Biography Chronology Home Search Speeches/Statements

1992 - Mr Major’s Speech at Conservative Party Rally

Below is the text of Mr Major's speech made at a Conservative Party Rally held in London, on Tuesday 7th April 1992.


PRIME MINISTER:

On Thursday Britain is going to return a Conservative government.

It's going to vote with us for the right to own. The power to choose. The will to win. And the future of Britain.

Ladies and gentlemen, all around the world, countries are copying our ideas. It's a Conservative world out there. We helped to create it. And I tell you this. We're going to be a leader in it throughout the 90s.

There's no road back with Socialism. There must no be road back for Socialism. Not here. Not anywhere. Not the Lib road. Not the Lab road. Not the Lib-Lab road. Let Socialism back anywhere and, before you know it, that country will be on the road to nowhere. Socialism is not a road. It's a dead end.

Once before this century Britain stood alone. We stood then against tyranny and oppression. We are not going to stand alone in the 90s. Ignominiously defending Socialism and state control - when the rest of the world is rejecting it. That's not the way for Britain. Not now. Not ever. Never.

Ladies and gentlemen, when I became Prime Minister those 16 months ago there were three great tasks facing this country - to build the basis for recovery from the world recession; to see Britain through the negotiations at Maastricht; and to accomplish the liberation of Kuwait.

Well, we achieved them all. And let me tell you how.

Economic recovery

Here in Britain we got inflation low - and falling. We reduced interest rates eight times. We reduced tax - and we'll keep it low. We secured stable exchange rates in the ERM - and we'll keep our position there. We gave managers the freedom and workers the incentive to strive and succeed. Those are the fundamentals you need for a strong recovery. The fruit of Conservative policies. And only Conservative policies will keep them safe.

Don't let anyone tell you that recovery isn't there for the taking. Britain is ready now to move forward when others are sliding backwards. All around us the signs are there. There in housebuilding. There in exports. There in retail sales. Ninety-three per cent of businessmen say that Conservative policies are right for recovery. All that Britain is waiting for to achieve recovery is the confidence a Conservative victory will bring. So vote Conservative on Thursday and the recovery will continue on Friday.

Europe

Ladies and gentlemen, there's a small town in Holland, called Maastricht. Douglas Hurd and I know it well. That's where we negotiated the future of Europe. Britain belongs in Europe. This Party took Britain into it. And that's where our interests lie. But we have a voice in the moulding of Europe. We can, and must, use that voice. And use it for Britain. We don't have to toady up to the European Commission, cap in hand. They work for us. Not us for them.

This is a critical, crucial issue. While the commentators harp on about hung parliaments, the very future of our Parliament is at stake. It's something on which I have spoken - and spoken from the heart - wherever I have been. And wherever I speak I hear the echoing voice of the British people coming back at me, loud and clear.

I want to see a wider Europe stretching from the Atlantic to the Urals, a Community that will guarantee peace for our children in Eastern Europe as it does in the West. I want to see a Europe of nation states - built on the free market principles that have served us so well. I know where I want to lead this country - and lead our continent, too.

And I know where we should not go. Ladies and gentlemen, I don't believe in a federal Europe. I don't believe in a United States of Europe. And I don't think the British people believe in it either.

But that is where a Lib-Lab vote would take us. On the slow road or the fast road to a federal destiny.

I profoundly believe that our Parliament at Westminster - our own sovereign Parliament for which our ancestors fought - should not be diminished by the growth of centralised power.

The Lib-Lab Left would be the viceroys for Brussels in Britain. Yes-men who would sign up to a single currency, whether it is good for Britain or not. Yes-men who would sign up for that Social Chapter that we worked in Maastricht to hold at bay. More trade union power, more business costs, more lost jobs. It would be hugely damaging for Britain. But the wrong vote on Thursday could result in just that.

A centralised Europe is not in the interests of the British people. It should never be accepted by the British people. But it's there in the Liberal manifesto. And every Labour policy is designed to bring it about.

