Thank you Zac, and thank you for just showing once again that you have exactly the qualities of originality and drive that will help you win in London in May.
I tell you when I knew we were going to be all right in that amazing election and it wasn’t the Ed stone — the heaviest suicide note in history — or the mysterious second kitchen. It was when I was walking one of those furiously contested high streets in North West London where one week the Tory posters went up, only to vanish next week in favour of Labour posters, and we were busy restoring the Tory posters when a shopkeeper told me that he had definitely made his mind up and for the first time in his life he was switching right across from Labour to Tory because he just didn’t think that Labour under Miliband would be on the side of businesses like his, and then another Asian shopkeeper said exactly the same and then another. And I was so struck that in the evening I texted the PM – no profanities on either side, I promise! And I said: mate we are going to win this thing.
And we did. We won that seat and plenty of other London seats that all the pundits said we would lose. We won in Twickenham where Tania Matthias evicted Vince Cable. We won in Kingston with James Berry, we won in Sutton with Paul Scully. We won because we had superb candidates. We won because we had a superb campaign director in Lynton Crosby – who seems unfortunately to have been hired by the Australian rugby team. But above all we won because of the persistence and the calm and the patience of David Cameron, and his extraordinary prime ministerial qualities that contrasted so starkly with his Labour opponent.
We won because the British people did not trust Ed Miliband to manage the economy, and so it is unbelievable now to see the Labour party has been piratically captured in a kind of social media twitstorm by what Harold Wilson once called a small group of politically motivated men. And I know these people, my friends. They are the London Labour party rots and militants with vested interests and indeed interesting vests. They are the people who idolise Hugo Chavez and toast the revolution in taxpayer-funded vintage burgundy. And I know them because we have fought and beaten them twice. And the reason I first wanted to get into that fight eight years ago is that I am fundamentally opposed to that style of politics. They have the same ruthless methods as the old colonialists that they purport to despise, in that they believe in divide and rule: Where there is a grievance, they foment it; where there is sectarianism, they take sides: Where there are racial or religious or ethnic divisions their instinct is always to play them up: And of course there is one conflict they relish above all others, and that is economic class war, the belief that you can exalt the poor and the needy by bashing the wealth creators, imposing punitive taxation and in the words of John McDonnell, an avowed Marxist who is seriously putting himself forward as the man to run the economy, ‘fermenting’ – sic – the destruction of capitalism. And I know there is a generation of young people who can’t remember communism and who think it might be a good idea to ferment anti-capitalism as if it were some fruity alcopop.
And so I say to all those £3 Corbynistas – we tried that; We tried fermenting anti-capitalism in the soviet union; we have tried brewing it in Britain in the 1970s and in many other parts of the world and the result has been the kind of toxic moonshine that sends you blind. Give that hooch a miss.
We don’t believe in destroying capitalism, because for all its faults capitalism is the best means humanity has yet found of satisfying our wants and needs. We believe in using capitalism to deliver social and economic progress, and we do it in a one nation way – by bringing people together. And I hesitate to return to the rugby but I am afraid there is a lesson in that agonizing match at Twickenham the other night. And I speak as someone whose happiest formative afternoons were spent as a tight head prop – the guy on the right. And apart from grunting and heaving the crucial thing you have to do as a tight head – in fact just about the only thing you have to do apart from grunting and trying to stop the other guy sticking his fingers up your nose is to bind on tightly and correctly – in my case to the hooker (insert joke here, as Jeremy Corbyn’s autocue would say). And it is the rugby scrum that provides a metaphor for my political beliefs, because our lives are really a gigantic collective effort in which one person’s bulk makes up for another person’s slightness of stature and where everyone is so tightly bound together that one person’s forward progress drives another person’s forward progress.
And that is the society we need – not just a big society, but a united society where the different elements are bound together by an irreducible set of values: democracy and freedom and equality under the law. And let no one say these ideas are trite, or trivial – not in a Britain where men and women are now being segregated at university societies and where young girls are suffering the abomination of female genital mutilation. And I applaud those two fantastic London MPs Justine Greening and Jane Ellison for their campaign against a vice that has been tolerated for too long in the name of political correctness.
