Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the 1994 Conservative Party Conference on 14th October 1994.
Mr. President, the political landscape has changed in the last few years, and it's changed again in the last few months. The language of politics is now Conservative language. With every speech and every copied aspiration, the Labour Party finally admit how wrong they have been for so long, and how right we have been.
So forget the hype. It's we who've changed the whole thrust of politics and moved it in our direction. We have won the battle of ideas, and it is an astonishing triumph.
When the Labour Party consider what has happened, they may realise what they've done, because what they've done is to study our instincts and our attitudes and then go away and market test them. And when they've done that they've discovered what we told them long ago: that they are the hopes and dreams of the typical Briton. It's a huge compliment to this party and we should accept it gratefully.
But it's one thing for the Labour Party to commit grand larceny on our language. It's one thing for them to say what market research has told them that people would like to hear. But it's quite another to deliver it. They have some hard questions to answer.
If you talk of full employment, then you should say what you mean. And then you should explain how that could possibly square with the minimum wage and the Social Chapter, which sound comforting but are deadly to jobs. And if you talk of low tax and low spending, does that mean supporting Tory tax cuts and Tory expenditure reductions? As to that we shall see before the writ of this parliament is run.
If you preach about community, then you shouldn't grow politically fat on the politics of envy -
And if you do, you should answer the question: Will Scottish Members of Parliament be permitted to vote on matters in England that English Members of Parliament would not be permitted to vote on in Scotland? And if Labour plan a Scottish Parliament, will they plan also to reduce the number of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons at Westminster, or will they gerrymander the Commons to boost their own political chances?
Mr. President, these are deep waters. So let Labour be the party of devolution. We are the party of Union, the party of the United Kingdom.
Mr. President, I've relished this debate. These are great issues, but they are our issues, this is our ground, and upon this there is a battle to be fought that this party will undoubtedly win. So I have this advice for you: don't waste time on the past -
In politics, if you expect the unbelievable, then you'll never be surprised. It is probable that at the next election, the government and the alternative government will both be talking Tory language. But there is a difference: only one will mean it. Buying Tory policies from Labour is like buying the Rolex on the street corner. It may bear the name, but you know that it isn't real. Our task is to promote the real thing, and expose the counterfeit. We hear talk of a new Labour Party. A new Labour Party. These aren't people without a past, lovable little extra-
Mr. President, since 1979, we've beaten the old Labour Party, the very old Labour Party, the redesigned Labour Party and the new model Labour Party. And as for this new, "biologically improved" Labour Party, it may wash blander, but I would give it a shelf life of under three years.
Mr. President, at Blackpool, Labour filched two of the principles on which we fought the last general election: opportunity and responsibility. But wasn't it interesting that they left out two others: personal choice and private ownership. They're vital to us.
So socialism may be a bit out in Islington just now, but Conservatism isn't off my agenda. As they so often invent what we think, let me tell them clearly what we stand for: we believe in free markets, we believe in private ownership. It doesn't go against the grain for us to say so. It's not a new Conservatism that we've just discovered, it's one of the oldest principles of our party and we believe in it passionately.
And because we've believed in it, millions of families up and down the land now have savings of their own: Granny bonds, TESSAs, PEPs, the hundreds of billions of pounds in the banks and building societies. It is our philosophy that has given people that choice and that security. That is the message that we must carry forward. Our opponents present ownership as if it was something selfish, self-
No, Mr. Brown, they are deserving workers. How does Clause IV put it -
We try to remove government from the everyday lives of people. We believe that every family should be entitled to enrich their own private corner of life, and then pass it on to their children without over-
Mr. President, I know when people hear the word "economy", the spirits droop. They think they're in for a lecture on the PSBR, GDP, and all the rest of it. Well, you're normally right, but not today. I just want to say today that the word "economy" should lift the spirits and not depress them, because the great cries of lasting growth with low inflation, which we have sought for the whole of my adult lifetime, is now within our grasp. Whisper it gently, but we are now doing well as a country.
For most people, it isn't their everyday experience, not yet. But it will be, and I'll tell you why. Britain is making more, selling more, exporting more. This time we have built a recovery to last, built on firm foundations, on export and investment. Month after month after month, exports from Britain have broken the record set the month before, and they did so again just last week.
