in their retirement than pensioners are today. We will give them the chance to put their money into a properly-funded pension. We’ll enable future generations to accrue prosperity and share fully in the growth of our economy.

We won’t fudge welfare reform.

Gordon Brown promised pensioners change. They got it. Loose change. 75 pence. And when pensioners sent it back in disgust, Gordon cashed the cheques.

While I was enjoying my sabbatical, I worked for a few shifts as a hospital porter. I remember once wheeling a patient to the operating theatre on a trolley. He was motionless and I was awfully afraid he might be dead. But without warning, almost like Frankenstein’s monster he sat bolt upright and said, “What on earth are you doing here Mr Portillo?”

I was experiencing the sharp end of the NHS.

Everything was in short supply. There weren’t enough wheel chairs. So porters had to horde them. It reminded me of stories of the war, when there was rationing, but everyone mucked in and tried to be cheerful.

It was impressive. The doctors, nurses – and porters – are heroes. But things shouldn’t have to be like that.

Britain spends too little on health.

There’s a consensus amongst the parties that we should spend much more money on the NHS. But not on how to spend it, nor on how that money can be supplemented.

Labour impose politically motivated targets on our doctors and nurses. No wonder they’re demoralised. We would give doctors responsibility, and trust them to spend the money wisely, treating the sickest patients first.

Where Labour’s horizons end, ours begin.

Our neighbours in Europe know that you cannot rely on taxes alone to finance health. They would think it silly that families in Britain are encouraged to spend money on their home, on their continued education and on their retirement, but are discouraged through dogma from spending their own money on their health. So other countries have schemes, for instance organised by trade unions and employers. We’ll want to encourage that in Britain too.

Well spend much more money on the Health Service. And attract extra money too.

Labour are stuck in ancient ideology. As Ann Widdecombe once said, Labour have built a Berlin Wall between the public and private sectors.

We will tear down that wall.

Liberal Democrats have a policy for health and education too. It’s is to make doctors and teachers pay more tax. It’s not much of a gift for the NHS. But it’s a great gift for every Conservative candidate fighting a Liberal Democrat. Let’s hear a round of applause for my old pal Charles Kennedy, the Tory candidate’s friend.

While I was out of Parliament, I became a small business. The Inland Revenue and Customs and Excise sent me a pile of forms and books and tables that thick. I found it daunting and time-wasting. What a pity Gordon Brown doesn’t live in the real world where business people live.

We never forget that governments don’t create prosperity. Businesses do.

Tomorrow David Heathcoat Amory will tell you about our plans to cut red tape. We will make VAT simpler and fairer. Let’s stop punishing the people who create the jobs.

All Labour Chancellors regulate more. All Labour Chancellors tax more. But Gordon Brown is no socialist hero. He hasn’t taxed the rich to give to the poor. He’s cynically chosen soft targets for his stealth taxes: hard-working families, people he thought who would never protest.

Labour think high taxes give them the moral high ground. They talk of social justice. They believe that money that government spends is always more worthwhile than money that people spend for themselves on their families.

But I don’t.

I believe in allowing hardworking families to keep more of the money they have earned. I believe in allowing them to keep more of their dignity and responsibility.

Recently, a man wrote to me, a member of the seamen’s union. The union’s told him Gordon Brown’s taxed the pension fund and he must pay out another £200 a year if he’s not to be worse off in his retirement.

Is that social justice?

Another man told me he’s just retiring. Gordon Brown’s abolished the married couple’s allowance and age allowance. The man will have to pay £500 a year more in tax than his brother who retired last year.

Is that social justice?

In Suffolk last week a mother of four children, a beautician, told me she’s been driven out of business by Gordon Brown. She can’t afford to fill her tank with the most expensive petrol in Europe.

Call that social justice, Mr Brown?

There is no social justice in high taxation.

The Prime Minister devoted a large part of his Brighton speech to smearing the Conservatives. People long ago stopped believing Mr Blair when he spins his own policies let alone when he falsifies ours. People found his speech not only unbelievable but also disillusioning. Wasn’t he meant to bring a new honesty to politics? Why can’t he behave like a Prime Minister?

Before the election Labour claimed it was no longer addicted to high public spending, that the amount we spend is less important than how well we spend it. They committed themselves to stick to Conservative spending plans, because they knew that our prudence was a foundation of economic stability.

But as the events of the last few weeks have shown, this is not a Chancellor whose word is his bond.

Our economy has been growing since 1992. That gives us an opportunity to increase public spending. I plan to spend more on public services in every year than Labour has spent in any year. But I don’t intend to spend money the country hasn’t earned. I will leave room for tax cuts.

Labour taxes more and delivers less, and plans higher taxes year after year. Conservatives will tax less, spend better and deliver more. That will be the choice at the next election.

We will cut taxes on business, so that they can compete and create prosperity and jobs.

We will reform Labour’s taxes on entrepreneurs and on inward investment.

We will encourage savings, to give people security and self-esteem.

We will help pensioners and hard-working families.

We will restore a married couple’s allowance.

We will cut the duty on fuel.

That gives you a flavour of my budgets!

We will keep an independent Bank of England. We will make it more independent of government and more accountable to Parliament.

We will establish a National Accounts Commission to show the world that under the Conservatives there will be no fiddled figures.

And we will have an independent committee of economists to give public advice to me on the proper level of surplus or deficit.

These measures will ensure honesty, transparency and prudence.

They will ensure stable economic policies. They will protect the value of the pound in your pocket.

And when I say the pound I mean the pound. For our economic policy will be based on Britain having its own currency and setting its own interest rates.

Gordon Brown wants to be the next Chancellor of the Exchequer and he can’t tell you whether he wants to control his own currency or not.

Labour like to call us little Englanders. Is it likely a little Englander would be called Portillo? I am half Spanish, and proud of it. I am a true European, someone with a love of Europe’s different cultures.

As the Spanish proverb goes: Antes de que te cases, mira lo que haces. Before you get yourself hitched, watch what you’re doing. Look before you leap.

The euro plan fails to respect Europe’s differences. It shoe horns all the economies of Europe, with their different qualities and cycles and stages of development, into just one currency, and just one interest rate.

It threatens to take Europe back to boom and bust. The Irish now have high inflation. But there’s nothing they can do about it. When Ireland joined the euro it gave up the right to set its own interest rates.

In Germany the economy seems to be faltering. For Germany the single European interest rate is too high.

Not surprisingly, one interest rate for all of Europe is wrong for most places most of the time.

And here’s the rub. Supposing the people of Ireland want to vote against the policies that are driving up their prices? They can’t do it. Their elected government doesn’t make the policy. The critical political decisions about growth and jobs in Ireland are being taken by the European Central Bank.

And who votes for the European Central Bank? No one. It’s wholly unaccountable.

The most precious thing in Europe is democracy. Mr Blair hoped to bamboozle Britain into joining the euro. He hoped to scare us like children with tales of how frightening it would be to be left out. Denmark has shown that people cannot be fooled or bullied by arrogant politicians.

Mr Blair please take note.

At the election we will oppose the euro. British public opinion is suspicious of the euro as an unproven piece of political dogma. That is our view. That is the view of the moderate majority. We want to keep the pound.

