Eric Pickles: Vote for Change

Speech by Conservative Party chairman Eric Pickles MP to the Welsh Conservative Party conference 2010: “It’s great to be back in Wales. Now the more observant of you will notice that I’m not from these parts.

I may have the build of one of your great prop forwards, but I’m not going to claim some long-lost Welsh ancestry, nor that Pickles is an old Celtic surname.

But we are from similar political stock.

I remember when growing up in Yorkshire, how the Labour Party treated people, like my parents, as though they were theirs by right.

I remember how Labour politicians took them for granted and thought they didn’t have to try.

I remember that it was this attitude – arrogant, complacent and disrespectful - that led me to rebel and choose the Conservative Party instead.

And I know for hundreds of thousands of people in Wales they’ve seen the same arrogant, complacent and disrespectful Labour Party in action and don’t like what they’ve seen.

So it is, that after 40 years service to the Conservative Party, that I say with all sincerity that there are few prouder moments than this. 

To be the Chairman of this great Party that gets to come here, to this your Conference in 2010, and say thank you, well done – now lets finish them off for good.

Because I know what it’s like, when the chips are down, and everyone is telling you to get out. 

I know folks told you that you couldn’t win in Wales

Even worse, that you’d be wiped off the political map.

But you didn’t give in

You never gave up

You pulled yourself up by your bootstraps to earn and enjoy the accolade of being the Conservative Party that polled more than Labour in a nationwide election.

Of course, that wouldn’t have been possible if the people of Wales hadn’t been taken for granted by Labour for too long.

Or if the Labour Party hasn’t regarded Wales as its own personal fiefdom for too many years.

But also because you, as the Welsh Conservative Party, have worked tirelessly, and often against the odds, to get this party back on its feet and fit for Government again.

And, as a result, the voters of this great nation are now turning their backs on Labour and taking a long look at the Conservative Party and liking what they see. 

Across Britain we now have more councillors than Labour and the Lib Dems put together.

Our MEPs represent every region and nation of the United Kingdom – including of course Kay Swinburne here in Wales.

We have more young members, more female candidates, people from all different backgrounds helping us to be more representative of the country we seek to serve.

But what you’ve done in Wales stands brighter than almost anything else we’ve achieved across the country.

But we did. Or more properly, you did.

Our MPs, Peers, AMs, MEP, Candidates, Councillors, professionals, members and activists – you made it happen.

It’s you who ensured we polled more than Labour

It’s you who campaigned to ensure we now run as many councils in Wales as Labour

It’s you who made us the official opposition in the Welsh Assembly in 2007.

So let me say thank you

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication.

And now all I ask is that you go out and do it all again.

For what you have achieved here in Wales is just one example of a trend we see all across the UK today.

People of all political persuasions and none are joining our coalition for change.

People like Dr Anwara Ali, a Labour councillor in Tower Hamlets in London, that I welcomed to our party just last week.

People like James Keeley, until last year the Liberal Democrat candidate in Skipton & Ripon in Yorkshire, now a member of our coalition for change.

And of course people like Mohammad Ashgar, our newest Assembly Member here in Wales who’s turned his back on the Nationalists and joined the Welsh Conservatives instead.

Oscar you, and millions of others like you, are welcome to our party.

We have come a long way. We have changed. We’ve learned to look outwards and to embrace the world as it is today. And increasingly people are turning to us to deliver the change they desperately want to see.

But that doesn’t mean the job is done – far from it. We still have a mountain – or perhaps more appropriately an Orme to climb.

In case anyone here thinks this election is in the bag, let’s remember that it was a son of this land that famously went to a rally in Yorkshire 18 years ago and claimed a premature victory.

Well this son of Yorkshire is not going to make the same mistake here. We have a huge job to do. And with your help I know we can do it.

And why am I so confident?

The reason is simple

And it’s not, surprisingly, because Wales has been let down by Labour

No – it’s because Wales has been abandoned by Labour

Wales has been deserted and discarded by the once great Labour Party and in the process, humiliated by the Secretary of State

Labour are a party out of touch and increasingly out of office

All because Labour has just failed to do the job they were elected to do

Theirs is a record of failing to mend our broken economy or healing our broken society.

