David Cameron's speech to Google Zeitgeist Europe 2006"It's such a pleasure to be with you here today. And an honour to be speaking amongst such distinguished company. Gathered here at this fantastic event are many of the best minds and brightest talents in Europe.
Leaders in business, technology and the media. But whatever our backgrounds, and wherever we've come from, we're all here because we're interested in the same thing. The future.
And how we can better understand what the future may bring, in order to help bring about a better future. Our hosts are certainly playing a part in that.
What Google has achieved is truly amazing. You've created not just a world-beating business and a world-famous brand in record time. You've accomplished something far deeper, and more important. You've begun the process of democratising the world's information.
Democratising is the right word to use because by making more information available to more people, you're giving them more power.
The power to get the best deal. The power to learn.
And above all, the power for anyone to hold to account those who in the past might have had a monopoly of power - whether it's government, big business, or the traditional media.
Of course the other amazing thing you've achieved is to turn your brand name into a verb.
The other day in an interview I was asked if I'd ever googled myself.
Not wishing to look like a vain egomaniac - not that anyone might think of a politician in those terms - I said that I had, just the once.
Well I can exclusively reveal today that I've had another go.
In fact, I had a look at Google Trends, a fascinating new feature that can tell you what the world has been searching the internet for, and when.
Now I've been taking some comfort in the past couple of weeks from the fact that according to our most recent local elections, the popularity of my party seems to be on the rise.
But I'm afraid that according to Google Trends, my popularity as a search term peaked on December 6 last year - the day I became Conservative leader.
And it's been pretty much downhill all the way since then. But on behalf of all politicians, whatever party we represent, I'm delighted to welcome you all to Britain.
We're incredibly proud that Google has chosen to hold this important conference here, and I'm sure that the next two days will be great fun and hugely stimulating.
Today I want to do a number of things. I want to set out a new political agenda.
One that focuses not on the politics of partisan point-scoring or the traditional neat boxes of government department but on real life as it's lived.
In a series of speeches over the next few weeks, I want to look at the things that matter most in most people's lives.
Working life. Family life. And what we might describe as community life - neighbours, surroundings, local institutions.
I want to explain how I think this new political agenda fits with the spirit of our times - the zeitgeist, you might say and in particular why I think that the ideas of the political tradition that I represent, the centre right, provide the best hope of fulfilling the aspirations of our age.
But I want to concentrate today on the world of work, and its future. What people want from work and what society should expect from it.
What this means for government, business and individuals. And what we all need to do to make sure that we capture the benefits of the changing world of work, and avoid its pitfalls.
Just as California seems to have mastered the best way of connecting science with enterprise.
And the Netherlands has mastered the best way of providing decentralised energy.
How can we in Britain master the challenge of providing people with work that adds not just to the quantity of money in their pockets, but the quality of their lives?
We have to start by changing the way we think and talk about politics.
Too often in politics today, we behave as if the only thing that matters is the insider stuff that we politicians love to argue about - economic growth, budget deficits and GDP.
GDP. Gross domestic product. Yes it's vital. It measures the wealth of our society. But it hardly tells the whole story.
Wealth is about so much more than pounds, or euros or dollars can ever measure. It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP, but on GWB - general well-being.
Well-being can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It can't be required by law or delivered by government.
It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture, and above all the strength of our relationships.
Improving our society's sense of well-being is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times.
It's a challenge foreshadowed by one of Britain's most famous economists - though not someone whose work I usually agree with.
Writing in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that by now, society would have "solved its economic problem" - that is, worked out how to create permanently rising standards of living.
In his essay, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren, he argued: "For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem - how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well."
Now I'm not pretending for a second that everything in the economic garden is rosy, and that we can just sit back and relax.
As we all know, poverty still disfigures too many communities, both within rich developed countries, and on a vast scale in the developing world.
It is our moral duty to do all in our power to eliminate it, and we have much work still to do.
We also know that no country can take prosperity for granted.
In an ever-more competitive world, we have to be constantly vigilant in the battle to secure investment, create jobs, and spread opportunity.
But we should also acknowledge a vital truth that the pursuit of wealth is no longer - if it ever was - enough to meet people's deepest hopes and aspirations.
I think it's increasingly clear that the spirit of the age demands social values as well as economic value.
The purpose of this conference is to put the zeitgeist under the spotlight.
Well if there's one thing that, for me, captures the zeitgeist today, it's the desire for capitalism with commitment.
We hear a lot about the bracing winds of globalisation - footloose capital, buccaneering business, accelerating change.
And we are often told that we have to embrace the change, not resist it.
But that's too simplistic.
On one level, of course we have to be comfortable with change. But on another level, the human level, we have to remember what makes people happy, as well as what makes stock markets rise.
What makes us happy, above all, is a sense of belonging - strong relationships with friends, family and the immediate world around us.
That's about permanence, not change. It's about the personal, not the commercial.
The most exciting and successful new businesses, the ones that capture the spirit of the age, totally understand this.
You only have to look at their culture - how they think of themselves, their place in the world and their role in society.
Look at craigslist, which talks about "restoring the human voice to the Internet, in a humane, non-commercial environment", and the importance of "a sense of trust".
Look at innocent drinks, whose mission is "to make it easy for people to do themselves some good" and who believe that the capitalist system "could actually become the solution as we...show the marketing directors of the world there is profit...in doing the right thing, in protecting what's good and in saving the world."
Or look at the latest catalogue of howies, a young clothing brand based in Wales.
It's not just about T-shirts and jeans, it's about a lifestyle and attitude that celebrates hope, and hopes that through the power of ethical consumerism, business can change the world for the better.
All these companies and many more besides are expressing a profound dissatisfaction with rootless, rampaging globalisation and a passionate desire for capitalism with commitment, for work that has meaning and for relationships that are about more than just money and markets.
But don't assume that it's just small, niche businesses that care about this kind of capitalism. Nor that they are the only type of business that can do something about it.
We see it right across the spectrum.
Car manufacturers racing to produce more environmentally-friendly models.
