Cheryl Gillan: Conservative aspiration and vision for Wales

Speech by Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan MP to the Welsh Conservative Party conference 2010.

“Croeso - Welcome

Four years ago I stood on this platform at the start of a journey.

Our new party leader had sent me – a Welsh woman – back to my roots to face an enormous task – to challenge Labour’s dominance in Wales.

But, you know, I was not alone.

With three great MP’s David Jones, Stephen Crabb and David TC Davies, a tenacious Assembly team headed by Nick Bourne, a loyal voluntary party with Lyndon Jones as its chairman and a small but determined professional team led from the front by Matt Lane we have already changed the political landscape of Wales under David Cameron – the man who I believe will be this country’s next Prime Minister.

In the first year at the Assembly elections, we improved our position – taking 12 seats including 5 constituency seats.

Indeed, we are the official opposition in the Assembly

And can I say how pleased I am to welcome to the stage this morning Mohammad Asghar who has been inspired to join us in the Assembly.

Oscar – we are happy you have found a home here in the Conservative party.

The following year at the local government elections we moved forward again – we now control as many Councils as Labour, gaining over 60 councillors the length and breadth of Wales.

Then, last year at the European elections not only did we manage to return Kay Swinburne – who is making a brilliant MEP for Wales – but we also achieved the truly historic feat of outpolling Labour: the first time they haven’t topped the poll in Wales since 1918.

Now the time has finally come for the next electoral test.

No more speculation.

No more of Gordon Brown’s dithering and dallying.

Within weeks, we will have a General election - and make no mistake, this will be the most important election for a generation.

The choice at this election is clear.

Five more years of Gordon Brown- who has given us.

The largest budget deficit in the developed world.

A bloated public sector.

And widespread unemployment.

Or change with David Cameron and the Conservatives - with a fresh, radical and energetic approach.

Offering concerted action to tackle the deficit.

Help and support for families and businesses.

Backing aspiration and opportunity for all.

On one hand we have Gordon Browns debt, waste and taxes.

On the other, we have David Cameron - who has brought leadership and  life to our party.

And who has united Conservatives to fight for positive, progressive ends.

Labour has always claimed to be the party of Wales. So now they have had their chance.

They have been in power at both ends of the M4 for over a decade.

And finally we have the chance to pass judgment on their performance.

And just look at their record.

Manufacturing has declined.

Agriculture has declined.

Welsh GVA has gone backwards against the UK.

The wage gap between Wales and the UK has widened.

We have higher unemployment than any other nation of the UK.

Fewer businesses are starting than anywhere bar Northern Ireland.

Council tax has more than doubled.

Tens of thousands young people are not in any kind of work, training or education.

Wales cannot go on like this.

We cannot afford another five years of Gordon Brown and Labour.

Five more years of a poverty of ambition.

Five more years of trampling aspiration.

Five more years of sour, corrosive, ‘class war’ politics.

Five more years of bitter, backward-facing rhetoric that adds nothing to the debate about Wales’s future.

They’d do well to look at where this approach has got us.

A quarter of the working age population languishing in economic inactivity.

Some of the most deprived areas in Europe, even in spite of billions in European funding.

Nearly 100,000 children in severe poverty.

And a private sector utterly lacking both the encouragement and the environment to flourish.

So when we’re out there on doorsteps across Wales, this is the message that I want us to make absolutely clear.

If you want a good job, to work hard, to provide for your family, to save and to leave something for your children.

And if you think you should be able to achieve this from anywhere and from any background.

Labour are not the party for you.

The only way, the only choice.

The only party of aspiration - is David Cameron’s Conservatives

Because we have a vision for Wales and a vision for Britain where Government is on the side of aspiration.

Supporting the entrepreneurial spirit, supporting hard work, supporting saving and investment.

Giving people responsibility over their own lives: making them the masters of their own destiny and encouraging them to achieve their full potential.

A Government that sets the scene, that provides the conditions for success.

A Government that offers a helping hand to those who need it - but without assuming that the state always knows best.

As David Cameron has said, our ideas are not vague concepts - they are concrete values backed up by practical policies.

Take our plan for co-operatives, which will allow public sector workers to take real ownership of the vital services they perform and share in the benefits of increased productivity and efficiency.

Take the community “right to buy”, which would allow local people to apply to run struggling assets that matter to them - pubs, post offices, shops – assets that have relentlessly closed under Labour, ripping the heart out of towns and villages.

