I have already explained why I have joined in the contest for the Leadership of the Conservative Party. I should now like to tell you, and through you our supporters, how I believe our Party must develop to win the next election and provide the leadership the nation needs.
We have just suffered the shock of two election defeats. Yet I am convinced the opportunity has never been greater for us to project our Conservative principles and beliefs to bring inspiration and hope to our people.
We start with many assets. We have a common purpose, as the Socialists self-evidently have not. We have an immense fund of talent in our ranks. And people are daily becoming more aware of the need for leadership of a kind that only we can give.
But it must be leadership that listens. Perhaps our greatest fault in office was that we did not listen enough to what our supporters and sympathisers were saying. We allowed ourselves to become detached from many who had given us their support and trust. [end p1]
How well I remember in the last election, when I put forward our policies to help more families own their own homes, people saying to me: “If only you'd done this earlier, when you were in Government.”
If we had only listened more carefully to what our supporters and potential supporters were telling us we probably would have done. Then we might not have been in Opposition today.
But we do not inherit the future by dwelling on the past. I believe our great need now is to open out the dialogue within our Party, and to bring together a broader spread of talent from our ranks.
Let none feel excluded from this great dialogue by past differences or commitments. We cannot afford any section to feel estranged. Ours is a national Party, and it must be an open Party.
Let us also reach out to those whose hopes and ambitions are the same as ours yet who have grown apart from us, and listen to their real needs and wishes.
Listen to the younger generation. They don't want equality and regimentation, but opportunity to shape their world, while showing compassion to those in real need. [end p2]
Listen to working families the length and breadth of Britain. They don't want growing State direction of their lives. They want more say over how the wealth they earn is used, more say over the quality of their children's schooling. More choice, not less.
Listen to men and women at work. They don't want to be propped up by subsidies, but to see their industries profitable, and Britain again the workshop of the world.
To listen and to lead—that is our role. True leadership offers inspiration and hope, but also explains honestly the severe economic constraints under which we work.
And this means that our future programme must be built on a bedrock of practicality. It is not enough to find the right economic formulae, the neatest administrative solutions. They will never work unless they are first made acceptable to the people.
Securing this acceptance, then mobilising our great skills and resources to get the job done—that is the challenge of national leadership today. With pride in our country, faith in our future, and courage now, that is the leadership we shall provide.