Speaking to party workers and supporters at a private dinner, the Prime Minister said he did not want "woolly thinking" to throw away the opportunity facing the Tories. His speech, filmed by a Saatchi and Saatchi team for use in the election campaign, showed the main Tory campaign attack against Labour: that the voters risk throwing it all away. This ignores evidence in The Independent that the rising public debt will force the next government to consider tax increases. But Mr Major told the faithful at a hotel in Bristol that he wanted the next five years of Tory government to concentrate for the first time on social policy, law and order and changes to education. He promised legislation in November to introduce minimum sentences for sexual and violent crimes, burglary and drug dealing, which would be far more severe than those handed down over recent years.
On education, he wanted a wider role for grant-maintained schools, selection, streaming, the return of grammar schools and single-sex schools. "I would love to see in the next five years legislation dominated from the family view upwards, not the bureaucratic view downwards."
Britain was enjoying low inflation, low interest rates, and stable growth. "That is the message I would like to get over on every doorstep, God help me - I don't wish that to be thrown away." The next election would be a watershed like 1979, when the Tories came to power. The 1983, 1987 and 1992 elections were not watersheds. "It is true in 1997. Although I must not give you the date of the election, do not go on holiday in the spring," Mr Major said.
"It is true next time for this reason - the party that wins the endorsement of the British nation at the next general election will inherit the best and most secure economic prospects of any incoming government for the past 70 years. That is the prize."
Mr Major said Labour presented themselves as "born-again moderates". But he attacked the Social Chapter which Labour would sign for threatening jobs, and Scottish devolution, which would break up the UK. "The opportunity for this country if we build on what has been gained by what we have done and in a sense what the country has suffered over the last five years, is limitless. What a tragedy it would be if woolly thinking were to throw away so much of what has been achieved in the last 17 years, and the opportunities that lie ahead in the next five."
There was still the chance of winning back support to the Tory flag which had existed in the past, he said, and he privately appealed for the support of his party and MPs in getting the message to "those people who have a stake in this country who would lose if there was a change of direction. I do not say it lightly when I say there is more at stake . . . than there has been for many years past. That is the message we have to go out to the country with."Reuse content