So remember. Only a Conservative government will be wholeheartedly committed to prevent a federal Europe. That is the promise I give you - and a promise I will always keep.

Europe is about the biggest test of leadership that we will face. It will be a time for cool heads. A time for steady hands. A time for experience. And that means it's no time for Labour.

The Gulf

Let me turn to the third challenge - the Gulf. We didn't succeed in the Gulf. They succeeded - our soldiers, our sailors, our airmen. They did it. They beat a ruthless dictator backed by one of the largest armies in the world. A man ready to use all the weapons of terror he had in his arsenal.

I'll tell you what defeated Saddam Hussein. It wasn't that his forces were weak. It was that our forces were the best in the world. It was a miracle of planning. A masterpiece of execution. A model of professionalism. A matchless display of individual courage and dedication to duty. It was a privilege to go out there, as Prime Minister, and be among them. I salute them still.

That's the spirit of our forces wherever you find them. And wherever you find them -in the bleak South Atlantic, in the streets and the green fields of Ulster, or in the huge desert wastes of Kuwait - that spirit will never fail.

Ten Tory truths

There are 10 great reasons why we should be proud of our record and why the British people will return a Conservative government on Thursday.

These 10 Tory truths are what the people have voted for - three times in succession. They are the policies they'll get more of when we have a Conservative government back once more in power.

Defence

The first great Tory truth is strong defence. If there is one thing the next Conservative government will do, it is to see those young men and women in our armed forces are fully supported and properly equipped. You won't find a Conservative government cutting spending on defence by a quarter, like Labour plan; still less by a half, like those unguided missiles, the Liberals.

Don't forget there have been many, including the present Leader of the Labour Party, who campaigned passionately against our stand on defence. What on earth is one to make of his defence policy? Now you CND, now you don't. For him the United States posed - as he put it - a threat equal to that of the Soviet Union. What astonishing naivety from the man who claims to be capable of speaking for Britain abroad.

There's just one thing that he and his Labour friends have been consistent on in defence and foreign affairs. Being wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Always wrong in their judgments on the critical issues of our time.

Which reminds me. Has anyone seen Gerald Kaufman lately? I haven't checked with Scotland Yard whether he's been reported as a missing person yet. I am getting a little concerned. Never mind we must try not to worry. And there is one bit of reassuring news. I have it on excellent authority - the brothers aren't looking for him.

Just as well. Since he's the man the Labour Leader wants to appoint our principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs if he ever got the chance. Well, I've heard of some funny ideas in my time. But that's quite ridiculous.

On 1 July it is Britain's turn to take over the Presidency of the European Community. Whatever would a Labour government say to the leaders of the world?

Would the G7 listen to them about beating inflation, when Labour's aim is to raise it here? No.

Would Europe listen to them about building the Single Market, when they are planning to bring back regulation and control to Britain? No.

Would Boris Yeltsin come to them for advice on dismantling socialism when their big idea is to turn back the clock and rebuild it here? No.

Would our NATO allies listen attentively to the Labour Leader on nuclear policy, when he refuses to say whether he would build the fourth Trident or not? No.

Ladies and gentlemen, Britain under Labour would become an international also-ran, pulling on the tatty red vest while everyone else is running in blue. Russia wouldn't be turning to us for help; it would be turning away in horror. We would be peddling yesterday's failed socialist nostrums, while all around us the nations were building a new world. I tell you this. Labour's old ideas would sideline Britain in a new age. It would be a disaster. We will not let it happen.

Ladies and gentlemen, we called this new world into being. It was a Conservative government that stood firm when it was needed. Faced with the communist threat, we stationed Cruise missiles here on British soil, while Labour fought tooth and nail to stop us. As a result the West won the Cold War, exported freedom and democracy to the slave states of the East, and lifted the curse of communism off the backs of 400 million people.

This was a victory for the free world, free enterprise, for our ideals. There has never been such a breaking of the chains of slavery in the history of man.

