Sajid Javid: Speech to Scottish Conservative Conference

3 May 2019

Check against delivery:

It’s great to be in Aberdeen. Or should I say it’s a relief. I asked my team how far I could get away from Westminster, without leaving the UK – so here I am!

I love visiting Scotland, both in my capacity as Home Secretary and for personal reasons. For one thing, around half of my British relatives chose to settle in Scotland.

One of my uncles – born in Pakistan – has run a corner shop in Lanarkshire, for over thirty years. Every customer knows him by name.

Well, sort of. His name is Naseem, but the regulars call him John! But my point is…they know him, they look out for him, they watch his shop if he needs to pop out.

He says there’s no place on Earth where he feels so welcome and accepted. The rest of my family feel the same. And it’s not just them. The largest ethnic minority in Scotland – if you exclude almost half a million Sassenachs – are Pakistani Scots.

I remember my Dad proudly telling me that most of the bagpipes produced outside Scotland are actually made in a town called Sialkot, in the Punjab region where he and his ancestors grew up.

So what I’m trying to say is, I reckon we’re only a generation or two away from a Javid tartan.

This morning, we all woke up to disappointing local election results in England.

As Local Government Secretary I saw every day just how much better Conservative-run councils are compared to others.

The fact we’re still by far the largest party in local government is testament to that.

But too many people will no longer benefit from good, hard-working, Conservative councillors for the next few years.

Let’s show our appreciation to all of them – all the candidates, and all the members that took time out to support them.

Of course we knew it would be a tough time in the cycle. We knew there was frustration about our national politics. I heard plenty of it myself knocking on doors in Wakefield yesterday.

And, there’s no denying the European elections in a few weeks will be even more challenging – in every part of the UK.

We told the public we would be out of the EU by March 29th. Brits don’t exactly cry out for extra elections at the best of times.

Now we’re asking people to vote for elected roles we had promised would no longer exist. Representing an organisation we promised we would no longer be part of.

It ticks a legal box given we haven’t agreed a Deal yet. But we shouldn’t be surprised if people tick the protest box on the ballot paper. Without anything else at stake, it will be a verdict on the delivery of Brexit.

It’s like being asked to rate an Amazon delivery that hasn’t even turned up yet.

We may not have taken the fastest route, but we must deliver the goods. Obviously, a lot has happened since the referendum, and I will spare you the recap.

But the principle of that vote has not changed. We all agreed to honour the result. So let’s get on with it.

No second-guessing. No best-of-three. One vote, one mandate, one nation moving forwards together.

I know this argument sounds very familiar to you. Because not only is this a fundamental test for our historic democracy. It’s also a test for our three centuries old Union.

The greatest and one of the longest-lasting union of nations the world has ever seen.

Just imagine if we went back to the public for another divisive EU referendum. It would be an absolute gift to the Nats. All we’ll ever hear is: “we want one of those too!”

Some Scottish politicians like to say Scotland voted Remain – yes that’s right. In 2014 it voted to remain in the United Kingdom. And it took part in the EU referendum as part of the United Kingdom.

I know Nicola Sturgeon has never met a referendum she hasn’t wanted to overturn. But I say to her: stop trying to rerun the referendums of the past, and stop weaponising Brexit for your own narrow agenda.

No more second guessing. No second referendum on EU membership. No second referendum on Scottish separatism.

Thanks to all of you in this room, the Nats are no longer buzzing around parliament with 56 MPs like they somehow own Scotland.

Now they have to contend with a clan of fearless Scottish Conservative colleagues willing to stand up to them in the chamber, saying:

“No. You don’t represent all of Scotland. You don’t have a monopoly on Scottish opinion”.

But as significant as your victory in 2017 was for Scotland… It was even more profound for the United Kingdom.

When I’m standing at that Despatch Box in the House of Commons, every time I see David Mundell and our twelve Scottish colleagues:

Alister, Andrew, Bill, Colin, David, Douglas, John, Kirstene, Luke, Paul, Ross, Stephen.

I’m reminded that the only reason we’re sitting on that side of the chamber, the only reason I’m Home Secretary, the only reason our party is in government, is because of your efforts at the last general election.

