“This past week has been a momentous one for our country, the like of which we have not seen for generations.
Expectations have been upended, conventional wisdoms overturned, our nation’s destiny changed.
At a time like this – a hinge in history – two paths beckon.
We can either try to muddle through and hope for the best.
Or we can lean in, embrace the change the British people voted for and shape it in our interests – facing the challenges of the days ahead with cool heads and making the most of the new opportunities open to us with resolute and daring hearts.
I am here today to argue for that second path – the path of change – embarking on a journey to reach a renewed Britain – optimistic, open to the world, a place of hope and healing.
Of course, as we pause and draw breath after the events of the last week and the British people’s brave and right decision to leave the European Union it’s important to remind ourselves of some fundamental truths and enduring realities.
As a result of the decisions taken by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor over the last six years our economy is fundamentally stronger than when the coalition Government was formed in 2010.
Difficult but necessary steps have been taken to reduce our deficit, restore our public finances and recapitalise our banks.
That means – whatever decisions we take in the weeks ahead – our economy rests on firm foundations.
And since last Thursday those charged with ensuring financial and economic stability have brought calm and reassurance.
I want in particular to pay tribute to the Governor of the Bank of England for making clear that Britain is prepared for this transition.
The plans are in place. The flexibility and liquidity is there to respond to this change.
Thanks to the big economic decisions taken over the last six years and the wise actions taken over the last six days we can look forward with confidence.
Because while there are challenges ahead, there are also tremendous opportunities for our country.
If we are going to meet those challenges and make the most of those opportunities then I believe we need to reboot and renew our democracy.
We need to listen to what the British people told us in such numbers last week.
They want an end to politics-as-usual and they want a new direction for this country.
We in Government need to hear that call.
And we as a country need to be bold, to step forwards, to believe in ourselves.
Why I am standing
That is why I have invited you here today.
To tell you why I have decided to stand for the leadership…
…to explain the course we must take in the wake of the referendum…
…and to set out my vision for Britain.
I am running in this leadership contest for one reason – and one reason alone.
I want this country I love – and which has given me so much – to embrace this opportunity for change with optimism and conviction.
I never thought I’d ever be in this position.
I did not want it, indeed I did almost everything not be a candidate for the leadership of this party.
I was so very reluctant because I know my limitations. Whatever charisma is I don’t have it, whatever glamour may be I don’t think anyone could ever associate me with it.
But – at every step in my political life – I’ve asked myself one question.
What is the right thing to do. What does your heart tell you.
However inconvenient, however difficult, whatever personal risks it may entail.
What is the right thing to do. What does your heart tell you.
That is how I faced the central question of this Parliament – the European Referendum.
I did not duck for cover, I did not hedge or hesitate to say what I believed. I made clear I believed in change, I believed in leaving the European Union.
It was not easy to make that choice and to go on to make the case for leaving.
It meant I parted company with my friend David Cameron, whose leadership qualities I so much admire – and who has achieved so much for this country.
It was a wrench.
But politicians are paid not to tend to their own feelings but to lay out their beliefs with conviction.
And I believe – as a matter of deep principle – in parliamentary democracy.
I believe that the laws which govern us all should be made by politicians accountable to the people.
I believe that our membership of the European Union undermines that precious principle. In the EU we cannot make our own laws, control our own borders, choose our own destiny. I have held the same position on this for 25 years.
That is why I campaigned as I did.
Of course, in the wake of the referendum, the Prime Minister chose to stand down and we have had to think about who is best placed to lead us now.
I knew we needed a leader who both believed in this new path and who could build and lead a united team to guide us through the challenges ahead.
I believed that Boris Johnson – who had campaigned alongside me with such energy and enthusiasm – could build and lead that team. I wanted that plan to work. I worked night and day for it. But I came to realise this week that, for all Boris’s formidable talents, he was not the right person for the task.
That realisation meant that I once more faced a difficult decision. Could I recommend to friends, colleagues and the country a course in which I no longer believed?