And where were our opponents when the battle for freedom was on? In the vanguard with us? No, not even skulking in the rear. Ladies and gentlemen, go out on Thursday and make sure that glorious part of our Conservative record is first and foremost in the minds of the people. And you might remind them that while all this was happening - Labour couldn't be seen for dust.

The free market

The second great Tory truth - and it is no less crucial than the first - is that only on free market principles can you build growth in the good times and recovery in the bad. Don't let us be mealy-mouthed about it. Look the people in the eye and tell them. About a rise in living standards for the average family man 20 times faster than Labour's pathetic, miserable years. That's £3,500 a year more, after inflation, for the average family to spend. That's where the new cars, the holidays, the videos, the washing machines have come from. From the growing economy, the strong vibrant economy of these extraordinary Conservative years.

We cut tax on business and individuals. We curbed trade union power. We brought inflation down. As a result the UK grew faster than France or Germany in the 1980s. Productivity grew faster than all the other main industrial countries. They won't have been told that by the Lib-Lab gloom merchants. So you just go out and tell them out there.

Unemployment? Yes, we hate it. I hate it. And beating it is what our economic policies are certain to do. But remember - Britain now has a higher proportion of our workforce in jobs than any other EC country except Denmark.

Industry? Yes, it's fighting the effects of recession, just like German industry, just like American industry. But it's fit, competitive and when recovery comes it's ready to go. The business leaders of Britain are praying for a Conservative victory. Ask anyone. They know where the new jobs will come.

In a Conservative Britain our share of world trade in manufacturing is rising after a generation of decline. Our manufacturing exports in February reached an all-time record. You don't hear those facts from the Labour Party and their hangers-on. But that is the real Britain. So get out and tell the people.

These have been 13 of the finest years in the history of Britain. Let's be proud, proud, proud, of what the British people have done. And let's get on out there and tell them.

Cutting tax

And remind them of the third great Tory truth. Low tax creates wealth. So we cut income tax. We cut it, and cut it, and cut it, and cut it. We cut it, and cut it, and cut it again. Go out and remind them about it - and tell them how the Liberals and the Labour voted against us time after time. That's the Lib-Lab record on tax cuts. No. No. No and no. And what's the Lib-Lab promise on future tax cuts? Never, they say. Never. Never again. So tell the people the answer to give to those Lib-Lab canvassers. Never Lib. Never Lab. Never again.

We started a movement in the 1980s that has swept the world. Now we are starting on the next stage of our mission - towards a 20 pence basic rate for all.

Let's not beat about the bush. Cutting taxes has been shown to be the greatest stimulus to economic growth and personal freedom there has ever been. Every pound we cut in tax is a pound more for people's choice, a pound more to create work for others, a pound more to buy things for their families. Apologise for that? Never. It's the greatest thing any government could do for the people. Build their freedom. And when we win on Thursday there will be more of it.

Do you know what our opponents want people to feel when their taxes are cut? Guilty. They call it a bribe. Bribe? It's people's own money they are talking about. Bribe? It's like the mafia talking of protection.

Cutting taxes means leaving the working men and women of Britain with more of their money, more of the wealth they have created, more of the choices they have earned - by the sweat of their brow, and the ingenuity of their minds. They've earned it. They should keep it. And we'll let them do so.

That was the golden discovery of the 80s - more private wealth means more public wealth too. We cut income tax and spent more than ever before on the Health Service and on pupils in our schools.

We Conservatives discovered that rich new seam of gold. We took the axe to the cold rockface of socialism. And we hewed out the secret for which generations had searched in vain - private wealth and public welfare, growing together. Wealth and welfare hand in hand - they are the twin pillars of the Tory temple. Don't let the Lib-Lab left tear that temple down.

In the next Parliament we'll go on tax-cutting. We will make that our aim year by year. I want to extend the 20 pence tax band further and further up the income scale. More tax cuts for all. That's how you provide more benefits for all. That is our basic Conservative belief.

