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1992 - Mr Major’s Speech on the Conservative Vision

Below is the text of Mr Major's speech on the Conservative Vision, made in Shepton Mallet on Wednesday 1st April 1992. The speech was entitled “Building a New Britain”.


PRIME MINISTER:

Ladies and gentlemen, on Friday 10 April 1992 the work of the next government will begin. It will be a Conservative government or it will be a Labour government. There is no other choice. If you vote Conservative you will get a Conservative government. If you vote Labour you will get a Labour government. If you vote Liberal you will get a Labour Government. That is a message that every elector must understand.

Over sixteen months ago I started work on building the type of Britain in which I believe. You will decide whether I continue in that work - or whether to allow Labour to pull down all that British people have built since 1979.

Let me tell you about the Conservative government I want to lead. It is not the intention of the next Conservative government simply to safeguard the achievements of the eighties - astonishing though those achievements have been.

The aims of the new generation in the Conservative Party - the youngest cabinet this century - are set much, much higher. By the end of this decade, all that Britain has accomplished in the first thirteen years of Conservative rule will be seen in their true perspective - a magnificent beginning, but only that, a beginning, of a great nation's historic and continuing revival. That is the pledge I give to you this evening. That is the challenge that the next Conservative government will meet and fulfil.

The ideas we stand for - we fight for - are being adopted right across the world. Think of the political map of Europe - how it looked until quite recently. Great blocks of red interspersed with blue. Look at it now. Where have all the red blocks gone? Gone from Government almost every one. Going. Going. Gone.

All over the world Socialism is discredited. It is fading in every part of Europe. And in Britain on 9 April we will see the red flag dying here. Let's get out there and help it on its way.

The New Britain

Many people are yet to make up their minds in this Election - the 'don't knows'. On Election day you can't afford to be a "don't know". So my message to them is 'come and join us'. Help us build a better Britain.

My job as Prime Minister in the 1990s will be to give millions more people a helping hand up the ladder in life - to a home of their own, more savings, more secure and well-paid jobs, a better future. I see clearly the new Britain I want to build: a classless Britain in which everyone has their full share.

I have spoken of the Open Door Society - a nation in which more and more people can go through the doors of opportunity into a better life. To build up and to keep a piece of Britain for themselves. A Britain where what were once the privileges of the few can be enjoyed by all.

That's the kind of country I want to see.

I see a Britain freed from the scourge of inflation. Where rising prices no longer eat into savings and bring misery to those on fixed incomes. My target is stable prices. Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us. Where there is no levelling down, only levelling up. My aim is for parents to have the power to choose what is right for their child. Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us.

 I see a Britain in which there is true equality of opportunity for all. Where every boy or girl, whatever their background, can expect an education that brings out their talents to the full. Where there is no levelling down, only levelling up. My aim is for parents to have the power to choose what is right for their child. Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us.

I see a Britain where every family has the opportunity to own and to improve their home. Where there is no threat of credit controls, no need to depend on the council. My aim is ownership for every family - ownership for the security it brings. Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us.

I see a Britain where every citizen has the freedom to keep the wealth they have built from a lifetime's work. Where there is no threat of penal taxation and no confiscation of a lifetime's savings. My aim is for everyone to have the chance to pass on what they have built up in life to their children. That's what people work for. That's what people care about. Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us.

I see a Britain where our government plays a confident role in the world, standing for what is right. Where we don't neglect our defences, and never give way on what is right for Britain. My aim is for Britain to be a byword - the byword - for decency, principle and freedom. Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us.

I see a Britain where government continues to show a true responsibility for others. Where it plays its proper role in supporting those who cannot help themselves. Where we have a modern, expanding Health Service free at the point of use for all. Where we bring more help to our poorest pensioners. Where every citizen is free to walk the streets without fear of crime.

I see a Britain where the cost of living falls and the standard of living rises. Where we don't look to the State for answers, but to each other.

I believe that every person wants to have more say, have more choice, be the master in their own private corner of life. That is what in these last thirteen years we have given the people. I want a Britain in which people have the incentive to work harder and produce more. That is the way - the only way - to create resources for better public services for all.

Is that the kind of Britain you want? Then come and join us. This is no time to be a 'don't know'. This is a time to fight for a positive future for our country.

Taxation: the great divide

Ladies and gentlemen, people ask why we contrast Labour's tax policies so often with our own. It is because here in this single issue is the great divide between the parties. We believe that people express themselves by their choices - and must be allowed to do so. When they decide how much to spend on housing, how much on holidays, or how much on a car, on pensions or insurance, they are living according to their own priorities. They are their own masters. In a free society they must remain their own masters. But Socialism always takes that freedom away.