I want a Britain united by command of the English language. When I meet people who have been here for decades – very often women - without learning this essential tool of economic participation, I think it is not just a failure to integrate but a kind of oppression; The logical consequence of the politically correct multicultural loony-ism of the left. And if dear Jezza is wondering whether to sing the national anthem, can I recommend that he comes to City Hall for our annual citizenship ceremony where people from around the world queue to have a selfie – not with me, but with a picture on an easel of the queen. Not because of who she is or what she has done in the last 63 years – extraordinary record of service though that is, but because of what she represents – the continuity of the great free institutions of this country; the ideas that she incarnates: of our democracy and of the sovereignty of the crown in parliament. And if people are to be loyal to those ideas then it is vital that our democracy is healthy, and vibrant, and truly representative and that means getting the right deal now from our EU partners, as I know David Cameron can, helping to restore trust in parliament by making sure that new laws affecting the British public are made by people the British public can kick out at elections.
And it should be up to this parliament and this country – not to Jean-Claude Juncker – to decide if too many people are coming here. Because it is not that we object to immigration in itself – I speak as the proud great grandson of a Turk who fled his country in fear of his life, to Wimbledon for some reason (and who was then assassinated by his political opponents – a fate I intend to avoid). It is about who decides; it is about who is ultimately responsible; it is about control. And you will loosen the bonds that should unite society if people feel that their elected politicians have abdicated their ability to control those things that ought frankly to be within their power. And when you look at what is happening in Greece, where economic independence is being sacrificed on the altar of the euro you could not say that democracy in Europe was in good health and we should be sticking up for it, as we have in the last hundred years.
Because those are our values: shared language, shared cultural assumptions, shared confidence in our political institutions. These are the ties that unite our society – and yet they are not powerful enough on their own if the economic gap between us is allowed to grow too big. And even though I am still just about the only politician to speak out in favour of bankers, I say we one nation Tories cannot ignore the gulf in pay packets that yawns wider year by year. In 1980 a chief executive of a FTSE 100 company earned about 25 times the average pay – the average pay – of his or her employees. What do you think the multiple is today? 130 times; and there are some who pay themselves 780 times. And again I believe that people will accept this, but only on certain conditions. Only if they feel that this dynamic, entrepreneurial, high-reward capitalist system is actually helping to take everyone forward. We will accept it if and only if they pay their taxes – rich corporations and individuals. If and only if those firms are paying their employees decently – and it is great that a giant retailer like Lidl is paying not just the minimum wage but the London Living Wage.
And we must ensure that as we reform welfare and we cut taxes that we protect the hardest working and lowest paid: the retail staff, the cleaners, who get up in the small hours or work through the night because they have dreams for what their families can achieve: the people without whom the London economy would simply collapse: the aspiring, striving, working people that Labour is leaving behind. And then there is an even more important requirement: If people are to feel bound in to this united society there must be opportunity. And it is the Tory policies on housing – more new homes now being built in London than in any year for 35 years; on transport – the biggest programme of infrastructure since queen Victoria; on education – the schools revolution epitomised by Katharine Birbalsingh’s amazing times-table pouting and Shakespeare reciting school in Brent, that are creating opportunity. Take those policies together with our natural instincts to cut taxes, cut red tape, to help business and enterprise and you can see why there has been a jobs boom in London, with youth unemployment at its lowest level for 25 years and 400,000 people lifted out of poverty in London since I have been Mayor.
And the point I make to our crusty friends outside is that it is actually sensible one nation policies in London have been disproportionately beneficial for the poorest. If crime hits the poorest hardest – and it does - then it follows that is the poor who have most to gain from falls in crime. If you are poor in London, you are more likely to send your kids to a school where the air is polluted. If you are poor, your kids are 40 per cent more likely to die or be seriously injured in a road traffic accident. If you are poor your kids are far more likely to die in a domestic fire, and so if you reduce all those evils as we have, in the last eight years:
—crime down almost 20 per cent,
—murder rate down 50 per cent,
—air pollution down 20 pc for NOX and 15 pc for particulates,
—deaths on the road down 40 per cent,
—deaths from fire down 50 per cent
Then you are doing something for fairness and for social justice.
And let me give you this final knock-out point, for all those who think inequality has increased. There is one simple way in which we have a more united society – and that is in our ability to spend more time on this earth in good health with our families. Just since I have been mayor, life expectancy has gone up in London by 18 months for women and 19 months for men – and there are parts of the Harrow Road where life expectancy at birth is now 97. I don’t know what monkey glands or royal jelly they apply in the Harrow road but you live longer under the Tories, my friends. And yet the most extraordinary and counter-intuitive statistic is that it is the poorest who are seeing the biggest gains, so that the gap in average life expectancy between rich and poor has diminished from about five years when I became mayor to about 3 years today. And of course it is disgraceful that there is still a gap at all; but that is social justice, that is progress. That is what we are fighting for.
