We’re at the start of a campaign that’s going to go North and South, East and West, all over our country…
…so it’s great we’re starting here, right slap-bang in the heart of Britain.
Nuneaton’s most famous daughter is of course the author George Eliot, and she once said this:
“Keep true. Never be ashamed of doing right. Decide what you think is right and stick to it.”
Friends – couldn’t those exact same words have been spoken by the Conservative Party’s most famous daughter too?
Margaret Thatcher knew what was right. She stuck to her guns. She saved our country.
And I know everyone here is proud that she was not just a great woman and a great Prime Minister…
…but a great Conservative too.
THE SERVICES ON YOUR STREETS
Now we in this generation have our own challenges, our own fights…
…getting the deficit down…
…reforming out-of-control welfare and immigration…
…building an economy that backs those who work hard and want to get on.
The scale of the challenge is laid bare today – on a day when the Labour leader is turning left.
More spending. More borrowing. More debt.
More of all those things that got us into this mess.
But the next big fight for this party is on May 2nd.
It’s less than two weeks away so here, today, let me tell you the three big things that we’re fighting for.
Number one: the services on your streets.
Now in years gone by, it might not have mattered much who you voted for in local elections.
There was really only one person in the country who pulled the strings in our councils…
…and his name was John Prescott.
So we’ve changed all that.
Labour’s empire of top-down, target-driven, big, bossy, bureaucratic, we-know-best arrogance has been turned upside down.
The Regional Development Agencies, Regional Assemblies, Regional Strategies, Government Offices for the Regions, the Local Area Agreements, the Standards Board, the Comprehensive Area Assessment – all gone.
We’ve given councils much, much more freedom...
…and guess what?
It’s Conservative councils who have run with it.
Take Staffordshire County Council.
They got a call from Jaguar Land Rover.
They wanted to build a new engine plant in the area.
They had a great site, near the M54, but there was a problem: no motorway junction.
So what did Staffordshire do?
Did they commission a load of tedious, pointless consultations?
No. They acted.
Within days they had a partnership set up with neighbouring councils – including a Labour one.
Within a fortnight they had used the new powers we’d given them to fund the motorway junction.
They invested £19 million.
Jaguar Land Rover sealed the deal.
And now hundreds of new jobs are on their way.
This is what Conservatives do. We roll up our sleeves and get the job done.
And this is the first thing we’ve got to say to people.
If you want common sense…
…if you want can-do…
...if you want Conservatives on your council, fighting for the services on your street, for jobs in your area – then get out and vote on May 2nd.
THE POUND IN YOUR POCKET
Number two: we’re fighting for the pound in your pocket…
…in fact – we’re fighting to keep it there.
Because Conservatives get something.
It’s your money.
Every single pound has been hard-earned…
…early mornings, late nights, long commutes, time away from the children, hours put in on the factory floor, the shop floor, the hospital ward.
And then you come home and there, on the door-mat, is the council tax bill.
There is a clear moral imperative to keep that tax down.
That’s why we said to councils of all colours: even when money is tight, we’ll give you this extra cash to freeze council tax.
Many are doing just that.
But there are some councils – some Labour councils – who just don’t get it.
On the one hand they’re talking about spending cuts meaning ‘the break up of civil society’.
On the other, they’re still spending your money like it’s theirs.
Sheffield – who have 391 employees on salaries of £50,000 or more.
Durham’s council chiefs – who get a clothing allowance of £12,000…
…the latest line from ‘Geordie Armani’.
And all those Labour councils shamelessly spending your money on their propaganda.
Greenwich – whose town-hall newspaper is about as balanced as Pravda.
Lambeth – which scare-mongers about cuts – but funnily enough still has cash for posters all over the borough attacking the Government.
These people: when it comes to spending your money, they just cannot help themselves.
So next time they bang on about Government cuts, we’ve got to remind them.
It was you – Labour – who left us in this mess.
