We just want to acknowledge our gratitude and deepest thanks to everyone who helped in working towards the General Election and after.
It was a lot of hard work, fun and now we have a new age in UK politics.
Interesting times ahead.
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Wednesday, 5 May 2010
For too long Northern Ireland has been a place apart.
We have had no real say in who would be Prime Minister of our country, no meaningful role in the Mother of Parliaments, and no chance of being involved in the government of the United Kingdom.
Conservatives and Unionists have changed all that.
The Ulster Unionist Party - the party that ensured Northern Ireland's place in the United Kingdom; The party which defended democratic values against the onslaught of terrorism during the dark years of the Troubles. The party which took the courageous decision in 1998 to build the peace.
And our colleagues and friends in the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party which governed the United Kingdom for most of the 20th century, stood firm during the Cold War, ended British decline and restored British pride, and is now ready to give the decisive government required to lead our country out of recession.
Our two great parties are now working together in partnership to build on these achievements and to end Northern Ireland's semi-detached status within the United Kingdom.
The Conservatives and Unionists manifesto is a manifesto for a government of the entire United Kingdom. It signals that the days are past when Northern Ireland was relegated to the window-ledge of the Union. It is a manifesto that puts Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union. It is a manifesto which expresses unionism's historic belief in 'our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom'.
Others in this election tell us that Northern Ireland would be best served by a hung parliament.
It is hard to believe that self-proclaimed unionists are actually promoting this.
Not only would a hung parliament undermine the ability of a government to take the decisive action required to lead our country out of recession. It would hand influence to the Scottish and Welsh nationalists, determined to break up the Union. It would hand influence to the Lib Dems, determined to see the UK in the Euro and governed by a federal Europe.
Those of us who cherish the United Kingdom cannot be hoping for such an outcome.
Those of us who want to see our economy led out of recession and debt must be campaigning for a strong mandate for a Conservative and Unionist government, not the indecision and grubby back-room deals of a hung parliament.
If we want to see change - real, meaningful change - in Northern Ireland and across the United Kingom, it will only come through a Conservative and Unionist government.
The change that will restore economic prosperity. And that, by the way, does mean - must mean - growing Northern Ireland's private sector.
The change that will put Northern Ireland at the heart of the Union.
The change that will deliver a government which is not neutral on the Union like Labour, but passionately committed to our United Kingdom.
The change that will restore economic opportunity to all parts of the United Kingdom.
This is the change for which we - Conservatives and Unionists - stand.
So let's take this message right across Northern Ireland.
And take Northern Ireland into the heart of the Union.
Creative Boom the regional online magazine about the creative industries in Belfast asked each political party standing the the General Election in Northern Ireland to set out their policies for the creative industries here.
Only the Conservatives and Unionists replied
And only the Conservatives and Unionists will deliver.
Here's what we had to say:
The Conservatives and Unionists believe that the Creative Industries have an important role to play in the growth of Northern Ireland's economy. Many businesses in the Creative Industries are small and under a Labour government have faced a struggle to establish themselves, to build and to expand. Many young people coming out of universities are planning to start their own businesses. They have an entrepreneurial spirit and have been inspired by others from Northern Ireland who have built careers and businesses here and around the world. They know Northern Ireland can be a hub for the Creative Industries and the Digital Economy, but they face enormous problems establishing themselves.
The Conservatives and Unionists will make the process of starting and running a business easier and reduce the costs.
It is the link between the Conservatives and Unionists in Northern Ireland and the support we will give a Conservative government that will benefit the Creative Industries. We will be a voice within a Conservative government where the real decisions will be made about how all our industries will flourish. Any new business started in the first two years of a Conservative government will pay no Employer National Insurance on the first ten employees it hires during its first year. This is crucial assistance to young entrepreneurs who have the vision and drive that Northern Ireland needs for our economy to prosper.
Many businesses in the Creative Industries require and rely on technological infrastructure here in Northern Ireland and through out the UK to reach and supply their customers. Being in Northern Ireland is not a disadvantage to many in the Creative Insustries. With better connectivity, businesses here can work for customers around the world. We will deliver a faster more widely available broadband infrastructure and link our Creative Industries globally. In Northern Ireland we recognise the potential of project Kelvin and we will work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues to ensure that the project's economic potential is maximised.
Entrepreneurs will be supported through a network of business mentors and provide loans to entrepreneurs who are just starting out. And all those forms you need to fill in when you are starting a business will be a thing of the past. A "one-click" registration model will make the UK the fastest place to start a business.