And when Governments or councils make those decisions for them, they are preventing people from living by their own values. Every pound left in the pay packet is a token of freedom. It offers choice. Every pound taken out of the pay packet takes away choice. In raising taxes by the record amount that they plan, Labour are not just taking away your income. They are taking away, more than ever before, the chance for ordinary people to live their life as they please. That's why Socialist policies are so wrong, ultimately so destructive. We must never, never, never let them come back to this country.

Labour: The Opposition

I warn you. Look beneath the surface of Labour's policies. You will see the cold hard truth staring at you. They haven't changed. They have not changed. They have not changed. Let no-one think for a moment that Socialism has lost its ambition to change people's lives. They still want people to pay up for the privilege of being told what to do. That is the badge of Socialism.

Socialism operates like a reverse philosopher's stone. It can change gold to base metal at a touch. Opportunity and enterprise into regulation and control. That would affect everyone. In a Labour Britain it wouldn't just be the gold bullion that they were shipping out the country, it would be the golden tapestry of British talent - business, scientific, sporting, cultural. Going. Going. Gone. And we would all be the losers.

It's not just their policies for the future that give Labour's game away. It is what they have done, what they have said. As we struggled to change Britain for the better, they struggled to stop us changing Britain for the better. You can see why they call Labour the Opposition.

We have lowered income tax for everyone by eight pence in the pound; they opposed it. They voted against every tax cut we have introduced - the one thing on which they've always been consistent. And one of the many things on which they have always had the support of the Liberals.

We gave people the right to buy council houses; they opposed it.

We sold loss-making State industries to the public and the staff in them. We made them profitable and made millions of people new shareholders; they opposed it.

We brought trade unions within the law, banned flying pickets and ended the closed shop; they opposed it.

We helped millions of young people to take out personal pensions of their own; they opposed it.

We wanted the people to be free, to have choice, to have power. To have the space to live their own lives as they wished - not as the council, the union, or the State wished. And Labour opposed us. They opposed the people's rights. Not just once. Not by accident. But deliberately. By design. And day after day after day.

Whatever we proposed, they opposed. It is their only political programme - to tear down all the things that the people of Britain have built. Labour are the masters of opposition. What a pity it would be now to waste all that experience.

To every owner a warning

"Ladies and gentlemen, as this Election approaches one point is central to the decision that everyone should take. It is this. We believe in personal ownership in a way that no other party does. We believe that people have the right to own - to enjoy the security and peace of mind it provides for them and their families. No other party shares that philosophy. Do you remember? Labour did everything in their power to stop the people having the right to own. And still do, whenever and wherever they can.

Let no-one out there who gained in the '80s ever forget it. Four million new homeowners; four and a half million young people with personal pensions; six million shareholders in the State companies we sold to the people. Many of those must be in this audience tonight.

 I warn each of you. Just stop, listen, and think. Look at your children and ask yourself this. Dare you trust your home, your pension, your savings, your shares - your future - to the very Labour people who fought to stop you having them at all?

Going. Going. Gone. Is that the future you want? For the freest country in the world? Never.

Liberals

Ladies and gentlemen, I hear Paddy's still round about. Sounds comfortable, doesn't it? But don't forget what he stands for. Policies that are close cousins to Labour's. A special tax on petrol. What would that do to large rural areas of our country? Swingeing cuts in defence - cuts twice as big as Labour propose. What would that do to the defence of this country and our great defence industries? I'll tell you - no defence. And no industries. And they stand for big tax increases for all - rises in income tax nationally and rises in income tax locally, too. What would that do to recovery and prosperity and jobs? It would destroy them.

Liberal policy would crucify rural areas. Cut back our defence industries. Impose new taxes. Whatever happened to real Liberal policies. These are Labour policies - left wing policies. And anyone who is thinking of supporting the Liberals should be clear about that. Don't let the Liberal Party be the Trojan Horse to a Labour Britain.

Beware Mr Ashdown. He is the doorkeeper to a Labour Britain. I warn you. Don't look at the man; look through the door. The most famous door in the world is Number 10 Downing Street. Don't let Mr Ashdown open it for Mr Kinnock.

Economic Recovery

A Labour Government would stop in its tracks the one thing for which the people of Britain are waiting - economic recovery. I know that many businesses and families have been feeling the impact of the world recession. There are families in America and in Germany who feel just the same. Your concerns will never be brushed aside by me, they will always be heard.