Look at our plans to support business, which would make it easier to get companies off the ground and to grow.

Cutting red tape.

Abolishing the tax on new jobs.

Making it easier for people from any background to start a business.

Doing everything we can to avoid Labour’s damaging National Insurance hike.

A tax on jobs in these tough economic times.

Simplifying the tax system and cutting corporation tax.

Look at our plans to get Wales working.

Which would continue to support those on jobseekers allowance who start a business in the difficult opening months.

Which would encourage more voluntary and not for profit organisations, as well as social enterprises, in organising work pairings for young jobseekers.

And which would build on the sterling work of Conservatives and Conservative candidates, like Suzy Davies in Brecon and Radnorshire and Antoinette Sandbach in Delyn, by providing support to jobseekers through community based Work Clubs.

Take our plans to support families - such as allowing parents to request flexible working - to maintain that crucial balance between working hard and raising a family.

Plans to abolish inheritance tax – saying it should only be paid by millionaires and ensuring that those on modest incomes - those who have worked hard, who have saved and who want pass on something to their family - will not be penalised for these not just reasonable, but admirable aspirations for their children and grandchildren.

Look at our plans to protect the environment which would avoid the “stick” of fines and penalties but would instead use the “carrot” of incentives and free market principles to encourage recycling, renewable energy and to invest in green technology through our new green investment bank.

And because we believe in transparency, we will open up access to Government data, allowing people not only to hold Government to account but to develop and profit from initiatives which make use of this huge reserve of previously withheld statistics.

And we will publish all Government contracts worth £25,000 or more of taxpayers money, so you, the people who pay for it, can know how your money is being spent.

Our whole approach rejects the notion that people in Wales and Britain need to be dictated to by Government or be kept in the dark.

We believe in equipping people with the ability and the information to make good choices - and the freedom to do so.

Wales is a hugely talented nation.

We have fantastic resources - natural, intellectual, technological, entrepreurial.

Our aerospace industry is leading the world.

Our ports have huge potential.

Our mountains, our lakes, our rivers and beaches are some of the most attractive landscapes in the world.

Our workforce is keen and hardworking.

‘Not that bad’ – as the First Minister said in a luke-warm fashion - is not good enough.

No longer should Wales be constrained by a Government with a lack of ambition and no imagination.

That opposes hopes, dreams and aspiration.

That dictates rather than supports.

That wants to keep Wales in its place to keep it voting Labour.

As Peter Hain himself said:

“The classic thing is where your mum and dad live in a solid Labour town but you move into one of the suburbs, a new housing estate, and you start to think a little differently about yourself."

How can we expect Wales to succeed when even the Secretary of State seems worried about people doing better for themselves!

I want to see a Wales that is leading the way in Britain, not lagging behind it – helped by a strong reinvigorated Welsh Office, not caught up in the politics of the playground but acting in the interests of the country as a powerful voice for Wales both in the Cabinet and in the world.

A mature and confident Wales, served by a Department that commands the respect Wales deserves.

And as a vital part of a United Kingdom that shows it is once again one of the greatest places to live and one of the best places to do business in the world.

That’s the vision we are fighting for in this election.

Under our Chairman, Catrin, we have some great candidates.

They offer a new direction and a fresh approach.

They offer the chance to make the change Wales so desperately needs.

But there is still a way to go before we are given that chance.

As the election day approaches, we will see changes in the polls.

We will read about the ups and downs of the campaign, the anti-Tory rhetoric of Peter Hain, the warping of history and the downright lies from our detractors.

But we have an aim and a purpose, and now more people than ever before in Wales are recognising the hope for the future that we can provide.

There are streets to be tramped, doors to be knocked, leaflets to be posted.

And at each and every opportunity I want us to be clear about our Conservative values.

Of freedom; Of responsibility; Of aspiration.

Labour cannot offer this, Plaid cannot offer this, the Liberal Democrats cannot offer this.

Only Conservatives will support and strengthen our communities.

Only Conservatives offer real support to Welsh enterprise.

Only Conservatives can get Wales working.

And only Conservatives will give families and businesses the help, and the freedom, to succeed.

Wales has been stifled 13 years of Labour.

They have let Wales down.

They are not up to the job.

We cannot afford five more.

It is time to vote for a strong and proud Wales in a strong and proud United Kingdom.

It is time to vote for change.

It is time to vote Conservative.”