We have heard small and medium sized businesses complain about endless problems with government procurement. We will open up government procurement to small and medium sized businesses by reducing admin costs with the ambition that 25% of government contracts go to SMEs. Businesses in the Creative Industries are suppliers to government and will continue to be. We want to make it easier for them to work with government. We will work with the Northern Ireland Assembly to ensure best practice throughout the UK.
Conservatives and Unionists will get the UK working by boosting enterprise - so we'll cut corporation tax rates, abolish taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses, promote green jobs, and get people off welfare and into work. And we'll stop Labour's jobs tax which would wreck the recovery.
Conservatives and Unionists will look at specific measures to turn Northern Ireland into an economic 'Enterprise Zone'. We will bring forward a government paper to look at the mechanisms for a different corporation tax rate in Northern Ireland.
We recognise that the Labour Government has neglected the crucial Digital Economy up until now and that legislation is urgently needed. We support the ambition of the Digital Economy Bill and much of what it contains. But we will not support specific measures which prop up old business models and create unnecessary duties.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Speaking in County Down, David Cameron said:
"It's great to be back in Northern Ireland.
One and a half years ago the Conservative Party and the Ulster Unionist Party made a bold step to realign the political map of Northern Ireland.
I want to pay tribute here to the work of Reg Empey and Owen Paterson, whose efforts helped bring us together.
Our two great parties have created a dynamic new electoral force for Northern Ireland.
And it's because we made that step that today we are not just saying that we are the party of the union, we are showing that we are the party of the union, the party of Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England - with candidates standing in every part of the United Kingdom.
Nobody else can say that. Not Labour. Not the Liberal Democrats.
And none of the local parties here in Northern Ireland.
As Reg says we are not fighting to be an opposition, we are fighting to be the government of our country, all of it.
WHY IS THIS SO IMPORTANT?
So why is this so important?
It's important because of our deep commitment to the union.
So let me repeat the pledge I made to you in Belfast a year and a half ago.
I will never be neutral on our Union.
We passionately believe that England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are stronger together, weaker apart - and the union of our two parties strengthens those bonds.
But our new electoral force is also important for other reasons.
For as long as anyone can remember, politics here has been dominated by constitutional issues - the latest developments in the peace process.
This election presents a new opportunity to participate in the mainstream of British politics.
Mainstream politics in which issues like taxes, pensions, defence and foreign policy, that are decided in Westminster yet affect every single person in Northern Ireland, are part of the mainstream political debate.
Mainstream politics in which people in Northern Ireland can participate at all levels of government in the UK - from the council chamber right the way to the Cabinet table itself.
At this election, only Conservatives and Unionists are offering people in Northern Ireland that opportunity - the chance to elect MPs who can be part of the government of the United Kingdom.
That's good for my party - as we get the very best working alongside us, as partners in government.
And it's good for Northern Ireland too - as you will have powerful voices in Westminster raising the issues that matter to you.
Not just raising their voice but making their voice heard and getting things done. Not just turning up and collecting the expenses and flying back to Belfast on a Wednesday afternoon but taking part in parliament.
And that voice can already be heard, in the contract we are launching today.
While we've been clear in this election campaign that we hope people will respond to our invitation to help change our country, in the final days before polling day, we are setting out our side of the bargain.
The things we will do to help Northern Ireland move forward.
It's a contract to end the semi-detached political status of Northern Ireland, to bring Northern Ireland back into the mainstream of UK politics, to put Northern Ireland at the very heart of the Union.
It's our contract with the voters - and I want the people of Northern Ireland to read it, keep it, stick it to your fridge, use it to hold us to account, and if we don't do what we promise to do - kick us out in five years' time.
So what's in this contract?
It's a contract that will bring change to our economy.
We've got record government debt. Record government borrowing. Unemployment is up.
In this contract are the radical plans to dig us out of that mess.
Plans to make government accountable, stop the waste, stop Labour's jobs tax - and get better services for the taxes you pay.
Plans to make the UK the best place in the world to do business.
Stopping the rise of red tape, lowering corporation tax rates, abolishing employment taxes on the first ten jobs created by new businesses.
We'll bring a new age of enterprise and ambition across the United Kingdom.
In this part of the UK we'll go even further, looking at ways of turning Northern Ireland into an enterprise zone.
And we'll produce a government paper examining how we can change the corporation tax rate here, so that we can get even more investment coming in.
We want to grow the size of the private sector in Northern Ireland to create new jobs and investment.
But let me also say this.
The country faces some difficult decisions ahead on how we will tackle the deficit.
I want people to know that if elected I will make these decisions with compassion, reasonableness and a concern for the most disadvantaged.
