I'm going to fight them in the streets

Edited extracts from John Major's Bournemouth speech
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The Independent Online
Throughout the last 17 years we have changed Britain. But not enough. There's still more to do - spreading choice, extending opportunity, these are ceaseless tasks.

The show goes on. The road goes on. It stretches far ahead - a good education, rewarding jobs, security. That's what matters to millions of quiet, decent, home-loving families up and down the country, the people who care for their children, work hard, save for old age, and are proud of this country. Alone, you cannot hear their soft voice. But collectively they speak for Britain. Our message is for them.

I didn't come from two rooms in Brixton to 10 Downing Street not to go out and fight with every fibre of my being for the things I believe in and the country I love. So come the election, where will I be? I'll be out in the towns and streets ... in market squares and city centres ... I'll go round the country and speak face to face to as many people as I possibly can.

I'll talk about opportunity, opportunity for all. I'll tell them straight and I'll tell them true ... I will be the one talking to the people in the middle of the crowd. So come and join me and I promise you, we'll win.

I came into politics to open doors, not shut them. They were opened for me. I was born in the war. My father was 66. My mother was surprised. We were like millions of others. Not well off, but comfortable, until financially the roof fell in ... It changed our life. My mother coped - as women do. I left school at 16, because an extra pounds 5 a week mattered. I learnt from that experience. In the game of life, we Tories should even up the rules.

Giving people opportunity marks the great divide in British politics. In its heart, Old Labour, New Labour, any old Labour, believes that government knows best. I don't.

Opportunity for all. It's in the bloodstream of our party. It was Shaftesbury who gave an education to thousands of children from poor homes. It was Disraeli who gave many working men the freedom to vote. It was Salisbury who brought free education within the reach of almost every family in England. And it was Margaret Thatcher who sold council houses and public industries, giving people a real stake in this country.

I believe we should give families opportunity and choice and a wider, warmer view of life. Our belief in choice is the driving force of our policy - it's not a political ploy; for me it is the core of what I believe in. I start with education ... If parents want more grant-maintained schools - they shall have them. More specialist schools - we'll provide them. More selection - they'll have it ... And if parents want grammar schools in every town, well then so do I, and they shall have them. We're aiming for the least possible tax to give the greatest possible choice. As we can afford it, we'll move to a 20p basic rate for all. That is our priority.

Dependency must be about needs, not a culture. I can't stand welfare cheats. They deprive those in real need.

Our NHS is unique. In this country, when you're ill, we take your temperature. In other countries, they take your credit card. While I'm in Downing Street that will never happen.

I'm the first Prime Minister for generations who can say "We are the most competitive economy in Europe". And I intend to be the Prime Minister who builds on that success after we've won the next election.

The sharpest element of the European debate is the possibility of a single European currency. We Conservatives are in grown-up politics. We know that where Britain's national interest is at stake Britain's national voice must be heard ... We must play a full part in that debate.

We believe Europe must become more flexible and responsive; that the only realistic future is as a partnership of nations, not a United States of Europe. But some of our partners do see the future of Europe as ever closer political as well as economic integration. We don't believe this is practical. Nor, to be frank, desirable. It is not the Europe we joined and it's not a Europe we can accept.

The Union. Parliament. Our voting system. It is naive to think that radical change would be easy or risk-free. And it's revealing to look at Labour's plans. Their priority in the first year ... would be to gerrymander the British constitution.

They're avid for more parliaments, more assemblies, more regional assemblies. Their policy is in chaos. What a message. "Vote Labour - for more politicians, more bureaucrats, more taxes, more regulations, more tampering, more meddling, more authoritarianism." If that is the New Gospel, then give me the old religion.

It's been the week the Tory family came together - to renew the family contract with the British nation ... The well- being of the Conservative Party is more important than any individual member of it.

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