And remember this. The euro is a bright idea recommended by the people who brought us the Dome!

Labour is leading Britain in the wrong direction. Compared with the United States we are under-performing. Labour is weighing us down with regulations and taxes. It’s making us uncompetitive. It’ll throw away our national goal of full employment.

Last week Tony Blair talked about Britain in his usual cool Britannia terms. In reality Labour lack confidence in Britain and seem ashamed of it. They are defeatist, thinking there’s no future for us unless we are more and more absorbed into Europe, less and less able to make choices for ourselves.

It’s amazing that the government of the world’s fourth largest economy should have given up the game.

Conservatives recognise the need for Britain to be globally competitive and produce global companies. If we commit ourselves to maintain control of our own currency and taxes, to be agile and open to change, to cut regulation and make our taxes competitive with the world, we can make Britain the outstanding enterprise centre in Europe.

We have a vision that fits our times.

William Hague has led this party out of dark days. I have never seen anyone face difficulty with such composure. He has real courage. The courage Britain needs in its next Prime Minister.

The quality of British life cannot be measured in material terms alone. I will not forget the experiences I had while out of parliament.

We will be the party of tax cuts, and welfare reform. Of social justice and full employment.

We will use the months ahead to be ready for government, to win the trust of the people that Labour has betrayed.

We are a party that believes in Britain, a party for all our people, a party that offers them aspiration and hope.

Michael Portillo – 2001 Speech to Conservative Spring Forum

Below is the text of the speech made by Michael Portillo, the then Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, to the Conservative Spring Forum held on 3 March 2001.

I joined the Conservative Party just after Margaret Thatcher had become leader. I had a burning sense that we had to change Britain. We were overtaxed. The state was taking over people’s lives, making them dependent on government for handouts. But we let them keep more of what they earned, to take on more personal responsibility and have more choices in life.

After four years of Labour government, we’re headed back to square one. We have a meddling, nannying government, and Labour’s stealth taxes have reduced people’s independence.

Gordon Brown’s taxes have fallen not on the rich, but on the people who have least. Families and pensioners are dismayed by the cost of petrol and the many sneaky ways he’s raised their income tax. He insulted pensioners with a miserly pension increase of just 75 pence. Having made them poorer with his taxes, he now forces more and more of them to rely on means-tested benefits.

In Gordon Brown’s Britain well over half our pensioners will face the indignity of revealing all their personal details to the state, in the hope of being granted an income sufficient to pay the Chancellor’s taxes. The form they must fill in even asks if they are pregnant.

There’s one party that doesn’t forget what we owe to the older generation. One party respects them for their experience and for the sacrifices they made. That party is the Conservative Party.

We think it crazy to tax people more than they can afford and then make them bow the knee to the state for their basic needs. There’s a better way. We’ll allow people to keep more of their own money.

Gordon Brown boasts of his surplus. It isn’t his. He’s got it because he’s taxed people so much that he’s outstripped even his own ability to spend our money. Even the government that brought us the Dome can’t waste money as fast as Gordon Brown taxes it. It isn’t Gordon’s surplus, it’s the people’s surplus. Government money is people’s money. And the Conservatives will render unto the people that which is the people’s.

Everywhere people are disappointed that Labour’s broken its promises. But having failed to deliver, Labour promise more and more and further and further into the future. They promise a spending splurge. As prudent countries around the world wisely cut taxes Gordon’s cut loose on his programme of tax and spend.

Would it mean still higher taxes? Would there be more stealth taxes, more raids on your pension fund and lower living standards for those on low incomes? You bet your life there would.

We’ve set out a different way. Each year on average our economy grows. The national cake gets bigger. So each year we can spend more on vital public services, but also allow people to keep more of their own money. But to do that we must plan increases in government spending that the nation can afford. Plans that don’t depend on never-ending growth, as Gordon Brown’s promises do. Plans that are robust and prudent.

William and I have established five disciplines that will govern the economic policy of a Hague Government. A Hague Government – I like the sound of that.

First, we’ll ensure that Britain keeps its own currency and that interest rates are set in Britain.

Second, we’ll increase the independence of the Bank of England.

Third, we’ll set up an independent Committee of Economic Advisers to give open and public advice on our policies.

Fourth, we’ll appoint a National Accounts Commission to lay down rules about the government’s accounts, bringing to an end Labour’s era of fiddling the books.

Fifth, we’ll increase government spending only in line with what the country can afford.

We can plan to spend as much as Labour on health and education. We don’t need to propose changes to spending on the police or defence. But we will make other changes, changes that improve the performance of government and of the economy and bring about social reform. We’ve set out the most detailed proposals on government spending ever drawn up by a party in opposition.

We’ll tackle the reform of the welfare state that Labour has ducked. We’ll require single parents with children over eleven to seek work, because studies show that children brought up by a parent who works are much more likely later in life themselves to get jobs.

We’ll cut programmes in the Department of Trade and Industry because what business needs isn’t more fiddly schemes but lower taxes and less regulation. We’ll transfer public housing to the private sector. We’ll revolutionise the system of student finance. We’ll implement the tough proposals to fight benefit fraud that this government rejected out of hand. And we’ll cut the cost of government.

We have set out our proposals in minute detail. After two years we’ll be able to save £8 billion compared with Labour’s plans. After two years we can make £8 billion of tax cuts.

Now, in the next few days you’ll hear the Chancellor talk of tax cuts too. Strange that. He’s spent four years relentlessly putting taxes up, but now suddenly he talks of tax cuts. Could it be there’s an election coming? Could it be he’s afraid we’re winning the argument? Could it be that once again the political agenda is being set by the Conservatives?

The Chancellor can make tax cuts now simply because he’s over-taxed us. Whatever he gives us back will be small by comparison with what he’s already taken. Because the stealth taxes he’s imposed so far, if they’d been raised honestly and openly, would have raised income tax by 10 pence in the pound. Suppose next week he knocks 2 pence off income tax. He’d still be the 10 pence on, 2 pence off Chancellor.

If we gave him the chance, once he’d won the election, he’d take back even that. So we’re not going to give him the chance.

The tax cuts that we offer don’t depend just on today’s surplus. Our tax cuts would be durable and they’d be on top of anything Labour offers us now. We’ll make the tax cuts that Labour can’t because we’ll make the spending changes that Labour won’t.

It’ll take us the first two years to turn government spending away from Labour’s unsustainable course. But once we’ve done that, we can look forward to more room for manoeuvre – more room for tax cuts.

We Conservatives haven’t merely set out how we’d cut taxes. We’ve mapped out a way to change Labour’s culture, to create a society that’s fairer and more responsible. We’ve laid out a different vision for our country.

We’ll abolish taxes on savings and shares. Most of the 17 million families that save will benefit and millions more will be encouraged to save for the first time.

We’ll raise sharply the amount people over the age of 65 can earn before they pay income tax. Their allowance will rise by £2000 per year. A million pensioners will be taken out of income tax altogether. Most of the remaining 2.7 million will pay £8.50 per week less in income tax.

Under our plans pensioners will be able to look back on a lifetime of saving and know they did the right thing and were rewarded for doing it.

