The Bruges Group spearheads the intellectual battle against the notion of "ever-closer Union" in Europe and, above all, against British involvement in a single European state.

Monday, 5th October 2009

Are the political parties failing the voters of Britain?

Simon Heffer 
Peter Hitchens 
Barry Legg 

Conservative Party Conference Fringe Meeting

Click here to listen online to Barry Legg
Click here to listen online to Simon Heffer
Click here to listen online to Peter Hitchens

The disappointing result of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty has exposed the hole at the heart of the Conservative Partyís European policy. It is now highly likely that the Lisbon Treaty, the renamed and revived EU Constitution, will come into force before the General Election, thus nullifying the Conservative pledge to hold a referendum.

The risk of the conference being overshadowed
A rolling back of EU integration is supported not just by the overwhelming majority of Conservative Party activists but also by most of the electorate. Any failure by the Party leadership to outline how a future Conservative Government will tackle this issue of fundamental importance to our democracy will overshadow what should be a triumphal Conference gathering in Manchester.

A retrospective referendum
Cameron must recognise that because Gordon Brown reneged on his promise to hold a referendum on the EU Constitution Lisbon has no legitimacy. David Cameron must clearly and unequivocally pledge that if elected to office a Conservative Government will immediately hold a retrospective referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Allowing the British people to withdraw from the treatyís provisions and reject EU centralisation.

Broken promises
As a result of Labour surrendering our nationís democracy any future Conservative government will unfortunately be in office but not in power, with real authority resting in Brussels. This dire situation must be remedied, Labour broke their promise, the Conservative leadership must not break theirs.

Time to prove leadership qualities
If David Cameron is serious about becoming Prime Minister then he must show leadership and announce that a retrospective referendum will be held in Britain. This will rule the Lisbon Treaty null and void in the UK and withdraw us from its provisions.

Following events and the pace set by the European Union should not be an option; but does Cameron have the mettle to stand up to the Euro-federalists? He must show us in Manchester.

If David Cameron will not do this for his country then at the very least he should do it for the pleasure of stopping Tony Blair being made EU President.

These issues and others will be discussed at the Bruges Groupís fringe meeting at the Conservative Party Conference.

The Speakers

Simon Heffer is a well known broadcaster and columnist with The Daily Telegraph where he is also Associate Editor. Formerly, he was the Deputy Editor of The Spectator and also wrote for The Daily Mail. He is known and respected for his cogent views on the EU, political correctness and the Conservative Party. Simon Hefferís publications include Like the Roman: the life of Enoch Powell and Nor Shall my Sword: the reinvention of England.
Click here to read the speech by Simon Heffer

Peter Hitchens is a political columnist, author and broadcaster. He is noted for his traditional conservative stance. Peter Hitchens is the author of the notable books The Abolition of Britain and The Broken Compass: How British Politics Lost its Way. Peter Hitchens is also a columnist for the Mail on Sunday. He also frequently comments on British politics on both television and the radio.
Click here to read the speech by Peter Hitchens

Barry Legg was the Conservative Partyís Chief Executive and is a former MP, representing Milton Keynes South West. Whilst in Parliament Barry was a Maastricht rebel. He is also a businessman and Co-Chairman of the Bruges Group.
Click here to read the speech by Barry Legg

Speech by Barry Legg

Since we last met 12 months ago we have seen a series of very damaging events for our country, for its constitution, its institutions and our political parties. Thereís been a vacuum growing at the heart of British politics for several decades and I think this is in a year in which itís become very apparent to most of the British people.

Letís look first of all at some of the electoral events that weíve had this year. 30 years ago when we had national elections, the two main parties usually got about 85% of the vote. This year we had European elections, the two leading parties, the Conservative and the Labour Party, got 43% of the vote. Two parties that didnít exist 30 years ago, the UKIP Party and the BNP got 23% of the vote. Now you may say what does all this matter, the Conservatives won the European elections. Yes they did win the European elections but less than one in ten people that were eligible to vote actually went to the polling station and voted Conservative.

And letís look at another electoral event this year, the Norwich North by-election. Now those in the Conservative Party know that was a great success. The leader of the Conservative Party dashed to Norwich North to celebrate the triumph, what was the result? The result was that the nice Conservative candidate got 13,591 votes but wait a minute, in the 2005 General Election when we were led by the not so nice Mr Michael Howard; the Conservative candidate got 15,638 votes, 2,000 votes more.

Now I thought that the current strategy was actually to change the Conservative Party so we appeal to people that havenít previously voted for us. Is this strategy failing completely or is it possible that itís succeeding to some extent but it is being offset by even bigger desertions from people that have previously voted Conservative?

Iíve also got one other fact about Norwich North and thatís the result in 1987, when according to one Shadow Cabinet Minister we were the nasty party. We were led by our President, Baroness Thatcher and our Party Chairman was Norman Tebbit. Personally I prefer to regard them as two of the finest public servants this country has ever seen. The so called Ďnasty partyí polled 22,772 votes, so 9,000 votes greater than that achieved this year.

Now some of you may say, oh this is all very interesting but the Labour Party is terribly unpopular, Gordon Brown is terribly unpopular, weíre going to win the next General Election. Well I agree Labour is very unpopular, Brown is very unpopular but the problem is do we really believe that a Conservative Party coming into Government with less votes than it had in 2005 would have an effective mandate when we look at the range of problems this country faces today.

