1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of John Major’s speech to the 1997 Conservative Party Conference, held in Blackpool in October 1997.
Life has changed a little since I last spoke to you at Bournemouth: changed for you and for me. Five months ago, we lost the election. Like you, I wish events had been kinder to us but -
This year they made a different choice and as democrats we respect their decision -
It’s no great secret how I feel about this Party. It’s the Party I grew up with, that fashioned the chances I had in life, that is full of people who share my hopes and values. To everyone who works in our constituencies in good days and bad -
On my first day as Prime Minister, I set out an ambition to build a ‘nation at ease with itself.’
As I look around today, at the growing confidence of our Nation, at the glittering economic prospects, at the rising growth, the strong trading position, the low inflation, the falling unemployment, the low interest rates, the strong pound, the increasing number of young people in higher education, the rising level of savings and record personal well-
So when the Government boasts about the economy -
Our election defeat was not your defeat. Perhaps it was mine. Perhaps divided views -
Rather than brood over it, we must accept our defeat as gracefully as we can; we should not waste time in pointless recrimination; we should work in the towns and the cities and the villages and begin to build for the future and the next Conservative Government.
A few moments ago, we heard that you have endorsed William Hague’s election as Leader and the need for reform of the Party by a massive majority in a far larger vote than anyone expected.
William is right. We need reform -
It’s a simple choice: reform the Party, back William Hague, re-
I know my choice. I’m backing William. I’m backing him because he’s an able man of talent and integrity with a tough job ahead.
It’s difficult being the leader of a newly defeated Party. For a while, people won’t wish to listen to what we have to say. But that will pass. The tide will turn and -
In the meantime, we must use the time wisely. Party reform -
We now have the luxury of time to think anew -
I propose to give William Hague the unqualified support -
The Prime Minister said last week this was ‘the giving age.’ Well, he should know. Because we’ve given him a glowing inheritance. Not just the economy -
It’s good to give. And we should remind people what we gave.
I’m confident about our future: ignore the pessimists -
As I end, I’d like to say something else about the Party. Remember what we are.
Remember that our Party has served its country in government more often and longer and better than any democratic party in the whole history of western politics.
As we’ve seen, even such a party can be beaten at the polls. But the Conservative family can only be defeated from within.
At the end of this week, there’s one strong message that I long to hear from this Conference:
We are the Conservative Party.
We exist to serve a nation that is Conservative by instinct.
We will be back.