We want families with children also to keep more of their money. We’ll reform the new children’s tax credit scheme which is hopelessly bureaucratic. And we’ll make it more generous. We believe that families face the greatest strains when their children are very young. So we’ll allow families with children under five to keep an extra £200 a year of their own money.

We’ll bring help to widows. We’ll sweep away most income tax on the allowances paid to a widowed parent, leaving her or him about £1000 a year better off.

I know many parents who aren’t married who make great parents. I’m also aware that statistically children whose parents are married do better in life on average, and their parents are less likely to split up.

Gordon Brown swept away support for marriage from the income tax system. But marriage is a civic institution: a contract with clear responsibilities. We believe the tax system should recognise it.

We’ll give people who are married and have youngish children or disabled relatives an allowance worth £1000 a year. Parents will be relieved of some of the pressure to go out to work.

Our plans help many different types of family. The Conservative Party believes in choice. We want parents – in particular we want women – to have more choice.

The way we’ve targeted these tax cuts says a lot about this party, our sense of priorities and our aspirations for the British people.

We’ll encourage personal responsibility. Because people who take responsibility for themselves are more likely to accept it for their families and to recognise their obligations to society. We’ll replace Gordon Brown’s means-tested dependency Britain with William Hague’s responsible society. Britain will be different under the Conservatives.

One thing won’t change. Under the Conservatives Britain will keep the pound. Britain will remain amongst the huge majority of nations in the world who believe that in a highly competitive world they’ll do best if they have their own currency and set their own interest rates.

By contrast, across Europe they’re trying to apply just one rate of interest to a wide variety of economies. The strains are beginning to show. Inflation in Ireland and Spain. Unemployment in Germany. Britain remembers only too well how we suffered under the ERM from an interest rate suited to Germany but not to Britain.

We’re on the side of the moderate majority of the British people. During our Keep the Pound campaigns across the country, people have flocked to register their support. In particular they turned out to cheer a politician who took the campaign to high streets and market squares across Britain. One politician had the energy and guts to do it. His name is William Hague.

Our job is not so much to convince people to keep the pound. The moderate majority agrees. Rather it’s to convince them that this election may be their last chance to vote to keep the pound.

The prime minister has rigged the referendum rules. If Labour won the general election, then come the referendum the parties wanting to kill off the pound would be allowed to spend twice as much as we Conservatives would be allowed to spend defending it. The government would soften up public opinion by spraying around taxpayers’ money. And does anyone think that Mr Blair would allow the British public to be asked a straightforward question on the euro? You have more reason to believe in Santa Claus.

The question would be Do you authorise the government to negotiate the best terms for entry into monetary union when it judges the time and terms to be right? That’d be the question if we were lucky.

People know there’s more at stake than economics. I referred before to that moment in the New Testament, when Christ held up a coin and asked “Whose head and insignia are on this coin?” The answer was Caesar’s, so render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s. My point is that right back to Biblical times people have known that there’s a very close connection between the currency and political power. The Queen’s head appears on Britain’s coins. There’s a reason for that. Her head wouldn’t appear on the euro. There’s a reason for that too. Just think about it.

If the pound matters to you, if you believe in keeping it, if you haven’t given up on Britain, the only way to be sure is to elect a Conservative government under William Hague.

I think back to those early days of Margaret Thatcher. I remember our preparations for government then and I’m part of those preparations today. I believe that under William Hague we’re radical today, just as we were radical then.

We’re willing to show how we’d change the role and scope of the state in order to have lower taxes, to make Britain competitive and allow people more personal choice.

First, we’ll set our universities free from state control. We’ll use future windfalls to the government to endow our great universities. They’ll no longer need to rely on a drip feed from the state. They’ll be free to attract Nobel Prize winners, to direct their research towards innovation and like a Stanford or a Harvard in the United States, provide the British economy with a huge dynamic stimulus.

Second, we want young people to have bigger pensions than pensioners have today. At present we all contribute to the national insurance fund throughout our working lives and we get a pension of £67 at the end of it. With the single exception of Robert Maxwell, this must be the greatest pension rip-off of all time. The national insurance fund isn’t a fund at all. The money paid in this year goes straight out to pay this year’s pensions. It’s never invested and never grows.

We should do better. If we allowed our young people the option of putting their contributions into a properly-funded pension, they could carry through their lives something of real and growing value. It would be the modern day equivalent of buying their council house. And that would gradually relieve the enormous liability that will fall on future generations of taxpayers.

Third, we’re committed to increase spending sharply on the National Health Service. But we don’t pretend that’s going to get Britain up to the standards of health care that people rightly demand. Now what I’m about to say may come as a surprise from me; but in this area we need to become more like the rest of Europe. Yes, you heard it here first.

Our European partners don’t try to meet all their health needs from taxation alone. They know it can’t be done. They recruit their trades unions and employers to help get their members and employees insured. That way more money pours into health care. We need to do the same, to create a better partnership between public and private sectors, allowing us to have more hospitals and train more doctors and nurses. It’s the only way Britain will have the health care it deserves.

This party doesn’t rest easy with things as they are. We don’t shy away from far-reaching change. The Conservative Party of today has the courage to look ahead and be radical.

Labour believes after all these years that society can be made better by government, passing laws, centralising power, issuing directives and raising taxes. Conservatives don’t look to governments to make society better, we look to people.

We look forward to winning people’s trust and to being in office. We’ll give responsibility back to people: we’ll put trust in our police officers, in our head teachers and our doctors and nurses; and return responsibility to people who save, to pensioners and to parents.

We’ve set out our policies. They’re Conservative through and through, but they’re Conservatism for our times. They reinforce our long held values, but they’re directed to this new century.

Our policies will give people choices, leave them with more of their own money and reward them for their efforts. Our policies point the way to a better Britain.

Michael Portillo – 1985 Maiden Speech to the House of Commons

Below is the text of the maiden speech made by Michael Portillo in the House of Commons on 4 March 1985.

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to catch your eye so that I can make my maiden speech.

I begin by paying tribute to my predecessor as the Member for Enfield, Southgate, Sir Anthony Berry. Sir Anthony was a popular member and his death in the bombing at Brighton last October was tragic. I had the privilege of hearing you, Mr. Speaker, outside the House deliver an address in which you recalled Sir Anthony’s life and his many fine qualities. I shall not attempt to repeat the well chosen words that you used on that occasion, but, from my constituency experience, I shall add a few words.

It is clear that Sir Anthony was absolutely dedicated to the welfare of his constituents. He showed that dedication by his custom of visiting people in their homes to discuss their problems. That courtesy and kindness was typical of Sir Anthony. It is a stunning paradox that such a kind, courteous and gentle man should lose his life at the hands of men of violence. I know that the whole House joins me in remembering Sir Anthony, deploring his death and grieving for him. I am sure that all hon. Members also join me in paying tribute to Lady Berry, who has borne her bereavement with dignity and courage. [HON. MEMBERS: “Hear, hear.”]

