Below is the text of the New Year message sent by Mr Major to the Conservative Party Association Chairmen on Sunday 29th December 1996.
1997 will be a watershed year for Britain.
At the election, people will face a choice. A choice of two futures.
They can choose a future where prices and mortgage rates are firmly under control. They can choose a future that looks rosy, with the best economic conditions this country has seen for a century, created by millions of hard-working people and the government, together. And they can choose a future where British interests will be fought for in Europe.
Or they can risk a future with an untried, inexperienced, unrealistic alternative. We will win that election, because on all three counts it is too risky to trust Labour with Britain’s future.
I know how hard the British people have had to work to make life better in this country. As a result we have made real gains – more spending money, more jobs and record investment. But I know, too, how easy it would be to lose those hard-won gains.
We will safeguard the stability and lasting prosperity of British families with a clear and reliable agenda for those who work hard. Here are my five economic pledges for stability and prosperity:
Tax : Having cut the basic rate of tax from 33p to 23p, we aim to get it down to 20p. Labour has £30 billion spending pledges but will not say where the money will come from.
Prices : We keep inflation firmly under control. Labour has no plan for controlling prices and no inflation targets.
Mortgages : By keeping inflation and interest rates low, we will ensure that the repayment on people’s homes – their biggest monthly outlay – remains affordable. Labour cannot be trusted to protect people’s mortgages.
Jobs : We will continue to help businesses create more jobs, particularly for the young. Labour would destroy jobs with the minimum wage and Social Chapter.
Britain : We will fight for a Europe of globally competitive nation states, not a federal Europe. Labour would undermine our right to say “no” to policies that would harm our country, and sign up to the job-destroying Social Chapter.
Only Conservatives can deliver and build on Britain’s stability and prosperity. The evidence is all around us. A hard-working family on average earnings is £1,100 a year better off than at the last election, after taking tax and inflation into account.
Over the next five years, Conservatives will fight to build on the higher standards in our schools, to build on the better treatment in our hospitals, and to build on the increase in police numbers on the streets. We have built a platform for lasting prosperity in a tough and competitive world.
Having come this far, people are now going to ask themselves if they are prepared to put their security and Britain’s success at risk.
Every previous Labour government has mishandled the economy and every person has paid the price through higher taxes, mortgages, prices and fewer jobs. If a new Labour government acted as Labour has always done, we would all suffer.
Labour’s aims are unachievable. They have made £30 billion of spending pledges, so everyone knows they will either put up taxes or run up the nation’s debt. They say they’d help the unemployed – but we all know that a minimum wage would price people out of jobs. They say they are on the side of the people, but they are determined to make them pay more for gas, electricity, water and telephones and reduce the value of their shares and pensions, by imposing a windfall tax on business.
The real danger lies in the fact that Labour won’t say where the money is coming from. After seventeen years in opposition, they still won’t tell us how they would raise the money to achieve what they promise. This is an unbelievable stance for a party wanting the responsibility of government. It is not surprising that their deputy leader, John Prescott, says that it would be “stupid” to tell the people what their tax plans are.
But this election will decide more than just how Britain is run. Our great country faces two futures.
At the European Inter-governmental Conference in Amsterdam next year, the British Prime Minister will have to negotiate about the future of Europe.
I have one overriding principle in my policy towards Europe: to put the British interest first. That is the best policy for Britain and our party. I want Britain to play a full part in building a Europe of nation states. Our agenda is to help make Europe more competitive, so all hard-working people will benefit.
But I will firmly resist any policies that would damage Britain’s prosperity, or result in a significant shift of power to Brussels. As I have said before, if Europe goes federal, Britain will not follow.
But there is another future.
Imagine if Tony Blair represented Britain in Amsterdam. He says he would never be isolated in Europe, so he would just follow the crowd. He would sign up to the job-destroying Social Chapter. He would undermine our veto – our right to say “no” – in many crucial areas.
While destroying Britain’s influence abroad, Tony Blair’s policies would dismantle Britain at home. He clings to the wreckage of a discredited policy – devolution. He says it is a priority for government, but it would undermine the United Kingdom. He would give Scotland a tax-raising parliament, Wales an assembly and England a series of regional assemblies. No-one can know the damage this would do to our country.
Two futures. A united and successful Britain, holding its head up high in the world – as the respected Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development has just confirmed. Or a country weakened abroad and divided at home.
Stability and prosperity, or a leap into the unknown. That is the choice.
When people ask, “But isn’t it time for a change?” tell them that there is a stark choice. Do people want to see the achievements of 17 years, and the brightest of prospects for generations, handed over to a party that is inexperienced and will say anything to win power? We get the basics right, Labour will get them hopelessly wrong.
It is not in my nature to walk away from a fight. I am not going to do so now. I look forward to your help in winning a fifth term in office.
Happy New Year.