I could not. I had to stand up for my convictions. I had to stand up for a different course for this country. I had to stand for the leadership of this party.
And in standing I cannot promise that all the days ahead for our country will be easy, I cannot pledge that a few bold strokes will heal all our divisions and solve the great challenges which face this nation. All I can pledge is that I will be guided by principle, I will govern as captain of a team and I will always – always – put my country and our people above everything.
This country voted for change – and I am going to deliver it.
I’m the candidate for leader who changed our education system.
I’m the candidate for leader who is changing our prisons and our justice system.
I’m the candidate for leader who led the case for change in this referendum campaign…
…and the country voted for change.
The country voted for no more politics as usual. No more business as usual.
I am the candidate for change.
I am proud to have served in Government for the last six years and to have been in the forefront of driving change and making reforms.
I am delighted to see friends and colleagues I admire so much like Nicky Morgan at Education and Stephen Crabb at welfare taking reform further, building on the inspirational work of my friend Iain Duncan Smith – and extending opportunity more widely.
There will be some who argue that now the country has voted for such far-reaching change in our relationship with Europe that is time to consolidate and tread water in the area of domestic reform.
I could not disagree more. We cannot meet this historic moment with timidity and caution. We need to press ahead with social and economic reform to build a better, stronger Britain ready for all the opportunities ahead.
We need change to make the United Kingdom an economic powerhouse which gives good jobs, real opportunities and security at work to every citizen.
We need change to make this country a global leader in education and science, a start-up nation that generates the technologies which will transform this world permanently for the better.
And while I love so many things about this kind, beautiful, tolerant country, gentle yet magnificently stubborn, we need change to become an even more warm, welcoming and inclusive country which we are all proud to call home.
Why am I so passionate about change?
Because I know from my own life story that the right start in life can make so much difference.
The first four months of my life were spent in care, before I was adopted by my wonderful parents – my mum and dad – Ernie and Christine.
They went on to adopt my sister, who is profoundly deaf, and invested both of us with a love and support that informs everything I do today.
I remember my mum explaining to me what adoption meant when I was still at primary school. “Son,” she said to me, “you didn’t grow under my heart, you grew in it.”
Whatever else I know, I know that if you invest love and care in any individual you can help them to make a difference, to write their own life story.
Because my parents took a risk on me not knowing a thing about me. They believed that in everyone there is potential – that by believing in someone, loving them, nurturing them, you can bring out that potential.
And that is why I am standing here – with a belief in human potential. With a belief in what our country can be.
The reason I entered politics was a belief that the people of this country – having achieved so much that was good and noble in our past – had the potential to do amazing things in the future.
It is a belief in human potential that has guided me through my time in Government.
It guided me during the four years I spent as education secretary.
It was a privilege to do that job. I was able to throw myself into helping every child in this country succeed.
During that time, as Secretary of State, driving through a huge programme of reform, I faced my fair share of opposition.
But what drove me on – through opposition and difficult days – was a conviction I have always held, that the right values and the right policies could transform children’s lives for the better. I was able to get more money for the poorest children, establish new schools, change teaching and exams, get a million more children into good or outstanding schools.
I did it all because I thoughts that if you take risks in order to generate opportunity, then you can move this country forward.
And it is that same belief that has guided me over the last year as I have served as Justice Secretary.
I have seen close up the misery crime causes. And I have become more and more convinced that the best way to fight crime is to stop criminals offending again.
That is why I have started the biggest programme of prison reform since Victorian times, with an investment of £1billion into new buildings; with prisoners put to work; and education facilities radically improved so that offenders get the qualifications they need.
I have ensured the closure of decaying prisons; and I have begun an overhaul of youth justice, in order that young people who come into contact with the criminal justice system do not fall into a life of crime.
One of my proudest moments as a Conservative was seeing our party conference rise and give thunderous applause to a former violent criminal who had turned his own life around and was now dedicated to helping the most disadvantaged in our society.
That conference saw in that ex-offender what I believe is in every citizen – the potential to change your life for the better and make others’ lives better.
