Priti Patel is an elected Member of the Conservative Party Board, the 1922 Committee’s Executive and the Public Administration Select Committee. She is also a member of the Party’s Policy Board and MP for Witham.
As the European and local elections taking place on Thursday draw closer, I want to pay tribute to the thousands of Conservative activists, supporters and road stewards up and down the country who are campaigning hard for victory. I have seen them working tirelessly in my own constituency and elsewhere to deliver leaflets, canvass and get our positive messages out. They do our Party proud, and thanks to their efforts public support for Conservatives remains in a strong position, despite this being a mid-term set of elections.
Conservatives have a superb record on European matters, and we can be confident of challenging for victory in the polls. Notwithstanding the constraints of being in a coalition with the Lib Dems, the EUs biggest cheerleaders in the UK, we have delivered an unrivalled set of achievements that our activists are conveying to the public. We know how much it wants a referendum on our future relationship with the European Union, especially after the Labour Party cheated them out of a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. Now we stand as the only political Party who have both promised a referendum on our membership of the European Union and who are able to actually deliver it.
Labour and the Lib Dems are wedded to the European political elite’s dogmatic belief in ever-closer union, and will never trust the British people in a referendum. Other parties may talk populist slogans and promise action, but they are in no position to deliver it. A referendum on EU membership can only be delivered through legislation passed at Westminster which a Conservative Government would introduce. It cannot happen through votes given to other parties that have no way of providing for a referendum.
As well as promising a referendum after the next election, we have put in place new laws to ensure the British people get the final say on new EU Treaty changes that would take power away from this country. Never again can pro-European politicians in Westminster get away with handing over sovereignty without the permission of the British people.
Conservatives in the Government are standing up for the British national interest on a daily basis, and have already scored a series of victories over the supporters of a federalist Europe. We have secured the first-ever reduction in the EU’s colossal budget while also preserving the UK’s rebate. The importance both financially for UK taxpayers and symbolically of a shrinking EU budget cannot be underestimated. The EU Commission and supporters of greater integration had thought the EU should be immune from financial restraint and austerity. They deployed every trick they could to find new ways to spend and waste more money and keep their European project expanding on their terms. But Conservatives stood firm and out thought and out fought them.
We’ve also stood up for Britain by removing ourselves from the Eurozone bailout mechanism which Labour signed us up do, and blocked proposals for a new Treaty. We’ve introduced tougher controls to prevent EU migrants from being able immediately to claim benefits, and are not afraid to stand up to the threats made by the European Commission. These actions have shocked some in Europe and caused alarm among Labour and Lib Dem supporters of an all-powerful EU.
The British people should be assured that they have Conservative Ministers that are putting Britain first, rather than the European project. Because of this, the EU and other member states are increasingly willing to be open to renegotiating the terms of our EU membership, as the Prime Minister has advocated. In fact, contrary to the views of those who have previously derided his approach and claimed that renegotiation isn’t possible, people are now queuing up to renegotiate with us. Not since the late Baroness Thatcher has a British Government been able to make such an impressive impact on reforming Europe. Just as she stood her ground to defend British interests, today we are changing the rules of the game in Europe.
Those of us who want a referendum, and who believe in low taxes, entrepreneurship, controlling public spending, limiting benefits and cutting immigration should get behind the Conservative Party this Thursday to help get these measures delivered.
A united centre-right vote for the Conservatives will also turn the spotlight onto the Labour Party and the weak leadership of Ed Miliband. Mid-term elections are often seen as a reflection on the Government of the day. But this time, these elections matter more to Miliband than ever before. His opinion poll ratings are poor and their election strategy has exposed how desperate, divisive and incoherent Labour is. Their dodgy VAT poster, ridiculous anti-Lib Dem party political broadcast and the shallowness of their position on the NHS – under which they claim to want to protect the NHS but at the last election refused to match our commitment to increase health spending – continues to discredit them.
There’s a much more sinister agenda running through the Labour leadership that is based on scaremongering and frightening the public and negative campaigning. After losing office in 2010, Labour pinned its electoral hopes to the economy doing badly. It hoped for double dip and triple dip recessions, and desired higher unemployment figures for naked political gain. But with the economy going from strength to strength, record numbers of jobs being created and new businesses being set up, Labour’s economic credibility has been shot to pieces, and Miliband is now left scrapping the bottom of the barrel. As a result, Labour has reverted back to the divisive personal and bitter politics of class warfare, alongside an obsessive anti-cuts agenda. It offers nothing positive to voters, and has no clear vision for Britain other than inflicting higher taxes and more debt on the public.
With the public seeing through their personal attacks and lack of vision, and the opinion polls showing that Labour’s predicted vote share is relatively low, Miliband and Labour are now left relying on divisions on the Right to prop them up. Let’s not give the them that satisfaction. By voting for the Conservative Party in force this Thursday, the country can send a resounding message to Europe that Britain wants reform and will reject Miliband and his discredited Labour Party.