Below is the text of Mr Major’s Best of British or Britain Means Best speech, given on 30th July 1993.
In the last few months we British have broken a number of records. Exports are at an all time high. We now export more per person than Japan. Retail sales are at a record level. Our competitiveness is improving at a record rate. Strikes are at the lowest level since records began over 100 years ago. And the number of people who own their own homes is the highest ever.
That is all excellent news. But we cannot afford to be complacent.
That’s why I have spent the last year putting in place policies to get British industry moving again.
British business has now got the framework it wanted: low inflation, low interest rates, competitive prices and a single market in Europe. And they’re making the most of it. We are conquering new markets, investing more and as a result unemployment has been falling for five months in a row.
That’s good, but it’s not good enough. Unemployment is still far too high. We are going to have to fight harder to sell our goods in Continental Europe. But we are on the right track. And Britain is expected to grow faster than almost any other country in Europe this year and next.
Last year we succeeded in getting inflation down, my number one priority. We mustn’t lose that. My priority now is to make sure that ‘British means Best’ in every market. That means buying the best machines and creating the best designs. That means a well educated workforce, that is prepared to train and retrain. That means governments have to get rid of fussy, nit-picking regulations. Some rules are a necessary evil. But let’s not have unnecessary evils as well.
The other necessity is to reduce the budget deficit.
Every family knows you can’t go on spending more than you earn. The same is true for governments. Our spending on social security is rising too fast. More and more people are claiming benefits. We must ensure the really needy get all the help they deserve. But we also need to make sure we aren’t giving taxpayers’ money – your money – to people who don’t need it. This will involve some tough decisions. But governments are there to do just that – take the responsible long term view.
Of course, irresponsible opposition parties will always offer you the best of all worlds – more spending, no tax increases. But the British people aren’t mugs. You know there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
All of us need to think and plan long term. There isn’t going to be a repeat of the boom days of the late 1980s. No more stories of Champagne shortages. Those times were very good for some people. But they couldn’t last. And they aren’t what we want. We need a recovery that raises everyone’s living standards. That may mean it is more gradual, but it will mean that it lasts.
In Government it is the long term that matters. That was why it was necessary to get inflation down. That is why we need an influential position in Europe. That is why we must plan now for the social security system we can afford in the future. None of these policies may make us popular in the short term. But they are right for the country in the long term. And we are going to stick to them.