I am immensely proud of what has been achieved in the last seven and a half years under a Tory mayoralty and I thank my brilliant and indomitable team, so many of whom are here in this hall led by my irrepressible chief of staff Sir Edward Lister. Three of them now my fellow MPs – Kit, Victoria, James. We began with a financial crisis that many people said would knock London off its perch as the world’s financial capital and we come to the final furlongs with London the number one capital for banking, for bioscience, for media, for culture, for theatre, and with our capital installed for the second year running the world’s top tourist destination with 18.8m international visitors , knocking Paris and New York off the number one spot, the world’s most popular city – under the Conservatives.
We have upgraded the tube so massively that it is carrying 25 per cent more passengers than when I was elected - every day. And that is because we have cut delays by more than 50 per cent. We are delivering Crossrail on time and on budget, the biggest engineering project in Europe. We have not only staged the world’s greatest ever Olympic games but we have secured a sensational physical legacy at the Olympic park in Stratford, so that London is now the only Olympic city to have found a long term private sector future for all 7 sporting venues, to say nothing of the new V&A and the first ever Smithsonian museum outside the USA; Around the clock from Old Oak to Enfield to Stratford to Greenwich to Croydon to Battersea we are seeing this city rebuilt and regenerated on a scale not achieved for centuries,
and we are doing it in a way that is sensitive to the environment and that improves quality of life. We have introduced new bikes and cleaner buses; we have got 100s of 1000s of Londoners volunteering through Team London; and they are mentoring kids and planting thousands of trees, and in spite of this frenzy of activity we done the Tory thing. We have cut council tax by 27 per cent and it is wonderful now to see the London agenda being rolled out across the country
—fiscal devolution, with our great English cities free to spend the business rates they raise
—a new National Living wage
—pooling pension funds (as we have done with Lancashire) to create a half billion pound sovereign wealth fund for infrastructure
—new rules on strike ballots to stop hardworking people being held to ransom by a tiny minority
In fact the only type of crime currently going up is the theft of City Hall policies – a crime I entirely condone.
And we are not done yet, as we come now to what we call operation juddering climax. We will defeat the haters of beauty and install a garden Bridge. We will extend the northern line to Battersea – or the Wandsworth powerhouse, as it is probably now called in the Treasury. We will get a night tube. And thanks to the support of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor I am confident that we will get Crossrail 2 in the ground by the end of the next decade. Because you can’t be a builder in London without Crossrail 2. And if we are going to build new airport capacity let’s not bodge it with one runway in the wrong place in a short termist and environmentally disastrous solution - one of the many things on which I agree with Zac. And let’s compete with every other major economy, from Germany to France to Spain to Holland to India to every Gulf state to Turkey to China
and do the job properly this time round in this confident and progressive generation, with the hub airport we will need for the country that most forecasts believe will overtake Germany, by 2050, to be the largest, the most powerful and the most dynamic economy in Europe.
So much done; so much to look forward to. Are we going to fumble and knock the ball forward beneath the feet of our political foes? What an enemy, my friends. As I came into the conference area yesterday we had to go through a kind of Khyber pass with protestors on either side hurling eggs and water bombs. Perhaps some of you had the same experience. Were we intimidated? No. Will we give up our plans to take this country forward? No. Will we surrender to the hard-left agitators – supported by Jeremy Corbyn – who believe in these tactics and want to divide this society? No. In fact I drew only one conclusion – that we need to do more to encourage sport in schools, because they managed to miss their target with every projectile, just as Labour has missed the lesson of that election victory in May. Because it wasn’t just about rejecting Miliband and Salmond and Sturgeon and all the other fishy characters. It was because they believe that if they stick with us then this country could be on the verge of something great, and they see the difference between Tories and the extreme left.
The extreme left is always willing to believe the worst about this country and its history and its institutions. It is we Tories who are always ready to believe the best about the British people, what we stand for and what we can do, and that is why I am a Conservative, a one-nation conservative. And as we drive for the line in the last eight months of this mayoralty, with the ball at our feet, I want us all to work together to get Zac Goldsmith elected for four more years of solid progressive one nation conservative government in London, with a party united in our ambition to unite our society.
Thank you all very much.