Under Ruth’s inspiring leadership, you’re the band of warriors who saved the whole United Kingdom from the threat of Corbyn’s Labour. So thank you, General Davidson. Thank you all.

Unfortunately, the Corbyn threat to our country has not gone. We may have won that battle, but we have not yet won the war.

That will come at the next General Election – and for him it could not come soon enough.

And there’s no point sugar-coating it: When it does come, and it could come well before 2022, it’s going to be tough. Let me take you through it.

First, we have the challenge of incumbency. We’ve now been in office for nine years.

Under both Theresa May and David Cameron’s leadership we have led from the front in tackling a huge range of difficult challenges.

And we’ve had to take tough, tiring, but necessary decisions to clean up Labour’s mess. That’s the duty that always falls to Conservatives – but it’s never without cost.

Second, we are not delivering on a promise at the heart of our last manifesto: That we would leave the European Union on March 29th. So there’s an issue with trust.

Third, we need people to know that we share their values and understand their needs.

That’s the underlying reason why we have struggled with some ethnic minority voters, young voters, working class voters – and, yes, Scottish voters until recent times.

We are not the fuddy-duddy caricature painted by our opponents, caring only about vested interests. So there’s an issue of values – we must communicate our values, our vision.

And finally, we are seen as a divided team. A divided party cannot unite a divided nation.

The only winner from that is Corbyn. If we are divided, he will rule.

Voters don’t reward any of these things. So we’d better find a way to renew in government, to deliver on Brexit, and to come together as a team.

Let’s be very clear about the consequences if we lose that election. It’s not just going to be five years of hard left socialist government.

Bankrupting our economy, nationalising our industries, sky-high taxes, and rocketing unemployment.

It’s not just going to be a worse mess than usual for us to clean up. We may not even get the chance to try.

If Corbyn wins it could also be an existential crisis for our party.

Remember – this is not a normal opposition party, and it certainly won’t be a responsible government.

Corbyn and his comrades have all read that little red book. All the tricks of ‘permanent revolution’ will be visited upon our country.

His great prize will be to rig our precious democracy, just the way he started rigging the Labour Party as soon as he got in.

Whether it’s changing the electoral system, refusing to equalise constituency boundaries, or threatening press freedom – to name a few.

In short: undermining the norms of our multi-party democracy, not for any noble democratic principles, but to keep the hard left’s grip on power – no matter what the will of the British people.

That will be the first step in trying to shape our proud country in his image, just like he’s done to the once-proud Labour Party.

And you know what? He doesn’t even need to scrape a majority to make this happen. Because he’ll find a ready and willing accomplice in Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

Not just because they agree with all those things. But because in that situation Sturgeon will have him in her pocket, and I have no doubt he would readily pay her price: another independence referendum.

He may well throw in a Border Poll for Northern Ireland and risk that union too. Because this is a man who has never supported our great union of nations.

That alone should disqualify him from being Prime Minister. Let’s just look at who he does support.

Based on his past associations alone, he would not even qualify for a Home Office building pass.

Whether it’s giving the benefit of the doubt to Russia over their reckless attack in Salisbury…

Arguing we shouldn’t apply the rule of law to Julian Assange…

Refusing to support a criminal trial in the US for suspected Daesh executioners…

Or, for the first time in opposition history, not supporting the banning of a terrorist group…

Every single time we make a decision to protect our national security, Corbyn backs those who wish our country harm.

And guess who backs him up, time and again? Sturgeon’s SNP.

Given the reins of power, this socialist-separatist alliance would:

Threaten our security, bankrupt our economy, break our democracy, break-up our country. And it’s our duty to stop them.

It’s clear our union, our country, and our party are all at a crossroads. And we know that it’s in times of uncertainty that the seeds of radicalism are sown.

There are three different revolutions seeking to exploit this situation: Corbyn’s socialism. SNP-style separatism. And far-right populism.

There is only one institution that can stand in the way of all of them. That has the potential to keep our country together.

It is a great institution. A principled yet pragmatic one. The oldest – and most successful – of its kind in the world. The Conservative & Unionist Party.

And, there’s only one antidote to these narrow ideological agendas: One Nation conservatism.

A conservatism that speaks to everyone. That leaves no one behind. And is governed at its heart with compassion.