British high street banks eager to show that they're still actually on the high street, with real people, not distant call centres, providing customer service.
And supermarkets in this country doing more to promote local products and British food with high environmental and welfare standards.
What does this mean for one of the biggest influences on our well-being, our working life?
I think there are a number of forces driving a desire for dramatic change.
The first is the growing tension between two very different sources of human satisfaction.
On the one hand we want to be heroic individuals, making our own way in the world and shaping our own fate.
One of the ways we express ourselves is when we exercise our sovereign power of choice.
These aspirations are expressed by politicians - especially Conservative ones - in the language of opportunity, mobility and freedom
This belief in freedom and mobility generates the pace and the excitement of much of modern working life.
And when we Conservatives reformed Britain's economy in the 1980s it was this kind of picture of a modern society that we appealed to.
But there is a second very different aspiration too.
We know there is a deep satisfaction which comes from belonging to someone and to some place. There comes a point when you can't keep on choosing, you have to commit.
If so much of our modern globalised consumer culture ultimately seems unsatisfying then it is because it fails to satisfy this deep human need.
We all wrestle with the tension between these two very different sources of human happiness.
And when it comes to work, the conventional wisdom is very clear.
It has been most powerfully expressed by Charles Handy who famously put into circulation the idea that the days of jobs for life are over and that we will all have portfolio lives and portfolio careers.
Politicians must have delivered hundreds of speeches with such clichés.
This will not be another one because I do not believe the conventional wisdom.
The evidence does not really bear it out.
As Robert Taylor put it in a report on Britain's world of work for the Economic and Social Research Council: "The evidence simply does not sustain the view that we are witnessing the emergence of a new kind of employment relations seen in the end of the career and the death of the permanent job for life."
It does look as if there may have been a modest fall in the average length of time for which a man holds a specific job.
But this is more than offset by an increase in the average length of time for which a woman holds her job.
In fact if we did not approach so much of economic change through the eyes of a man we would surely be saying how significant it is that women now have longer and more stable job tenure than ever before.
Of course, we do see a lot of job mobility amongst people in their twenties.
Young people change jobs more than older people - and they also change jobs more frequently than young people used to.
But over half of all job changes occur before the age of 30. It looks as if what is happening is that we are spending longer making a choice, but when we find a job that really satisfies us, there are really strong rewards to commitment.
Your employer invests in raising your skills.
You build up tacit knowledge - what they can't teach you at Harvard Business school, knowledge you cannot capture in a diploma and may not even be able to write down.
In fact much of your real job contract could not really be written down.
It has increasingly become a relationship based on trust.
And that has major implications for business, for individuals and for government.
The second big factor shaping the world of work is the increasing feminisation of the workplace.
Some people think it's 'modern' to respect a woman's choice about whether to work or not after having children. But that's an old debate.
The reality today is that most mothers don't have a choice about whether to work or not - they have to work in order to help pay the mortgage and maintain the lifestyle they want for their family.
And if the biggest change in the workplace over the past twenty five years has been the increase in the number of women working the third powerful force driving change is demographic too.
Over the next 25 years, the biggest workplace change we can expect is the increase in the number of over-50s in employment.
The British government is this week publishing its White Paper on pensions, and we agree with the broad direction of its proposals.
They recognise that people will want and need to work longer, and that our pension arrangements must reflect that.
But there's one curiosity: surely we should also be investing in the skills of the over-50s - particularly older women to enable them to participate in the labour market on their terms?
At the moment, the training and further education budget in this country is firmly skewed towards the under-25s, and that is something that we believe ought to change.
The fourth powerful force driving change in the workplace is change in the type of work that we tend to do.
More and more people work in what is described as the knowledge economy.
Increasingly, it's in the high-skill, high-value knowledge sector that developed economies should be seeking to compete.
But knowledge work is very different from the traditional nine-to-five - and knowledge workers have very different expectations of what an employer should provide.
These powerful forces are combining to create a new challenge for employers:
to provide opportunities that balance work with the personal relationships and the personal values that actually make us happy.
I believe that a new political agenda with well-being, as well as wealth creation, as its aim must find ways to address these challenges.
There are some on the right who might say that this has got nothing to do with politics - that we should leave it all to the market and not interfere.
But what kind of politics is it that has nothing to say about such a central aspect of people's lives?
And how can we hope to address issues like education, crime, anti-social behaviour, poverty and health when so much evidence points to the crucial role of relationships - especially relationships between parents and their children - in shaping these things?
We have to care about working life, and we have to show that politics can make a positive difference.
My aim is to show how Conservative instincts and Conservative values provide the right solutions.
Our goal is clear: to move beyond a belief in the Protestant work ethic alone to a modern vision of ethical work.
On Friday, thanks to the Work Foundation, Britain's leading employment thinktank, I saw for myself what can be achieved.
The Work Foundation had gathered together businesses at the cutting edge of progressive employment practice, in both private and public sectors, to tell their story.
And the story was pretty much the same in every case.
Flexible working and an understanding of the need for trusting relationships is good for business and good for individual employees.
Companies are competing more and more to be good employers, to attract and retain the best talent. It saves money and it increases productivity.
At BT, flexible working policies reduced absenteeism to 3.1%, compared to a national average of 8.5%.
Their home working policies have resulted in a 31% increase in productivity, with savings of £69 million each year from reduced accommodation and overhead costs.
And 99% of women return after maternity leave, compared to a national average of 47%.
Lloyds TSB has introduced the right for every employee to work flexibly - whether through compressed hours, reduced hours, flexitime or home working and in requesting flexible working arrangements, employees don't have to justify why they want to do it.
The construction company AMEC found that its flexible working pilots led to marked improvements in job satisfaction and productivity.
And a high-tech manufacturing company in my parliamentary constituency has introduced almost totally flexible hours, with employees able to work their 38 hour week when they want.
On Friday I went to an ASDA supermarket in south London to hear about the company's wide range of family-friendly policies, including:
· Childcare leave, enabling parents to stop work during the summer holidays, returning later with continuous service and maintained benefits.
· Grandparents' leave so that on the birth of a grandchild, grandparents can help out with childcare.