Controlling inflation

The fourth great truth of the Tory years has been control of inflation. Inflation? It's a technical word. There may be some in this country who don't know what it means. But they can feel what it means. Under Labour in the 70s they had to live what it means.

Retired people who had bought annuities seeing their life savings eaten away. Pensioners going into the supermarket and finding that week after week the prices were up. Businessmen, so worried about what the future might bring, that they hadn't the hope to create new jobs, or the nerve to invest. And for the low-paid that corroding evil, when the money in the pay packet at the end of the week had been overtaken by the ever rising tide of prices. I remember it. You remember it. The people remember it. Never must we go back to those socialist years.

We were elected to tackle inflation - and we did. Our rate is now below that of Germany for the first time since before man walked on the moon. We are now one of Europe's low inflation countries. That's a prize of which we could never have dreamed. So hammer it home on the doorsteps. You need Tory policies and Tory priorities to keep the menace of inflation in check.

And tell them this as well. Our target for the next five years is stable prices - a world in which your money, your savings keep their value year on year every year. Isn't that a prize worth winning? So tell the pensioners of Britain all about it.

Trade Union reform

Ladies and gentlemen, I'll tell you a fifth Conservative truth. A successful economy depends on good industrial relations. Trade union reform was one of the most significant steps of the 80s. And never forget this. We did what they said was impossible - we ended the tyranny of trade union power. I don't think the British public will want to see that power restored.

But don't think - don't think for a moment - that the danger is past. 'You'll be all right, boys', Mr Kinnock tells them. And they would. They pay the piper; they'd call the tune. I wonder if any of you have noticed the union shop stewards in your factory - the new spring they have in their step. They know. They remember the first great truth of Labour's years. If Labour's back, the unions are back.

Flying pickets. Do you remember? We stopped them. Secondary strikes. Do you remember? We stopped them. The closed shop. Do you remember? We stopped it. Beer and sandwiches. Do you remember? We stopped them. Arthur Scargill? Do you remember. Margaret Thatcher stopped Arthur Scargill. Stopped him dead in his tracks - do you remember? - while Labour fiddled, floundered and flapped.

And I'll tell you someone else stopped them. The British worker stopped them. Sick of strikes. Sick of bullying. Sick of being denied the basic human right of a secret ballot on the right to work.

It took guts. Courage. Do you remember?

Well the British people are not ready to see the TUC limousines lined up in Downing Street. They don't want to see the union bosses back. So let's vote on Thursday to keep them where they should be - on the sidelines. A Labour Party dominated by the unions cannot, could not, and would not build recovery in Britain today.

In the next Parliament we are going on with union reform. We are going to make sure that all pre-strike ballots are postal. We are going to require seven days' notice of any strike. And we are going to give everyone in the land the right to take legal action against unions who interfere with public services through illegal disruption. A Labour vote gives you a Striker's Charter. A Conservative vote gives you a Citizen's Charter. That's the difference. So go out and tell the people - and just see the backing you'll get.

A modern Health Service

The sixth great task of the Conservative years has been to build a better, modern Health Service. Labour talk of care. We Conservatives act to care. That's the difference between us. We have raised resources on health to over a half more than Labour ever spent. Increased nurses' pay by a half, where Labour cut it. We are treating one-and-a-half million more in-patients, two million more out-patients every year. And we have 600 hospital building schemes of over £1 million; 400 more in design, planning, or build.

The 1,000 Tory hospital projects. It is one of the proudest features of the Tory record. Despite Labour's shameful record and shoddy lies, we have built a better and finer, yes and richer Health Service. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

In the next Parliament we will keep our Health Service the best in the world. Give it more resources year on year, every year. Go on with those reforms that Labour would scrap. Giving more power to family doctors to decide on the best treatment for their patients. Setting up the Trust Hospitals that have been such a success in treating more patients, cutting waiting lists and putting their community first. More treatment, less waiting. That's the Conservative record. And I'll tell you something. Labour know it. That's why they lie their heads off about it.

