It's wonderful to be here this evening, campaigning for a Conservative victory, in this enterprising port of Plymouth. I was told beforehand my arrival was unscheduled, but on the way here I passed a local cinema and it turns out you were expecting me after all. The billboard read The Mummy Returns.
Every general election tests character as well as policies. And this one is no exception. But our party is fortunate indeed. Under William Hague's cool and gritty leadership we have the right man with the right message to win through.
It's more than a decade since I was in the front line of politics. But one thing hasn't changed and, I trust, will never change. Ours is a Party that knows what it stands for, is proud of its beliefs, and is in tune with the deepest instincts of the British people.
We Conservatives changed Britain for the better. And we helped change the world - bringing liberty to millions who'd never known it. Moreover - let's admit it - we changed our opponents, at least on the surface, and so made them electable. But we didn't, and we couldn't, make them believers in liberty or champions of enterprise.
New Labour's main appeal, when you get down to it, is quite simply that it's not Old Labour. And that's true as far as it goes. I had some respect for the Old Labour Party, which stood for certain principles - wrong as they were.
But today's Labour Party has no discernible principles at all. It is rootless, empty and artificial. And when anything real or human surfaces despite the spin - it's the bitter, brawling, bully that we hoped we'd seen the last of twenty years ago.
Labour's election slogan - Ambitions for Britain - is, of course, half-right. They are ambitious. But not, I'm afraid, for Britain.
They are certainly ambitious to extend the power of the state. That's why, year after year, they have piled on taxes by stealth. The British people are paying a billion pounds a week of extra tax for the privilege of keeping Messrs Blair and Brown in Downing Street. What an incentive to evict them!
Labour are also ambitious to draw more and more people into dependency, diminishing liberty, throttling choice. That's why the Chancellor took away mortgage tax relief; took away the relief for marriage; took away the relief for private health insurance. That's why he took five billion pounds a year from those who put money into private pension schemes. And that's why he plans to make more and more elderly people subject to the means-test. He just can't stand people being independent.
Above all, our New Labour masters love to strut the international stage: it's a great deal pleasanter than facing the wrath of outraged farmers, desperate hospital patients or demoralised policemen. Mr Blair says he wants to `lead in Europe', but the price of that is that he's expected to lead Britain by the nose into the single currency. And he's prepared to do it! I would never be prepared to give up our own currency.
The greatest issue in this election, indeed the greatest issue before our country, is whether Britain is to remain a free, independent, nation state. Or whether we are to be dissolved in a federal Europe. There are no half measures, no third ways - and no second chances.
Too many powers have already passed from our Parliament to the bureaucracy in Brussels. We must get them back. Above all, we must keep the pound.
Keeping our currency is not, as Labour would have it, just a matter of economics - though the economic case grows weaker, as the Euro grows sicker, by the day. No: a country which loses the power to issue its own currency is a country which has given up the power to govern itself. Such a country is no longer free. And neither is it truly democratic - for its people can no longer determine their own future in national elections.
To surrender the pound, to surrender our power of self-government, would betray all that past generations down the ages lived and died to defend. It would also be to turn our back on America, leader of the English-speaking peoples, to whom Europe - let's remember - also owes its freedom.
That is not our way. And where better to take a stand than here in Plymouth? Plymouth - England's historic opening to the world. Plymouth - from where Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, and Captain Cook set out to take the ways of these islands to the uttermost bounds of the earth? Plymouth - from where the Pilgrim Fathers left in that cockle-shell vessel on a voyage which would create the most powerful force for freedom that the world has known?
My Friends, New Labour in its shrivelled heart is embarrassed by our history, scornful of our achievement, oblivious of our legacy. They think that they can remove Britain's sovereignty, just as they put up Britain's taxes - by stealth. They are wrong. But they are too arrogant and too remote to know it.
So a mighty burden rests on us. We have sixteen days to shift opinions, and to shake this rotten government to the core. That is our task. Let's be about it!