People I think are rightly cynical of politicians and political parties at this time more than any other in their lifetimes. Theyíve seen politicians lining their pockets at the taxpayersí expense, theyíre aware that politicians are not prepared to change these practices because most of them believe that they will get re-elected whatever their shortcomings. The public also knows that there is a great deceit at the heart of British public life and that deceit is that we are no longer a self-governing democracy. Parliament has given away the peopleís right to self-government.

Now you will be aware that during the last year the Lisbon Treaty has completed all its parliamentary stages and the good news is we won the argument. During the passage of the Treaty, William Hague accepted the arguments that the Bruges Group and others had been putting forward: yes the Lisbon Treaty is the European Constitution, yes the European Union will have its own legal personality, yes the Court of Justice will have the power to decide our rights as EU citizens, the Charter of Fundamental Rights will be legally binding. The Treaty is a self-amending Treaty and the Council of Ministers will be given the power to transfer more and more responsibilities to the European Union without going through this tiresome process of Parliamentary approval and referendums. This really is game, set and match to the European Union.

Effectively Britain would be left with some of the trappings of an independent state but essentially weíre moving towards becoming like the Massachusetts as a state in the United States.

Now the Conservative Party in Parliament has put forward and accepted all of these arguments but one thing that worries me just a little bit, they didnít actually try and carry these arguments to the country. Iím not aware of the leader of the opposition making one speech in which outside Parliament he sought to expose the fundamental of transfers of power that are taking place under this Treaty. Instead he invited Mr Clarke to join the Shadow Cabinet.

Now we are led to believe that the Czech President can save the British people from having their system of government fundamentally changed.

Ladies and gentlemen, isnít it time for Britain to stop hiding behind the small countries of Europe? Ireland has failed to save us; the Czech Republic will not save us. I call upon the Conservative Party to act in the national interest then the British people can save themselves. This week we must hear from the Conservative leadership that there will be a referendum when they are elected.

William Hague says we can only have one policy at a time, the policy is to have a referendum, we want that one policy put to the British people in a General Election.

If the Conservative Party is sincere in its opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, and I have no reason to believe it is not, then of course it would want a referendum to strengthen its negotiating position.

Now 70 years ago around this time, when the German Forces were flooding into Poland, Chamberlain came to the House of Commons and prevaricated as to whether we were going to honour our pledges to come to the aid of the Poles. At that moment, Leo Amery, an anti-appeasement Tory, shouted across the Chamber to Arthur Greenwood, who was going to reply for the Labour Party, ĎArthur, speak for Englandí. The message that goes from this meeting and from this conference today should be ĎDavid, speak for Britainí. If you fail to do this, people just might say, why bother to vote Conservative, the European Union really governs this country.

Ladies and gentlemen, Iíve dealt with just one area in which the major political parties have let us down and that is self-government, regrettably there are many others. The problems that this country face today I believe are more serious than those faced even in 1974. At that time most of our problems were concentrated in the direction of economic policy and industrial relations. I considered the solutions to those problems pretty straight forward, there has been a massive intellectual groundwork done on them and also I knew that however incompetent the Government was at that time, there were Members of Parliament that recognised the solutions to those problems and had the wherewithal to do something about them: Thatcher, Joseph, Tebbit, Powell, Biffin, Ridley just to name a few. And if Iíd lived 30 years before that and Iíd been worried about Hitlerís threats to Europe, I would have known there was a group of Parliamentarians that were well aware of that threat and had the wherewithal to do something about it in due course: Churchill, Eden, Amery, Macmillan, Cranborne and many others.

Today looking at Parliament we are faced by a range of problems: social, taxation, economic, constitutional and Iím afraid looking around, I do not see the men and women that are prepared to put the national interest first and put forward and carry through the solutions to those problems.

Instead what weíve witnessed from Parliament in the last year has been a shameful level of personal financial abuse. Itís existed to my knowledge for at least 17 years. When I entered Parliament in 1992, I was amazed that most of the expenses could be claimed without any receipts. When I queried the laxness of the system with a senior member, his reply was Ďitís not lax because weíre all honourable gentlemení.

Reform of the current system is actually, ladies and gentlemen, very, very straight forward indeed. If you understand what has happened to our Parliament over the last 40 years you will know that they have given up massive powers to the European Union. Most MPs now only attend Parliament for three days a week. That means they only need to be in London two days a week. Parliament now sits for only about 30 weeks a year. That means MPs just need an overnight allowance for 60 nights a year. Those that are within 50 miles of London can commute every day like many of their constituents do. The second home allowance has been the subject of gross abuse and it should be abolished.

Secondly, and itís amazing that I have to say this, no expenses should be claimed without receipts. Currently MPs can claim around £10,000 without producing a receipt. Now no wonder many MPs are out of touch with the way people live their lives. The rest of the population has a tax free allowance of around £5,500 a year and as you know every penny over that has to be accounted for to the taxman. By behaving like a bunch of dodgy plumbers MPs are effectively grabbing an extra £10,000 a year as a tax free cash payment. No wonder they donít understand that the rest of the population are feeling overtaxed.

