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Myerscough SP: A Fresh Start
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Aubyn Myerscough, MP for Lewisham East, spoke to the Bow Group for his leadership campaign.*

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Ladies and gentleman, 

It is a great pleasure to address the Bow Group for the first time. As Britain’s oldest conservative think tank, you have been home to radical thinking about Britain’s problems and the solutions required. Looking towards the next millennium, we need the policy verve and spirit you have and which comes from being the intellectual home of conservatives in the UK.

The Conservative Party is currently engaging in its second leadership contest in a year. It could not come at a worse time: conflict abroad, rising tensions here at home, and a stuttering economy. Yet our ability to charter a safe course through this has been constrained. Trust in government is declining as Ministers fell out and leaked, as former Home Secretaries get arrested, and as allegations of violations of international law abound. It has been a deeply shameful few weeks. 

We have to do better than this; we must do better than this. It is time for a fresh start.  

I believe I am the candidate that can offer the Government needs and the country what it needs. I never wanted to run for leadership of my party; I’m not a Great Office holder – or even a Government Minister. I’ve loyally served my constituents since I was first elected. And that is what I expected to do, until they told me otherwise. However, there are times when we are called on by circumstances to do things we did not expect. And this is one of them: I am running to be Prime Minister, not because I want a promotion from my current position, but because I want to serve my country and help it move forward. 

I believe the country is crying out for a Conservative Government committed to healing and unifying: 
  • We have families frightened of the Poll Tax riots on our streets, but also frightened that they won’t be able to pay the Poll Tax bill.
  • We have families injured by breakdown, divorce, and parental conflict, but also injured by a struggling economy, high unemployment, and poverty. 
  • We have families who want to fulfil their duties and make a contribution to their community, but also see their leaders failing to do similar as each one tries to enrich themselves politically or financially.  
Helping these families requires us to be honest where we have got things wrong, and be committed to building on the things we have got right. I’ve never shied away from that as a backbencher, and I wouldn’t shy away from it as Prime Minister. 

I have been clear throughout my entire political life: we need to rebuild our institutions, to rebuild our commitments to one another, and to rebuild strong moral, unifying values. That is how we offer healing to our nation, hope to our people, and a brighter future to our children. It is the conservative way; it is the British way.

But for too long, the Conservative Government has failed to do this. Instead of rebuilding, we tore down. Instead of commitment to one another, we offered a shattering of the ties that bind. Instead of strong unifying moral values, we offered a ‘me, me, me’ approach to politics. 

Much of what we have delivered from 1979 has been necessary. The stultifying socialist embrace of the state risked destroying society, family, and values of responsibility and duty. By shattering that, we removed the threat. But rather than strengthening society, family, and moral values, we then proceeded to undermine them. The loyal protector became the most dangerous threat.     

So we accepted high unemployment – we should not have done. So we accepted severe instability in our economy – we should not have done. So we accepted rising single parent families – we should not have done. 

In trying to repair our country, as was required after years of socialist failure, we went too far. With our fresh start, we will put values and institutions that matter at the heart of our approach. What matters to the British public – family, love, community, security, employment – will matter to us. Charity, responsibility, faith, and voluntary endeavour are at the core of my vision of the fresh start for Britain.

It isn’t difficult; it isn’t complex. It is just about creating a common endeavour for all of us, with duty and commitment and responsibility at its heart. It is about the bond between spouses, the bond between family members, and the bond between each of us: the things that make life special for so many of us

I’ve spoken recently about how we must restore our nation’s belief in family, in marriage, and in good parenting. This is something I firmly believe must be a priority for the next Prime Minister, even if it isn’t me. As I said only a few weeks ago: “if we are serious about meritocracy and opportunity, as Mrs Thatcher was, then we should be pro-marriage, pro-family and pro-good parenting”.

So as Prime Minister, I will ensure that marriage and family is supported by every policy we implement, every tax cut we introduce, and every statement we make. We should focus on:
  • A higher marriage tax allowance for hard pressed families before tax cuts to rich singletons or businesses. 
  • A Home Care Allowance to allow parents to stay at home to look after their young children rather than being forced into work. 
  • A new service, largely provided by the voluntary and charity sector, to help families be well together and give their child the best start in life.  
And we should reform the economy, with the clarity and conviction of Mrs Thatcher, to make it work for families first. But let’s be clear: we can only do this because of the work past Conservatives did. The foundations have been set by Conservatives, and now the house will be built by Conservatives. Had we listened to the Labour Party – and continued with increased spending, increased bureaucracy, increased control – we wouldn’t be able to implement a radical pro-family, pro-parent, and pro-marriage agenda.  

In doing so, we can deliver the economic security that so many people want but feel they lack. Whereas Labour claims economic security can only come through big spending, big state, big regulation, we know that economic security comes through a vibrant private sector, strong community ties, and the family. That is how we tackle unemployment, that is how we tackle poverty and that is how we tackle the growing divides in our economy. 

If we focus on this, we can win a new hearing with the British public. By being open and honest, by focusing on their concerns, by being competent. It’s time for a fresh start, and I hope you will join me to deliver it. 
*Permission given by Blakesley 
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