Helping every one of us achieve that ambition is my ambition. It’s why I’m in politics. It’s why I’m here in this room now.
It’s why I’m asking people to support me to become Prime Minister.
Because all my political career I’ve been driven by conviction not ambition, by a belief in doing what’s right not what’s expedient, by wanting to pull levers that make things better not steer to the sound of applause.
Fulfilling the promises of Brexit and healing the Party
When it comes to the course we must take in the wake of the referendum:
I will ensure we honour the instructions the British people have given us.
I argued for specific changes in the referendum campaign, I believe in them, I will deliver them.
The promise to leave the European Union, end the supremacy of EU law and take back control of our democracy.
With my leadership, it will be delivered.
The promise to take back control of our borders. I will end free movement, introduce an Australian-style points-based system for immigration, and bring numbers down.
With my leadership, it will be delivered.
The promise to use the money we currently send to Brussels and invest it instead on the priorities of the British people – principally in the NHS – and to cut VAT on domestic fuel.
With my leadership, it will be delivered.
I stand by the promises that we made.
I will see through this mandate because I passionately asked and argued for this mandate.
And here is an important point.
This referendum was about democratic accountability… the principle that politicians must answer, as directly as possible, to the people who elected them.
Because of that, I believe the next Prime Minister has to be on the winning side of the argument.
Put simply: the best person to lead Britain out of the European Union is someone who argued to get Britain out of the European Union.
That is best for the country – to retain the trust of millions of voters –and it is best for the Conservative party too.
Bringing our party together will take time and patience.
But I know we can do it – because I know that what drives my colleagues in Parliament, and the Conservative family in the country, is a profound belief in public service.
We love our country. We will always put our country first. And my style of leadership will emphasise what we have in common, not that which divides us.
That is shown by the fact that – in just 24 hours since I announced that I would stand – I have been joined by colleagues from across the Conservative spectrum.
Indeed, as leader, I will work with people across my party and outside it, people who argued passionately for leaving and those who urged us to remain, the best minds and the most generous spirits in our country to chart a better course.
I will work to focus minds not on the arguments of the past but on our duties for the future.
Big and bold vision
But crucially – this leadership election is not only about seeing through the British’s people’s instruction to lead the EU.
It is not only about bringing the Conservative Party together as we do that.
It is about having a plan for all of our United Kingdom for the coming years.
And I mean all of it.
When I talk about the Union, I speak as someone born in Edinburgh, brought up in Aberdeen.
I am someone for whom the Union is not a constitutional abstraction but who I am. I am Scottish and British. The parents who brought me up live in Aberdeen. The children I adore live in London. My wife was born in Wales. As she has never ceased to remind me during the Euros.
This referendum has led to questions about how we stay together in one United Kingdom – and for me, in every sense, this is about family.
In a family you listen, you treat each other with respect, you make things better.
And that is what I will do. Treating Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland with respect. Working to make things better.
And the vote to leave the European Union gives us the chance to renew and reboot the Union. We are taking back control of policy areas like agriculture and fishing that are vital to the economies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Parliament and devolved assemblies can enjoy new powers in these and other areas. I think we need to explore how we can develop a fairly-funded, flexible and robust Union for our new circumstances – and I will work across political divides, with respect, to build that new Union.
Vision: dynamic economy and fairer society
And all of us – everyone on these islands – needs the same thing now.
What this country needs in a Prime Minister is not just a cool head but a heart burning with the desire for change.
What this country needs is not just a plan to make do and mend but a vision to transform our country for the better.
I have that vision – to build an even more dynamic economy, and a society that is fundamentally more fair.
The referendum laid bare divisions that are deep and damaging.
It laid bare the truth about globalization, free movement and the march of progress in recent decades:
That it has left people behind. That it has left a stratified and unequal society.
That it has broken the British contract which said: if you work hard and throw everything you’ve got into building a better life – then that better life can be built.
The referendum showed in stark relief that there are two Britains: those who can reap the benefits of globalisation and those who are flotsam and jetsam in its powerful flows of global capital and free labour.
