I want 2008 to be the year in which we offer the people of this country the hope of real change, by setting out a clear and inspiring vision of what Britain will look like with a Conservative government.
So in place of Labour’s hopeless mismanagement of the NHS, we will offer the hope of a health service where we get rid of the top-down centralisation and bureaucracy and make sure that taxpayers’ money delivers the high quality service they’ve paid for and have a right to expect. In the year of the 60th anniversary of the NHS, we will be the party standing up for the NHS against yet more onslaughts from the Labour bureaucracy machine.
In place of Labour’s hopeless acceptance of mediocrity in education, which has seen Britain tumble down the world league tables just when we need our children to be doing better than those in other countries, we will offer the hope of a decent education for every child, with immediate action to raise standards and radical reform to end the state monopoly over new school places.
In place of Labour’s hopeless surrender to violence on our streets, with
overcrowded prisons and police tied up in red tape, we will offer the hope of civilised communities which are safe for everyone, based on radical police reform and more prison places in prisons which actually reduce re-offending.
In place of Labour’s hopeless failure on social breakdown which has left Britain with more children growing up in broken homes, higher unemployment and a £100 billion a year bill for social failure, we will offer the hope of real change: to strengthen families, reform welfare, and make British poverty history.
On the economy, on the environment, on defence and fighting terrorism, there are tremendous challenges ahead. In the fight against terrorism, we were reminded last week how hard the road to democracy is. The death of Benazir Bhutto must strengthen, not weaken our resolve to defeat the enemies of freedom.
This will be the year in which we show that there is hope for the future: that there is a clear and credible alternative to this hopeless and incompetent Labour government.
And let us be clear about the reason why.
It is not just that we offer the hope of a fresh start on policy after so many years of Labour headline-chasing short-term tricks with no real substance behind them.
It is that we offer a clear vision of the Britain we want to see, and a clear idea of how we will govern differently.
My vision for Britain is clear: to give people more opportunity and power over their lives, to make families stronger and society more responsible, and to make Britain safer and greener.
And we will inaugurate a new era in government: government for the post-bureaucratic age, where we devolve power to people and communities because we understand that a government that tries to control everything ends up not being able to run anything.
I sense that Britain feels it's time for a change. There probably won't be a General Election this year but we will behave and work as though there is. And in doing so prove that you can once again trust a Conservative government to take this country forward.
We must show from the very beginning of and throughout this year that we can set the agenda with our new thinking and clear understanding of what people want for themselves and their family.