The response of Gordon Brown and regrettably most MPs is to say we donít really want to change the system, all that weíll do is put a quango in charge of it, a quango will be in charge of this grossly abused and opaque system.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad youíve come to this meeting here today of the Bruges Group because weíre going to focus on some real issues. Iíve talked about Europe, Iíve talked about the abuse of Parliamentary expenses and how all of that can be changed. One of the other things that needs to happen if weíre going to have an honest and effective Parliament is to reduce the payroll vote. We have hundreds of Ministers swanning around Westminster who are merely minor bureaucrats. Now David Cameron says he only wants 113 chauffeur driven cars for his Ministers. Now I think that is a gross waste of public money. Frankly I think the payroll vote and the number of junior Ministers should be chopped down to about 50. Not only have we got a terribly wasteful financial system at the moment, but having so many people on the payroll, whichever Party is in office, means that Parliament is less independent than it otherwise would be.

Let me just give you one example of how this works. In 1992 John Major called a vote on the Maastricht Treaty to decide whether its progress through Parliament should continue. It was called the Paving Vote. I and a dozen other Conservative MPs did the sensible thing and voted against it. We lost by two votes. As a result the Euro was created and there was a massive extension of European Government. Over the coming weeks I was struck by the number of junior Ministers who came up to me and explained theyíd been sitting in their offices in Whitehall praying that the Maastricht vote was lost by their Government. They had no intention of joining us and voting against that legislation, we just needed two of them, but those Ministers put their salaries and their political, their so called political careers before the best interest of this country.

Iím afraid also that these tendencies have increased considerably in recent years. Our political parties have become far too centralised. Itís no good having a primary system if the people standing in the primaries have actually been selected from the centre. The primary system in America doesnít involve people being selected from inside the Washington Beltway and then sent out into the United States to win individual states, the local republicans, the local democrats select the candidates and put them forward for primaries, thatís what local democracy should be all about.

But itís even worse than that, our politics have been largely centralised, the registration of Political Parties Act 1998 really Europeanised our parties, it made it clear where the power lay, the power in political parties under that Act lies at the centre, the centre has the final say as to who the party political candidates are in individual constituencies rather than the local parties and the people that the MPs seek to represent. And itís because of that we have unfortunate situations like that where Howard Flight, for speaking his mind in a most sensible way, calling for the restraint of public expenditure, was effectively dismissed as a Conservative MP.

Ladies and gentlemen, the political parties at this time are not helping themselves and the Government is not helping itself. We are facing a massive political crisis in economic policy. Within days of the last Party Conference two major British Banks had gone bust. A decade of flawed economic policies both here and in the United States and at the ECB had produced catastrophic consequences and let no one be in any doubt, the responsibility for this economic crisis lies with Government, politicians and the officials that serve them.

Dangerously lax monetary policy was the predominant theme of the latter years of Alan Greenspanís tenure at the Federal Reserve. Mr Brown became a discipline of Alan Greenspan and a dangerous cocktail of easy money created a property bubble within the United Kingdom. But Mr Brown wasnít just content with having a lax monetary policy, he also had a lax fiscal policy, he ran up deficit at the peak of an economic boom, he put public expenditure on a path that was not sustainable for the future. The problems of the current economic crisis lie with governments, not with greedy bankers. Greedy bankers are the symptoms of the crisis we face today and it is the duty of the Conservative Party not to join in the human cry for scapegoats, but to put forward policies that support private enterprise and involve cutting public expenditure.

Public expenditure needs to be cut today and there must be no sacred cows. When the Conservative Party thinks itís more important to keep overseas aid expenditure high but is prepared to look at lower defence expenditure I can tell you theyíve got their priorities wrong.

Ladies and gentlemen, the present economic crisis is the fault of governments and not due to the failure of markets. Encumbered politicians will rush to blame the markets, if opposition parties that are supposed to support enterprise do likewise, we risk a world in which most economic decisions are made by the state rather than the people. Our political parties have let the country down, but the voices of those who believe in democracy, self-government and freedom of choice will not fall silent, we will continue to advocate change until once again we have a country that we are proud of.

Thank you.

Speech by Simon Heffer

When I had the considerable honour to address this meeting last year, many of you who were there will remember this, I was scheduled to be on with two Conservative MEPs and when the Party heard that they would be sharing a platform with me and Nigel Farage of UKIP they were banned from coming. Now I look around the room today and I can see several faces I recognise of Tory MPs, I think you havenít told the Whips that youíre here otherwise there may be a problem.

All political parties are coalitions and what strikes me as odd about the Conservative Party is that while being a coalition, itís a coalition that seems to try to further the aims of one of the more marginal or insignificant parts of that coalition. I have only anecdotal evidence for this but when I look at how many people have come here today from this Party Conference, which seems to me to be quite a large shall we say dissident gathering, it strikes me that there are a great many people in this Party who are members of the Party, who have given up their time to come to this conference, who may be slightly concerned at the line that theyíre getting from the Shadow Cabinet and the hall and who feel perhaps that their own views are unrepresented by those who may well be carrying Conservative policy into Government in seven or eight months time.

Now Iím not particularly surprised about that because as we know the Conservative Party has for the last four years or so been driven not so much by politicians as by public relations men. It hasnít relied on either instinct or shall we say a carefully judged view of the public interest to decide what policies to follow, itís relied on what focus groups manipulated by those same public relations men have told it to do. And this may be very useful in keeping people happy who may in the end still go and vote for the Lib Dems or for the Labour Party, but it isnít very good at persuading people to vote Conservative, not least because, as Barry has hinted in his own words, it tends to alienate people who are part of what the Conservative hierarchy rather disparagingly calls the core vote. Thatís you by the way, you are the core vote, you are the people who have proper old fashioned Conservative values Ė thatís how they will see it, thatís not my phrase Ė and you believe in things like the integrity of the nation, sovereignty, the small state, strong law and order, strong defence, things that led Theresa May at Bournemouth seven or eight years ago to get up and brand the Conservative Party Ďthe nasty partyí.