For millions, the dream of home ownership is receding and wages are stagnating.
For millions this is not a brave new world but an uncertain new world.
And for all Britain’s power and prosperity, for millions this is still not a land of opportunity.
This is still a country where your schooling, your postcode, your background matters far too much – and it is the passion of my life and the motivation for this leadership bid to change that.
These challenges call not for business-as-usual but for a big and bold vision.
It also calls for honesty about the strengths and weaknesses of our current economic model.
I am a passionate supporter of free markets, free trade and free enterprise. In the last two decades free enterprise economics has lifted millions out of poverty across our planet. But in our own country far too often the rewards have gone not to risk takers and job creators but insiders in our financial system and big business who have rigged the market in their interests.
As research from the Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman has made clear far too many people in in financial services are paid vast fortunes as if they are outstandingly skilful but in many cases they are simply lucky.
Research also shows that many big mergers and acquisition deals do not create shareholder value, but they do generate huge fees for the consultants who engineer the deals and handsome payments for the management and the board that pushes them through.
The problems with excess pay at the top are not confined to financial services.
Privatisation brought huge benefits to Britain in the 1980s. The contrast between the British Leyland of my childhood and the British car industry today could not be greater. And since the 1980s privatisation has spread around the world – to communist Vietnam and Maoist China. But it has become discredited in Britain.
Why? Because of how many privatised companies dealt with pay. Hired managers were paid huge sums as if they were successful entrepreneurs putting their own money on the line. In many cases they do a poor job, then get huge pay-offs and pension contributions and then go on to lecture people on average and below average wages about the need for greater labour market flexibility. Too many act as though they were Steve Jobs but in fact they’re really behaving like David Brent.
Since the 1990s the pay of top chief executives has increased from around 60 times average income to 180 times average income.
And many of the wealthiest also use their money and connections to exploit an overly complex tax system to avoid paying their fair share.
These practices discredit the way the free market system currently operates not just in the eyes of those on the political left but in the view of genuine entrepreneurs, real job-creators and working people.
Which is why we need to change.
And it has been at times of radical change in our history that we have made the greatest economic and social progress.
The democratic revolution that began in the seventeenth century which made our political institutions more accountable went hand in hand with the scientific breakthroughs of the Enlightenment pioneered by Newton, Hooke and Boyle and together they laid the groundwork for the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century which made the United Kingdom the workshop of the world.
We need similar radicalism and ambition today.
As we renew our democracy and take back control of our laws so we must think how we can reform capitalism, give shareholders more control over how public companies operate and ensure pay once more incentivises the right sort of corporate behaviour.
And as we further reform our education system we also need to think in particular about how we strengthen our position in science and innovation.
The total amount we spend as a nation on research and development is significantly less than countries such as the US and government spending on R and D has been less than the OECD and EU average.
I am not an instinctive advocate for higher Government spending. But the evidence from the most successful start-up nations – US and Israel – is that thoughtful Government investment in science triggers a culture of innovation more widely that generates the businesses of the future.
The internet was a government creation – developed by the American Government’s scientific incubator DARPA – and the amazing creativity in Silicon Valley is a function not just of America’s more effective venture capital system but of Government leadership. More and more thinkers have made a compelling case for a leading role for Government in creating a more entrepreneurial state. And that must be the right course for Britain – creating our own equivalent to DARPA, providing the capital for new tech innovation and helping the tech sector grow even faster.
And the role for Government in driving change in our economy doesn’t end there.
We need a national ambition to build 100s of thousands of new homes a year, both private and socially-rented – led by someone who will not take no for an answer and who will push for diggers in the ground and homes for all come what may.
We need to build on the growth in apprenticeships – pushing without compromise for a first-class education for every child in this country and ensuring that those who do not go to university get the investment in the equipment and teaching they need to make a success of technical and vocational education.
We need bold leadership both to negotiate our new relationship with the European union, and to pursue new trade deals with the rest of the world… with the US, the Commonwealth and the growing markets in South and East Asia.
We need a tax structure that is simpler and fairer, which incentivises innovation, attracts investment and rewards hard work for people on lower wages.