But they should not blind us to the underlying changes which have taken place in the British economy over the last decade. There's a new spirit of enterprise - with management and workforce working as one to take on the competition and win. Quality, design, service are once more at the forefront. British companies are pushing forward the boundaries of innovation. Productivity has risen by leaps and bounds.

We've been keeping strike records for a hundred years. Last year, the number of days lost was the lowest ever. Why? Because we've changed industrial relations law and we've changed industrial relations attitudes.

Britain has become a magnet for overseas investment. We have as much investment from Japan as the rest of the Community put together. It's low tax that did that. Low inflation. They're what brought investors here. Do you think they would all have come here under a Labour Government? Do you think the confidence the Conservative Government has built up would continue under Labour?

On top of all this, interest rates have come down. Britain's rate of inflation is now below Germany's - the first time that has happened since before men walked on the moon.

But, after a generation of striving to reach that very goal, within two days, just two days, of our getting there, Labour's John Smith said he'd be happy to see inflation rise again. He dismisses our target for Britain - stable prices - as an 'unnecessary virtue'. Those are the words of a shallow 'chancellor' - shallow and blind to what matters to every housewife and pensioner in the country.

Labour talk of recovery. But what Mr Smith is ready to add to inflation would add £2500 million to the costs of industry. And he dares to talk of a billion pound recovery package. Labour's inflation would destroy profits, destroy companies, destroy jobs.

What is more it now seems that Labour plan special payoffs to their big union friends. Public sector unions would be given pay increases one per cent above the going rate in private business. Whatever that rate may be? That is a recipe for higher public spending with no improvement in service. For wage spirals and for rising inflation. For the return of trade union muscle to the heart of public policy. In other words the same old Labour policies. It would be a disaster for Britain.

Ladies and gentlemen, the foundations for recovery are in place. Let business speak for itself. Fifteen times more businessmen would increase investment under the Conservatives than they would under Labour. In fact, under Labour one in four businessmen would cut investment.

I believe that under a Conservative Government the 1990s will usher in a new era for prosperity and for jobs. The once impossible are within reach:

- stable prices

- sustained industrial peace

- free enterprise given free rein.

Only one thing could stop it. The Labour Party - pledged to tax; to nationalise; and to give power back to the unions. That would knock recovery on the head - for this year, next year and through the nineties.

Labour would turn recovery into slump.

I am not prepared to see that happen - it's not going to happen. Britain is on the brink of a breakthrough to a great future. Is the dull, dead hand of Socialism to be allowed to strangle that future? Not if I can help it. And I can. I will. With your help, I will.

Health

Ladies and gentlemen, we need a strong economy to sustain our spending on the National Health Service. Earlier this week I said I was taking the gloves off about the National Health Service. And I meant it. It is the national Health Service. It is not Labour's Health Service. Well, the gloves are staying off. Because I'm not prepared to see our Labour opponents run down the work that this great service performs.

The National Health Service has been in existence for 44 years. For 30 of those years we have had Conservative Governments. The Health Service has flourished and grown. We have cherished the National Health Service, built it, modernised it. We care for it and for those who it serves. And now we're reforming it - not privatising it, never privatising it - to make it even more successful. To help it treat even more patients than ever before.

They're working, our reforms, really working. We are now treating over a million more inpatient cases and two million outpatient cases a year than we did under Labour. And why? Because we have provided more money than ever before.

Hip replacements are up by a half. Heart, liver and heart and lung transplants have become a daily occurrence. And why? Because we have provided more money than ever before. More year after year after year than even the rashest Labour opposition ever dared promise.

I want you all to shout from the rooftops the miracles that our doctors, nurses, and hospitals have achieved.

And remember. The last Labour Government really did cut the Health Service. Really did cut hospital building. Really did cut nurses' pay. And pushed the waiting lists up to an all-time high - the most shameful record even in their sorry history. The Conservative Party will take no lectures from them.

I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, their exploitation of the Health Service shows up the real face of Labour. Cynical. Desperate for power. The 'anything for office' syndrome. These are people ready even to exploit and distort the case of one sick child in order to blacken the image of one great service and all who work in it. Nothing matters to Labour except that it should 'serve their purpose'.

I give the people of Britain this promise. Any government I lead will make the National Health Service, ever better, ever stronger, ever more able to tackle the huge challenges of modern health care. It's not our Health Service. It's your Health Service, yours - the people's. And we will protect it - and we will build it up.

Defence

Ladies and gentlemen, there are three momentous issues which lie at the heart of this election - defence, Europe, and the future of our Kingdom.