Now in six or seven months time this coalition of a Party may well be in office and it is going to have to deal with something a bit more than public relations, its going to have to deal with the governance of Britain. And I just want to confine myself to three areas in which I feel, not just that proper Conservative values are not being pursued, but where what is definably and clearly demonstrably the national interest is not being pursued either.

I will begin with a question that Barry touched on at great length which is Europe. I almost feel sorry for David Cameron on this because he is about to inherit something that is not of his making. He has made it clear Ė unlike Barry I donít doubt his sincerity Ė that he would have liked to have had a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The trouble is we have ratified this and only two other countries in Europe are yet to ratify it and if they do before a General Election that Treaty will be in place. Now Iím sure many of you know this and Iím telling you something you know already and I apologise, but there wont be some separate component of the Treaties by which Europe is governed called the Lisbon Treaty that we can simply have a referendum on them and unpick, what Lisbon does is to be consolidated into the main Treaty by which Europe is governed.

Now this is where Mr Cameron has a dilemma and it requires him to be absolutely honest with the country. He can say with total integrity that he wouldnít have started from here if he becomes Prime Minister, if he becomes Prime Minister of a country that is now governed by the Treaty of Lisbon, but all he can say is the choice ahead of us is not whether or not we have a renegotiation, its whether we stay in or get out.

Now Iím not being absolutist about this for the sake of it, Iím being realistic. I went to Brussels three weeks ago and spent two days talking to diplomats from our own country and from other countries about the Treaty of Lisbon for a series that my newspaper did on this subject, and they all said there would be no intergovernmental conference for 10 or possibly 15 years, we have done with treaty making.

Now itís all very well to talk about renegotiation but the problem is, it takes another 26 countries around Europe to agree to renegotiate with us, we canít renegotiate something on our own and at the moment the Commission will not let us have another intergovernmental conference. So Mr Cameron has to be quite honest about this, he can have a referendum but that referendum has to perhaps ask the question, do you want me as your head of Government to threaten the European Union that if you donít decide to change your mind and have a renegotiation and have an intergovernmental conference we will leave. Now that is the only honest position. I must say itís a question I rather wish had been asked about 20 years ago, but it may have to come to that because there is no middle way, you cannot just unpick the Treaty, which to my intense regret, we have ratified and which to my even greater regret I fear the rest of Europe will complete ratification of before the General Election.

So thatís one of the first examples heís going to have of the very hard choice that a head of Government has to make. But how many people in the Conservative Party now are the sort of people who like the idea of the Treaty of Lisbon, I would say very few. If the Party is a coalition, thereís a very, very large part of that coalition which wants nothing to do with the antidemocratic Europe the Treaty of Lisbon establishes. And so surely it is vital for Mr Cameron to think about this very carefully because if we are confronted by the ratchet effect of the Treaty of Lisbon, which means that more and more democratic sacrifices have to be made by countries like ours, heís going to find it very hard not just to hold his Party together, but also to hold the country together for those many people who arenít a member of a political party, the vast majority in this country, who will begin to see that they are being effected by this democratic deficit that Europe has inflicted upon us.

The second thing I want to touch on is education only because itís something that I get an enormous postbag about as a columnist. I donít know whether any of you saw but the present Chairman at the Headmastersí Conference on Saturday attacked the Conservative Partyís plans for what they call the Swedish model of schools, which are schools where local communities decide to run the schools and are funded to do so with no serious state interference. The Chairman of the HMC said well this is all very well and good but by refusing to allow any element of charging and by refusing to allow any element of selectivity, the two things that would make these schools really work arenít being allowed to happen and therefore they almost certainly wont work.

Now one thing I find almost harder to understand than anything else the Conservative Party stand for is its absolutely blinkered opposition to selective schools. I donít see how it serves the people of this country and how it serves the public interest to deny clever children who donít come from wealthy families the chance to have the sort of education that some of us pay for our children to have in the private sector. I have a slight, well not a conflict; I see this from two different standpoints. I have two children at public schools but I went to a grammar school myself, but I think it ill behoves a Party led by somebody who had one of the most privileged educations that money can buy to say that Iím going to pull the ladder up and not allow people who canít afford that sort of education but who have the talent to thrive and prosper, Iím going to deny them the right to have a grammar school education. Not only should the Conservative Party do a U-turn on that, it should also say immediately to areas like Kent, where I know the schools are grotesquely oversubscribed, that it can build more grammar schools. It isnít just putting grammar schools into areas where they arenít there at the moment, itís by allowing more grammar schools to be built in areas where there simply arenít enough. And I know that Iíve had this argument with education spokesmen in the Tory Party and they say its unfair because even if you accept that there might be a chance for people who failed at 11 to try and succeed again at 13 or 16, which many grammar schools including the one I went to offer, they say parents with money will move to a catchment area and buy that form of privilege for their children. Well thereís a very easy answer to that, make everywhere a catchment area. If you have a grammar school in every town everywhere is a catchment area, no one is going to be able to buy that privilege by moving house.

And it is very strongly evidence I feel of how political parties, how this political party is failing not just its notional clientele among the Conservative core vote, but its failing people of no political party and all political parties who have children who want those children to be better educated. And this is about the future of our country and the future of our country is always important but itís especially important at a time when we are in economic meltdown and where we are going to need to breed brains and talent for the future to pay off our debts and get us out of this mess. At the moment weíre doing that with one hand tied behind our back.

