Friday, December 31, 2004

As I think it is excellent (rather obviously), I thought that I would re-print Michael Howard's New Year Message in full:

New Year is a time of hope.
But this year, as every day brings more news of the disaster unfolding across Asia, our hopes for the future are overshadowed by the tragedy that has engulfed hundreds of thousands of lives.
We watched the scenes of destruction with a sense of disbelief. The scale, the speed, the ferocity of what happened on Boxing Day is difficult to grasp.
Yet Britain's response has shone a light on our nation's character. The last week has shown that the warm, caring heart of Britain beats as strong as ever.
At the start of a year which will almost certainly see a General Election, it is worth thinking about what unites us rather than what divides us.
What is it that we, as a great nation, believe?
People in genuine need - the sick, the aged, the vulnerable, the persecuted - should be helped.
People should be judged on their ability and their potential, not their background, religion or the colour of their skin.
People's property should respected.
People who take responsibility for themselves and their families should be rewarded.
People who work hard, risk their money by starting new firms, and invest to create more jobs, should be encouraged.
People who break the law, who have no respect for other people's freedom or property, should be properly punished.
People should have the opportunity to live their dreams.
These are values that I believe most Britons hold dear.
In the weeks ahead, I will be setting out how the Conservatives can turn these beliefs into reality - reaching out to the millions of people who these share these values.
Of course, some of the things I have to say will be controversial. I do not believe in sweeping the truth - however painful it may be - under the carpet.
I will outline the choices facing Britain at the election. How much tax do people want to pay?
Who will give taxpayers value for money - the clean hospitals and good, disciplined schools they want? Who can be trusted to get a grip on the disorder on our streets and the chaos in our immigration system?
Mr Blair has had his chance to tackle these problems. His approach has failed. Britain is heading in the wrong direction for a simple reason: Mr. Blair has the wrong solution to the problems we face.
His government is a bossy, interfering government that takes decisions that should be made by individuals.
That requires a bigger state and more bureaucrats - which has to be paid for in taxes.
The result is big government and higher taxes eroding incentives, undermining enterprise and denying people choice.
Worst of all, it is a government that has wasted people's money and failed to tackle the problems families face today.
This is the record that Mr Blair will have to defend in the months ahead. It is time to hold him to account.
The question is simple: why should we trust him now and think he would be any different next time, when he has let us down so many times in the past?
Britain is a first class country. Our country and its people brim with ambition, drive and creativity. We can overcome the challenges we face.
We can cut crime. We can improve public services without asking people to pay more in taxes. We can have progress without losing what makes Britain great - its tolerance, the respect for the rule of law, the ability of everyone to fulfil their potential. We simply need to change direction.
The election will give Britain the chance to change. The debate will soon begin on how we can create a Britain in which everyone, no matter his or her background, has the chance to build a better life. I hope you join in it.
I wish you a very happy, peaceful New Year.

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