These islands of ours are exporting cameras to Japan -
We were told we wouldn't get interest rates down, but we have; that we couldn't hit low inflation, but we have. These are the very things that bring security, make jobs safe, improve living standards and strengthen this country's influence right across the world.
What is the prize that lies ahead? Let me tell you what it could be. In 1954, in Blackpool, "Rab" Butler was speaking to this conference. Suddenly he said something quite extraordinary. He said that living standards could double in this country in 25 years. People scoffed, but he was right. For the country as a whole they did double in 25 years.
So let us have the courage to look forward once again. If we are able to keep inflation down, as we must, and control public spending, as we must, what does that mean for our people? It means stronger growth, improving the services we care about -
Britain has changed. It may not have been noticed but it has changed. Not for 30 years has this economy grown so much faster than prices. So let us bang the drum and say so. It's time to put the marker down, but as Ken Clarke told you yesterday, we need to stick at it, and for this reason neither Ken nor I, ever again, want to go through the boom-
And that is why in some ways we are a bit puritanical. That's why we are so determined to control public spending, improve competitiveness, cut regulation, and let private enterprise build public wealth. That's why we'll be prudent about what we spend, cut taxes where we can, and above all build up the long-
Mr. President, it's time for this country to set our sights high again. What "Rab" Butler saw was prophetic and positive. Let me echo it today. Because of what has been achieved, with the right determination, with the right policies, we have the chance once again to double our living standards in the next 25 years, and that is something that everyone in this country can feel good about and feel good today.
Mr. President, I want to talk about education. How many people in this world are fulfilled, really fulfilled? How many do the jobs that they might do? How many have had their minds stretched and extended? "Not enough" is the answer. Not as many by hundreds of thousands as should have. That's why education matters so much to me. I'm just burned enough to know a little about that. I left my chance late, so I did a lot of my schooling while off for a year with a shattered leg, in the company of Trollope, and Jane Austen, and Adam Smith, and a lot of dull but terribly useful books on banking. Better companions one never had, until now.
But I was lucky. Not everyone is. It's my personal ambition that everyone should have the same chance to rise to the top on merit. Never mind where they come from, what their parents income is, what their religion is, or what their colour is. These are irrelevant, and please God they will always remain irrelevant to the people of this country. What matters to me is that they have the same chance.
Good schools can be a lifeline out of poverty, the ladder to a better life. That's what our changes are all about: the curriculum, the testing, the league tables, the inspection, the new parental choice, the challenge to the old council school monopoly, the emphasis on better vocational education, and the creation of new universities. Mr. President, it is not reform for its' own sake, it is reform to deliver higher standards for all our children.
Bad teaching fails children. They may get through if they come from families with a social edge, a sophisticated home and the good books that go with it, but bad schooling falls most heavily on pupils who have none of these things -
Mr. President, we are a national party, and these children are as much our responsibilities as are the higher climbers. If the school ladder's all abstract theory and holds out no rungs of letters, facts and numbers, who loses? The children lose. The people who need our protection lose. The people easily defeated lose. The people who live at the bottom of the heap who deserve a chance to get off it lose, and it's just plain wrong.
And that is why I want teaching in the weaker schools to be levered up, because if it is, someone will get off the bottom of the heap, and if it isn't that is where they will stay, probably for the rest of their lives. I will never accept that. I've no time for those who are complacent and oppose improvement, and all too often they are the high priests of the politically correct.
They are the people who can afford the good things in life, who chortle away about our emphasis on basic standards and the three 'R's, and then move to a different catchment area, with better schools for their own children. They're people who have in their own homes the books that they say other people's children aren't up to reading. They are the people I cannot take, the kind of people who have clambered up the ladder and then seem ever ready to kick it away from other people.
Education's there to lift the eyes, broaden the horizon, distinguish between the great and the trite, the right and the wrong. It's there to unlock the gate to a better life, and by and large teachers deliver this. They have a hell of a job, but they can make the difference for children between apathy and despair, and seeing the remote but inviting light upwards and out.