Finally and most importantly the economy; as you know we are undergoing something called quantitative easing, which Iíve always thought sounded like something one goes to the doctor for, and indeed it does seem to be a bit of a sickness because we have put I think getting on for £200 billion worth of money back into the economy by printing money in the last four or five months. This has had a terrible effect on the value of Stirling, which has now declined back to 92p against the euro, it was just I think 84p or 85p at the beginning of June.

Now the Governor of the Bank of England is very happy with this because he wants to have what he calls an export led recovery and certainly our exporters are doing incredibly well but we are beggaring ourselves for the future. And what most worries me is that we are using this money that weíre printing to buy Government Bonds and so we are financing our own debt as a Government by printing money. Quantitative easing is supposed to come to an end at the end of this month, then if we want to sell gilt-edged stocks real people like us have got to go and buy them, but would we buy a pig in a poke? The only way that the Government is going to succeed in selling those gilt-edged stocks to people when its not buying them with its own printed money is to stick up the long term interest rates on them and that is not something that can be done in isolation, it will have an enormous impact on the price of servicing our enormous Government debt, which I think now is something like £800 billion. Thereís a total debt including private debt of nearly £1.5 trillion but more than half of that is Government debt. So we are in a real mess and we have got to find a way of engendering some form of economic recovery in this country without completely devastating our economy.

Now one thing that I feel very strongly about and itís not purely for reasons of naked self-interest, is the 50p tax rate. One of the focus group findings I am told the Conservative Party had is that people who sit on focus groups are very keen to see the rich, whoever they may be, pay more tax, they love it. So the Conservative Party has been very reluctant to give anything other than a guarded possibility that at some stage I think Cameron said the other day, if the 50% rate doesnít raise any money because of tax avoidance by people who would pay it then he will get rid of it. Well Iíve seen at least two very reputable think tank studies that say already that it wonít raise any money because of the ways that people will get around it and of course weíre going to lose people, weíre already losing people, who are going to go abroad and take their businesses with them. But actually thereís more to it than that, its more damaging even than that because people who pay 50p tax, they wont be the ones alone who suffer if their incomes are reduced by the state taking more money itís the people that they employ, itís the services that they use. And every time you take money out of a so called rich personís pocket, itís also taken out of the pockets of the people on whom he spends it. And this seems to me to be so self-evident and so self-evidently bad for the country and bad for the national interest and bad for the economy and bad for employment, which I understand is one of Mr Cameronís main obsessions at this conference, and quite right too, that I canít understand why the Conservative Party is sticking to this ridiculously cautious procedure.

With so many of these things that the Conservative Party does that I just canít quite comprehend, its all about the failure to find a rhetoric to explain it to the British people and given that they are all PR men they should be really good at finding a rhetoric to do this. I canít understand why they canít say if we put tax up to 50p or keep it at 50p there will be people working in factories, there will be people working in retail, there will be people who clean peopleís houses, people who dig their gardens, people who work in the leisure industry who wont have jobs anymore because the disposable income that was there to finance those jobs will have been taken up by the state to pay off debt or to run the client state. And it canít be that difficult to say this and to my mind this fundamental misunderstanding of how the economy works is the greatest way that the Conservative Party fails this country.

I know that if it gets into power it will perhaps have to change some of the things that itís saying at this conference today, itís certainly going to have to be very tough on the public sector because there is no way forward in terms of rescuing the economy but by cutting the public sector quite severely. Now how you marry that with the jobs that must be lost in the public sector with a conference thatís all about getting people back to work I simply donít understand, but there does seem to be a certain rhetorical skid thatís going to have to be made at some stage to do this.

So I look at the turnout figures from the last two elections, 59.8% in 2001, just over 60% last time and you see that two in five people canít be bothered to vote and it would be a brave person who would say that the turnout next May or June, whenever the Election is, will be any higher, I certainly wouldnít say that. I know that thereís great disgust with Gordon Brown and quite right too. Heís made an appalling mess of this country and he does not deserve another mandate. And even if we buy that old line about oppositions donít win elections, governments lose them, even if we buy that line and I think we probably have to, the time is going to come when the Conservative Party is going to have to start governing in the national interest and start governing in the interests of the people who would normally vote for it. Now I know that this requires doing some things that might have it branded as nasty like saying weíre going to cut the 50p tax back, weíre going to lay our cards on the table with Europe, weíre going to bring back selective schools and weíre going to further a selective education policy, they are just three things, I could name many others. I know that these are all contentious; I know that they all smell like things the Conservative Party did 20/30/40 years ago, but it doesnít mean that they are wrong.

And Iím always affected by the memory of something that Enoch Powell said very famously 41 years ago at the Party Conference at Blackpool. He was then talking about immigration, something we havenít touched on today, but he said Ďtoo often today people are ready to tell us this is not possible, that is not possible, I say whatever the true interest of our country calls for is always possible. We have nothing to fear but our own doubtsí. The real purpose of a political party, the way that it ensures it doesnít fail the British people, whoever the people in whatever country they happen to exist, is that it governs in their interest, in their objective interest. If the Conservative Party could just go away from this conference saying weíre going to forget the focus groups, weíre going to forget the PR spin, weíre going to look at the real problems besetting this country and weíre going to deal with them however much that might make people who normally vote Labour and Lib Dem upset, then it will win the Election, if it doesnít do that who knows.