· Job sharing to help managers balance home and work life.
ASDA's flexible working policies have helped make them the largest employer of over-50s in our country and they told me that they were 100% convinced that their employment practices give them a competitive advantage, reducing staff turnover to well below the average for their sector.
For other companies, like BT and Lloyds TSB, technology - particularly broadband internet connections - is now a huge driver of homeworking.
And even in some parts of our public sector, employers are creating opportunities for parents to have term-time jobs so they can be with their children in the school holidays.
These and other employers are showing how it's possible to combine organisational success with a culture that values human relationships and contributes to individual well-being.
The question is: how can we turn today's best practice into tomorrow's everyday experience for everyone?
This is where I believe we need the right political response.
The traditional response of the right - that government can't do much about all this and shouldn't try - is inadequate.
But equally, the response of the new left - that government should regulate the specific details of working life - is ineffective.
It produces unintended consequences that can end up damaging our competitiveness.
And regulation ends up treating all companies the same whereas different businesses of different sizes, in different sectors, will have significantly different circumstances.
They should be encouraged to freely develop their own responses, tailored to their particular situation, rather than having specific measures imposed upon them.
This applies in particular, of course, to small and medium-sized enterprises.
As Will Hutton, chief executive of the Work Foundation, told me on Friday, it's vital that in this area we trust people and that they are trustworthy.
Time and again, employers told me that government should not regulate flexible working and that if it had to, it should keep it simple.
The easy certainties of passing a new law or a new regulation do not translate into the right outcomes once they meet the complexity of the real world.
As Unilever explained, passing a regulation or creating a policy doesn't in itself mean that anything will happen.
BT found that adopting a policy on flexible working was not nearly enough.
In order for it to be taken up in the workplace, an internal culture change programme was required, explicitly promoting flexible working to male employees who were embarrassed about, in their words, "coming out" as dads.
As one employer put it, the right way to bring about change is to do it "informally, flexibly and locally."
Rules, processes and systems imposed from above will not only fail to deliver the right outcomes, they end up undermining the personal relationships that we should be aiming to strengthen.
In too many areas of life today, over-regulation is leading to the death of discretion, the replacement of trust with coercion.
So if regulation is not the answer, what is?
I couldn't put it better than the words of one of the employers I met on Friday who said that what is needed to take this agenda forward is "education, sponsorship, exhortation, cultural change and leadership."
This approach, in tune with our instinctive Conservative values, provides a clear policy agenda on working life for the centre-right.
This agenda has three components.
First, we must recognise the importance of leadership.
In some areas, Government can try to set the standard for others to follow by becoming a role model.
In the UK today, over one in five people in work is employed by the public sector. While there are certainly examples of great workplace cultures in the public sector, the reality for too many public sector workers is sadly the opposite.
I want a Conservative government to work towards an ambitious goal - to make the British public sector the world leader in progressive employment practice.
We need to do this at the same time as showing - clearly and unambiguously - that these practices are raising productivity and improving outputs for the people who use - and through their taxes, pay for, public services.
Second, we should use the power of our public platform as politicians to be advocates for progress, to put these issues on the agenda and to bring about a change in national culture.
I believe that there is a role for politicians in using exhortation, rather than regulation, to talk up good practice and draw attention to bad practice.
I've already annoyed a number of companies by pointing out failures of corporate responsibility.
It's not done from a desire to pick a fight with business.
But I think it's right to say what you think when you see something that's wrong.
Advocacy is not a wishy-washy cop-out as some would argue.
It strikes the right balance and avoids the pitfalls of over-prescriptive government intervention.
Some will say that simply talking about changing culture is nebulous.
But let's be honest - who has done more for school food: countless government initiatives, or Jamie Oliver?
Some will say that relying on business leadership is passing the buck.
But ask what has had more effect on working life - the innovation of companies like Lloyds TSB, moving way ahead of government legislation or a box-ticking, lowest common denominator, one-size-fits-all piece of regulation?
It's vital to create a space in the national conversation which stands firmly between regulation and indifference.
Why should we choose between the intolerant impulse to right every supposed wrong by passing new laws and the coldly amoral refusal even to take a view on the actions of others?
As the philosopher Edmund Burke wrote as long ago as 1795, politicians "ought to know... what belongs to laws, and what manners alone can regulate. To these, great politicians may give a leaning, but they cannot give a law."
The third component of a modern Conservative agenda on working life is less about what government should do and more about what government should not do.
Let me give you two specific examples.
I believe that employee share ownership is good for companies and good for society. It creates a common bond between employees and aligns them with the interests of the company.
Perhaps the best known example in Britain is the John Lewis retail chain.
Every study of that venerable company demonstrates higher than average levels of satisfaction amongst its workforce. And yet, despite all its clear benefits, businesses tell me that employee share ownership is becoming less, not more attractive.
That is a position we must reverse.
The second specific example relates to the tax treatment of personal computers. Many of us use our office computers for personal activities. We book holidays, check on football scores and email friends and relatives.
Yet, it was recently announced that personal use of a company computer may be classed a 'taxable benefit'.
This will affect workers who have a company laptop in their homes...and it will increase red tape for business. This is surely the wrong way to go. We ought to be encouraging people to work from home if it suits them.
These three elements of a modern Conservative agenda for improving working life.
Leading by example in public sector employment.
Favouring exhortation over regulation - in Burke's phrase, giving a leaning not a law and avoiding harmful interventions illustrate a deeper truth about how we will address the new political agenda I have outlined today.
Improving the well-being of our country - whether in terms of working life, family life or community life - is not a simple, mechanical task.
It is not possible to bring about lasting improvement to people's well-being simply through the instinctive responses of the left - regulation and legislation.
Instead of a mechanical approach, we need an organic one.
One that understands the complexity of human relations, and trusts in the power and importance of human relationships.
For us, the achievement of our political agenda will come not from redefining the relationship between the individual and the state, as the left seeks to do.
Our aim is to renew and revitalise the relationship between the individual and society.
We believe that there is such a thing as society, it's just not the same thing as the state.
