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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 12:51 GMT
Howard's speech in full
Here is the full text of Michael Howard's speech to Tory MPs after being declared leader of his party.


Who was it who said a week is a long time in politics?

This has been a bruising period for the party.

Some hard things have been said on all sides.

It has obviously been hardest on Iain.

All of us here will want to thank him for what he has done, in what I am about to discover is the toughest job in politics.

But now it's time to move on. To look ahead not back.

And I want to begin by thanking you all for the confidence you have placed in me.

It is an immense privilege to lead this party - the most successful party in the history of modern democracy. But it is also a truly awesome responsibility.

I will work tirelessly not to let you down. But I will make mistakes. And I will inevitably at times upset some of you.

And when that happens - indeed even when it does not happen - there are things we will need to remember.

That we are a party broad and generous: broad in appeal and generous in outlook.

We are here to serve - the syllable at the heart of our name, and at the heart of our purpose.

We are here to work - because all of us have been sent here to safeguard our constituents and our country.

And we are here to win. Because if we don't win we cannot put into practice the things we believe in for the good of our country.

If we don't win we can achieve nothing - and we will be letting so many people down.

And if we are to win we must work together as a team.

We must rediscover the habit of thinking the best of each other. We must rediscover the virtues of mutual support and friendship.

Let us, in this party that vaunts its belief in personal responsibility, each resolve that we will, all of us, assume a personal responsibility for the success of our endeavour.

No bystanders. No snipers from the sidelines. Every one of us a fully engaged participant in the great battle of hearts and minds and ideas.

Because we have an extraordinary common thread that binds us all together.

We all want to see a Conservative government elected. We are all crew on what at its best is the most superb campaigning vessel politics has ever known.

I said last week that we are all trustees of this party. It doesn't belong to any of us.

We have taken it in trust from those who went before; we are obliged to pass it on in better repair than we found it.

This afternoon I am making a speech in one of our key marginal seats, Putney.

I will set out a little further the direction that I propose we should take. You won't find a huge amount of policy detail.

It's about the over-arching ideas, the arguments, the principles that will inform everything that we do.

We have an enormous opportunity.

People really have begun to see through Labour. Their trust ratings are way down. Their support levels are down.

Tony Blair's own personal ratings are in tatters. Britain is not working properly.

Our challenge is to build up ourselves as a credible and appealing alternative government. And we can do it. We already have a platform of exciting new policies on which to build.

We really can do it. Of course it will be tough, uphill work. The hard slog's only just beginning.

As I said last week, we will need stamina and comradeship, and total commitment. Whether we win lies with us.

We can't depend on Labour failure, nor with economic downturns, nor any other brigade of the US Cavalry riding to our aid.

But if we are to succeed every Conservative must ask themselves each morning "What can I do today to persuade the people of this country that we can serve them more effectively than this failing and discredited government".

It is sometimes said that oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them. Well yes up to a point. But Oppositions can lose them too.

Our high and heavy duty is to ensure that as disillusion with Labour turns to dismay, we are there as the next government: firm of purpose, clear of mind, united in our common goal.

Our destiny, and therefore the destiny of our country, lies in our own hands. Let's work together to seize it.



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