Tuesday 18th September 2012
By Prime Minister David Cameron
The coalition I lead was born in a climate of urgency and determination; and it continues in that spirit. We are engaged in nothing less than an all-out fight to turn our country around.
Why do I call it an all-out fight? Because the pressure on Britain today comes from two directions. There are the home-grown problems: the eye-watering debt; the deep imbalances in our economy; the numbers out of work. And there is the global context: the economic tumult and uncertainty; the Eurozone in crisis; the great shifts in wealth and influence from West to East. This is a world where the value of China’s exports has increased one hundred-fold over the past three decades; where the global middle class is expanding at extraordinary speed; where there are countless opportunities for those countries agile and dynamic enough to grab them.
Take both the domestic and international pictures together and you see that we are at a pivotal moment in our history. We can flinch from the challenges ahead, let our array of weaknesses fester and resign ourselves to decline. Or we can vow to get a grip on our problems – however difficult that may be in the short-term – and do whatever it takes to equip our country for long-term success. Look at everything this coalition is doing and you’ll see we’ve chosen the right path. We are confronting our national problems head-on, regardless of the short-term fall-out or political headaches that may cause.
Against fierce opposition we’ve made significant cuts to public spending – and we’re making progress. When we came to office the deficit stood at over 11 per cent of GDP; in just two years we have cut it by one quarter. Put simply, we are safeguarding Britain against the economic storms on our door-step. That’s why, however tough deficit reduction is in the short-term, we are sticking to the course.
We’re showing the same resolve to turn our economy around. Britain’s prosperity was balanced on a few teetering, precarious pillars: unsustainable public spending, a housing boom, a finance boom, an immigration boom. We see where we need to go from here – an economy where we’re innovating, making new products and exporting them to the world; one built on manufacturing, advanced technology, genuine, high-level skills. Clearly, a turnaround like this can’t be achieved in a matter of months. It takes pain-staking, persistent work – and the guts to make unpopular but necessary decisions. Cutting regulation is tough when you have every interest group lined up to predict the damage you’re going to do.
Reforming the planning system is hard when people say you’re concreting over the countryside. Making our pensions system more affordable is guaranteed to meet a wave of attacks from the unions. My point is that all these decisions win you enemies – and that’s why they’ve been dodged for so long. But we are refusing to take the easy way out now if it means consigning Britain to decline later.
There’s an equally tough fight to bring opportunity to everyone in our society. It is a scandal that millions have been denied the chance to get on in life, betrayed by failing schools and a benefits system that left them trapped in state dependency for years on end. Spraying money at these problems isn’t the answer. We need bold, long-term reform and that’s what we’re undertaking, from a free schools revolution that is allowing parents, teachers and charities to set up their own schools, to the new Universal Credit that’s going to ensure it makes financial sense for people to choose work over welfare.
So this is the thread running through this coalition: time after time we have chosen to do what is right for the long-term, whether that’s raising the pension age so we can afford a proper state pension, reforming state pensions to cut their long-term cost right down, or eradicating the huge hole in the defence budget so we can keep our armed forces properly sustained and our nation secure.
With all these reforms and changes, we can’t expect an overnight transformation of our country. We’re dealing with some deeply entrenched problems in a time of unparalleled economic uncertainty. But as we have started in this Coalition, so we will go on: taking tough decisions where we need to; challenging vested interests wherever necessary; believing that Britain can have a confident and competitive future; and in everything we do – putting the national interest first.