We believe in trusting people and in sharing responsibility.
And in a world of often bewildering change.
Where globalisation, despite its massive economic benefits, is often viewed with suspicion and fear.
Where the consumer society, despite its undoubted contribution to personal fulfilment, threatens to undermine the values we hold most dear.
And where people everywhere are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.
I believe that our values offer the best hope of meeting the aspirations of our times, in tune with the zeitgeist of the age."
Shadow chancellor George Osborne's speech to the 2007 Conservative Party conference:
The question people are asking of us this week is simple: are we ready to lead? Are we ready to lead our country out of a decade of disappointment and betrayal of trust.
The British people want change - and they want to know if we are that change. This week let us send the resounding answer.
Yes we are ready. Yes we are the change. Yes, under David Cameron, this Conference says with one voice. United. We are ready to serve our country.
We will put ourselves forward for office as the ally of those who aspire; the friend of those who are left behind; the champion of those who strive for a better life for themselves and their children.
Last week in Bournemouth you saw the past. This week in Blackpool you see the future. I come to you today with this argument. Our world is living through a new economic revolution as far reaching as the Industrial Revolution two centuries ago.
The cause of this new revolution is the fusion of extraordinary technology with the power of global free markets -and its impact this time is felt not just in the mill towns here in Lancashire, but the business zones of Shanghai and the technology parks of Bangalore.
I believe that this new economic revolution offers us an unrivalled moment of hope and opportunity for mankind. It gives people power over their own lives, unimaginable even a generation ago. And it is going to change for ever the relationship between citizen and state.
But the tragedy is that we have a Prime Minister who spent the first half of his political career resisting the coming revolution, and the second half, failing to understand it when it arrived.
Gordon Brown still thinks he can command, control, dictate, regulate and tax. His most senior civil servant says he holds a 'very cynical view of mankind'. It is the antithesis of our age. If you want an election, Prime Minister, then get on and call it: because your cynicism and your fear will lose every time to our hope and our optimism.
He can never be the change the country needs. We can.
For it is our Party, provided we never thrive on fear, nor turn our back on the modern world, that alone truly understands this economic revolution and the opportunity it brings. It is our Party that has at its core an instinctive trust in the choices and the aspirations of free people that represent the spirit of our times.
If we are to offer change then we need the right economic policy.
So let me start with one of the hardest messages. We will always put stability first. We agreed that at our last Conference.
Today, as a decade of debt leaves Britain exposed to financial turbulence on the world credit markets, we can see that what was the right decision then has become the essential decision now. The queues of savers trying to take their deposits out of a high street bank was something this country hasn't seen since the Victorian age.
It was a crisis that shook the stability of our financial system. And let us be clear who has to take a large part of the blame: the man who was Chancellor of the Exchequer over the last ten years.
He created the system designed to stop a run on a bank - and it failed. He ran the system that was supposed to reassure savers - and it failed. He encouraged the private debt, and built up the public debt that has left us exposed. We will make sure that people understand where the responsibility for this mess lies.
But as usual when things go wrong, the Prime Minister disappears and pushes out someone else to make the excuses.
Isn't it ironic his latest book is called Courage? Courage, by Gordon Brown. Next week we'll have Charisma, by Alistair Darling.
We need a deposit scheme savers trust and we need to entrench the independence of the Bank of England. But the real lesson is clear: an economy built on debt is living on borrowed time. Stability underpins our economic policy. But its purpose is prosperity for all; and its method is freedom.
The report from John Redwood and Simon Wolfson sets out how we liberate our economy to compete with the likes of India and China. Cut government regulation, planning restriction and red tape. Get people and goods moving freely on uncongested roads and high speed railways and Crossrail. And help businesses create jobs with lower taxes.
I want lower taxes. I want simpler taxes too. That is why I set up the Tax Reform Commission. I believe lower, simpler taxes are vital for Britain to compete.
And I give you this personal promise.
I will approach each Budget seeking ways, consistent with sound public finances and economic stability, to reduce taxes on businesses and families striving for a better life.
That's the real difference between this Chancellor and the next one. He is always looking for ways to put taxes up. I will always be looking for ways to bring taxes down. And not just for big companies, important as they are - but for the small businesses too.
You don't need to tell me about the sweat and the hard work and the dedication that goes into building a successful business. I've watched my father do it all my life. He set up his own manufacturing business forty years ago. The fortunes of the business were part of the rhythm of my childhood. The excitement when the new order was won; the long silences when sales were down; the pride that comes from building a business.
I want many others to fulfil their aspiration of owning their own business.
So we are the low tax party.
But it is a mark of our seriousness about lower taxes that I will not promise un-funded, undeliverable tax giveaways to dress up a press conference in an autumn election campaign. For this party lower taxes aren't just for Christmas.
They are for life.
The new economic revolution also demands that a government that knows how to look after money and spend wisely. The government has borrowed in a boom - and now there's nothing in the bank if rainy days lie ahead. And Gordon Brown has the cheek to pose as the nation's bank manager.
The nation's bank manager. He put up taxes to pay for the NHS and got Derek Wanless to make the case.
Now even this trusted adviser admits most of it was wasted, so yet another report has to be commissioned. What a bargain. £37billion to go from Wanless to clueless.
The nation's bank manager. He told you he'd help the very poorest and now the numbers of the very poorest rise by 600,000.
The nation's bank manager. He told you he'd look after your pension then he launched his £100 billion raid on savers.
The nation's bank manager. Who cost us all two and a half billion pounds by selling our gold at a record low, when it has now reached a record high.
Gordon Brown. The nation's bank manger. Let's start queuing round the corner to close our account.
Government must live within its means.
We can't answer every problem with a pledge to spend more money.
I have committed us to two per cent a year spending rises for the next three years.
This will mean real increases for our public services.
It will mean honouring our solemn international pledges on aid and fighting malaria.
But it will also mean that we share the proceeds of growth.
We are going to make sure that our economy grows faster than our government.
The new economic revolution also demands a government that does not walk away from its obligations on the environment.