Sir Anthony Berry made his maiden speech almost exactly 20 years ago in January 1965. He referred to the part of the North Circular road that runs through the constituency of Enfield, Southgate. He looked forward to that piece of road being widened shortly. Twenty years later we are still expecting the road to be widened. We often hear the Government say that not all public expenditure is necessarily desirable. Many of my constituents agree, because they are living in properties that are decaying, not because anything is wrong with them but because of planning blight. A number of my constituents would like the Government to save the money that they have in mind for the project and to allow them to continue to live in their homes rather than cause those homes to be destroyed.

At the other end of the constituency, far from the din of the north circular road, my constituency reaches the countryside. One can drive along the Hadley road and see nothing but green fields on either side. I imagine that I am one of the few London Members who has the privilege of having a number of farmers among his constituents.

In the middle of my constituency is Winchmore Hill. One of my history books says that about the year 1600 the people of Winchmore Hill were very primitive and much given to witchcraft. Recently, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the belief that public expenditure could cure all our ills as an ancient form of witchcraft. I assure my right hon. Friend that nowadays the good people of Winchmore Hill are no more attracted to that practice than their near neighbours in Palmers Green or Cockfosters.

Frequently, when discussion in the House turns to public expenditure, a number of hon. Members wonder whether they can improve on the traditional procedures by which they consider the revenue that the Government raise at one time of the year, in the Budget, and how that money is spent at another time of the year, in the autumn round of discussions. The Armstrong committee considered that matter in 1980 and came forward with a series of proposals for bringing the consideration of taxation and spending together. The proposal was considered by the Treasury and Civil Service Select Committee and the Select Committee on Procedure (Finance). The Government went some way towards meeting the point by devising the autumn statement in the form in which we now know it.

In its present form, the autumn statement has given rise to a number of unforeseen difficulties. Public and press attention naturally focus on that part of the autumn statement in which the Government say how they view the prospective fiscal adjustment in the following Budget—whether they consider that taxation is likely to be increased or decreased. During the past two years we have seen that, whatever the Government say, the results can be unfortunate. In November 1983 the Government announced that the prospect was for a moderate increase in taxation in the following Budget. The Government were denounced for being too gloomy. People asked whether the Government were still committed to their policy of cutting taxation. In the event, all that gloom was unnecessary, because the Government were able to decrease taxes in the Budget.

Last November, the Government said that the prospect was for a decrease in taxation in the Budget, but that statement brought denunciation on the Government. At first people said, “The Government have underestimated how much money there is to give away in the Budget.” People thought that the Government were being too cautious. Subsequently, the Government were denounced for having thrown caution to the wind. It appeared that the Government were more determined to cut taxation than to continue their fight against inflation.

No one can reliably estimate in the autumn the leeway that the Government will have in the spring. Whatever figure is announced, it either increases or depresses expectations. More importantly, it creates confusion about the Government’s policy. Sometimes that can have serious consequences.

Our present arrangements are an uneasy halfway house between our traditional procedures and the radical proposals in the Armstrong report. This middle position does not satisfy those hon. Members who want a thoroughgoing reform. On the other hand, it sets a number of hares running about in a way that is not helpful to the Government or to the House. I cannot help thinking that the present position is likely to prove unstable and that we shall want to move either forward towards the Armstrong proposals or backward to the position in the old days when the Chancellor said very little in advance of his Budget statement.

May I use the opportunity of my maiden speech, Mr. Speaker, to make a point that concerns the relationship between public expenditure and unemployment? I am reminded of what happened to me last year at the Conservative party conference in Brighton. At about 2 am on what proved to be that terrible morning of 12 October, I was standing in the bar of the Grand hotel. Because the hour was late I got into a heated discussion with a journalist. He said, “The Government’s policies are designed to create unemployment.” Of course, I disagreed with that. The discussion became heated. To emphasise his point, the journalist beat the pillar beside us with his fist and said, “This is a pillar; that is a fact. Your policies are to create unemployment; that is a fact, too.” The discussion became even more acrimonious and the journalist rather abusive, so I left the Grand hotel and went safely to bed in my hotel down the road.

In the morning I reflected on two things. First, I was grateful to that journalist for having been abusive towards me; otherwise I might have stayed in the Grand hotel and been there at the time the bomb went off. Secondly, I reflected on the fact that the pillar which he had thumped with his hand and which represented for him absolute certainty was probably a pile of rubble. I thought that, in the light of day, the journalist, too, was a little less certain about the motives of Government policy.

Although I understand that the Opposition believe with absolute conviction that the way to reduce unemployment is to increase public spending, I ask them to understand the absolute sincerity with which Conservative Members say that to increase public spending is to increase taxation which would lead to fewer jobs and higher unemployment.

Michael Portillo – 2000 Welsh Conservative Party Conference Speech

Below is a part of the speech made by the then Shadow Chancellor, Michael Portillo, to the Welsh Party Conference on 9th June 2000.

A couple of weeks ago Peter Mandelson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, tried seize control of Government policy on the euro. Now that the Prime Minister has weakened his Chancellor, by failing to endorse his class war language, new ministerial minnows are coming forward to seize Gordon Brown`s territory.

Fresh from his debacle in a South African suit Mr Byers dresses himself as the Cabinet’s greatest euro enthusiast. He makes plain that Gordon Brown’s five economic tests are mere decoys and are not to be taken seriously. The Government plans to join the euro irrespective of the economic conditions.

The plan to con voters into the euro has been carefully laid, and new dishonesties are being carefully crafted. While every European statesman says openly that the euro leads to creating a country called Europe, Mr Byers plans to tell us that British sovereignty is not at stake. Fortunately, his subtlety is no greater than his sincerity. We can see him coming.

The moderate majority want to keep the pound and will not be easily fooled.

Gordon Brown seems to know nothing of enterprise. He talks of it like he has learnt a foreign language. It sounds okay, but it is devoid of meaning or understanding. Why else would he make extravagant claims to be creating an enterprise economy while piling new regulations on businesses, inventing new forms and slapping on extra stealth taxes?

Labour claim they are building an information society in Great Britain. In their dreams. We are lagging dangerously behind the US. We are beset by restrictions. The government keeps talking but their words mean nothing. Business is giving Gordon Brown a slow handclap.

Enterprise is actually open to all. It`s the university of life. It has no doors and no admissions policy. It is not a zero-sum game. One success does not block another or exhaust a quota.

In fact, one success stimulates the next. Enterprise feeds on freedom and starves under a system of control. Centralisation strangles it. Given the choice, Gordon Brown will regulate not liberate. Enterprise under Labour will always be sickly. And we are condemned to watch from the sidelines while the US shows us how things might be.

Michael Portillo – 1996 Speech on European Security and NATO

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, in Brussels on 23rd October 1996.

The Credibility of NATO

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation came into existence nearly 50 years ago. It has proved to be one of the most durable military alliances in history, and the most successful.

It has enhanced the security of all its members because its objectives are simple and credible. The Washington Treaty declared that an attack upon the territory of any member state would be regarded as an attack on all. To wage war on one is to wage war on all.

The sombre significance of that Article 5 was underlined by three factors in particular.

First, it was evident that the world’s first – and at that time the world’s only – nuclear power, the United States, was fully committed, and that was demonstrated by the presence in Europe of hundreds of thousands of GIs. Any adversary would calculate that, if American sons were placed in peril, then the American people would support a call to war, even in far off Europe.

