Friday, 18 September 2009

Eric Pickles: The Conservative Party is the home of Liberal Democracy

Speaking today, Eric Pickles, Chairman of the Conservative Party called on Liberal Democrats to consider supporting the Conservatives. He said:
“I am here today to give a simple message to Liberal Democrat voters - come on home to the Conservative Party.

“Whether you are a Liberal Democrat who, in the past, voted Conservative or someone who has never dreamed of voting Conservative before, there is a welcome waiting for you in our party.

“Liberal democracy has always formed an important part of the Conservative family. From the Factory Acts to 42 days detention, the Conservative Party will always be the home of progressive liberal democracy in British politics.

“It is time for people to come home to the Conservative Party.

“I believe, as many others do, that the Labour Party has failed our country.

“I believe there is growing consensus about the kind of change our country needs - a consensus that unites Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

“Our country is having a tough old time at the moment. We're faced with not just a mountain of debt, but a Mount Everest of debt. We are facing enormous social problems, failing public services, and a terrible loss of faith in our political system.

“That is why the next election is the most important in a generation.

“We are a country that needs leadership - strong leadership that will bring fresh ideas, and hope to people's lives. It's been evident this week that the Labour Government is preoccupied with its short-term survival - rather than taking the long-term decisions that the country needs. We meet today, just a few short months away, from an opportunity to begin the task of rebuilding our broken economy and mending our broken society.

“So if you are a Liberal Democrat voter, you have a very clear choice.

“You could vote Liberal Democrat again - and vote for a party whose leader admitted yesterday that he is chasing the Labour Party's votes and shifting further away from the liberal centre-ground.

“That's one option. Or, you could do something radical - something progressive. You could vote for real change.

“You could vote for a party that shares so many of your values. A party that can form a new government, a fresh government, a strong government.

“If you want a government that will put power in the hands of people, if you want a government that will scrap ID cards, the surveillance state and guard our freedoms, and if you want a government that will bring prudence and honesty back to the Treasury, then there is a party for you - it is the Conservative Party.

“My message today is simple: the Conservative Party is the only party that can bring the change that Britain needs. I believe in my bones that an election of a Cameron government will strike a great blow for the values of liberal democracy.

“I know, if you are a Liberal Democrat voter, this might be uncharted territory for you. You might be really torn over what to do when you get into that polling booth - I understand that.

“But I am asking you to vote Conservative, not necessarily to be a Conservative. I'm asking for you to put your trust in David Cameron and our party to deliver on those things that we all want to see.

“Those things form a common ground that unites us - a progressive consensus if you like - on which we can stand together and bring change.

“We have already shown that when our shared values and common goals are at stake, we'll work with people of any political allegiance to do the right thing.

“When we saw injustice over the Gurkhas not being allowed to settle in Britain, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats worked together to do the right thing. When the Government came out with illiberal, authoritarian measures like 42 day detention and ID cards, we opposed them every step of the way. When there was an opportunity to decentralise and pass power downwards, we worked with all parties to develop the Sustainable Communities Act.

“And on the environment, never before in Britain has there been a leader as determined as David Cameron to put climate change right at the top of everyone's political agenda. So when the Government pushed for the third runway at Heathrow, we pushed against it together. And when the Government gave way to our pressure for a Climate Change Bill, we worked to strengthen it yet further.

“But whilst we have worked with liberal-minded folk in the past, and we've shown the Conservative Party is the home of liberal democracy we need your support to take the next logical step. We need your support if we are going to fix our broken society, decentralise power even more, and provide effective aid for those in need.

“Together, we can bring change to those trapped in poverty.

“After over a decade of failed social policy, can there really be any doubt that in recent years it has been ideas from the centre-right, especially with the work done by the Centre for Social Justice under the direction of Iain Duncan Smith, they have set the agenda on tackling poverty and increasing a sense of social responsibility.

“Together, we can take more power from the political elite, and give it back to men and women on the street. We are committed to giving people more opportunity and power over their lives and moving to a new post-bureaucratic age of devolution from Whitehall to local communities.

“And - last but by no means least - together, we can help those in poverty around the world.

“On Wednesday, David was asked by a journalist how he could justify his commitment to spending more money on international development at a time of recession.

“What did he say?

“He did not take the easy way out.

“He said yes, times are tough and as a country we've got to get through a horrible deficit.

“He said, "We are a generous, outward looking country that wants to see people in the poorest parts of the world have a better life".

“But this commitment to people around the world isn't just shown by our words, it's also shown by our actions too. Over the last few years hundreds of Conservative MPs, candidates and activists have spent their own money and their own spare time using their skills to help people in Rwanda.

“And, although this is the biggest social action project we have done, it is by no means the only one.

“Did you know that up and down the country there are now over 150 Conservative-led social action projects? These projects have become an important part of what we do and who we are as a party.

“I was in Blackpool recently and I saw for myself how much good our party conference social action project had done - and is still doing.

“Social action empowers our citizens to join in the kind of society we want to see. It links to our deep belief that by acting together - not waiting for the state to act on our behalf - we can tackle the challenges that we all face.

“Friends, that's the kind of politics we need right now. And it's the kind of politics that is attracting people to join the Conservative Party.

“As Chairman, I am proud that so many people are recognising that the Conservative Party is a home for the values they hold dear.

“Recent elections make it very clear that all kinds of people in all corners of our great country are pausing, thinking about their options, and deciding to vote Conservative. But it's not just Liberal Democrat voters who are choosing the Conservatives - many of their activists are too.

“Under David's leadership we've seen a steady stream of Liberal Democrats from all levels of the party deciding that the Conservative Party is the best vehicle. In fact, one of the very first things David did when he became leader was give a speech urging our Liberal Democrat friends to join us.

“I am glad to say that many of them have responded to that call. At least fifty councillors have joined us since David became leader. Added to that are nine former parliamentary candidates, and Saj Karim in the European Parliament.

“And I am delighted to announce today that Councillor James Keeley, until recently he was the Liberal Democrat candidate up in Skipton & Ripon and has decided to join the Conservative Party.

“As James has said and I quote: "We have to wake, wise up, and work together in order to make things better for us all. I've come to the conclusion that the only way forward is David Cameron and the Conservative Party."

“James that is absolutely right and I am delighted to welcome you and your talent to the Conservative family. James and many of our other new friends have come down to be with us today - so do talk to them afterwards.

“I know, joining or even voting, for a party for the first time, can seem like a big decision, of course it can. But if you do speak to our new chums - why don't you ask them if they've ever regretted joining us?

“I bet you they'll say NO, because I'm confident that they'll be proud to say that they belong to a party that will bring real change to our country.

“So friends, let me leave you with this thought. If you are a Liberal Democrat voter, ask yourself one important question.

“Which party in government will deliver on those liberal ideas that are so important to you? If like me, you believe that rather than being an agent for change in Britain, the Liberal Democrat party has sadly become a road block to progress, I would ask you to join our new alliance.

“I'm not asking you to become a card carrying member of the Conservative Party overnight. Instead, I urge you to vote for something exciting and progressive. To help form a progressive alliance built upon our shared values of: personal freedom, a commitment to the environment, and a desire to protect the most vulnerable at home and in the rest of our world.

“So join the people in the room today and thousands across the country who have chosen to help the Conservative Party protect our civil liberties and our hard won freedoms. And, by voting Conservative, be part of putting liberal democracy back to the very centre of government in Britain.”

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