Thank you.

Speech by Peter Hitchens

Ladies and gentlemen and comrades Ė as I believe the Conservative Party now addresses each other Ė was it wise I ask myself to hold a dissident meeting Ė even perhaps insurgent meeting by the end of it if I have anything to do with it Ė so near to the site of the Peterloo Massacre, I hope not.

However, a number of urgent pieces of breaking news, I understand that David Cameron invited Boris Johnson for a drink last night to sort out the problems over Europe, I also understand he put Rohypnol in his champagne and I believe that he will be putting Rohypnol in the champagne of everybody here if youíre allowed of course to drink champagne in public, because he hopes very much that this will be the Rohypnol conference of the Conservative Party in which youíre all systematically date raped by social democracy and political correctness. I look forward to it.

Simon referred to you as the core vote but beware of this designation, remember what happens to the core after the boy has eaten the apple; the core is the part which he discards and chucks into the bin. Now that Iím afraid is the fate of people who continue to believe in the extraordinary delusion that there is anything conservative about the Conservative Party. Thank you very much; I hope theyíll be more of you soon.

Now the title of this meeting is ĎAre the political parties failing the voters of Britain?í unnecessary questions which do not need to be asked, number 117, but let us go into a few reasons why the Conservative Party is failing the voters of Britain. Small things: power, national independence, justice and liberty, law and crime, knowledge, authority, the family, Christianity and the future of our country as an independent state, nothing important. However, on all these matters of course the Conservative Party does fail the voters who continue as I say bafflingly to put its trust in it and it will continue to do so as long as they continue to put their trust in it because that is its purpose in our political life. And I could Ė though I donít propose to detain you very long here, the other speeches having been perhaps a little longer than I can go on for and Iím not a spellbinder like the other two Ė I canít begin to recount the list from the Munich Agreement onwards of all the ways in which the Conservative Party has let this country and its people down so I wont, but I think if you consult your knowledge you will see that something of the kind is going on.

I will however answer one question which Simon asked. Why is it he asked that the Conservative Party should have adopted the policy, the crucial policy, the true clause 4 of the Labour Party that is of comprehensive education? The purpose of comprehensive education is not education, it never was and when Anthony Crossland dreamed it up it was purely and quite clearly an alternative to the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy, which had already failed as an objective and a means by the middle 50s. The purpose of comprehensive education is egalitarianism first, education second and wherever there is a conflict between the two the education comes second, egalitarianism above all things. And the Conservative Party has bought it because into the Conservative Partyís DNA has entered the egalitarianism and revolutionary spirit of the 1960s. The difference between the Labour Party which is full of Ex-Trotskyís and the Conservative Party which isnít is that at least the Labour Partyís Ex-Trotskyís understand what it is that they are doing, thatís it. How do you like that?

What we see with the three major parties which confront us is a coalition against common sense. There is a complete resistance on all the parties to things which we all know, we all know in this room and far outside this room to be true about whether its necessary to punish criminals, about whether its necessary to have frontiers, about whether it is necessary to support the family and the institution of marriage, we all know these things are necessary. When you turn to any member of the Shadow Cabinet and interrogate them as one tries to do, about their attitudes towards these and many other important subjects their answers are at the very best vague and at the worst deeply disturbing. This is not a Party which have any plan to adopt common sense or to pursue it and it will not do so.

And you have at this coming Election, and itís probably the last time before I die that we will have this opportunity in this country so I do commend it to you very strongly, a very interesting opportunity, and one which hasnít presented itself to this country before. You canít change the government, whoever you vote for youíll get the same thing: social democratic rubbish, comprehensive schools, the European Union you name it youíll get it, political correctness, youíll get that too, failure to tackle crime, youíll get that, ultimate failure to guard our frontiers, youíll get that, that I can guarantee you. What you can do, and this is the unique chance which you possess, is you can sack the opposition because if this Conservative Party fails once more then it cannot conceivably hold together, it is already a ludicrous coalition of opposites and conflicting views and if it fails once more then it wont really be ludicrous it will be insupportable. And I cannot recommend you highly enough the course of simply not voting for them. Its incredibly easy, I propose to spend next Election day having lunch in France, maybe some of you have less ambitious plans, maybe just do the garden or clean behind the fridge as UKIP is always urging people to do, something, anything other than voting for the Conservative Party and magically, if you do this, you will open for this country and for yourselves the opportunity of a political future in which we will be able to create a party which is genuinely conservative.

Now I stand before you here as an extremist that is to say I believe that criminals should be punished, I believe that schools are for passing on knowledge with authority, I believe that Christianity should be the religion of this country, I believe that the married families are the most fundamental institution in a free society, I believe that our national liberty from Habeas Corpus to the system of jury trial are our most precious possessions and I believe they should be protected. These concessions make me, as far as the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are concerned, an extremist. I hope you will join me in my extremism and reject them all.