Second, two other member states became nuclear powers, and throughout the history of the Alliance, the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent has remained committed to NATO, that is it has been committed to the defence of the territory of our allies in Europe, offering to all of them the protection of the British nuclear umbrella.

Third, NATO members in general were willing to find the money to maintain conventional forces at effective levels, and to commit them to the Alliance. Therefore any aggressor knew that the defence policy of NATO did not rest merely on the resort to the nuclear option. The credibility of the nuclear option might have been doubted despite the presence of US troops.

The reason I describe the Alliance as the most successful in history is that its credibility has never been seriously doubted, and certainly it has never been put to the ultimate test.

Of course there were many, indeed there were continual, attempts to probe the outer limits of the Alliance’s commitment to collective defence.

The blockade of West Berlin for example, although it preceded NATO’s creation, provided the first opportunity to demonstrate western solidarity. The deployment by the Soviet Union of SS20 mobile nuclear missiles in the mid 1980s, which could clearly threaten Western Europe,represented one of the last such attempts to probe our determination by the Soviet Union.

In the early 1980s, NATO allies sharply increased their defence spending. And that, added to other pressures on the Soviet system and on the Soviet economy, played a significant part in the collapse of that system.

The New Era

Hundreds of millions of Europeans emerged from the shadow of tyranny to the sunlight of democracy and freedom. And, though many had perished within the communist regimes of Central and Eastern Europe, in the cause of human rights and in the cause of free expression, NATO itself had not had to fire a shot.

The boundary of liberty has been carried to the east and, with so many new democracies now in existence, we have greater security. Democracies rarely invade one another.

It is our fervent hope that all the former tyrannies of the Warsaw Pact have taken an irrevocable step to become enduringly pluralistic, and permanent members of the family of liberal democratic nations.

After a 40 year nightmare of a divided Europe and Cold War tension, naturally our citizens, and our politicians, are anxious to believe that the new order will offer us tranquillity and assurance. They would like to believe that the very worst dangers that the modern world can offer might be a Bosnia, or a Gulf War: conflicts fought far from Western European homes, with low levels of Allied casualties.

It would be nice to be able to agree. But, at the risk of appearing to be a killjoy, I urge NATO not to be carried away by such thoughts. Much talk today is of NATO adaptation and restructuring, of reforms intended to equip the Alliance for the post-Cold War world and direct it towards new missions. But let us remember too that NATO has been so successful because its members committed themselves to hard defence, to maintaining the military capabilities at the top end of the spectrum of warfighting, the capabilities essential to meet threats to national survival.

This is not the time for NATO to go soft, and certainly not to convert itself into an organisation mainly capable of peacekeeping operations.

The Importance of Being Prepared for High Intensity Conflict

Neither Bosnia nor the Gulf are reliable models for all likely future operations. There are lessons to be learnt from both, but there is also a danger of learning the wrong lessons.

Of course Bosnia has been a great success for NATO, and of course it could have turned out differently and it could have proved dangerous. There were significant risks for our troops. We deployed into a cauldron of political instability and ethnic hatred, where all the factions were armed.

In the event, however, we have not so far faced an all out attack on our forces. Our higher military capabilities successfully deterred the factions.

We might have faced something much worse, but we were in any event not going to confront modern armed forces. There are many armies in the world which are more capable than the Bosnian factions.

So we must not allow the Bosnian experience to dominate our plans for the future.

Iraq’s capabilities in 1991 should not be our yardstick either. It is true that the Gulf conflict did demonstrate the need for first- rate military capabilities. It was precisely because the coalition had superiority in weaponry, and in intelligence and in command and control, that we prevailed with mercifully few allied casualties.

But the sophistication of weapon systems is evolving fast. The most developed countries of America and Europe have lost their monopoly in modern weaponry. We need to be prepared.

Future high intensity conflicts may be short and sharp. There will be no opportunity for us to generate conscript reserves or to manufacture new weaponry. Today’s equipment is too sophisticated. You cannot build it fast or quickly train people to use it. We must plan on the basis that what you start with is what you’ll get.

Intelligence and Deployable Forces

We do have the edge in one vital respect. Our intelligence systems give us control of the battlefield. That is why America gives such priority to that capability.

We should also improve the deployability of our forces. Experience in Bosnia and Iraq shook a number of the countries that contributed forces as they realised how hollow those forces had become. Even quite simple deployments stretched their resources to breaking point.

Rapid deployment can be the key to containment: to checking adventurism by dictators before it escalates into all-out conflict. It is therefore also a highly cost-effective deterrent.

NATO is developing the Combined Joint Task Force Headquarters to plan for such missions. As you would expect in such an important new capability, those headquarters will require substantial investment in logistics and communications to make them effective.

Britain is working on similar lines. We have established a Joint Rapid Deployment Force and a Permanent Joint Headquarters to give us the means of effective rapid response to a threat to our interests.


But each of us, each nation, must maintain our national commitments and invest in highly trained forces and the equipment that makes them capable.

Our successes in Bosnia and the Gulf were hard-earned. They were made possible because we retained our hard defence capabilities. Our forces were trained and equipped for all forms of conflict, from low to high intensity warfare. Forces that have been trained for high intensity warfare can undertake other, lesser, military tasks if called upon. But forces that have been trained as a gendarmerie cannot fight a war.

When Britain fought to recover the Falkland Islands, our armed services had not been trained to fight 8,000 miles from home. It was a far cry from the German plains or the North Atlantic. But they were ready and equipped for war, and they therefore adjusted successfully to a very different sort of conflict.

And even in Bosnia I do not believe that our soldiers would be able to show the restraint required for peacekeeping if they had not experienced the demands for self-discipline and for trust which are imposed by training them for the most intense warfighting.

The Threats to Peace

We must assess very carefully the risks and challenges that we may face. Outside NATO, there are about 35 countries which are equipped with up-to-date tanks and artillery. Many have armies that are numbered in hundreds of thousands. Forty air forces outside NATO can be said to have modern offensive aircraft. Thirty countries have submarine forces.

Twenty countries outside NATO possess ballistic missiles now. Crude technology in some cases, maybe. But it’s improving. Some NATO territory is already within the arc of threat from the Middle East.

If North Korea exports its more advanced systems, other nations could be threatened.

There is a risk that, despite our best efforts, stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction will grow and they will spread. Over a dozen countries have either the capability either to deploy chemical or biological weapons, or they have development programmes already at an advanced stage. A few of those countries can already produce chemical or biological warheads for ballistic missiles.

The likelihood of conflict is if anything increasing. We have seen how the end of superpower tension has emboldened others to push their territorial and ideological ambitions. We have seen overt aggression and we have seen the covert export of terrorism.

Nor can we relax our vigilance in the nuclear field. The international community was surprised to discover the progress which Iraq had made with its nuclear weapons programme. We will need to sustain in Iraq an intrusive monitoring regime to prevent it from reviving that programme. We will need to monitor North Korea’s compliance with the commitments that it has entered into. And we have to be concerned about reports from Iran that it may be seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

Russia’s Armed Forces are not those that we faced during the Cold War. They clearly have grave problems. But they are very large, with a considerable quantity of sophisticated weapons – both conventional and nuclear. Russian capability in strategic nuclear missile submarines has not diminished.

