Outside of a Wednesday lunchtime, most people very sensibly ignore the Punch and Judy trivia of politics. They want MPs to get on with the job: building a stronger, more competitive economy; doing justice to our vulnerable and elderly; and standing up for Britain abroad.
Today it is a Conservative team delivering those things. We are in Government. We have a long-term economic plan. And it is working.
It was not always thus. My first run for Parliament was back in 1997. I remember canvassing in the pouring rain, miserably. The mood on the doorstep wasn’t much better. The campaign was long and fruitless. A tense election night was spent hoping I had done enough not to lose my deposit.
In 2001, I got beaten again, this time in the more hopeful Hertfordshire seat of Welwyn Hatfield: which I would later win in 2005 with a majority of just under 6,000 and then again in 2010 with a 17,423 majority. But, nationally, back in 2001 we won just one extra seat. We fought like tigers, but clawed back just one per cent at the polls. The prospect of a Conservative PM seemed like a distant and impossible dream.
We must never, never forget that period of our party’s history – or how far we have travelled since then.
Today, in 2014, at Conservative Spring Forum (fully booked I am pleased to say, with a waiting list for spare tickets!) we can be proud of what Conservatives are doing for the country:
· Having taken difficult decisions on spending, George Osborne has just delivered the biggest personal and business tax cuts for two decades. We are now at a record 30 million people in a job, working towards full employment.
· William Hague has worked with the Prime Minister to cut the EU Budget for the first time, get Britain out of Labour’s expensive Eurozone bail outs, and press for real change Europe. As he has said, only the Conservatives will give you that referendum. Labour and the Lib Dems won’t and UKIP can’t.
· Iain Duncan Smith is capping benefits to make work pay, and protecting pensioners with the most generous rises in our State Pension’s history. Never again will we see Labour’s insulting 75p increases.
· Eric Pickles is working with Town Halls to freeze council tax (having seen it double under Labour) and has relaunched Margaret Thatcher’s Right To Buy, to help families be more financially secure. Last year, 10,000 social tenants have become homeowners as a result.
· Patrick McLoughlin has tripled the investment in Britain’s motorways and major A-roads. He is on track to resurface 80 per cent of our national roads, and is pushing through the biggest programme of road investment since the 1970s.
· Michael Gove has given radical new freedoms to teachers in over 3,600 schools, through a huge expansion in the Academy Programme. Combined with a rigorous new focus on Maths and English, this will help more children to reach their full potential.
· Theresa May has worked with the Police to cut crime by more than 10 per cent, and is now bringing in new laws to stamp out the appalling crime of slavery, where brothels and illegal drugs farms abuse women and children against their will.
· Philip Hammond has eliminated Labour’s £38 billion black hole in the defence budget, and now built in a small annual surplus. This means our Armed Forces can get the equipment they need to do their jobs and have confidence for the future.
· Jeremy Hunt is bringing back the family doctor, with named GPs and transparency for the first time in our NHS, as well as making huge strides in the battle against long-term conditions like Alzheimer’s.
There are other notable examples, from Chris Grayling’s mandatory life sentences for serious violent offenders, to Greg Clarke’s City Deals, to Francis Maude’s elimination of waste in Whitehall.
But the key point is this. Other parties are shouting from the sidelines. Barely a day goes by without Ed Miliband dreaming up some new gimmick. But it is us Conservatives who are delivering for Britain: not just in one narrow area but across the whole, broad, sweeping terrain of Government.
At the Conservative Spring Forum today, we should remember: David Cameron has rebuilt us into a party of Government again. A national party, on the side of the whole country rather than just one part of it. A party with a strong team, a plan to secure Britain’s future, and a hunger to deliver it. We have come a long way indeed.
Grant Shapps is MP for Welwyn Hatfield and Conservative Party Chairman. He was Housing Minister from 2010-2012.