Greg Hands – 2023 Speech at Conservative Party Conference

The speech made by Greg Hands, the Conservative Party Chairman, in Manchester on 1 October 2023.

Ladies and gentlemen, after a unique introduction it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to Conservative Party Conference 2023, here in the dynamic city of Manchester.

When the Prime Minister asked me to take on this role – as your Party Chairman – I couldn’t have been more excited.

Having been a member for 37 years and a representative at every level – Chairman of my university Conservatives, an elected student union officer, a ward chairman, a councillor, a Group Leader, an MP, a government Whip and a Cabinet Minister, I can truly say there is no greater privilege than to lead our great party into the next General Election, alongside our Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.

But we cannot do this alone and I am incredibly lucky to have a fantastic team of Conservatives who work tirelessly behind the scenes, and whom I’d like to thank personally for their dedication to our Party:

Right here in the front row – Peter Booth, Chairman of the National Convention.

Pete Smallwood, the Chairman of this years Conservative Party Conference, who you’ve just met.

Stephen Massey, CCHQ’s Chief Executive Officer, who has helped to transform the Party’s finances since a year ago.

Douglas Ross and Andrew RT Davies, you’ll hear from them shortly for their outstanding work in exposing the hypocrisy of what life is like under the SNP in Scotland, and Labour in Wales.

And finally, my fantastic team of Deputy and Vice Chairmen;

Nickie Aiken, Luke Hall, Lee Anderson, Jack Lopresti, Matthew Vickers, Craig Tracey, Saqib Bhatti, Mo Ali, and PPS Dr Ben Spencer.

So, ladies and gentlemen – we are one big Conservative family – whether you have been a member for 50 years, like Edna from Brecon and Radnorshire.

Or a member for a little over 12 months, like Leo from Bristol.

As Chairman, I’ve had the great pleasure of campaigning in over 50 constituencies, and if I haven’t got to you yet, you can expect a visit very soon.

And we have seen what happens when you do great campaigning.

Look at Uxbridge: The week before, Labour was 25-1 on favourite – think about that, if you put £100 pounds on Labour winning, you’d only get £4 back – but we had strong policies, a superb turnout at all levels of the Party, and a first-class candidate in Steve Tuckwell…

Please stand up. Steve Tuckwell MP! And he’s already getting stuck in at the House of Commons – a fantastic Parliamentary voice for the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. And proof that we can come from behind to win, as we have done so often before.

I would ask that everyone takes the energy which went into winning in Uxbridge and gets out to support our fantastic current by-election candidates in Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire, Andy Cooper and Festus Akinbusoye.

By-elections aside…

We will, of course, have several elections next year.

A full set of local elections in May, with our Conservative councillors and council candidates, battling to control town halls, and run them better than Labour or the Lib Dems.

Police and Crime Commissioner elections, led by our fantastic group leader, Katy Bourne, where we’ll be taking our message to voters, across the country that you are safer with a Conservative PCC.

We also have our fantastic Mayors and candidates across the country standing for election next year; in the West Midlands, we have Andy Street, the East Midlands Ben Bradley, Tees Valley Ben Houchen, North Yorkshire Keane Duncan.

And in London, GLA and Mayoral elections, as Pete has already said, a chance to throw out a Labour Mayor who’s been an unmitigated disaster for our great capital city:

Proof that when Labour run things, they run them badly.

But Londoners are starting to see through it, and we have a brilliant candidate, in Susan Hall, who will, on 2nd May, prove to Sadiq Khan, that, actually, Sadiq Khan’t.

And we will – I don’t think I’m breaking any state secrets here – also have a general election, too.

This is likely to be a general election, that the Conservatives enter as the underdogs.

And I know in recent years, you will have had difficult conversations with voters: I certainly have.

But I would say three things about those conversations:

First, every single conversation I have had on the doorstep has been improved by the mention of Rishi Sunak and the job that he does as our Prime Minister

Second, there is no enthusiasm for Keir Starmer, and even less trust in him

Third, wherever Labour run something in the country, they run it badly

Let me tell you first about our great Prime Minister.

And the message coming across, loud and clear, from the doorstep, is that people can see we’re moving in the right direction,

that the Conservatives are getting on with the job,

and that Rishi Sunak, is the right man to steer this country through extremely challenging times.

They understand, also, the tough choices, and trade-offs, that true leadership entails.

They look at our Prime Minister, and see someone, who is prepared to make the tough, long-term, decisions to get the country, on the right path for our future. Someone who is not afraid to challenge the old style Westminster politics of short-termism that we have seen so much of in the past.

That earns respect. It wins trust. And it will be, by continuing to win that trust and respect, that we will also win nationally, next year.

Which takes me to my second point – that there is no liking for Sir Keir. And no trust.

Who is the real Sir Keir Starmer?

The friend and supporter of Jeremy Corbyn? The puppet of Tony Blair? Or the mouthpiece of Just Stop Oil?

All we do know is that he has broken every single leadership pledge and flip-flopped almost sixty times in just three years. This is a man who will literally say anything that suits him at the time.

I always thought that the best leaders wake up each morning, and ask themselves ‘What am I going to do today?’.

Some leaders ask themselves ‘What am I going to say today?’

Sir Keir wakes up and asks ‘What am I going to believe today?’

Ladies and Gentlemen, can I let you into a secret – if anyone likes the association of Sir Keir with flip flops, I have these: available for just £16.99 here at the Conservative Party shop and also online at Conservatives.com, your own pair of Sir Keir Starmer flip flops and I’d warmly recommend them to you.