It was you – Labour – who caused these cuts.
And we will never, ever let you forget it.
Conservatives know it doesn’t have to be like this.
Here in Warwickshire they’ve frozen council tax – this year, last year, the year before that.
On average – on a Band D bill, Conservative councils continue to charge lower levels of council taxes than Labour or Lib Dems
So the old rules still apply:
If you want good government that costs less – vote Conservative.
If you want waste and propaganda – vote Labour.
Do not let Labour do to your council what they did to our country.
And that’s the second message we’ve got to take out there.
FUTURE OF OUR COUNTRY
The third message is this.
We’re not just fighting for the services on your streets, or the pound in your pocket.
We’re fighting for the future of our country.
This Government is engaged in nothing less than national renewal.
And yes, it’s been tough.
But you know what?
We are making progress.
We said we’d get Britain’s finances under control…
…and we have cut that deficit by a third.
We said we’d get a grip on immigration…
…and net migration is down by a third too.
We said we’d get Britain working …
…and today there are more than one and a quarter million new jobs in the private sector.
We said we’d stand up to Europe – and it’s this party that’s going to get a better deal for Britain in Europe…
…we’ve already got Britain out of the bail-out, cut the 7-year budget, vetoed a treaty…
…and yes: we are the ones who are finally giving the British people their say.
We are doing things any Conservative government at any time would be proud of.
But you want to know what I’m most proud of?
It’s that we’re backing the hardworking people of this country all the way.
Who’s invested in record numbers of Apprenticeships? Us.
Who boosted Right to Buy so more people could own a home? – Us.
Who’s bringing in some tax-free childcare? Us.
Who’s given an income tax cut to more than 24 million working people? – Us.
Who cut fuel duty and beer duty? Us.
And who kept their solemn promise to the elderly of this country, that we would give them security and dignity in old age?
Us. The Conservative Party – when we brought in the biggest ever cash increase in the State pension.
And for the hardworking people of this country we’re doing something else.
We’re sorting out the mess of welfare.
For years people were sent a powerful message:
Do the right thing and you get penalized. Do the wrong thing and you get rewarded.
We had people choosing not to work because it paid more to stay on benefits.
Taxpayers totally fed up at their money being wasted.
Individual families getting up to £100,000 in housing benefit.
A culture of entitlement. A growing resentment.
Now Labour say they understand this.
They feel people’s pain.
But when will they learn?
Tough talk means nothing if you won’t take tough decisions.
Again and again they refuse to back us.
The benefits cap – opposed.
Universal credit – criticised.
The spare room subsidy – slated.
Don’t they realise – what Labour are doing is, quite simply, unfair. They just don’t get it.
How is it fair to have unlimited welfare?
How is it fair if people who go out to work have to subsidise the lifestyles of people who would rather stay on benefits?
And how is it fair to write off generation after generation to a life on benefits...
…to give people a welfare cheque each month and forget about them, never allowing them to discover who they can become or giving them a real shot in life?
So we are putting fairness back at the heart of welfare.
A benefit cap so no family can take home more in benefits than the working family earns.
A substantial tax cut to leave working people with more money in their pockets.
A new, single benefit that ensures you’re always better off in work.
We’re building a country where if you put in, you get out.
You work hard, you get rewarded.
You save, you get security.
And we are saying to each and every hardworking person in our country: we are on your side.
So friends, let me end today by saying this to you – the people who canvas and leaflet and campaign…
…the people who keep this party going.
I know we could not do this without you.
You’re the ones who will be out there on the door steps.
And remember what we’re fighting for.
Yes, we’re fighting for our councils but it’s about more than that.
We’re re-building our country.
Backing hardworking people.
Making this a country where if you work hard and do the right thing, you will get on.
So friends let’s hit those streets, let’s knock on those doors, mobilise those forces, spread that message…
…fight for what’s right, fight for Britain – and let’s fight together.