That, alongside the reform process, is one of the factors that we must take into account in assessing the potential security needs of Europe.

Our planning must take account of potential crisis points around the world. The last assessment I read had 53 entries, including the Balkans, the Transcaucasus, Algeria, Libya, Iraq. 17 of those potential troublespots are within 200 miles of NATO’s borders.

There is no reason to believe that territorial or ethnic disputes are on the decline. Quite the contrary. And we must add to that potential disputes about natural resources: oil, minerals and even water.

A common feature where such regional tensions exist is arms proliferation. Dictators impress and intimidate both their populations and their neighbours by acquiring weapons of mass destruction. The more responsible nations respond by matching them if they can, so as to build up their deterrence. And even where governments are currently well-disposed to us, we need to consider the potential impact of political instability.

With the end of superpower tension and the spread of democracy there is the potential for a better world. But it has not become good overnight, and it is presently no less dangerous. For as the risk of global catastrophe has reduced, the risk of geographically limited conflict has increased.

We cannot abolish extremism, greed and intolerance. But we can deter them. And we can stop them winning.

Preserving what Matters in NATO

NATO faces a bigger intellectual challenge today than ever before. It has to adapt, restructure, welcome France and Spain to its new military structures, embrace the new democracies, plan for new types of mission, build a relationship with Russia. It must do all of that and still maintain the integrity of the things that have made it successful. It has to change and not to change.

Most importantly, it must remain an Atlantic alliance. I am confident that America will remain involved, but I’m not complacent.

The United States recognises the importance to her own vital interests of European security. Warren Christopher gave a ringing affirmation of United State’s commitment in his speech in Stuttgart last month. Europe is a continent where dangerous things happen. It is crisscrossed by fault lines of ethnic and religious division. America keeps 100,000 troops in Europe. And neither Presidential candidate is proposing that they should be withdrawn.

But the past differences between European countries and America over Bosnia were not healthy. Europe was criticised for not dealing effectively with the crisis. But I do not subscribe to the view that Europe failed because it did not have a European Security and Defence Identity.

You can only have as much identity as you have capability. It is not a question of institutions, but of what European nations can – and will – take on.

It is evident that Bosnia was too much for Europe alone. The NATO force has relied on the United States for nearly half its troops, much of its strategic transport into theatre, and nearly all its satellite- borne command and control. Those hard facts have injected a welcome realism into the debate about identity and reinforced the importance of the US commitment to our continent.

What Europe must do

The proper European attitude to America should be to reinforce America’s involvement by building the European identity within NATO, and developing the ability of European nations to contribute more to the Alliance.

But real defence budgets across Europe have fallen by almost a third since 1985. Money is not everything, but other things being equal, that means less capability. European nations typically spend a lower proportion of their GDP on defence than does America. Also there is not much sign that European countries recognise that the peace dividend, such as it is, can only be taken once. The cutting goes on and on.

That has important consequences for the Alliance. The United States is pushing further and further ahead with investment in command and control, communications and intelligence, and long-range interdiction systems. A widening gap between America and her allies cannot be good for NATO. The United States generously provides intelligence to the Allies. Our responsibility is to ensure that we are in a position to use it effectively, passing that intelligence quickly to unit level commanders who need it.

We must take into account the risk of ballistic missiles spreading over the next few years. The threat for our NATO allies may grow. And none of us will want to deploy forces within range of hostile ballistic missiles without affording them the best possible protection.

We are working on how best to deal with that threat. Of course, ballistic missile defence is not the answer to all problems. There are many weapons other than ballistic missiles which we need to guard against. But we need ballistic missile defence, and we need to develop it jointly in NATO, with Europeans and Americans deciding together how best to respond to threats to our shared security interests.

All those things are big issues. I hope I may be forgiven, even in Brussels, for doubting the relevance to them of the matters that are proposed for discussion at the EU’s Inter-Governmental Conference. I am encouraged by signs of increasing realism. By the dawning recognition that defence is a business where deeds count, not words. I hope that the unrealistic talk we’ve heard of EU defence guarantees has now been set aside. The decision that we have taken at Berlin to build the European Defence Identity within NATO was a victory for common sense.

We will have only one military structure in future, bringing together European and North American defence capabilities in the organisation that was created for that purpose – which is NATO.

The arrangements that we have put in place will give the Europeans a credible military instrument for use on those missions where NATO, for whatever reason, decides not to take the lead.

But I am depressed by continuing pressure for institutional change. The pressure to subordinate the WEU to the European Union, which puts at risk what was achieved at Berlin. There is pressure too for an EU common defence policy – though nobody has defined what that means – and for an EU common defence.

Those who want that, have already the most convincing common defence in history – in the Atlantic Alliance. We have benefited from that for nearly fifty years: and it does not need to be recreated now.

Britain will continue to play a constructive part in the Inter- Governmental Conference, at Dublin and beyond. But we will oppose anything that weakens NATO, and thus weakens Europe’s security.


There is one area where Europe can certainly do better. We have a duty to spend our money wisely. To buy the defence systems most relevant to tomorrow’s needs, and to avoid money being wasted on unnecessary duplication.

We have to improve our track record on armaments collaboration. I firmly believe that no country has a better record in this than Britain. We have proved to be a reliable partner. We participated in the Tornado aircraft project; the most successful European collaborative project ever. Nearly a thousand Tornados are flying today.

We are participating in Europe’s two largest current projects; Eurofighter and the Horizon frigate. We have 25 collaborative projects with France; and 22 such projects with Germany.

We spend more than a billion dollars a year on collaborative projects. But there is still fragmentation, overmanning, short production runs, and national protectionism. Organisationally we have got to do better than we have done on Eurofighter, where the delays are endangering that excellent aircraft’s competitiveness, and its prospects for exports.

European industry should, therefore, think about a how to restructure itself so that more equipment can be produced collaboratively, allowing longer production runs in Europe. But such projects require proper commercial structures and firm management grip. We have to improve on the stops and starts of past experience.

NATO Enlargement

The Common Foreign and Security Policy speaks of building peace and security. But it is equally committed to securing our common values. To developing and consolidating democracy and the rule of law, and the respect for human rights and for the fundamental freedoms.

Those are areas where the European Union can and should make a real contribution. In its aid and assistance programmes. In its economic and trade relations. In increasing co-operation in the fight against international crime and in the work towards building democratic systems founded on the principles of liberal democracy.

The European Union’s most important task is to make a success of its enlargement to the East. Healing the historic divisions which have scarred our continent.

Such efforts are complementary to the adaptation of NATO, since its enlargement is also a part of the process of building security in Europe, and consolidating the gains of democracy.

There is much gnashing of teeth about NATO enlargement by those who fear they will not be amongst the first new members of NATO, and by those who would rather not see enlargement happen at all.

But enlargement is not a new phenomenon. Nor will the next stage of enlargement close the door to future applicants.