We will follow the recommendation of John Gummer and Zac Goldsmith's excellent report that we must shift the burden of taxation from income to pollution. And we will adopt their idea of replacing air passenger duty with an airline pollution duty.
So empty planes will pay the same as the full ones. And newer, cleaner planes will pay less than the older, polluting ones.
But this is my pledge: every penny a Conservative Government raises in new green taxes will go into our Family Fund and straight back to the taxpayer with matching tax cuts. No more stealth taxes.
For people elect Conservative Governments to help the strivers and families struggling on limited budgets.
So let me make this clear today.
I've heard it suggested that in my first Budget I am going to tax people who go to the supermarket. What do you think I am? Off my trolley?
You will not be out of pocket with a Conservative Government.
The new economic revolution needs a government in-tune with the modern world.
Every failed scheme of Gordon Brown - from his NHS reforms to his complicated tax system to his public service targets - all boil down to the same error: his over-weaning belief in the ability of central government to gather all information to itself and make all the decisions.
The basis of the new economy is the exact opposite.
It is based on the linking of millions of locally held pieces of information.
It works by harnessing the power of billions of individual choices.
It succeeds by trusting in the collective wisdom that emerges from free people making individual decisions about their own lives.
That's how Google works. It's how FaceBook works. It's how MySpace works.
But it is not how Gordon Brown works.
We Conservatives instinctively understand this new economy - and frankly he does not.
It shone through in every sentence of the speech he gave last week. Not a word on free markets or enterprise or individual choice.
It's been reported he copied the speech from others. But, you know, I read every word. It was pretty bad. I'm fairly sure he wrote it himself.
This Party has had its own period of appearing to be out of touch with the modern world;
of appearing not to understand that people want to commit to each other in civil partnerships;
of appearing not to understand that many women want both careers and families;
of not talking enough about the national health service or comprehensive education.
But thanks to David Cameron we've worked hard to change our Party.
Now we are the champions of modern Britain.
And one of the greatest challenges of modern Britain is how we help people get on to the housing ladder.
Each year it becomes more difficult for millions of young families.
I think it is time we did something about it.
We need to build more houses so supply meets demand. That's the long term answer to the housing crisis.
But we also need help now for families struggling to cover their first deposit and the tax bill.
A decade ago the average family paid no stamp duty on their first home.
Thanks to Gordon Brown's stealth taxes they now have to find sixteen hundred pounds in tax - on top of their deposit.
And the result? The number of first time buyers is at its lowest level for 27 years.
So I can tell you now: the next Conservative Government will abolish stamp duty for almost all first time buyers.
Anyone who buys their first home for under £250,000 will pay no stamp duty.
We will take 200,000 people a year out of stamp duty altogether;
that's one million people over a Parliament;
And our message to the family working long hours, saving every spare pound to afford their first home is this:
Your dream is our dream too.
Your aspiration is our aspiration.
We will get you out of tax and into your home.
For we are on your side.
How will we pay for it?
You know some advised me, when I got to this part of this speech, to skip the details. Bury it in the small print, they said. Do a Gordon Brown, they said.
It maybe how he governs but it's time for change.
So let me be absolutely straight with you
There are currently a number of people living in Britain who register for non-domiciled tax status offshore.
It is a good thing for Britain that they live here and bring their talent and their investment to our economy.
I make this promise: I am not going to tax all that income as Gordon Brown has persistently threatened to do.
But in return for that promise and the certainty it brings, we will charge a flat annual levy of around £25,000 for those who register for non-domicile status.
It is easy to administer, difficult to avoid and strikes the right balance between a fair tax system and a competitive economy.
Introducing this offshore levy covers the cost of abolishing stamp duty for 9 out of 10 first time buyers.
And it also enables me to make one further commitment to help those families striving for a better life.
When inheritance tax was first introduced it was designed to hit the very rich.
But the very rich hire expensive advisers to make sure they don't pay it.
Instead, thanks to Gordon Brown, this unfair tax falls increasingly on the aspirations of ordinary people.
So now well over a third of homeowners in Britain have the threat of inheritance tax hanging over them.
These are people who have worked all their lives.
People who have saved money all their lives.
People who have already paid taxes once on their income.
People whose only crime in the eyes of the taxman is that instead of spending their savings on themselves, they want to pass something on to their families.
People who feel the most basic human instinct of all: they aspire to a better life for their children and their grandchildren.
Our Government will be on their side.
The next Conservative Government will raise the Inheritance Tax threshold to £1 million.
That means, we will take the family home out of inheritance tax.
In a Conservative Britain, nine million families will benefit.
In a Conservative Britain, only millionaires will pay death duties.
In a Conservative Britain, you will not be punished for working hard and saving hard.
You will not be penalised for wanting a better life for your children.
Taken together our measures on stamp duty and inheritance tax represent the most important reform of capital taxes for a generation.
We will take ten million people out of these taxes on aspiration
We will simplify the tax affairs of millions.
For millions of people, today sounds the death knell for death taxes.
We have a new dividing line in British politics.
The dividing line between a Labour Prime Minister who has taxed a generation out of home ownership and a Conservative Government that will abolish stamp duty for first time buyers.
The dividing line between a Labour Prime Minister who takes away the homes of those who have saved all their lives and a Conservative Government that takes people's homes and savings out of inheritance tax.
The dividing line between a Labour Prime Minister who penalises couples and presides over social breakdown, and a Conservative Government that supports marriage and encourages families to come together.
The dividing line between a Labour Party that punishes those who aspire for a better life and a Conservative Government that says clearly: we are on your side.
We are the Party of aspiration.
And I for one am happy to put these clear choices before the British people at a general election.
----- I first stood here before you as Shadow Chancellor in this hall two years ago.
Each day I have done this job I have been conscious of the great trust that you have placed in me.
And I am grateful every day for the faith you have shown.
But an even greater responsibility lies ahead.
I don't look lightly on the job I aspire to do.
I am aware of the heavy burdens and high responsibilities of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
But if I have the honour to occupy that great office of state, and we as a Party have the honour to serve our nation in government, I want it to be said of us:
We served not for the trappings of power.