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Thursday, 18th June 2015 - 3.40pm for 4pm
The future of the euro
Professor Bernd Lucke MEP 

Monday, 1st June 2015
The EU and the Future of Britain
Tim Aker MEP 
Peter Oborne 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Thursday, 26th February 2015
Democracy, the EU and the Future of Britain
Douglas Carswell MP 
Gordon Henderson MP 
Lord Stoddart of Swindon 

Saturday, 22nd November 2014
Restoring Self-Government to Britain

Monday, 29th September 2014
UKIP and the Future of the Conservative Party
James Delingpole 
Charles Moore 
The Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP 

Bruges Group and Bloomberg meeting
The EUís attack on Britainís most successful industry
Lars Seier Christensen 
Professor Tim Congdon 
Dr Gerard Lyons 

Monday, 2nd June 2014
British Politics After the European Elections
Kate Hoey MP 
Cllr Diane James MEP 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Wednesday, 23rd April 2014
How the EUís Climate Alarmism is Costing You Money
Christopher Chope OBE MP 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Graham Stringer MP 

Thursday, 6th March 2014
Europe, UKIP and the 2015 Election and Britainís Place in a Changing World
The Hon. Bernard Jenkin MP 
Dr Ruth Lea CBE 
John Mills 
Lord Willoughby de Broke 

Wednesday, 12th February 2014 - 6.45pm for 7pm
The EU: A Crisis of Democracy and the Economy
Lars Seier Christensen 
The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick 
Professor David Myddelton 

How Britain can withdraw from the EU
Which Way Out?

Manchester Meeting
Conservatives and UKIP: enemies or allies?
Bill Cash MP 
Nigel Farage MEP 
Peter Oborne 

Tuesday, 23rd July 2013
Baroness Thatcher Tribute Evening
Dr Robin Harris 
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC 

Wednesday, 12th June 2013
Germany and the euro - with Professor Bernd Lucke
Professor Bernd Lucke MEP 

St Georgeís Day Meeting
Immigration: Can we control it?
Gerard Batten MEP 
Sir Andrew Green KCMG 
Philip Hollobone MP 

Wednesday, 27th February 2013
The EU, the British Economy and the City of London
Roger Bootle 
Professor Tim Congdon 
Terry Smith 

Tuesday, 12th February 2013
From Here to the Referendum
Peter Bone MP 
Sir Richard Shepherd MP 

Tuesday, 27th November 2012
Europe: The Shattering of Illusions
President Václav Klaus 

Celebrating with the Maastricht Rebels
Dinner celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Maastricht Rebellion
Bill Cash MP 
Barry Legg 

Rejecting the EU ís Red Tape Area
International Conference: Saying No to the Single Market

Bruges Group Conservative Party Fringe Meeting
How Britain Can Exit The EU
Professor Tim Congdon 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 
Gisela Stuart MP 

Tuesday, 10th July 2012
Britain, the EU and the USA
Charles Moore 
John O'Sullivan CBE 

Tuesday, 15th May 2012
Freedom from the EU
Hjörtur J Guðmundsson 
Roger Helmer MEP 

Thursday, 3rd May 2012
President Václav Klaus addresses the Bruges Group
President Václav Klaus 

Wednesday, 11th April 2012
Shackled to the failing EU
Dr Ruth Lea CBE 
The Hon. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP 

Wednesday, 1st February 2012
The Political Class and their support for the EU
Dr Robin Harris 
Simon Heffer 

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International Conference
After the euro

Renegotiation or Withdrawal
Euroscepticism or Secession?
David Campbell Bannerman MEP 
Peter Hitchens 

Conservative Party Conference Fringe Meeting
Europe: Time for Action
Mr Timo Soini 
Dr David Starkey 

Monday, 18th July 2011
Excessive Governance and the Suffocation of Britain
Professor Ken Minogue 

Wednesday, 22nd June 2011
The EU and the Undermining of Democracy
Zac Goldsmith MP 
Kate Hoey MP 
David Nuttall MP 

Tuesday, 31st May 2011
Britain Beyond the EU
Kelvin Hopkins MP 
Derek Scott 

Thursday, 24th March 2011
Parliament, the EU and National Sovereignty
Bill Cash MP 
Peter Oborne 

Saturday, 6th November 2010
Exit Strategy

Tuesday, 19th October 2010
A meeting with Lord Tebbit & Richard Shepherd MP
Sir Richard Shepherd MP 
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC 

Monday, 4th October 2010
Why the election pledges must be honoured
Roger Helmer MEP 
Melanie Phillips 

Monday, 20th September 2010
The EUís latest financial threat
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 
Gabriel Stein 

Wednesday, 14th July 2010
Is the eurozone breaking up?
Douglas Carswell MP 
Professor Tim Congdon 

Thursday, 25th February 2010
Demanding a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty
Nigel Dodds MP 
Stuart Wheeler 

Thursday, 14th January 2010
New Year's Reception
The Rt Hon. Baroness Thatcher LG, OM, FRS 

Saturday, 21st November 2009
2009 Conference

Monday, 26th October 2009
The City Under Threat & Britain and the EU: The Crunch
Professor Tim Congdon 
Daniel Hannan MEP 

Monday, 5th October 2009
Are the political parties failing the voters of Britain?
Simon Heffer 
Peter Hitchens 
Barry Legg 

Wednesday, 17th June 2009
euro Vice
Dr Anthony Coughlan 
Edward Leigh MP 

Wednesday, 20th May 2009
Immigration and the European Union
Sir Andrew Green KCMG 
Sir Richard Shepherd MP 

Thursday, 30th April 2009
The EU and what the Conservatives should be doing about it
Fraser Nelson 
Stuart Wheeler 

Wednesday, 18th March 2009
Quantitative Easing, the Credit Crunch and the EU
Professor Tim Congdon 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Tuesday, 24th February 2009
The Destruction of Parliamentary Democracy
Martin Howe QC 
Rt Hon. Peter Lilley MP 