Ten years ago this very day a dictator gave the order for the invasion of the Falklands. That act of aggression was triumphantly reversed by our armed forces. I do not think there is anyone alive who will not recall the emotions they felt as they watched those ships of the Royal Navy set sail for the South Atlantic. It was one of the boldest and most skilful expeditions ever to leave these shores. The victory they won came at heavy cost. We will never forget the courage and the sacrifice of those who gave their lives for their country, there in the South Atlantic. We will never forget. But we can give thanks for what they did. For they fought the fight that it seems must be fought by each generation - the fight for justice, for democracy, for the rights of every individual to think and breathe free.

But ten years on what do we hear from the Labour Party - a threat from their defence spokesman to review and cut the strength of our Royal Navy. What message does that send to our armed forces?

And what message did Labour send to those who went out nine years later to join the United Nations action against another dictator's unprovoked aggression. They wanted to leave those troops sitting there in the desert, waiting for sanctions to drive out Saddam Hussein. Either they would still have been in the desert today or Saddam Hussein would have been sitting in Saudi Arabia.

That is not how we see our armed forces. They deserve a better and a stronger lead. They were not easy times - for them or for any of us. I had only just become Prime Minister. And emotions stirred in all of us as we thought of the skill and daring of our pilots, and the cool professional resolve of the young men and women of the ground forces, waiting in the desert night for the order to advance.

It is a great responsibility to lead a nation in time of war. It reinforced my passionate determination to preserve the peace in this dangerous world. But I never doubted that, whatever the challenge, our armed forces would be ready for it. And so they were. They did the job. They sent that barbarous dictator, licking his wounds, back to his lair, humiliated.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first duty of any Government is to safeguard the defence of the realm. You can be sure that a Conservative Government, this one, the next one, every one will discharge that duty. You can take our word for that. And if you take the word of the Liberals and Labour you will know that they will cut defence, that they will risk our country. Such a course would never be for us.

We will never take risks with our defence. One thing I learnt from the war with Iraq was the crucial importance of having the right equipment for our troops. We will make sure they get it. That's why we have ordered the new Challenger tank for the Army; the Merlin helicopter for the Navy; the new air defence missile for the RAF. Our armed forces must remain the best armed the best supported in the world. And I promise they will be.

The Liberals say that now the cold war is won we can hack back our armed forces to the bone - perhaps they have become too fond of one man armies. They want to cut our defence spending by a half. I tell you that would be utter folly. The story of the Falklands and Kuwait is the story of the sudden dangers that can arise in the modern world. We must stay on our guard, be prepared for the unexpected - and under this Conservative Government our armed forces will do so.

And one other thing, ladies and gentlemen, for so long as dictators like the wicked man who rules Iraq are plotting to build a nuclear bomb, we will keep our independent nuclear deterrent. I say - and say again - we will order, build, deploy and arm that fourth Trident submarine that our armed forces tell me they need. We will not take any risk with that crucial shield.

But I tell you who would. Labour would. They don't say, can't say, won't say what their attitude on Trident would be. Because they don't know.

First Labour say they will build it. Then they say they won't build it. They even say they might build it and send it floating round the world devoid of arms. What would they call it? HMS Spineless? HMS Witless? HMS Clueless?

Ladies and gentlemen, you simply can't trust Labour when it comes to defence. And since defence is about the most serious issue that any country has to face, you just can't trust Labour with power.

Europe

Ladies and gentlemen, this Party took Britain into Europe. It is where our future lies. I said I wanted us to be at the heart of Europe. And I meant it.

We need to complete that single market that is so vital for our industry - and we will, when we hold the Presidency of the Community later this year.

We need to strengthen co-operation between the nation states of Europe where our common interests point us. And we will, when we hold the Presidency of the Community later this year.

And I believe we need to extend Europe - to create a wider Europe. For the greatest benefit of the Community is not economic. It has made it inconceivable that war in Western Europe could ever again take the world to the edge of ruin. That is why I believe so passionately in widening Europe - until the Community comes to embrace Russia itself. Then we can take to the countries of the East that gift of peace that today we in the West take so much for granted. It may not happen in our political lifetime - but it will happen. And I will do everything I can to help it on its way. And when that new Europe has been built from Britain to the Urals, then we will have built a secure life for the next generation that will be greater than we have ever seen before.

That's what I want to see happen in Europe. That is my vision for Europe. But that vision doesn't mean we have to be uncritical about how Europe now is. When you're dealing with Europe you need to pitch in there fighting - fighting for Britain as well as for Europe. With a Conservative government Britain will always come before Brussels.