Or the seductions of office.
We served to help Britain meet the great challenges of our time.
We served to help the British people realise their aspirations.
And we were brave enough to take the difficult decisions of the modern age.
Let us fulfil the great promise of our nation.
The promise that life will be better for us than it was for our grandparents.
The promise that life will be better for our grandchildren than it is for us.
For it falls now, to all of us, to take our place in the great story of this great Party
We have changed our Party to face the modern world.
Now let us change our country.
Rebuilding trust in politics. David Cameron February 8 2010
Last week we had the latest revelations from Parliament. The details might be new but the feelings they provoke are all too familiar. Disappointment. Despair. Even disgust. But as I argued in my speech at the Open University in May last year, anger at the expenses scandal is just the most forceful expression of a deep frustration people feel with our whole political system.
It’s a system in which too much power is concentrated in the hands of the elite and denied to the man and woman on the street. We’ve been seeing the symptoms of that for years. Decisions made behind closed doors. The Houses of Parliament bypassed and undermined.
Money buying influence. Too often just an elite few choosing the people who become MPs for many years. We can’t go on like this.
We’re just weeks away from an election. This should be the highest point in our democratic life – but never has the reputation of politics sunk so low. We’ve got to fix our broken politics and we’ve got to start fixing it now. The question is: who’s going to do it, and how are they going to do it?
I’m grateful to Sir Christopher Kelly, Sir Thomas Legg and Sir Paul Kennedy for the work they have done on expenses over the past few weeks. It was right that the investigation and initial recommendations should be undertaken with complete independence.
And I also want to thank Tony Wright for his cross-party review into how we can make the House of Commons stronger and make our government more accountable.
But just because we have trusted others with the work of reform until this point, it does not mean we should relinquish political leadership on this issue in the future. People are fed up with politicians hiding behind the cloak of independent inquiries and endless reviews.
They want us to stand up, grasp this issue by the scruff of the neck and start dealing with it. And I want to make something very clear: I believe Gordon Brown has proved he is just not capable of doing that.
Look how he tried to block the publication of expenses. Look at his disastrous interventions - from the YouTube fiasco when he proposed paying MPs just to turn up - to his own failure to turn up and vote to ban the John Lewis list. Look at what his idea of reform is – trying to fiddle the electoral system and introduce the Alternative Vote in a cynical attempt to save his own skin. Look how he's dithering over good reforms put forward by his own MP, Tony Wright.
For the last two days we have been saying: it is wrong for Labour MPs trying to use Parliamentary privilege to avoid prosecution to keep the Labour whip; it is wrong for them to use Labour lawyers; it is wrong for Labour and Gordon Brown not to act. Labour started by saying it was quite wrong for us to attack them in this way but now in a humiliating change they have withdrawn the whip from all three MPs. They’re now in a headlong retreat.
The last 24 hours show how the instincts of the Conservative party are in tune with the public opinion and are in the right place, and Labour’s are wrong.
I can further announce today that I have asked George Young to prepare a new Parliamentary Privilege Act. This was recommended by Lord Nicholls in 1999, that we would introduce as soon as possible, to clarify the rules of parliamentary privilege to make sure that they cannot be used by MPs to evade justice.
We should also be looking at whether the House of Commons should not be considering waiving any privilege over expenses claims, if indeed any such privilege exists.
How Gordon Brown can claim to be a reformer with a straight face, I just don’t know. He can’t reform the institution because he is the institution. The character of his Government – secretive, power-hoarding, controlling – is his character. Just as he’s the roadblock to public service reform, he’s the roadblock to political reform. We cannot have five more years of his old politics. For the health of our democracy it is now essential that this shameless defender of the old elite goes as soon as possible.
If he goes, and if we get a new Conservative government, we can make the changes we need. But why should people believe we will fix our broken politics any more than Gordon Brown?
First, because as this scandal has unfolded we are the ones who have shown leadership at every stage. We led on transparency over expenses - and on getting MPS to payback the money. We voted for reform on a three line whip on an opposition motion - something that had not been done before on a House of Commons matter. And we put forward serious plans for reform - from Ken Clarke's Democracy Task Force in the first half of this parliament, to our plan for fixing broken politics in the second.
But more than our record as reformers, the reason people should believe that we are the ones to sort out the mess of our broken politics is because of who we are and what we believe.
We are a new generation, come of age in the modern world of openness and accountability. And when we say we will take power from the political elite and give it to the man and woman in the street - it's not just because we believe it will help fix broken politics. It's what we believe, full stop.
We don't believe that an arrogant, all-controlling government sitting in London passing endless laws and regulations actually makes things better. In fact, on many occasions it makes things worse.
So we'd want to give more power and control to people even without these political scandals. We'd want to reduce the power of the executive and increase the power of Parliament even if politics hadn't fallen into disrepute. We'd want to take power from the centre and give it to local communities even if we didn't have MPs in the dock potentially accused of fiddling their expenses.
This is what we believe. It's not what Gordon Brown believes. He believes in state control; we believe in social responsibility. He represents the dying days of secrecy and suspicion; we are a new generation at ease with openness and trust. And with a massive turnover of Conservative MPs at the next election, the voice of this new generation will be even louder and stronger.
That's why when we say that we are the reformers and Gordon Brown is the roadblock to reform, it is a claim based not just on his record of opposition to change and our consistent calls for change, not just on his weak leadership and our strong leadership, but on character, values and philosophy: the things that really matter in politics.
OUR PLAN FOR CHANGE
So today I want to set out some of the changes we plan to make: and to propose the next important area for reform, after expenses.
Tomorrow we publish our draft manifesto on fixing broken politics. It is a comprehensive plan for a radical redistribution of power. We’re going to take power away from the political elite and hand it to the man and woman on the street. That power shift must start with an attack on the privilege, excess and exemption from normal rules that has infected Parliament.
We’ve already started that in opposition, by publishing frontbench Conservative MPs’ expenses online. In government we’d go much, much further. We’d make sure this is a requirement not only for our front bench – but also, as the Independent Regulator has suggested, for our back bench and indeed for every MP of any party.