But, not once, has there been any clear plan for Britain from Sir Keir. He is not honest with people about the challenges the country faces – he has no new ideas, criticises from the side-lines, calling for yet more money to be magicked up.

Here’s another thing we know.

That wherever Labour run something, they run it badly.

I’ve already mentioned London. Look at Wales. We’re going to hear from Andrew RT Davies later this afternoon and David TC Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales. Patients almost twice as likely to be on the NHS waiting list as they are in England. But, according to Sir Keir, Labour in Wales is a “blueprint for what they would do in Westminster”.

That’s not a blue print, Ladies and Gentlemen – it’s a red flag, and it’s running Wales to a standstill.

Look at Labour-run Birmingham City Council. Its leader handpicked by Sir Keir and his union paymasters to sort out the finances. Praised by Sir Keir just a few months ago.

So what did they do? They voted unanimously to bump up their own pay-packets, blow millions on consultants, all paid for by hiking council tax for hard-working local people by the maximum amount – this is Europe’s largest local authority.

…before being hit by a £760 million legal bill for – and here’s the irony – equal pay claims. £760 million for one local authority.

A Labour council that spent more time thinking up – you might remember this from the height of the pandemic – woke street names than looking after the finances. Birmingham City Council really did have a Diversity Grove, they had Inspire Avenue. And now they’re up Bankruptcy Avenue.

And from what we do know of Labour’s plans for the UK, the entire country would go the same way.

Labour’s plan for energy, lovingly crafted by Just Stop Oil, would leave us gasping for energy imports from unfriendly foreign powers.

Their plan for immigration would see the numbers coming into this country decided not by us, but by Brussels.

And their plan for the economy has already signed the UK up to £90 billion of uncosted funding commitments.

Because putting money on the credit card didn’t work out so well for them so well last time…

You can probably work out where this is going!

‘Dear Chief Secretary. No money left’

That reminder is why we must work to stop Labour getting back in. We cannot let them do the UK what they have done in Wales, what they have done to London and what they have done to Birmingham.

There is a sure-fire way to stop them in their tracks. It’s through effective campaigning, ladies and gentlemen, and winning next year at all levels.

Let me tell you something about someone who knew a thing or two about campaigning…

… a much-loved member of our Conservative family who represented his constituents with the utmost dedication.

Sir David Amess, Member of Parliament first for Basildon and then for Southend West.

Many of us will remember his campaigns on issues including the honouring of Raoul Wallenberg for his amazing humanitarian works in WW2, support for those suffering from endometriosis, and of course the awarding of city status to his beloved Southend-on-Sea.

And I know many of us remember well – I’ll never forget the day – the deeply shocking circumstances of his murder in the course of duty.

Today, in his memory, I am proud to launch the Sir David Amess Fund, to support more dedicated local campaigning.

The Sir David Amess Fund will be available to all Members of Parliament to apply for.

The fund will be focused on supporting local campaigns which transcend party politics, such as campaigning to secure city status for your town.

There will be two successful applicants each year, with funding made available to support them campaign on and better promote their local worthy cause.

And I’m delighted to confirm that Anna Firth MP, Sir David’s successor in Southend West who’s watching this now on the train up to Manchester, will work with me to pick those successful applicants.

So today I make one other announcement: to help get local campaigns up and running.

As Chairman, I know the value of being well organised locally and the importance of CCHQ having a strong network of Campaign Managers has in helping make that happen.

That is why since the start of the year we have more than doubled the number of Campaign Managers that CCHQ employs.

And for the first time ever, we have also started to hire Digital Campaign Managers aswell.

They are helping to build our social media presence, collecting more emails and filming engaging local content.

We saw just how important our Digital Campaign Managers were in Uxbridge where we campaigned relentlessly on social media and email against the ULEZ.

And Conference: I want to ensure you know; we will be expanding the number of Campaign Managers we have in advance of the General Election to support you on the ground.

Whilst we will be growing the number in the period up to the next General Election, I have also challenged my colleagues in CCHQ to find sensible and creative solutions for the long-term, to ensure the feast and famine of Campaign Managers we’ve seen in recent years ends.

I want to ensure that we are looking forward and growing a sustainable, well trained, and experienced campaigning organisation.

Conference, I will leave you with one final thought.

As we go out and campaign…

As we make our arguments…

We shouldn’t be apologetic about what a Conservative government led by Rishi Sunak means. It means strong and decisive long-term action on the things that matter most to people, action that the country needs to put us on the best footing for the future.

When I look back at the achievements of this country under the Conservatives, I take great pride. I have been a Minister in this government almost continually for 12 years.

Pride that, back in 2010, we made the tough choices to get the country’s finances back under control. That has made us more able to withstand the headwinds that have come our way since.

Pride that we kept our great Union together in 2014 – and thank you, Nicola, for your help cementing that this year as well.

Pride that when the British people asked us to deliver on the result of the EU Referendum, we kept true to our word and got it done.

Pride that we used those new freedoms to deliver a world-leading vaccination programme and help beat Coronavirus, and provide the financial support that British families and businesses needed.

And pride that, just a year and a half ago, it was the UK that stood tall, and galvanised the rest of the world in support of Ukraine.

So, Ladies and Gentlemen, conference, the United Kingdom is a great country.

It faces profound and complex challenges like the whole of the Western world world.

But our best days in Britain are still to come.

This country is best served by strong decisive leadership that is focused on delivering a brighter future for everyone.

The leadership of our Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and this great Conservative Party,

And by working together, as a great Conservative family, we can ensure victory in 2024, economic renewal, and a stronger, happier United Kingdom.

Thank you very much.