Britain, the historic home of parliamentary democracy, is one of the most committed advocates of enlargement of NATO. And we shall be keen to ensure that the Alliance holds to its timetable.

Enlargement will be discussed by NATO Ministers in December. Decisions will be taken at a Summit next year to invite a number of countries to begin accession negotiations. And I hope NATO will be able to welcome its first new members in 1999, the year of its 50th anniversary.

Those are decisions for the applicant countries and for NATO alone.


But we recognise that Russia is fundamental to the equilibrium in Europe. NATO and Russia must build a strategic partnership, founded on substance. We need to build a new security architecture with Russia. No-one can describe exactly what the building is going to look like when finished. And for the moment Russians, even Russian Defence Ministers, have many other things on their mind.

But each journey begins with a step, and there are steps that we should take now. The Russian cooperation with IFOR in Bosnia has required us to establish liaison arrangements through an exchange of officers. Those arrangements can be made permanent and indeed they can be broadened.

We have not yet succeeded in exploiting the opportunities for joint work with Russia offered by Partnership for Peace. We should plan together for joint military missions in future. We should make it the norm for NATO to consult Russia on changes in which Russia could have an interest. And we should discuss together cooperation on countering terrorism, countering drug trafficking, fighting organised crime and weapons proliferation.

If enough of substance emerges from all that it could be formalised in a Charter between Russia and NATO, and it could be accompanied by a revised CFE Treaty to meet the new strategic realities.

Partnership for Peace

In parallel, we must enhance Partnership for Peace with other nations.

The Partnership has proved more successful, more quickly, than we could ever have expected. It is now a permanent element of the European security structure architecture.

We can build on that success. We should strengthen PfP’s political dimension, allowing consultations between individual Partners and NATO on a much wider range of issues than today.

We should also broaden its military dimension. NATO should prepare with Partners for more challenging military tasks, including peace enforcement. We need to be rigorous in ensuring that we get value and that we learn lessons from the exercises that we mount together. We should now avoid things which are largely “window – dressing”, and put the emphasis on work that produces a broad improvement in Partners’ performance and in our ability to achieve results together.

We should allow Partners more input into NATO’s work and allow them to move towards participation in NATO’s integrated defence planning process, the process that lies at the heart of the Alliance.


The fact that we can talk of such relationships – of a new relationship with Russia – emphasises how different the world has become.

But history shows that our optimism has a habit of getting the better of us. Periods of war or of tension, are followed sooner or later by complacency. We allow our guard to slip. Catastrophe ensues; but a slightly higher investment in defence and an unambiguous commitment to political willpower could have prevented that from happening.

If in the coming years we were able to escape that descent into unreadiness and sloth, we would have exceeded the achievement of most preceding generations.

The Alliance has unmatched capabilities. They have secured for us 50 years of peace. And, today, hard defence must remain at NATO’s core.

Michael Portillo – 1996 Speech on Security in Europe and Asia

Below is the text of a speech made by the then Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, at the Australian Defence Force Academy on 9th September 1996.

Rudyard Kipling, that most prolific of writers on Asia, once wrote:

“East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”.

Such a view could not be further from the UK’s position. The Asia-Pacific region is increasingly important both politically and in terms of global trade. One third of the world’s population lives here. It produces one quarter of the world’s gross product. Over the last decade the Western Pacific share of world trade has risen from 16% to nearly a quarter. The exports of the South East Asian countries have risen by over 200% since 1990. It has become a cliché to speak of the 21st century as being the Pacific century.

The UK is highly conscious of these trends and we have worked hard to engage ourselves in this strategic evolution. Contrastingly, some of our key interests and links are very long standing. We retain strong historic and Commonwealth ties in the area, not least with Australia, and are determined to maintain and enhance them. Another constant in the region is the relationship with the United States, particularly in the security context. I shall say more about that later.

As in the rest of the world, disturbing security challenges face this region. Ethnic and territorial disputes, often fed by extremism. Creeping proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Earlier this year the situation between Taiwan and China threatened to escalate beyond the capacity of international community’s control. The stand- off between North and South Korea continues. The overlapping claims to islands in the South China Sea are another potential flashpoint.

Britain, like others, aims to contribute to the stability of the region. Confidence building is central to that stability. The countries of the region need to develop their dialogue with one another. This is above all true for China.

We wish to see a peaceful, stable Korean peninsula. We strongly support the US initiative announced on 16 April for four party talks. And we fully support the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation, and were the first European country to make a financial contribution.

Security is a much broader concept than defence. Security begins with democracies, since democratic countries rarely go to war with each other. We aim to develop ties between peoples and between their governments across the range of activities: in aid and assistance programmes; in trade relations; and in assistance provided to others in the resolution of conflicts and disputes, or the building of democratic systems based on the principles of liberal democracy and the rule of law.

Military activities have a narrower focus but have a role to play in underpinning some of these efforts, with programmes to provide military training, personnel exchanges and higher level staff contacts.

Regional confidence and stability can be bolstered by the implementation of, and strict adherence to, multilateral arms control and non-proliferation agreements. We are very grateful for the very positive role that Australia has played in working for chemical and toxic weapons bans and towards securing a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

We hope that the countries of Asia will support it and become early partners to that Treaty.

Increased transparency in defence matters can help to break down suspicions that countries sometimes have about their neighbours’ intentions. Some have expressed concern about a new arms race starting in this region. Publishing Defence White Papers helps to allay some of those concerns. The more detailed and credible the White Paper is, the better. Australia has given a very positive lead.

The signing of the border agreement between Russia and China and three Central Asian states in April this year is another example of the kind of steps that help countries feel more secure.

We see a significant role for the ASEAN Regional Forum in contributing to security contacts in the region. It is progressing faster than many expected. Its membership is unique and, with the welcome inclusion of India, it now covers all the major powers in the area.

I will not list exhaustively the defence arrangements in the region that we consider essential to increasing stability. But I will mention three:

The US presence and engagement, which are fundamental to the region’s security. We strongly welcome their continued determination to play this key role.

Second, the UK is firmly and enthusiastically committed to the Five Power Defence Arrangements.

And thirdly, we welcome the recently established security agreement between Australia and Indonesia. I look forward to hearing more about that during my visit.

In considering the security issues facing the Pacific region, there are some similarities to the scene in Europe. Similarities both of opportunity and of threat. The key opportunities are presented by the end of the Cold War. In Europe, the political landscape continues to be remodelled. In some areas, the dismantling of what stood before has had tragic results, as in Bosnia. But elsewhere, the picture is much more encouraging. Every day liberal democracy and the rule of law are consolidated in central and eastern Europe. Economic reforms are starting to bear fruit. Already we see growth of around 5% in some of the leading nations.

The end of the global confrontation between totalitarian communism and liberal democracy has unshackled human potential. Cambodia and Vietnam, as much as Romania and Bulgaria, are now enjoying an end to the straitjacket of opposing political blocks. In such openings there are opportunities for trading nations like Britain and Australia.

But those opportunities go hand in hand with responsibilities. Neither of our countries has shrunk from them.

We were both involved along with military personnel from 32 other nations in Cambodia under the auspices of the United Nations Transition Authority between 1991 and 1993. The operation, led by Australian Lieutenant General John Sanderson, remains a fine example of international peacekeeping.