Teachers that do their work well, for heaven's sake, teachers that do their work well, are the prime route out of the class trap. I care enough about teachers to give bad teachers a bad time, and I care about children enough to oppose sloppy, experimental teaching that ignores common sense.
Up and down the country, dedicated teachers have worked hard to put our reforms in place. They haven't always liked every aspect of them; so we've listened. Sometimes they have been right and we have changed our minds. Many teachers feel there's been too much paperwork. I agree with them, and there still is.
That's why we've been working with them on slimming down the National Curriculum. We've now finished that job, and it's been dramatically cut, and we're now out to reduce much of the other paperwork that schools have to deal with. Teachers should be marking homework, they shouldn't be doing it, and we're determined that is how it will be. After the curriculum changes of recent years, teachers deserve stability, to be able to get on with their jobs without any more upheavals. So today I promise them this: there will be no further significant changes for the next five years.
And there's another area in which we must give teachers our full support. I'm disturbed by some of the stories I hear -
Of course it can't supersede Maths and English, though how I longed for it to do so when I was at school! But it must take its proper place alongside them. We are therefore changing the National Curriculum to put competitive games back at the heart of school life. Sport will be played by children in every school, from five to sixteen, and more time must be devoted to team games. Many schools already offer at least two hours a week for sport and physical education. That should be the minimum, and I hope schools will offer more.
Schools should establish links with local clubs and national sports bodies to help do this. They must open up their facilities outside school hours, and harness the willing help that I know is out there. There are sports coaches, parents and other volunteers by the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds who will willingly come in outside school hours to help our youngsters have a better grounding in sport, and all it means, for the rest of their lives. So while we're about it, I don't want councils selling off school playing fields they may need. I want those playing fields kept, and I want those playing fields used.
Mr. President, there are many views about nursery education. My view is quite clear: I am in favour of it. The picture's improving. Over half our three and four-
This is a long-
Since we are making a lasting change to pre-
Mr. President, I intend now to dispose of one of the most insidious lies in British politics. In life, some of our deepest convictions are formed by experience. Book-
Now let me tell you a later story. Two weeks ago when Boris Yeltsin was at Chequers, we went for a walk. There was some comment afterwards that I was using a walking-
Against that background, is it likely that I would damage the National Health Service or privatise it? Believing as I do that the greatest nightmare for millions is that one day, however prosperous they are today, that one day they may be old, sick, poor and uncared for, is it likely that I would take away from them the security of mind that was of such value to my parents? Mr. President, I can tell you, not while I live and breathe would I take that away.
Let me say something else about the Health Service: It is the National Health Service, it doesn't belong to any one political party. The Labour Party, even today, take credit for setting up the NHS. I wouldn't take that away from them -
But there is one difference between us and Labour. We don't use it as a political football for party ends. Mr. President, we just build it up. I wonder how many of you know how many huge new hospital projects have been built since 1980 -
And I'm not talking about car parks and offices, I'm talking about patient facilities -
Mr. President, when I became Prime Minister, I asked for a fresh look at the criminal justice system: the way we prevent crime, the way we police our streets, and the way we punish the criminal, and I did so because I felt that concern had shifted too much towards the criminal and too far from the victim. Why is there so much crime? The cheap, thought-
There have been too many voices excusing crime, explaining crime, and justifying crime. We think that's wrong. That's why we've increased penalties for rape, violence against children, firearms offences, drug-
For a whole range of crimes, then, we have toughened sentences, and judges are now using them. For the first time in years, a rising proportion of convicted criminals are being sent to prison. I take no pleasure in that, but everyone has the chance to stay within the law, and that is the point. If we are to change the climate against crime, then the offender and the offender's chums must know they will not be able to swagger out of court, untouched, immune and boasting about getting off scot-
I believe such firmness is right, and I believe it is necessary. Prison should be decent, but it should be spartan. No-
We must make streets safe for the law-
And we are putting modern science at the disposal of the police. As Michael Howard told you yesterday, we're giving them wider powers to take DNA samples from people they suspect of crime, and that will help target sex offenders against women and children, and as a result help make this country just a little bit safer for millions and millions of people. The powers in the Criminal Justice Bill are needed, and I can tell conference this: we will never be deterred by the disgraceful riots like those we saw in London last weekend. And the sooner the Labour leadership disowns those Labour MPs involved in organising and speaking at this event, the sooner we may be prepared to take seriously some of their strictures on crime.
