The text of Sir John Major’s article published in The Daily Telegraph on 6 May 2015.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
On Thursday, the British people will choose our next government. At a moment when our country is in need of calm stability, the outcome is very uncertain.
Whatever the short-term attraction of voting for a minority party, it is the long-term wellbeing of our United Kingdom that is at risk. And the stakes could not be higher.
Five years ago, our country faced the spectre of national bankruptcy. The Conservative-led Coalition has brought us back from the brink to a genuine prospect of prosperity. Growth is steady. Inflation is non-existent. Job creation has been outstanding, and unemployment is falling month after month.
Moreover, wages and salaries are beginning to rise, with every expectation this will continue. It is no longer foolish to hope for better times ahead – we can see they are within our reach – but only if we build financial, commercial and industrial success. We will never do that by returning to Labour’s agenda of more borrowing and higher taxes.
The Coalition Government can be proud of how much it has achieved. Every month, independent figures confirm our economy has been turned around. Even as our opponents deny this, the IMF, Europe, and the rest of the world, acknowledge it.
This is a far cry from five years ago, when people were not even sure their money was safe in their High Street banks. The last Labour government inherited a healthy, growing economy. They presided over a financial crash, recession, rising unemployment – and debt.
Labour is now seeking to persuade the British people they should, once again, be trusted. Mr Miliband repeatedly refuses to accept they overspent in government, and they resolutely deny their role in our economic woes. But history states otherwise. For every single Labour government we have ever had – from Ramsay MacDonald to Gordon Brown – has left an economic mess behind them. Every single time.
And I cannot see how a government led by Mr Miliband would be any different.
There is a pattern. Labour wrecks the economy. The Tories repair it but become unpopular in doing so. Labour is re-elected and wrecks it all over again. It is time to break this pattern.
Labour has adopted some recurring mantras during this election campaign: primarily, that the Tories care little about the less fortunate in society and aim to destroy the NHS.
Mr Miliband states that the Tories are only for the rich, while only Labour is for the working people. What divisive drivel. Does he seriously believe millions of Tory voters are all rich? Of course not. Labour seems to regard wealth creation as anti-social. They have returned to a world in which businesses must be controlled, regulated, directed, taxed: they are more likely to penalise them than help them grow.
Yet without wealth creators, growth is stunted. There are fewer jobs and a smaller tax revenue. And whenever that happens, it is public services that suffer most. There is less money for education, for social care – and, yes, less for health, too. Less all round for the working man and woman.
High taxes are a certainty if the SNP props up a weak Labour Government – held to ransom on a vote-by-vote basis. But they deaden enterprise, quell ambition and discourage talent. Labour’s policy to target “the rich” would drag many more people into higher rates of tax.
By this, I don’t mean the mega-rich, but professional men and women with skills that are vital to our society. Is that really what this country needs as we try to build a better future?
After the election, either the Conservatives or Labour will form – or at least lead – the new government. We need a government that can reach out to every single part of our country. And Labour cannot do that.
I know Labour. I grew up with them. Labour divides to rule. To win votes they will turn rich against poor; north against south; worker against boss. They have done this before and are doing it now. But it is emphatically not what this country needs. Now, more than ever, we need to bring people together, not create chasms to drive them apart.
Our future must be built on social cohesion and economic success. And we need to help all people to meet their ambitions that – more often than not – relate to long-term security for themselves and their families: the most basic human instinct of all.
We will never all be born equal. Life isn’t like that. But the Conservatives aspire to make opportunities in life as equal as we can make them. That is what first drew me to the party nearly six decades ago. While Labour was offering me a “hand out”, the Conservatives offered me a “hand up”.
That is why Mr Miliband’s daily charge against us is so grotesque. For, as the economy improves, David Cameron and George Osborne have been working hard to spread prosperity to the poorer regions of our country – look at our plans for the Northern Powerhouse.
In every election, the NHS is centre stage. Mr Miliband promises that Labour will “rescue the NHS”. But from what, and from whom?
Conservative supporters are as committed to the NHS as our political opponents. Quite apart from the moral obligation any government has to protect the NHS, does he really imagine we would seek to alienate our core support? And how on earth does Mr Miliband himself propose to do that if our recovery is put at risk all over again, and there is insufficient money to fund it?
The NHS has existed for 70 years – 40 of which the Conservatives have been in government. At no time have we ever sought to break it up. Why? Because we have never wished to do so – and we never will. I have been a member of the Conservative Party all my adult life. I would not tolerate the destruction of the NHS – nor would any Tory government. Nor would our nation.
As we prepare to choose our government – let me say something about our nation. We British are, instinctively, an open-minded, generous-spirited, compassionate people. Yes, there are some whose social attitude and behaviour falls short of that. But the majority of us are decent, hard-working people, who want to do the right thing for our family, friends and communities – near and far.
In the last few months alone, during a period of severe economic hardship, the British people have dug deep to help those in need – both here at home and overseas: most recently following the tragedy in Nepal. And who can forget last year’s Poppy Appeal, when over £40 million was raised – with many driving through the night from all corners of our nation to join queues at the Tower of London in order to honour those who had paid the ultimate sacrifice in defence of our freedom. In all this, we have shown ourselves to be a civilised, mature and united Kingdom: we should oppose all those that appeal to prejudice or bigotry, or seek to tear our nation apart.
Ours is a great and tolerant country – as free and honest in its dealings as any nation in the world. Even among our harshest critics, we have a moral authority few can match. We just need to have confidence in ourselves, who we are and what we can achieve together.
At the moment, there is a deep malaise in our political system. We have just come through nine long years of national crisis and many people feel disengaged, disaffected – and downright fed up. Five years ago, Labour left our country on its knees. By its own admission there was “no money left”. We were on the brink of ruin.
The Coalition Government – under David Cameron’s leadership – has led us to the cusp of prosperity. Our economy is now, finally, on course to bring us all a much better, brighter future.
This country must decide in whose hands they will entrust that future, and the choice is straightforward: either Mr Cameron or Mr Miliband will be the prime minister.
So, before marking your ballot paper with a cross, I implore you to pause and reflect: with a second term and stronger economy, David Cameron will be able to demonstrate – even more – that the Conservative Party still stands for everything that first attracted me to it all those years ago: offering a “hand up” to those who are willing and wanting a better life for themselves and their families.
And we, as one United Kingdom, would all be the better for that.