That is who I am and that is what a government I lead will be like.
So we will continue to fund Northern Ireland according to its needs, and we will tackle the deficit while protecting the essential frontline public services that we all rely on.
There is no way Northern Ireland will be singled out over and above any other part of the UK will be singled out, that people need to know.
As unionists who believe in the United Kingdom, we recognise that we're all in this together - and we'll only rebuild a stronger economy together.
It's in that spirit that we will change our society.
We've got great social problems in Northern Ireland and across the UK.
Crime and disorder. Poverty and inequality. Drug and alcohol abuse.
This contract sets out bold plans to tackle not just the symptoms of these problems but their causes too.
So much of social breakdown comes back to three things - a chaotic or broken family background, poor schooling and worklessness.
So we'll have a relentless focus on these areas.
We'll make the United Kingdom more family friendly, recognising marriage in the tax system and giving more parents the right to request flexible working.
We'll work with our Ulster Unionist colleagues in the Assembly to build on excellence in Northern Ireland's schools, defending our education system from those who are out to destroy it and ensure excellence, diversity and choice for all.
We'll shake-up the welfare system and say to people if you want to work we'll give you all the help you need - but if you refuse to work, your benefits will be cut. The rules are going to change.
This is all about a simple value, building a society where we reward those who do the right thing.
Last year we saw the Prime Minister betraying those who had done the right thing, when he boasted that 'not one British saver has lost a single penny' in the banking crisis.
He should try telling that to investors in the PMS who worked hard, saved hard - and then saw their money disappear. Are they not British, did they not lose money, why has he forgotten about them?
So I give you this pledge.
If I am Prime Minister a Conservative and Unionist Government will work with the Executive here to ensure a just and fair resolution of the PMS.
It's about saying we're all in this together, you've done the right thing and you deserve for that to be recognised and rewarded.
We need great change in our politics too.
The scandals at Westminster and the recent allegations here in Northern Ireland have rocked confidence in politics and politicians.
This is no time for business as usual.
We need to change the whole way politics is done, to make it more accountable, more transparent and cheaper.
This contract sets out exactly how.
We'll make it more accountable by giving you the power to sack your MP and banning the 'double-jobbing' that has scarred politics in this part of the United Kingdom.
We'll make it more transparent by publishing online every item of public spending over £25,000 - so you can see how your money is being spent.
And we'll make it cheaper by cutting the perks and subsidies in Westminster and cutting ministers' pay.
There is a great family of candidates standing behind me but there will be nothing swish about the Conservative and Unionist family in Northern Ireland.
All these changes are designed to do one thing: make politicians serve the public again, not the other way round.
So this contract shows a way forward for our economy, our society, our politics.
And it points the direction for a new kind of politics for Northern Ireland, which moves on from the troubles of the past.
Of course there's still a serious dissident threat and we'll do everything to counter it.
Conservatives and Unionists support the political institutions established over the past decade and are committed to making devolution work, including on policing and justice.
Northern Ireland needs effective law and order, and we're committed to funding it.
We want to build a peaceful and stable society in which everybody is treated with equal respect - whatever their background or political aspiration.
We believe in a shared future for all the people of Northern Ireland.
And we look forward to continuing our close relationship with the Government of the Republic of Ireland as we uphold our international obligations under the agreements.
Of course we'll never forget the sacrifice of those who ensured that the future of Northern Ireland would be determined by the ballot box and not the bullet or the bomb, just as we take great pride and remember all the things they currently are doing in Afghanistan we take great pride in the brave men and women from Northern Ireland who today serve in the Royal Irish and elsewhere in the armed forces, protecting our freedoms. We are proud of what they do.
There are some who wish to re-write history and put those who upheld democracy on an equivalent footing with those who sought to destroy it.
No government I lead will ever accept that.
And in this hotel we remember in particular those civilians murdered and injured in one of the most wicked and cowardly acts of terrorism.
Politically motivated violence was never justified, whatever side it came from.
So a Conservative and Unionist Government won't take forward the proposal for universal Recognition Payments.
We'll draw a line under the past with no more costly and open ended inquiries.
It's time to move on - and move forward to a better future for Northern Ireland.
I know that for many years people in Northern Ireland felt cut off from the rest of the United Kingdom, including from the government.
I want to end that sense of isolation.
I want to give voters in Northern Ireland the right - for the first time in generations - to vote for a party capable of forming the government of our United Kingdom, to enable people in Northern Ireland to play their full part in the affairs of the country as a whole, and to realise at long last the basic democratic right to equal citizenship within the United Kingdom.