And I can tell you how I feel about that episode: I think there's something profoundly sick with people who organise a demonstration which turns into a riot, and then criticize and attack the police who are only there to protect the public from the results of that riot. Mr. President, we hear enough bad news about crime. Let me tell you some good news. In Manchester crime fell by 12% in the last year; by 12% too in my own county of Cambridgeshire; in North Wales by 10%. What does that tell us? Not to relax, never. It doesn't tell us to be complacent. But it does tell us we can fight back successfully. If you can target burglary and cut it in London and Warwickshire then you can do it elsewhere. Mr. President, it will take a national effort to beat crime, it will take time, and it must involve everyone, but we are determined to succeed and we have made a beginning.
Many of the changes I've been talking about have come about in the last year or so, and I believe that people who have spent that time criticising my good colleague Michael Howard would have been far better off supporting him during that year.
Mr. President, a generation ago it was said that Britain had lost an empire but not yet found a role. It may or may not have been true then, but it surely isn't true today, because economically and militarily Britain remains in the top league -
That is Britain today, stripped of the masking-
A month later I flew to Berlin, where allied forces were leaving after half a century. That day, our troops marched away from Berlin with that professionalism and that patience which is the special preserve of the British soldier. For nearly fifty years, they had stood guard for peace and freedom at the gates of Berlin; now they were no longer needed; the world had changed. Three weeks ago, I was in South Africa. When Harold Macmillan spoke there of the "wind of change", it was to an all-
And what a tribute that is, to the statesmanship and the vision of Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk. Finally, Mr. President, I flew from South Africa back to Chequers. There Boris Yeltzin was my guest, and the President of Russia and the British Prime Minister shared a country house weekend, a walk in the English countryside, and a pint of beer in a British pub. Four snapshots of change, historic days, when the impossible becomes not just possible but an everyday reality. Now the cold war is over, but while the threat was there, there were appeasers and accomodaters in plenty -
As in the past, so in the future. Whatever uncertainties may lie ahead, this nation can trust that instinct for security that is a defining characteristic of the Conservative Party. Mr. President, the challenge now is to catch the tide of events that have flown in recent years so very strongly in our favour, to draw the nations of eastern Europe -
These are historic roles; historic roles for which Britain and the Conservative Party are marked out by history and by experience. We will use that experience. We will use it also to carve out the right position for Britain in the right sort of Europe. There are extraordinary enthusiasms -
And if I am not satisfied, I will do as I have done in the past: I will just say "No" to changes that will harm Britain. But I hope I will be able to secure an agreement that we can accept, for that is in the best interests of Britain. Across the world, the last four years have been turbulent. The years ahead may well be turbulent as well. We will be cautious, pragmatic and safe, but the world remains uncertain and unstable. If anything the end of the cold war has made regional wars more likely and not less likely. We cannot safely assume that it will be a safe world. Only this week we have seen how quickly a crisis can blow up in the Middle East, but who better to send there and act for Britain than Douglas Hurd, our own Foreign Secretary.
Mr. President, we have interests the world over. Isolationism is a luxury that Britain cannot afford, and there is a growing need for regional peace deals -
Mr. President, the main point's clear: while we have Conservative government, Britain will have a sure and stable defence, the best equipment, the best weapons, the best trained troops that we are able to provide. Last week showed again how distinctive that position of ours truly is. In opposition it doesn't matter that Labour voted to scrap Trident -
So let me mark out the clear ground, so that no-
Let me say something about Northern Ireland, and the momentous events through which we are living. For the past 25 years, Northern Ireland has faced the daily horror of murder and brutality, kneecapping and beatings, organised racketeering and viciousness to fund terrorism for political ends. No morning has dawned that might not contain an atrocity: a father who didn't return home, a woman or child indiscriminately bombed, a policeman or soldier killed by a hidden sniper. That evil has spread, from time to time, to mainland Britain: the Brighton Bomb, ten years ago this very day, that some of you will be remembering so vividly and so painfully. We still miss those who were lost and think of those who were injured. It was intended to murder a cabinet, but it ended up hardening the resolve of an indomitable Prime Minister.
