Over the next few years, we will have to take some incredibly tough decisions on taxation, spending, borrowing – things that really affect people’s lives. Getting through those difficult decisions will mean sticking together as a country – government and people. That relationship, just as any other, is strengthened by honesty; undermined by dishonesty.
Gordon Brown doesn’t understand how important this is. Despite the gravity of this debt crisis despite the serious consequences of not dealing with it he still can’t stop his politics of spin; smoke and mirrors; treating people as fools.
Remember, two years ago it was the election that never was. He told us he bottled it because he thought he was going to win. This time last year it was the 10p tax con.He taxed the poor for the sake of a headline, claimed that no-one lost out, and then spent billions of pounds compensating them.
Last week it was the U-turn on YouTube.
After telling us to wait for the independent enquiry on MPs’ expenses, he suddenly popped up to announce his own plan. And what was that great new plan? Paying MPs to turn up for their job. No receipts. No questions asked. More taxpayers’ money.Less accountability.
But the most cynical trick yet came in last week’s Budget. Everyone could see through what they were trying to do: “Don’t look at this vast hole in the public finances over there look at this pathetic piece of class war posturing over here.”
When I see Brown and Darling, I’m reminded of those people who come to your door; one pretends to read your gas meter, while the other robs your house. 50p income tax when you have a budget deficit of £175 billion? That’s not responsibility - it’s distraction burglary.
There’s no responsibility left in Labour. They’re already set to have the highest borrowing in the G20. And yet, unbelievably, this Government is planning to spend and borrow even more. They’ve just announced a spending increase - not a cut, but an increase - of £20 billion for next year. They’ve delayed the cuts until after the election. Now I wonder why that could be?
Last week, Labour had their chance to set out their alternative, to show how they would lead us out of this crisis and they completely blew it. And now, I just think people are completely sick of it. Sick of Labour’s cynicism; sick of their incompetence; sick of their irresponsibility...
...So it will fall to this Party to offer the responsible politics the country expects in this age of austerity. But it expects more from us than a hair shirt and a stern lecture...
...Does the age of austerity force us to abandon our ambitions? No. We are not here just to balance the books. There’s more to our mission than coming in like a bunch of flint-faced accountants and sorting out the finances. By the way, I want to make it clear I’ve got nothing against accountants.
The last time I talked about flint-faced accountants I got a letter from the wife of an accountant saying: “Dear David Cameron…my husband isn’t flint-faced – he’s actually very good looking.” The question is: how does government help achieve these wider aims in the age of austerity? And the answer is: by delivering more for less. That in turn means four big changes for government and the role of the state.
First, a return to traditional public spending control. Second, a new culture of thrift in government. Third, curing our big social problems, not just treating them. And fourth, imagination and innovation as we harness the opportunities of technology to transform the way public services are delivered...
...So the first, and most obvious part of delivering more for less is to deliver the ‘less.’ The days of easy money are over, and we have no option but to weed out spending that is not essential.
In opposition that means not making pledges you can’t keep – and we haven’t. It means not signing up to spending plans you can’t afford – and we didn’t.
We’ve made a good start by making sure we won’t arrive in government with a whole bunch of unaffordable commitments. We opposed the £12 billion Labour wasted on the VAT cut. We were against the fiscal stimulus. We said they should reduce their spending plans back in 2008. And now we’re saying they should abandon their irresponsible plan to increase spending in 2010.
Controlling public spending and delivering more for less must start right now. Not next year, not after the election – now. We’ve made it clear that a Conservative government would spend less than Labour.
We’re not frightened of their idiotic ritual chants about “cuts.”
Everybody knows that Labour’s Debt Crisis means public spending cuts. And instead of putting them off, Labour should be making them today. Here’s how they could start – by reversing those extensions of the state that do more harm than good and which Britain would be better off without.
So scrap the ID cards scheme. Cancel the ContactPoint database. And get rid of Regional Assemblies and all that useless regional bureaucracy. Those may be easy choices for Conservatives. But we’ll need to make hard choices too.
It is not easy, or popular, for governments to take money away from people. But when there are still millions of people in this country living in poverty, and when the age of austerity means we must focus on the real priorities can we honestly say it’s right for people earning over £50,000 a year to get state benefits in the form of tax credits?
With a Conservative government, tax credits will be there to help make society fairer, not the state bigger. And we must apply the same discipline throughout government. That means making sure that public sector pay and pensions reflect the realities of the economic situation.