So if they lose this coming election, theirs will be a legacy of disappointment and betrayal

The once energetic Labour Party, who used to speak so passionately for the people of Wales, has become the establishment party, tired, controlling, in decline and in retreat.

They will leave a Wales with an unemployment rate higher than Bulgaria, Romania and Slovenia, let alone any other nation within the UK.

They leave Wales as the poorest part of the United Kingdom, with the gap between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom wider than when they took office

A Wales where those seeking ‘job seekers allowance’ has increased by 25% in the last 12 months alone

They leave Wales with the highest child poverty of any nation in the United Kingdom and with the GCSE gap getting worse.

But what’s the Prime Minister done in response?

He’s sought to put in charge a man whose best is to reassure people that it could be worse in Rwanda.

Not matter how many times people make reference to the Peter Hain’s comparison with Rwanda – I still find it shocking….

Peter Hain’s best is to tell the people of Wales that it’s still a ‘wealthy country’ and that its ‘all ok’.

“We’re through the worst” – he says.

Well Mr Hain don’t you dare treat the people of Wales as idiots.

Your lame attempt to convince the Welsh people that everything’s just ‘fine and dandy’, represents how out of touch you are.

Tell the one in four of the working population who are economically inactive – that it’s ‘all ok’.

Tell the 96,000 children who live in severe poverty in Wales that it’s ‘all ok’.

Tell that to the millions whose future could depend on thriving companies in a strong private, sector rather than being dependent on the public sector and tax payer handouts that it’s ‘all ok’.

Mr Hain you’re not defending the people of Wales, fighting for them, championing their cause and fighting their every corner

Well you’re not.

Your defending the Labour Party, fighting for the Labour Party, championing their cause and fighting their corner –

You think that Labour and Wales are indivisible – what’s good for Wales is good for Labour – well your wrong Mr Hain.

The people of Wales deserve better.

Through their betrayal, through their arrogance the Labour Party has surrendered their right to govern Wales

Well we have a plan for you Mr Hain – it’s called your retirement plan

It’s called our plan to replace you at the next election with a Government that can do for Wales what’s best for Wales

So its time to ship out Mr Hain, take a walk – you’ve given up your responsibility and with it  your right to hold office – go and join the failed Labour councils that have been rejected by the people of Wales - your time is up – enough of the excuses, its time to go and take the whole sorry lot with you.

Because we know its time for Change.

It is the Conservative Party that has the confidence to believe in the inventiveness and reward the hard work of the people of Wales and to let its people free. 

Free to attract investment, to generate the jobs that are secure and based on successful new businesses, without the crushing burden of government bureaucracy.

Where local Government will be free again to govern for the people and by the people.

Where schools and hospitals will be free to make decisions on behalf of their communities.

So should anyone ask – why? Why vote Conservative?

Tell them that we win for those whose lives we can change.

We win for the millions of householders affected by Labour’s debt mountain, who need our economy to get moving again.

We win to boost enterprise and to get people off welfare and into work.

We win to help make Britain the most family friendly country in Europe

We win to back the NHS.

We win to raise standards in our schools and change politics for good.

We win for create a strong Wales in a strong United Kingdom that is proud again.

But we mustn’t just win this election – we must earn this great victory for our Country as whole.

We will earn this election when we fight it Constituency by Constituency and street by street.

Because if we earn it we will have a mandate for change.

A mandate to mend our broken economy.

A mandate to heal our broken society.

A mandate to hand power back down to communities where they truly belong.

It’s not going to be easy.

It’s going to be a long slog.

It’s going to demand of you the kind of effort that surpasses anything you’ve put in before.

But this is probably the most important thing that you and I will ever be engaged in.

For if we do we will truly be able to say - no more false dividing lines. No more abandoned communities. No more broken society.

No more Brown’s broken Britain.

We’ve not come this far, you’ve not been through so much in Wales, changed our party so fundamentally to fall at the final hurdle now.

So I say to everyone watching today and listening to our message.

We can change this country.

But only if we vote for it.

Vote for change.

Vote Conservative.”