We’d swing our weight right behind the Kelly Review’s proposals to clean up the House of Commons. We’d sweep away the subsidies and luxuries that sit so uneasily with public service – including the gold-plated pensions. We’d make it the law that anyone who wants to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom must be a full UK taxpayer in the United Kingdom. We’d cut the cost of politics by cutting the number of MPs by ten per cent. And we'd equalise the size of constituencies so that everyone in the country, no matter where they live, has an equal vote of equal value.
ETHICS AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN GOVERNMENT
Now we all know that expenses has dominated politics for the last year. But if anyone thinks that cleaning up politics means dealing with this alone and then forgetting about it, they are wrong. Because there is another big issue that we can no longer ignore.
It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.
I’m talking about lobbying – and we all know how it works. The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisors for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way. In this party, we believe in competition, not cronyism. We believe in market economics, not crony capitalism. So we must be the party that sorts all this out.
Now, I want to be clear: it’s not just big business that gets involved in lobbying. Charities and other organisations, including trade unions, do it too. What’s more, when it's open and transparent, when people know who is meeting who, for what reason and with what outcome, lobbying is perfectly reasonable.
It’s important that businesses, charities and other organisations feel they can make sure their voice is heard. And indeed, lobbying often makes for better, more workable, legislation. But I believe that it is increasingly clear that lobbying in this country is getting out of control.
Today it is a £2 billion industry that has a huge presence in Parliament. The Hansard Society has estimated that some MPs are approached over one hundred times a week by lobbyists. Much of the time this happens covertly.
We don’t know who is meeting whom. We don’t know whether any favours are being exchanged. We don’t know which outside interests are wielding unhealthy influence. This isn’t a minor issue with minor consequences. Commercial interests - not to mention government contracts - worth hundreds of billions of pounds are potentially at stake.
I believe that secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics. It arouses people’s worst fears and suspicions about how our political system works, with money buying power, power fishing for money and a cosy club at the top making decisions in their own interest.
We can’t go on like this. I believe it’s time we shone the light of transparency on lobbying in our country and forced our politics to come clean about who is buying power and influence.
Politics should belong to people, not big business or big unions, and we need to sort this out. So if we win the election, we will take a lead on this issue by making sure that ex-ministers are not allowed to use their contacts and knowledge - gained while being paid by the public to serve the public - for their own private gain.
Today, the guidelines state that former ministers shouldn't lobby government for at least twelve months after leaving office. We will start by doubling that to two years.
But there's another problem. Those guidelines are simply that: guidance issued to ex-ministers by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, explaining what kind of jobs they can take up. Today, ex-Ministers can ignore this advice without sanction.
So we will rewrite the Ministerial Code to make clear that anyone who ignores the advice of the Committee will be forced to give up some or all of their Ministerial pension. Dealing with the lobbying issue may be painful, but it needs to happen and because we are from a new generation at ease with openness and accountability, because we believe in social responsibility not state control, we will clean things up.
So that is the choice the country faces. Five more years of Gordon Brown blocking reform, whether it's money from big business or money from big unions. Or reform to clean up lobbying from a new Conservative government committed to transparency and accountability.
THE PEOPLE’S PARLIAMENT
As well as cleaning up Parliament, we’ve got to empower it. There was a time when Parliament used to stand tall, a beacon of democracy leading national debate. But people look at it now and see a place they feel little connection to, play little part in, and don’t feel proud to represent them. It all adds up to a weak Parliament – and we’ve got to get its strength back.
That must start by making people feel connected to it. They don’t right now, because they don’t feel connected to the politicians in it. To restore that link we need to restore proper accountability – we need to give people the feeling that they are the ones pulling the strings and that they hire and fire their representative in parliament.
When it comes to the hiring, we’ve been leading the way. I’m proud that our party was the first to hold open primaries so that every constituent has the chance to help choose our candidates. But we have to recognise that open primaries stop being a good thing for democracy if they are captured by narrow interest groups in the community, who use them to serve their own agenda.
All-postal primaries are an excellent way of getting more people involved and preventing that abuse. These show a good way forward, but they cost money, so that's something we need to look at.
When it comes to the firing, we’ve said we’ll introduce a power of recall to allow voters to kick out MPs mid-parliament if they have been proven guilty of serious wrongdoing. Opening up the process of choosing who is your MP; making it easier for local people to get rid of them. These are reforms that will help to connect people to Parliament.
But strengthening Parliament also means making sure people feel they can play a part in it. At the moment the conversation between Parliament and the country is more like a monologue: one talks, the country listens.
It’s absurd that a tiny percentage of the population craft legislation that will apply to one hundred per cent of the population. Instead of locking people out of this process, we need to invite them in. So we’ll create a right of initiative nationally, where any petition that collects one hundred thousand signatures will be eligible to be formally debated in the House of Commons. Any petition with a million signatures will allow members of the public to table a Bill that could end up being debated and voted on by MPs.
And we will also introduce a new Public Reading Stage for Bills to give the public an opportunity to comment on new legislation. This will mean many more expert eyes helping to scrutinise laws as they’re formed, flagging up flaws and offering suggestions for improvement.
Parliament also gets its strength from the pride people have in it. There’s not much of that around today. An institution that was once famous for its radical legislation, elevated debate and forensic scrutiny of laws has turned into a giant franking machine that stamps whatever Acts the government wants sometimes hardly even thinking about it.
And one of the biggest constitutional changes in our history - our membership of the European Union - has practically passed Parliament by. We are hopeless, totally hopeless, at scrutinising the European legislation, regulation and spending that affects our country. No wonder people think Parliament has become a waste of space. Much of the time - and thanks in large part to the things this Labour government has done to undermine Parliament - it really is a waste of space.
If you want an idea of how bad things have got, just think about the path a piece of legislation takes before it becomes law. Number 10 dreams up a new law to get Gordon Brown a cheap headline in the media or a quick clap-line in his party conference speech.
