David Cameron's New Year Message
In my New Year message three years ago, I said that I wanted the modern Conservative Party to be a voice for change, optimism and hope. What was true in the good times is even truer now that times are tough, and getting tougher. People are looking to us for hope in these dark days, and we must be ready to offer it: hard-edged hope, built on a clear-sighted analysis of what has gone wrong and how we can put it right.
That provides this Party with three important tasks for 2009. First, we must show that we have learned the lessons of Labour’s Debt Crisis and will never let it happen again. Second, we must offer constructive and positive ideas to help keep people in work and in their homes, and make sure the recession is as short, shallow and painless as possible. But third and perhaps most important of all, we must set out our positive vision of change: to describe the new economy and the new society that we want to build once the recession is over and the recovery underway.
Labour have failed in these tasks, and that’s why the country needs change. Far from learning the lessons of their Debt Crisis, Labour are making it worse by choosing to borrow even more. Instead of constructive and positive ideas to help save jobs – like the National Loan Guarantee Scheme that we have proposed – Labour are wasting billions of pounds on useless schemes like their temporary VAT cut. And above all, instead of moving forward to a new economic vision, they are taking Britain straight back to the arrogant, big government-knows-best ideas that bankrupted our country the last time Labour were in power, in the 1970s.
This means that the choice facing the country will be clearer in 2009 than it has been for a while: a choice between the past and the future.
Labour say that their Debt Crisis calls for even more borrowing, even bigger government, and a return to 1970s-style subsidy and state control – with every utterance from Gordon Brown now confirming that ‘New Labour’ is dead.
By contrast, the modern Conservative vision is of responsible government and responsible business helping to build a responsible 21st century nation - where social reform and decentralisation strengthen our society, where a stronger society reduces demands on the taxpayer, and where lower taxes, a less interfering, bureaucratic state and green growth combine to produce a sustainable economy.
So far from dropping our green agenda because of the recession, we will this year step up the pace because leadership on the environment will help create the jobs, wealth and opportunity Britain needs. Far from dropping our commitment to make British poverty history, we will this year intensify it because we must not allow this recession to create social problems and costs for the future. And far from dropping our commitment to help the poorest people on the planet because times are tough at home, we will re-affirm in 2009 both the moral and the practical case for fighting global poverty.
For us, the strong economy of the future will be built on a strong and responsible society. The Emperor Hadrian, when asked how Rome would be rebuilt after a devastating fire, replied: “Brick by brick, my citizens; brick by brick.”
That is how we will rebuild our broken economy and our broken society – business by business, family by family, community by community. Not through imposing some kind of state blueprint from above, like Gordon Brown wants to do, but by allowing the talent and effort and incredible character of British people to shine. That is the greatest source of hope we have. That is why I’m optimistic about our country’s future. And that is why we need change now.
People can see that Labour have been in power too long. They have been corrupted by power, and their arrogance means they cannot now even see their mistakes, let alone correct them. It’s no surprise that the person who helped break our economy and our society won’t admit they’re broken. It’s no surprise that a Prime Minister whose decisions over a decade helped cause the Debt Crisis; who failed to prepare the country for the gathering storm, and whose irresponsible extra borrowing will now deepen and lengthen the recession turns round and tells us the recession will be a test of everyone else’s character. The Prime Minister tells us to find our blitz spirit when he is the one dropping the bombs – the tax and debt bombshells that are taking Britain to the brink of bankruptcy.
This government has lost its moral compass. Where is the morality in asking our children to pay off our debts? Where is the morality in encouraging people who have already borrowed too much to borrow a little more? Where is the morality in trying to reflate the bubble and return the country to the age of irresponsibility that led us to this mess?
It has to end – and the sooner the better. The longer Labour are in, the worse it gets. So let’s make sure we’re ready for an election at any time, and let’s do all we can to make sure that 2009 is the year when change comes to Britain too.