Better Schools

The seventh Tory truth concerns better education. We took over a system frozen in the past, prey to left-wing ideas, obsessed with levelling down, bent on keeping parents in the dark.

Now we have a National Curriculum that insists the right things are taught. A Parent's Charter for parents' rights. School management by headteacher, parents and governors, wherever they want it. Proper testing. Good pay for good teachers. The right for parents to choose the school they want.

We are building a modern system. In the next five years it's back to basics - and proud of it. So let's tell the people.

The Right to Own

The eighth Tory truth - the spread of ownership. Four million new homeowners. Four-and-a-half million young people with personal pensions. Six million new owners of shares.

That is the new wealth of Britain. It's something we should passionately defend. In the next Parliament we want more people with homes of their own. More people with pensions of their own. More people with shares of their own. And we want each current owner to have more. We have the policies to extend the right to own across the whole nation. And, as we do it, we want to draw the sting of inheritance tax. Then more and more families can pass on the value of their homes and savings to their children and grandchildren. Aren't those policies worth fighting for?

It is that kind of ownership we stand for; the ownership Labour would undermine. Remember Red Wednesday when shares in water, gas, telecom, and electricity plunged by £1,300 million, just on the fear of a Labour government.

If Labour were to win on Thursday, we would see a cut - almost overnight - in the value of homes, shares, pensions that would far outweigh those piffling promises of an extra two pence a week they claim they'd put in the pockets of some of the people while cutting the income of others by one sixth.

It would be a massacre of the innocents by the ignorant. Perhaps the biggest transfer of wealth away from personal ownership that this country has seen. It is a nightmare prospect for family after family after family. Go out and warn the people. We in this Party will build the wealth of the people, not snatch it away.

Privatisation

The ninth Tory truth is that privatisation means wider wealth and better service. When we came to power the public sector was a huge loss-making dinosaur, a millstone round the country's neck. Now that's all changed. These are now great national assets. We've turned loss-makers into world leaders. We have created businesses, not owned by the state, but by the people who work in them. We have taken off the shackles of Whitehall - and handed responsibility to the managers. Our programme has been so successful that government throughout the world now look to this country. Go out and tell the people.

Strong government

The tenth truth, and by no means the least, is that great countries need strong government. We have provided it. In Britain and the world. Remember. That strong and decisive government would only have been possible under our present electoral system. Don't let's abandon it now.

PR is no more than a ramp to permanent representation for the Liberals in power. For Neil Kinnock, until last week its strongest opponent, it's the back door to power in Britain. Because he knows he can't get in the front. It is nothing to do with fair play; everything to do with power play. And we will have none of it.

The 90s are a critical decade. We will need strong government then, as never before. Look at the confusion in Italy, Belgium, or Israel that PR has brought. Look at the way that extremists can gain a decisive influence, last week in France, this week in Germany, and shudder at the prospect of the Lib-Lab pact.

If we had had PR, instead of strong government, since 1979, there would have been:

* no cuts in income tax;

* no sale of council houses;

* no privatisation and none of the six million new shareholders;

* no National Curriculum in our schools and no choice for parents;

* no end to the closed shop;

* no nuclear shield in Britain against the communist threat;

* no authority for a swift response to the aggression of General Galtieri or Saddam Hussein.

The Lib-Lab Left would have prevented them all. If we hadn't had leadership government, strong government, there would have been no revival of Britain at all. So I say to the country - steer clear of Labour's Trojan Horse to power.

Ladies and gentlemen, we will need strong government in the 90s. And, with a Conservative government, you will get it.

The Contrast: Principle and Change

To be successful in life and in government I believe you need firm principles and clear targets. That has always been the strength of this Party. We know which stars we navigate by and the ports we aim for.

But what of our opponents? The Labour leader calls for a change. That's hardly surprising. He's changed so often you wouldn't expect him to change the habit now.