We remember the murders of Airey Neave and of Ian Gow, the bombs in the city and at Downing Street, the agony of Warrington, and the heart-
We have made progress. It was the Downing Street Declaration that set out the principles that will continue to guide us. It helped isolate the IRA and push them to their ceasefire. As Jim Molyneaux put it, "It was significant", he said, "when the IRA started to murder pensioners, children, mothers and fathers and so it was bound to be significant when they stopped. The most significant part of all has been the victory of ordinary people over the terrorists", and how right Jim Molyneaux was.
And yesterday, yesterday the loyalist paramilitaries announced that they too were stopping violence. Another victory for ordinary people, brave people, in Northern Ireland. Today, for the first time in a quarter of a century, the people of Ulster have woken up to peace. Our determination must be to make that peace permanent. To fasten down what is unfolding needs clear reasoning and cold calculation. Many people will urge me to hurry. I understand their enthusiasm. I will not tarry one day longer than I judge is necessary. But I will take it in my own time. The responsibility for Northern Ireland is the responsibility of the British Government.
I am used to being urged to hurry. I have had such advice daily since the Downing Street declaration. But if I had listened, we would not today where we are, with the guns stilled and the bombs stopped and Northern Ireland on its way to a better future. So other people can call for speed if they wish, but I must ask the hard questions and I must make the right judgements at the right time, and to the best of my ability, I will. Things are changing; the profile of street security has lessened on military advice, men and women are no longer searched when they enter hotels and large stores; but let me give this assurance: for as long as is necessary, as many policemen and troops as are necessary will stay on duty in Northern Ireland to protect all the people of Northern Ireland.
We have made a beginning, but not yet an end. Every day that violence is absent brings more hope. Progress may not be easy, there will be setbacks, there may be disappointments -
We hope to restore local accountability and local democracy to Northern Ireland; to seek an agreement, an agreement that is acceptable to the people of Northern Ireland, and we shall test their view in a referendum as a cast-
In the words of the old testament, which is common to both traditions in Northern Ireland, "There is a time to love and a time to hate, a time of war and a time of peace." The people of Northern Ireland are sick of war. It is for them that we must build a time of peace.
Mr. President, it's a cliche' today that every leader must have "the vision thing". We're told he must map out, in dramatic form, new direction. I don't disparage "the vision thing", but alongside "the vision thing" I must tell you I remain rather attached to "the action thing", to "the practical thing", to the "how on earth do you deliver these promises thing". By all means listen to a politician when he tells you what he plans, but ask him too "How will you do it?". Take it from me, the devil, the very devil, can be in the detail.
I don't disparage the mapping of direction, or sometimes, new direction. I hope I've sketched out some today, but I must tell you, there is sometimes merit in the old direction. Change for the sake of change should never appeal to any Conservative. In a world sometimes of bewildering change, this party must stand for continuity and stability, for home and for health. And we must build this for the long term, for our children and for our grand-
And today my message to you is that Britain is growing stronger: we are beginning to see the fruit of all the things we've battled and striven for throughout these difficult last four years. You know, running the country isn't like walking down the road. You have to hold fast to your core beliefs, whatever the short-
Take care nobody tries to conceal that from you. Take care not to confuse travesty with truth. Never assume that because an idea is easily communicated that it must be right. Take care not to confuse oratory with practical concern. Look for the achievements of government not always in bold plans or crude conflicts, but sometimes in mended fences too, and sometimes in the accretion of small steps whose pattern takes time to become clear.
In this difficult world, our interests are daily at stake. The time is ripe for grown-
It is said that actions speak louder than words. I hope so, for in the end, and when it comes to a choice I shall bend my energies always to work, not talk. My trade has never been in adjectives; I shall be patient. I shall be realistic. I shall ask for patience and realism in others, and I promise you this: I shall put my trust in results. Thank you.