We faced three exacting tests in the year that has just gone—and passed them all with flying colours.
Our Party won a great landslide election victory in June.
Our economy was shown to be an island of financial and economic stability in the upheavals that followed the stock market fall on Wall Street.
And our country gave full and fruitful support to President Reagan and Mr. Gorbachev in their successful efforts to attain the first arms control agreement in history actually to reduce the number of weapons in the world's nuclear stockpiles.
I hope and believe that, as a result of these achievements, we could be on the verge of a new age of freedom, and a long period of peace, prosperity and stability such as our people have not known this century, a time of progress in which the benefits of science and technology will lighten all our lives and lift up the world's poor.
Our task in 1988 is twofold.
First, we must safeguard the hopes of peace. Resolved to defend ourselves but prepared to negotiate, the West has already gained the abolition of intermediate missiles. An agreement to cut in half the stockpiles of strategic missiles of the United States and the Soviet Union is a real prospect. We must also begin the negotiations for a fair balance of conventional forces in Europe; and the elimination of chemical weapons.
Second, we must extend the benefits of a free and prosperous economy to all our people. [end p1]
We must free families from the petty tyranny of town hall landlords by giving council tenants a greater say in the running of their estates—including the right to choose another landlord.
We must give parents the right to choose the sort of education they want for their child, always maintaining standards.
We must replace the unfairness of local rates with a Community Charge which will spread the cost of local government much more equitably.
And we will achieve these aims in the greatest programme of reforming legislation this century.
Above all, we will continue our successful policy of promoting the wider ownership of homes, pensions, shares and other property throughout society.
That policy explains how this Government can be both conservative and radical—a paradox that apparently mystifies some commentators.
We are conservative because we preach the doctrine of a property-owning democracy, a doctrine with deep roots in British history and Tory philosophy. We are radical because we are constantly extending its benefits even more widely so that they will come to be enjoyed by all our people.