But the public should ask - just how seriously can you take his present stands? Can we trust it - any further than the lifelong principles he jettisoned yesterday? Or the opinion polls he reads tomorrow?

Look at PR. He was always against. Now, in the latest, most cynical change of all he lurches towards it, grasping desperately at a prospect of power. Power before principle. Does he think the public can't see what he is up to? What he's down to? He was unable to answer when asked on television where exactly he stood. Well, let Doctor Major diagnose the problem. It's the 'anything for office' syndrome. And let Doctor Major prescribe. There is only one known cure for this disabling condition. Five years on the Opposition benches.

As Prime Minister you meet challenges; you face crises. That's when principle and experience guide you. When no principle is so great it can't be quietly forgotten - when no belief is so important it cannot be dropped, to what principles, to what beliefs, would the Labour leader resort when the going is tough? Labour would be a rudderless ship in a storm-tossed sea. Or they would - under pressure, slide back to socialist type.

The Tory Nineties

Ladies and gentlemen, I want a Britain where everyone has a chance to succeed. Where effort is rewarded. Where low taxes leave people free to choose how to spend their money - and where we have stable prices so that money keeps its value. Where everyone - yes, everyone - feels they belong. Where we all own a piece of Britain and have a stake in its future. Where people can pass on the savings of a lifetime's work to their children and grandchildren.

We are building a country where our public services set the standard for the world; where our great, free National Health Service gets better year by year. Where every child leaves school well-qualified for life; where more and more young people go into higher education, and people can secure the training that is suited to them.

I want a Britain that offers dignity and security to older people; where people feel safe on the streets and secure in their homes; where our inner cities are reborn and our countryside renewed.

I want a Britain where there's a helping hand for those who need it. Where people can get a hand-up, not just a hand out. A country that is fair and free from prejudice - a classless society, at ease with itself.

That's the country I want. I want Britain to stand proud and respected in the world. Well-defended and well-admired. And I will stand firm always, as I have promised you, for Britain's national interests in a wider Europe.

I also stand with passion and with commitment for the unity of our country. I tell you, as your Prime Minister, there is no issue more crucial at this election than the defence of the unity of our United Kingdom. Only this Conservative and Unionist Party is pledged to do that. Our opponents would take us down a road that would lead to the parting of Scotland from our union. No greater disaster; no more irresponsible policy could be imagined. So remember - there is only one Party which will keep our Kingdom united. The Conservative Party.

Conclusion

And let me tell you something else I will fight for. It is for the future of this great country. The country I have travelled across in the last four weeks - from the Channel to the Highlands and the North Sea to Wales. A country with the proudest history, the finest culture, the most distinguished scientists, inventors and businessmen of any country in the world. But it is a country with something else greater yet - the British people themselves. I have been among them everyday these last four weeks. Independent of spirit. Generous of heart. Quiet in voice. Resolute in action. A people with a ready eye for what is genuine and what is false.

No man or woman could have a higher honour than to serve this country as its Prime Minister. No-one knows more than me how much I owe to this country. How much I vow to give back to it for what it has done for me. I have lived life in many stations. I believe I understand what makes the heart of Britain beat. What inspires all those millions of families across this land who go out each day to work and strive and create for the future. They are the people who are carrying the long, glorious story of Britain forward across the years. It is their dreams and ambitions that are the building blocks of an even better future for us all.

This country needs a government that will nourish and sustain their ambitions, widen their choices, throw open the great gates of opportunity, and help the whole nation march through. That can only be a Conservative government, ambitious not for the state but for the people it is its duty to serve.

I have only just begun the tasks I have set myself. On Thursday I ask this nation to look at my record of service and my ideals for the future, to place their trust in me, and in this Party that has served them so well and faithfully. I set no bound to my ambitions for this country or its people. I want to raise the standard of Britain higher still and higher yet.

I know that we have in our grasp a truly glorious future. It is what the whole nation has worked for these last few years. Let us go out together on Thursday. Let us seize that opportunity. And make that golden future ours.