All of these changes will require leadership from someone with a track record of reform, a belief in the potential of the British people and a clear vision of what our future must look like. I can bring that leadership.
Vision: human public services
We need a big and bold vision, too, for public services that are more decent, more human and more caring.
In a world grown more impersonal, where the dictates of bureaucracies appear to over-ride the need for all of us to connect we need to rethink the whole idea of service.
That means asking those who lead our public services not to be judged by the targets they hit every year but the difference they make to every life.
I worry profoundly that those who enter public service with a vocation to devote themselves to others then find themselves trapped in structures where computer says no and there is never time or space for the human.
I don’t want prisons that are warehouses for criminals. Hospitals that have to operate like production lines. Social care that is bureaucratic and unfeeling.
All these challenges call not for business-as-usual but for a bold vision.
We need to change the incentives in many of our public services so people are rewarded for the difference they make to individual lives. We need to devolve far more power down to the front line – not just to the individuals running our prisons, hospitals and schools but to those on the individual wings, wards and classrooms. And we need to create new routes into public service that build on the idealism and desire to make a difference of our very best young people.
The TeachFirst scheme has shown how a career teaching at the frontline – in our most challenging schools – has become a prestigious destination our best graduates fight to reach. In Government I have already extended this approach to recruiting outstanding students to become social workers through a new scheme called Frontline.
We need to build on that approach to get more hugely talented young people – and career-switchers who have made a success in the private sector and now want to make a difference – into public service. That should include working in prisons and probation, health and social care, providing social housing and running local government.
Of course our most important public service will always be the NHS. And I want to say something clear and unambiguous about the future of the health service.
Government has got to invest more money in our NHS. The people who work in it are heroic. They do an amazing job. But we need to face the fact that we need more money in order to deliver Jeremy Hunt’s absolutely correct drive to guarantee even better standards of care.
I will put my heart and soul into making sure that the care your son or daughter or mum or dad receives is the same I would want for my own family. Which is why I will take all the steps necessary to give the NHS at least another £100million per week by 2020.
Vision: progressive and united nation
And we need, too, a big and bold vision to ensure that Britain continues to be the most decent and gentle country in the world. A place known for its tolerance. Where we treat each other with kindness and respect.
In the Britain I want to build, where we live, how we love, the religions we follow, the places we come from – these must be causes of celebration and joy, not division and suspicion.
In his premiership, David Cameron made great strides on this – not least by making it possible for gay people to marry the people they love.
Yet no-one can deny that we have a long way to go. The referendum campaign exposed problems and prejudice that run deep. Healing these scars will be hard work.
But the best of British can overcome the worst. If we put all our efforts into bringing people together. If we have a programme for national renewal that all of us can unite behind – young, old, rich, not-rich, black, white, women, men.
In the years to come, people will look at Britain not only as an economic powerhouse, not only as a place where each person is valued for their potential…
…but also as the most civilised, humane, and progressive country on earth.
We will not get there with a business-as-usual, steady-as-she-goes approach. Britain needs leadership that is bold, that is visionary.
Daring to dream
I stand here – and I am standing for the leadership – not as a result of calculation.
I am standing with the burning desire to transform our country.
I know I have the experience, the energy, and – perhaps most importantly – the sense of urgency.
Because away from Westminster there is a country where far too many people are denied the chance to write their own life story, to use their God-given talents and be the best they can be.
That is why I am standing here – with a belief in human potential. With a belief in what our country can be.
On this decision, as on all decisions, I asked myself these questions:
What is the right thing to do. What does your heart tell you.
The right thing to do is to stand for the leadership of my party and my country.
Because my heart tells me that if we are bold…
…if we refuse to settle for business as usual…
…if we dare to dream and summon up all the qualities that have made this country the greatest in the world…
…then for Britain – and its people – our best days lie ahead.
This has been an extraordinary, testing, momentous time for Britain.
But we will make it through stronger and prouder.
I’m asking for the chance to serve you – and to change this country for the better.”