Only a unified Conservative Party can stop the Corbyn and SNP threat to our union, our security and our economy.

And only a renewed Conservative Party can bring the energy and ideas we need to tackle all of the challenges head on.

If we don’t pull ourselves together, and see off this threat with an energetic and unifying agenda, the next election could lock our great party out of power for a generation.

So it’s up to our generation, right here and now, to make damn sure that doesn’t happen.

We can win again. But we must “keep the heid”, as my cousins say.

This is the biggest test of our time. And it’s at times like this that we must not panic and fear the worst. But hold our nerve and look for opportunity.

That’s what the British do best.

Politicians may be at each other’s throats, our countrymen are not.

Westminster may have been paralysed by indecision, and Holyrood consumed by ideological fervour, but the British people have kept calm and carried on.

Yes we face divisions, but we are not fundamentally divided.

Yes we face challenges, but we are not overwhelmed.

Yes we face threats, but we are not overcome.

So let’s take our lead from the British people.

I’m very optimistic about the coming years. The best days of our United Kingdom are still to come.

Life will, miraculously, continue after we leave the European Union.

People will see that we are still the same country – with the same fundamental values,  and the same fundamental strengths.

We are open, not closed. Outward-facing, not inward-looking.

Just look at our economy. Despite the doom and gloom among many commentators about Brexit…

This Conservative government is overseeing the biggest employment boom since records began. Britain is open for business.

And a big part of that is a brand new, controlled immigration system that can be tailored to our needs.

Later today I’ll be sitting down with local business leaders in Aberdeen to talk through their needs, and how our immigration system can help.

We will continue to welcome talented migrants from every corner of the globe.  And we have been clear in saying to the three and a half million EU nationals already here:

“We hugely value the contribution that you have made to this country.

Deal or no deal, we want you to stay.”

As the son of immigrant parents, I know full well the contribution they, like many other migrants, made to the community I grew up in.

We recognise and value the immense contribution immigration has made – to our society, our culture, our economy and our communities. We are a lot richer – in so many ways – because of immigration.

And let me pay tribute to Kirstene Hair and others who have been very effective champions for Seasonal Agricultural Workers.

In contrast, all the SNP is doing is making Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom. It’s like hanging a sign at Gretna saying “higher taxes here”.

It’s so bad, the Treasury is refunding British soldiers based in Scotland the extra tax they’re being charged.

So we can learn a lot about “what not to do” from the self-indulgent SNP. With their blinkered ideology, divisive agenda, and their neglect of public services.

And we can learn “what to do” from you, the Scottish Conservatives.  

For decades you fought every inch of the way to win over the seats you now represent. You don’t have the luxury of rock solid seats that never switch sides.

If we’re going to win even more seats in Scotland, whether in Holyrood or Westminster, you know we need a unifying, One Nation agenda – not to sink deep into a narrow comfort-zone.

After such a long, successful history, we have been called the natural party of government. But the truth is there has never been anything natural or God-given about Conservative victories.

They’ve been the result of core values we have shared. Between ourselves. Between the British people.

Those values have always had to be fought for. They’ve had to be renewed, in each generation. And now is one of those moments.

Because with those EU elections just a few weeks away, we are rapidly approaching a fork in the road.

There are increasingly profound divisions in our politics and society.

Not just between Remain and Leave, but between regions and communities, rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old.

The temptation for some will be to double-down on those divisions.

To feed off them for some short-term gain. To follow the path of naked populism and identity politics.

But we can say “no, we reject that path”. “That way is not our way”. We are the Conservative Party.

We will not trade away the soul of conservatism. We are a responsible, One Nation party that focuses on what we have in common, not what divides us.

We believe in building on the best of the past. Not just putting up with modern Britain, but embracing it. Saying loud and clear that we love our country.

We are a welcoming, tolerant and fair society. The most successful multiracial democracy in the world.

We are an open, global, trading nation. One of the most prosperous in the world.

And we are a compassionate, caring, country. Not just for those close to home, but also for some of the poorest in the world.

That’s who we are as a country. That’s what Ruth and the Scottish Conservatives stand for.

And that’s the vision that will be the path to our success.