The Bill gets sent to the House of Commons where it’s debated without diligence – because automatic guillotines cut time short. It’s passed without proper scrutiny – because standing committees for Public Bills are stuffed with puppets of the Government. And it’s voted through without much of a whisper – because MPs have been whipped to follow the party line.
We’ve got to give Parliament its teeth back so that people can have pride in it again – so they can look at it and say ‘yes: those MPs we elect – they’re holding the government to account on my behalf.’
So this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to put a limit on the number of special advisors and protect the independence of the civil service. We will give the House of Commons more control over its own timetable so there is proper time for scrutiny and debate. We will make MPs more independent, with more free votes so that they can vote as they wish and not as they’re told to. We will limit the use of the Royal Prerogative, so parliament is involved in all big national decisions. We will make sure Select Committee Chairmen and members are voted for by MPs, not appointed by the whips.
And to strengthen the place of Parliament at the heart of our democracy, I believe we should be increasing its powers over unaccountable bodies. We will make sure there is proper Parliamentary scrutiny of everything that comes out of the European Union - the laws, the regulation, the spending, the lot. And we’ll also look at giving Select Committees the power to prevent increases in quango budgets.
With these and similar reforms, we can make Parliament a place where people feel a connection to their politicians, where they know that politicians are talking about issues people want them to talk about, and where they know those politicians are fighting in their interest, not for some other vested interest. This all adds up to a Parliament people can admire, trust and have pride in – Parliament with the people in charge of it.
RADICAL REDISTRIBUTION OF POWER
But reforming lobbying and reforming Parliament are just two aspects of our comprehensive plan to fix our broken politics. We want to go way beyond Westminster and Whitehall in redistributing power in our country.
We will push power down not just from the government to parliament but from Whitehall to communities; from the state to citizens; from Brussels to Britain; from judges to the people; from bureaucracy to democracy. It’s your community and you should have control over it – so we need decentralisation.
That’s why we’ll give people more local control over housing, energy, policing, schools. More power to neighbourhoods to take control and take ownership of community assets. More powers to local government to do what they wish, how they want. Powerful, directly-elected Mayors for our biggest cities.
It’s your life that’s affected by political decisions and the people who make those decisions should answer to you – that’s why we need accountability. That’s why we’ll cut the number of quangos and make sure that every one that does exist is brought well within the democratic process. It’s why we would claw back powers from the EU and make sure no future government can ever give powers away in future without first asking the British people. And it’s why we will abolish the Human Rights Act and introduce a new Bill of Rights, so that Britain’s laws can no longer be decided by unaccountable judges.
It’s your money and you should know what is being done with it – that is why we need transparency. That’s why we will put every item of government spending over £25,000 online and for all to see. We’re going to do the same for every public sector salary over £150,000. We will set government data free, and we will give the public a right to request any government data on anything they want that is currently locked up in a vault.
Everything I have spoke about today adds up to this: a new politics. Politicians as public servants. A strong Parliament. A healthy democracy. And above all, power to people.
Yes, it will be tough – taking on vested interests always is. Yes, there will be mistakes – opening up power to millions of people will not always go smoothly. But I wouldn’t be standing here today if I didn’t believe this country was ready for change or needed this change. It is, and it does, and I promise you this: I will see it through.
But this change also needs something else. It requires a change in the attitude not just of politicians, but of the media too. I want to see a whole new culture of responsibility from those who report the news. You are the lens through which people view the actions of this Parliament. That gives you a great duty to our democracy.
I want to see a proper distinction between honest mistakes made by good, decent people whose intentions were honourable and those who set out to deliberately mislead, swindle and deceive.
Most people who pursue a career in politics do so because they want to serve and because they want to do good. That should be recognised. Parliament does important and effective work, yet it is barely reported.
And remember when you’re putting good people down, you could be putting good people off from entering politics. I’m not telling you how to do your job. I’m just saying that if you want to change politics as much as I do, this is something we’ve got to do together. We have a shared responsibility.
The plans I’ve set out today are not timid because they can’t be. Half measures cannot hope to fix what is wrong with our politics. So the reforms I’ve set out are born from radical ambitions – ambitions to restore pride in our Parliament, to return our democracy to full health, and to redistribute power as I’ve said.
But in the end it's not just about specific plans for political reform. It is about a whole new approach to politics.
I believe it's no coincidence that trust in politics has been destroyed on the watch of a man who believes that politics is the answer to everything. Who created a culture where his closest advisor in No.10, Damian McBride, spent his time, paid by the taxpayer, to mount a campaign of personal smears aimed at the families of his opponents?
We have had thirteen years of government by initiative, press release and media management and it is literally pointless. I would rather that we attempt big, serious change and fail than fiddle around with footling, meaningless promises that are never really meant, let alone delivered, limping through office and clinging to power for the sake of it.
We understand the pressure of the impatient 24 hour media and we will always fight our corner. But I know that surrendering to its time horizon is the end of trying to achieve anything meaningful and I'm telling you now that if we win the election we will get our heads down and get on with implementing the big changes in our manifesto.
You will not see endless relaunches, initiatives, summits - politics and government as some demented branch of the entertainment industry. You will see a government that understands that there are times it needs to shut up, leave people alone and gets on with the job it was elected to do.
Quiet effectiveness: that is the style of government to which I aspire. And I also know that because we believe in trusting people, sharing responsibility, redistributing power: things will go wrong. There will be failures.
But we will not turn that fact of life into the tragedy of Labour's risk-obsessed political culture where politicians never say or do anything that really matters, or really changes anything, for fear of getting some bad headlines.
This is why I really believe we are the people to fix broken politics. Because we will ditch the political culture, the political approach that has done so much to break politics and breach people's trust.
Yes we have got the plans and the policies for political reform. Yes we are a new generation that understands and believes in openness, transparency, accountability. Yes we have a political philosophy that at its heart is about taking power and control from the political elite and giving it to the man and woman in the street.
But more than any of this, we have the determination to change our political culture, build a new political approach and bury the whole rotten mess of Mandelson, Campbell, Blair and Brown. That is the change Britain desperately needs. And today, it is only the Conservative Party with the leadership, the values and the character to do it.