Saturday, 22nd November 2008
Bruges Group Conference: How EU and Government Waste is Costing You Money

Norman Tebbit and the Czech President Speak Out Against EU Centralisation
Dinner in the Presence of Baroness Thatcher
President Václav Klaus 
The Rt. Hon Lord Tebbit of Chingford, CH, PC 
The Rt Hon. Baroness Thatcher LG, OM, FRS 

Monday, 20th October
The Political Economy, the Financial Crisis and Anglo-American Strategy
Andrew Roberts 
Dr Irwin Stelzer 

Monday, 29th September
Will a Conservative Government Deliver on Europe?
Nigel Farage MEP 
Simon Heffer 

Thursday, 17th July
Europe, America and Democracy
John O'Sullivan CBE 

Wednesday, 18th June
Waterloo Day Meeting
Gerald Frost 
Lord Willoughby de Broke 

Thursday, 15th May
Repealing the Lisbon Treaty and Independence from the EU
Douglas Carswell MP 
Frederick Forsyth 

Wednesday, 27th February
Campaigning against the Lisbon Treaty
Bill Cash MP 
John Hayes MP 
Lord Pearson 

Saturday, 17th November 2007
2007 Conference
Gerard Batten MEP 
Christopher Booker 
Bernard Connolly 
Dr Anthony Coughlan 
Marc Henri Glendenning 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Martin Howe QC 
Dr Ruth Lea CBE 
Cllr Steve Radford 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Thursday, 25th October 2007
The EU's Threat to the City of London
Professor Tim Congdon 
Professor Ken Minogue 

Demanding a vote on Europe
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting 2007
Syed Kamall MEP 
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

Let the people decide
Rally for a Referendum
Nigel Farage MEP 
Daniel Hannan MEP 

The European Union's environmental agenda and the EU's endemic corruption
EU corruption and EU environmental policy
Chris Heaton-Harris MEP 
Julian Morris 

The EU's plans and its impact on trade liberalisation
The EU moving forward, but holding the world back
The Rt Hon. David Heathcoat-Amory MP 
Dr Brian Hindley 

Believing in Britain
Tercentenary Dinner with Lord Tebbit and Andrew Roberts

A brighter future
Bruges Group Conference
Christopher Booker 
Barry Legg 
 John Midgley   

The EU: Options for Britain
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting with Douglas Carswell MP and Christopher Booker
Christopher Booker 

A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900
Andrew Roberts addresses the Bruges Group
Andrew Roberts 

No clash with a world cup game
Frederick Forsyth addressed the Group
Frederick Forsyth 

World affairs and British policy towards the EU
Luke Johnson and Dr Irwin Stelzer

Standard bearers of democracy and the nation-state speak out
Christopher Booker and Lord Tebbit address the Bruges Group
Christopher Booker 

Ignoring the French Non and the Dutch Nee the EU takes more powers
Conference: Integration marching on
Christopher Booker 
Dr Ruth Lea CBE 
Professor Ken Minogue 

Visions for the future
Fringe Meeting: The Conservative Party, Where Next?
The Rt Hon. John Redwood MP 

A businessman's view
Simon Wolfson, CEO of Next plc, addresses the Group
Simon Wolfson 

Integration thwarted?
Where does Europe go now?

Defending democracy
The EU Constitution: Why Britain Should say No

The European Union: In or Out?
International Conference

Moving towards New Europe
European Problems and Their Non-Solutions
President Václav Klaus 

Which side of the fence?
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting
The Rt Hon. David Heathcoat-Amory MP 
The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick 

Immigration and the EU Constitution
Tuesday, 13th July 2004
Sir Andrew Green KCMG 

The EU Constitution - a threat to freedom
Wednesday, 9th June 2004
Professor Roland Vaubel 

The suggestion that EU Constitution was just "tidying up" is a silly phrase best forgotten
Wednesday, 19th May 2004
Gisela Stuart MP 

The European Union - an Unionist/Ulster perspective and Tax harmonisation and EU Competition policy
Wednesday, 5th May 2004
Jeffrey Donaldson MP 
Carl Mortishead 

Bruges Group events
15th Anniversary Meeting
Professor Ken Minogue 

Free and global future or an EU Province?
The EU Constitution and the UK's Role in Europe and the World: International Conference 2003
Lord Blackwell 
Christopher Booker 
Hynek Fajmon MP 
Dr Ruth Lea CBE 
Barry Legg 

The EU CONstitution
Conservative Party Fringe Meeting

Bruges Group events
Tuesday 8th July 2003

Bruges Group events
Wednesday 11th June 2003
The Rt Hon. Oliver Letwin MP 
Professor Patrick Minford CBE 

Bruges Group events
Wednesday 14th May 2003

Bruges Group events
14th Anniversary Meeting
The Rt Hon. David Heathcoat-Amory MP 
The Rt Hon. Lord Lamont of Lerwick 

Bruges Group International Conference
What future the EU?
Professor  Albert Leone Ganado 
Lindsay Jenkins 

Bruges Group International Conference
Alternatives to the EU
Dr Anthony Coughlan 
Professor Christie Davies 
Margit Gennser 
Roger Helmer MEP 
Dr Brian Hindley 
Dr John Hulsman 
HE the Rt Hon. Don McKinnon 
Professor Ivar Raig 
Dr Helen Szamuely