That can only happen through the partnership of our two parties.
Other parties can talk about this.
Only Conservatives and Unionists can deliver.
Of all the parties standing in Northern Ireland at this election - only we can form the government of our country.
Of all the parties standing in Northern Ireland at this election - only we can get a decisive mandate and strong majority in the House of Commons.
Of all the parties promising change - only we can deliver it.
So join us in our mission.
Join us in our fight.
And let me tell you what we're fighting for.
We're not fighting Gordon Brown or Nick Clegg in this election.
We're fighting poverty, disadvantage, blocked opportunity.
We're fighting for people.
We're fighting for all the couples who can't afford to own their own home.
We're fighting for all the children growing up in homes where no-one works.
We're fighting for all those who are held back because of their race, their gender or their sexuality.
We're fighting for all the businesses struggling to stay afloat.
We're fighting for all the parents who can't find a good school for their kids.
We're fighting for all those who are struggling to make ends meet, month after month.
We're fighting for the nurse covered in red tape who just wants to do her job.
We're fighting for the pensioner who's saved and doesn't want to sell his home to pay for his care.
We're fighting for everyone who just wants to do the right thing, to do the best for their families and to make a difference to our country.
That's why we're fighting for change.
That's why we're fighting to win.
So come out and fight and win with the Conservatives and Unionists.
Let's go for it."
Monday, 3 May 2010
Saturday, 1 May 2010
The Conservatives and Unionists Armed Forces Manifesto was launched by the Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox today in East Belfast.
In a statement Liam said:
"I am delighted to be in Northern Ireland again to launch the Conservatives and Unionists Armed Forces Manifesto. We owe a great debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who serve in our armed forces, many of whom are from Northern Ireland. It is shameful that the Military Covenant has been neglected by Gordon Brown and the Labour government.
"If elected, a Conservative and Unionist government will work from day one to improve the lives of everyone in our Forces. And we will work to improve the lives of all their families.
We pledge to:
- Give the Armed Forces clear leadership - we'll hold a Strategic Defence and Security Review to make sure resources match commitments. In the meantime, we'll protect the defence budget for 2010/11.
- Equip our Armed Forces properly - we'll reform procurement so our Forces get the equipment they need when they need it, at a reasonable cost to the taxpayer.
- Support our servicemen and women - we'll double the operational allowance, improve rest and recuperation leave and establish a tri-Service Military Covenant.
- Support service families and children - we will work to give Forces children extra support in school, and seek to provide college and university bursaries for the children of Forces personnel who have been killed.
- Support our veterans - with a new mental health screening process and work for a new 'Troops for Teachers' programme to get ex-service personnel into teaching.
Speaking at the Launch, Trevor Ringland, Conservatives and Unionists candidate for East Belfast said:
"For generations people form all backgrounds in Northern Ireland have made an outstanding contribution to the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom. It is right and proper that their service is recognised and that those garrisoned in Northern Ireland get the support they need.
"Michael McGimpsey in particular has done excellent work to ensure that service personnel get the support from Health and Social Services they deserve. However, we believe that every Executive department should make a pledge. This manifesto today will help us deliver for the men and women, and the families, who serve our country and place themselves in harm's way. We are committed to rebuilding the Military Covenant in every part of the United Kingdom.
"Other parties may talk about renewing the Military Covenant. Only the Conservatives and Unionists can deliver for our armed forces and their families".
Sir Reg Empey,
Conservatives and Unionists candidate for South Antrim
I would like to thank Mr McCrea for his concern about how well my campaign is going and would like to assure him that I have been and continue to be very active on the ground in South Antrim in addition to carrying out my Ministerial duties.
With regard to the GMU programme, there was indeed a mis-understanding but in no way could I be said to have been avoiding either the media or the public.
To date I have been involved in, the UTV Party Leaders' debate, the Newsletter webchat, UTV Live, BBC Newsline, BBC Hearts and Minds, a panel debate on the local radio station Seven FM and and given countless interviews to our local print jouralists.
I have also canvassed extensively in South Antrim including Carnmoney, Ballyduff, Ballyclare, Antrim town, Randalstown and Templetpatrick. Today I have been in Crumlin, Glenavy, Straid and Ballyeaston and have met a great many of - what Mr McCrea so condescendingly describes as - ordinary people.
The curious thing is that in all my travels in South Antrim I have not come across a single DUP canvasser. It is as if they have put up their posters and all gone to ground.
I would suggest that someone may indeed be "terrified" in the South Antrim campaign. But it isn't me.