That's what Douglas Hurd and I did at Maastricht - fight for Britain in Europe. They were tough negotiations - but we got the right result for Britain. Just imagine what would have happened if we had a Labour Government. They wouldn't have spoken for Britain; they would have broken Britain.

There are just three words in Labour's vocabulary for Europe - oui, si, and jawohl. Well, let me offer you a fourth absolutely vital word to defend Britain's interests - no. Can anyone imagine Mr Kinnock saying anything so short?

Labour has been wrong on all the critical issues of defence and foreign policy in our time. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I warn the people of Britain. Men who have been so wrong so often on so much would find it hard to break the habit of a lifetime.

Ladies and gentlemen, these great issues of our time call for a clear head and a steady hand. You need consistency. Conviction. Coherence. You need experience. You need judgement. The one thing you don't need is Labour.

The Union

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to turn to one of the greatest threats the United Kingdom has faced for generations. I don't think the British people have yet woken up to the danger that Labour and Liberal policies present. To create a new tax-raising Parliament in Scotland would cause the very foundations of our constitution to quake. I warn the people; it could lead to the break-up of Britain itself.

Nothing shows more clearly the irresponsibility of Labour and Liberals alike - and how alike they are. They don't seem concerned; they don't seem to care. They would diminish our Westminster Parliament. The end result of their policies would be a disunited Kingdom in a United States of Europe. A United States of Europe? That means a federal Europe. The people of Britain don't want a disunited Kingdom; and they won't accept a federal Europe. But I warn the people. If they vote Labour or Liberal that is what they will get.

They will get a federal Europe taking powers away from Westminster. They will get a tax raising parliament in Scotland taking powers away from Westminster. And they will get federal assemblies throughout England and Wales taking powers away from Westminster. Is that what people want for the Westminster Parliament? To strip it of authority and influence. But that's what they will get if they vote Liberal or Labour. I warn the people.

Ladies and gentlemen, thirteen years ago the Labour Leader fought against devolution. If I had to use any label, he said, I would call myself a Unionist. Not the label I would use for him. Now he tells us - and I quote: 'I think that people can trust my word and attitude, because I've always been in favour of devolution.' Was that a temporary lapse in a record of consistency? I rather think not. This is the European who 'wanted out' of Europe just a few years ago. This is the man who talks of defence but campaigned for years to disarm our country in the face of the Soviet threat.

Ladies and gentlemen, do words mean anything to this man? He's the chameleon of politics. Consistent only in his inconsistency. Wouldn't it make a nice change to find an issue on which he hadn't changed, for a change?

Conclusion

Never forget. In spite of a world recession we're on course for a better life, a more secure life. We've learnt what to avoid and what to strive for. We've learnt to protect the weak, to encourage the young, to care for the old, and to keep our cities clean and our country safe, safe from attack on our values and our principles from without and within.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are three great issues at the heart of this Election. Little debated, so far. But fundamental to the very fabric of our lives, about which I warn the people, warn them before it is too late. I speak the defence of our country, our place in Europe, the very survival of the United Kingdom. None of these would be safe in the hands of a Labour Government.

Labour and Liberals in office would give Scotland and Wales devolution without even a referendum. They have said so. And in Europe whatever Brussels asked for Brussels would get. That, too, is abundantly clear.

The breaking up of our United Kingdom and abject surrender to the most extreme demands of the European Commission, along with the defence of the realm, these things go to the very heart of our constitution. The future of our country takes precedence over every other consideration, even Party allegiance. On these things Labour is not to be trusted. I warn the people.

The Conservative case is not nourished by dogma. The Conservative case does not assert theories discarded by most of the civilised world. To be a modern Conservative is not to be against some of the people; it is to be for all the people.

Our standards and values are Britain's heritage. It is we who are the traditional builders of national recovery and renewal.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a critical, vital Election. None of us can afford to stay on the sidelines. To be a 'don't know' may well be enough at certain elections. Not this one. What is at stake is the future of Britain. From such a contest no-one can stand aside.

I urge all Conservatives and those who are broadly in sympathy with us to talk to any who are still uncertain. Remind them what we Conservatives stand for and what we believe in. A country of real opportunity. A country with a head. And a country with a heart. Open their eyes to the threat that our opponents present to their lives. Warn the people. And turn the 'don't knows' into 'now I know.'

Tell them to vote for the team with experience. Vote for the team that will help recovery, not kill it. Vote for the team that will unite the country, not divide it. Vote for the team that will keep your family safe, not sorry. Vote for the team you can trust. Tell them those things - and on April 9th they will vote for a Conservative future.