Let me make it clear to everyone who works in the public sector: we will honour existing pay deals, including any three year pay deals. But many of them end next year.
And this is the deal we’ll be offering you then: We will help you by getting rid of the central direction and bureaucracy that undermines your professional autonomy and morale. And in exchange we will ask for your help in solving Labour’s Debt Crisis by keeping the cost of public sector pay only as high as the country can responsibly afford.
Ever since I became leader of this Party in 2005, people have been asking me to tell them, not in general terms but in specific detail what a new Conservative government would do on tax and spending in a Budget in 2010. George and I have resisted that pressure and I believe experience shows we’re right. Detailed plans or shadow budgets would become quickly out of date. But in the weeks and months ahead, the Shadow Cabinet will redouble its efforts to identify wasteful and unnecessary public spending.
Make no mistake: I am very clear about how much more work there is still to be done in order to identify significant future savings. We will carry out this work. We will do so responsibly. And in time, we will set out the hard choices that lie ahead...
...With a Conservative government, if ministers want to impress the boss, they’ll have to make their budgets smaller, not bigger. On my watch it will be simple: if you do more for less you get promoted if you do less for more, you get sacked. If we’d had this approach over the last twelve years, I don’t suppose there’d be a single Labour Minister left.
But this culture of thrift must apply to the civil service too. So we’ll impose a new fiduciary responsibility on senior civil servants – a contractual obligation to save the taxpayer money. And every government department needs a proper finance director.
Some of them today aren’t proper accountants – flint-faced or not. With such huge sums of public money at stake a Conservative government will make sure we have the professional financial controls the taxpayer has a right to expect...
...If a company is failing and new management comes in, transparency is the first thing they demand - opening up the books and seeing how every penny is spent. It’s going to be the same with us.
So today I can announce our ‘People’s Right to Know’ plan – a democratic check on wasteful spending. Every item of government spending over £25,000, nationally and locally, will have to be published online. If you want to see how it could work, look at the Missouri Accountability Portal. It will show you why transparency is such a powerful tool in controlling public spending...
...People have a right to know exactly how much they’re getting. So we’ll publish online all public sector salaries over £150,000. Let’s see which officials have been getting rich at the taxpayer’s expense - and whether they’re worth the money.
Today we’re publishing a list of some we already know about. Ed Richards at OfCom – he earns over £400,000 a year. In fact, if you took the top thirty salaries at Ofcom, the communications watchdog, you could provide the whole of Cheltenham with free broadband access.
And then there’s the British Waterways Board. The salaries of their top four employees – Robin Evans, Nigel Johnson, James Froomberg and Phillip Ridal – add up to £900,000. That’s thirty nurses.
In the age of austerity we’ve got to ask ourselves what we really value in the public sector: and I know what the answer is. It’s not the fat cats but the frontline workers...
...Fifteen years ago, I was in the Treasury as we had to deal with public finances that had got out of control; debt that had got too high. We had to put up taxes, and I hated it. But it was the right thing to do and that lesson has stayed with me. That’s why I’m a fiscal conservative.
That’s why, when it came to that big decision to oppose the VAT cut and the so-called fiscal stimulus, I didn’t consult a focus group or an opinion poll I just knew it was the right thing to do. And there’s something else.
I know that if we win the election, we’ll be judged a successful government if we deal with the debt crisis - and a failure if we don’t. Believe me, I get that.
I think people know by now that I want us to stand up for the poorest in Britain and to show that fiscal responsibility can go hand in hand with a social conscience. And they know I will stand up for the aspiring and the enterprising, kicked in the teeth by a Labour Party reverting to type.
We will show that social responsibility can go hand in hand with personal ambition. But what people also need to know is that I will stand up for responsibility and thrift.Those are values this country needs today.
Labour’s leaders say only they stand for fairness. Fairness? These Labour ministers, saddling future generations with debt? These Labour ministers, making our children pay the price of their incompetence? Their “fairness” is utterly phoney.
So let’s turn our anger into passion ad our passion into action to give Britain the leadership she needs. Yes if we win the election, we may not see the full fruits of our labours in the lifetime of our government. But if we stick together and tackle this crisis our children and grandchildren will thank us for what we did for them and for our country.
Now, I defy anyone to tell me that wasn't an impressive, inspiration and content-loaded speech.