We are clear that the continued engagement of the United States underpins security in both of our regions. The United States’ commitment is demonstrated by some 100,000 troops stationed across Europe and by the 100,000 or so in Asia. Britain and Australia have long been two of the United States’ staunchest allies.

The intimate intelligence links between the 3 countries – perhaps the best sign of trust between nations – and the close relationship between our navies bear the best testament to this. The US engagement is not philanthropy: America has vital strategic interests in both Europe and the Asia/Pacific region. But we must all work to keep that relationship relevant and robust.

In Europe, that means being part of a militarily effective and credible Atlantic Alliance. NATO is the most effective defensive alliance in history. In Bosnia, it has proved itself capable of meeting the challenges of the future. The integration of some 14 non-NATO nations into the peace implementation force – IFOR – demonstrates NATO’s ability to adapt.

IFOR and co-operation under the terms of the Partnership for Peace arrangement between NATO and 27 PfP countries in Europe have demonstrated the potential for meaningful co-operation in security.

For some of those 27 countries, partnership will lead to membership. NATO will enlarge. The allies have a responsibility to respond to those democratic, sovereign states who wish to join. In some aspects, that will simply mean returning to the historical family ties interrupted by the accident of the Cold War.

NATO will also change. Its military structures are already reduced from the days of the Cold War.

We are changing those structures still, so as to be able to cope better with the new more complex challenges to security. The campaign in Bosnia has shown the way. It has demonstrated not only what may need to be done but also that tackling security requires the widest possible coalition. In that sense the operation in Bosnia will have significant implications, especially for relations with Russia.

There can be no European or Asian security without taking Russia into account. Our links with Russia are increasing. Of course, we must expect to experience for some time the aftershocks of the collapse of the Soviet empire. Chechnya is an example. But nonetheless, I believe that reform and democracy are becoming entrenched. July’s Presidential elections in Russia was a clear milestone.

Our relationship with Russia must balance forthrightness and understanding We must be forthright about human rights and compliance with treaty commitments.

But at the same time we must understand the peaks and troughs that will inevitably occur on Russia’s path to reform. And we must understand Russia’s real security concerns and perspectives.

I also mentioned threats. The removal of the Cold War shadow has exposed disturbing new challenges. We see ethnic, religious and territorial disputes, often fed by extremism and by the creeping proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These are problems for civilised governments everywhere. North Korea and Iraq are just some of the obvious culprits. At the same time a number of longer-running problems also pose at least potential threats to security.

The tradition in the Pacific region is not of multilateral security organisations like NATO, but a web of bilateral relationships. However, I believe that part of the solution will be the development of broader security dialogues within and between our regions.

There is potentially a major role for the Organisation for Security and Co- operation in Europe and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

We need by all means to increase contact with China, a unique player in the strategic game. It stands alone in terms of size, economic and military potential and, arguably, its unreconstructed vision of its own future.

What contribution can a European power make to security in this region? And why should it do so?

Britain’s interests are global – much more so than many of our European neighbours. We are more dependent than they on world trade and investment – Britain is the world’s fifth largest trading nation and its third largest overseas investor. We export more per head of population than Japan or the USA. Inward investment provides almost 25% of the UK’s net output, with around 40% of our manufactured exports now being produced in Britain by foreign-owned firms. Incidentally, Australia is currently the third largest foreign investor in the UK.

Our economic relationship with the Asia-Pacific region is growing strongly. We are the biggest European investor in the region and by far the biggest European recipient of investment from it. We are the leading exporter of invisibles and number two in visibles. British visible exports to the region have increased by 70% since 1990 and now account for over a third of British exports outside the European Union. We fully expect our interests in the Asia- Pacific region to continue to grow strongly.

Apart from our global trading interests, there are Britons living and working all over the world. There are around 6 million UK nationals in the Asia- Pacific region. For a country with a population of around 50 million at home, that represents a powerful interest.

Stability and freedom of trade worldwide are important considerations for the UK and directs our thinking in defence terms.

Our specific security links and responsibilities in the region are Hong Kong, the Five Power Defence Arrangements and Brunei. We also regularly train with our many friends in the region, and make periodic naval deployments to the area. The next – OCEAN WAVE 97 – will depart from the UK early next year. We shall transfer sovereignty in Hong Kong to China on 30 June next year. But our wider interest in regional security will not diminish. Our overall approach will remain very much the same.

The Five Power Defence Arrangements will be the focus of our military presence in the region. The Arrangements are increasingly valuable as the scope of their trading and exercises develops. I am delighted that in the near future the Headquarters of the Integrated Air Defence System will be installed with the latest state of the art command, control and communications equipment.

I will see our Forces operating together when I visit the Five Power Defence Arrangements exercise – EXERCISE STARFISH – off Malaysia later this week. But I am particularly pleased that we shall be holding a combined joint air and maritime exercise, EXERCISE FLYING FISH, next year. We will be sending a sizeable contribution to this. It will include a Carrier, HMS ILLUSTRIOUS, which will act as the command platform for the maritime element of the exercise; 2 Frigates; a Destroyer; a nuclear powered Submarine; 5 Tornado F3s; 5 Tornado GR1s; an E3D AWACS Sentry; and 2 Nimrod Maritime Patrol Aircraft. That represents a sizeable commitment and contains some of our latest and most effective equipment.

We aim to make a major contribution to military training in the region; in 1995/1996 alone we committed over £1.5 million in the form of courses in the United Kingdom and loan service personnel.

We have Defence memoranda of understanding with many countries in the region, including all the countries of ASEAN bar Vietnam. I spoke earlier about the ASEAN Regional Forum. As you know, we do not consider its membership to be quite complete. We believe that Britain has an important contribution to make. We already participate through our membership of the European Union. But we are keen to contribute more through a national seat. Three of the Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council are already members of the ASEAN Regional Forum, and we would like to see all five.

Britain has a range of multilateral experience – through NATO, the Commonwealth, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co- operation in Europe – to offer to the ASEAN Regional Forum. Like Australia, we have extensive experience of peacekeeping. We are particularly encouraged by, and grateful for, the Australian government’s support of our request to join the Forum.

Perhaps Britain’s experience of confidence-building measures in Europe, our involvement in conflict prevention globally and our long-standing ties in the Asia-Pacific region could contribute too.

I cannot let this opportunity go by without saying a few words about the value we place upon the strong bilateral defence relationship between Britain and Australia.

The ties between our Armed forces are long standing. Men and women from our armed forces have served together in both World Wars and share a common ethos, history and understanding.

The ties remain close at all levels. The contacts between our senior staff are frequent and open. We regularly have exchanges of personnel on training courses. We have extremely valuable intelligence links.

Britain and Australia, with the United States, should take the lead in promoting interoperability in the region.

In conclusion, there will be many challenges to face over the coming months and years, both in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Contrary to Kipling’s belief, however, East and West are now inextricably intertwined. It is a time of great opportunity. Britain and Australia have a common interest in pursuing regional peace and security, working together, both bilaterally and in international fora, to find solutions to tomorrow’s problems.