Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s an honour for me to be considered by you to be your Parliamentary candidate for the next election.
I want to start by saying that I think I know how you’re feeling. You’re sick and tired of Norman Lamb. You’re fed up with seeing his name in the EDP, day after day – and no candidate to fight back. Believe me, Norman Lamb is in for a rather nasty surprise if you select me. His free run since June 2001 is over. I’m looking forward to preparing the mint source and spit-roasting him.
A Conservative party worker who has worked his socks off for our party said to me recently: “I am fed up with being the political equivalent of an estate agent.”
It is people like him that we need to inspire and make them feel proud to be Conservatives again. Nationally it’s up to our leaders to show us the way to victory - but locally it is up to your candidate to provide the leadership and vision which our party members both need and deserve.
I will spend as much time in the constituency as possible, getting myself known, campaigning on local issues. I will attend all association events and as many branch events as I can, and embark on building a campaign team ready to fight the next election.
My aim is to earn your respect and loyalty - for those two attributes are vital if I am to motivate you all to work hard to help get me elected. I should tell you now that I have no rules about “family days” and “free time”. If I can physically be at a function I will be, not because I have to be, but because I actually want to be.
This election campaign – which starts now – cannot be run by mobile phone from London. It cannot be run by an absentee candidate. I therefore commit to you now that I will work a minimum of three days a week in the constituency initially, and often more. I will also buy a property here as soon as possible – a commitment I do not enter into lightly.
I’ve just sold one of my businesses and I have already put the wheels in motion to sell the other. My commitment here will be total - my first priority. I believe in hard work and know no other way. Anyone who knows of my work in helping Patrick Thompson win three elections in Norwich North can testify to that.
We will be campaigning every week on the streets of North Norfolk, in the local community, in the local media and on the internet. Political campaigning is changing. I will provide you with a new state of the art website using campaigning techniques never seen before in this country. I see Norman Lamb’s website still has his new year’s message on his front page. Indeed it says it’s a New Year’s Message to North Norfolk Liberal Democrat. I did think there was more than one of them!
My work on radio and television shows that I am able to generate positive publicity both for myself and the Party. It’s vital that a new candidate is able to sell our national policies to the local media and explain how individual people at local level will benefit. I already know Chris Fisher and Paul Hill at the EDP. You may not think so at times but they’re not actually anti-Conservative – if we give them newsworthy stories they will run with them.
Radio Norfolk is also hugely important to us in getting our message across, and my work on BBC News 24, Radio 5 Live and Radio 4 shows I can take the Conservative fight to the BBC – and let’s face it, someone needs to.
But local people want to know that their MP understands the issues which are important to them. My background in farming and my Norfolk connections demonstrate that it will be difficult for our opponents to depict me as an outsider. My mother spent her childhood in Stibbard, our family holidays were spent on the North Norfolk coast, I went to University at UEA – but don’t hold that against me please – and I spent most of the 1980s here.
I also intend to listen. Listening is what we Conservatives are always accused of not doing enough of. I want to meet the major employers, local charities & community groups, environmental groups, teachers, nurses, doctors. And I’ll want to immediately meet your councillors.
I’ll listen to all those people who are concerned about the escalating cost of housing and how their kids are going to afford to stay in the area – to those who are worried about the performance of the local hospital and the funding of local schools.
I’ll listen to local farmers whose livelihoods have been decimated by this government. I know. My father’s one of them.
I’ll campaign with the good citizens of Happisburgh who, when they ask the Government why it won’t help them to defend their homes against the onslaught of coastal erosion, at least deserve to be listened to. People in those circumstances look to government for help and it’s hardly surprising that they are turned off politics when government fails them.
I’ll listen to the people, form an opinion, and then I’ll act.
But nationally, our Party needs to send out a clear message - an unambiguous message and above all a united message - a message that can appeal to everyone in society, not just natural conservatives. The young, the old, the strong, the weak.
The message is that we are on their side. There must be no no-go areas for the Conservatives. Not nationally, not in North Norfolk. I’m told Sheringham is a bit of a LibDem stronghold and is called Yellowville in some quarters. Sounds like a good place to start our attack!
But above all, we need national policies which show a clear difference to Labour.
I want a zero tolerance approach to violent crime.
I want to see us preach the virtues of low taxes.
I want to see choice in education and health.
I want a parliament that is not a lapdog of the government.
I want to see politics cleansed of the parasites who have infected Downing Street in recent years.
I want to see a Britain which has the self respect and pride to say, yes, we’re the fourth largest economy in the world and under no circumstances will be give up our currency, our sovereignty and our history to become some fourth rate province in the Greater Belgian Empire.
But above all I want those thousands of people who deserted us in 1997 and 2001 to Come Home to the Conservatives. That will be a major campaign theme of mine.
And when they do come home, we need to make people feel welcome and inspired by the crusade which we are about to launch. Our work here in the association can only continue if we constantly revitalise our membership, as today’s new members are tomorrow’s councillors and association officers.
And I want to bring some top notch speakers to North Norfolk to help raise money to fund the many campaigns we will be running. Gyles Brandreth, Bernard Ingham, Michael Dobbs, Ann Widdecombe, Matthew Parris and David Davis – they’ve all agreed to come to speak for me. And if her health is up to it, Margaret Thatcher has provisionally agreed to come too.
This seat was Conservative from 1970 to 2001. Everyone regarded it as a safe seat. I want to make it that again – a safe Conservative seat.
I am 41 years old. I haven’t come here to lose. If I didn’t think we could run the Liberals out of North Norfolk I wouldn’t be here today.
I have to tell you that many of my friends think I’m mad. They seem scared of the Liberals and believe that once the Liberals are ensconced they are unbeatable. What rubbish.
At the last election we won two seats back from them and we’re going to do better next time. I know the Labour vote has been squeezed like a lemon by the Liberals. But I think those Labour voters realise they’ve been sold a pup – or even a lamb.
As a party it’s time we took the kid gloves off and exposed the Liberals for the deceitful, unprincipled, Labour supporting, money wasting political charlatans they are.
This is the party who when they took over North Norfolk District Council in May hadn’t a clue what they would do. They had no forward plan, no strategy with the result that the council officers twiddled their thumbs for weeks. We need to expose such political hypocrisy.
The only way to fight Liberals is to play them at their own game. By that I don’t mean indulge in dirty tricks, but I do mean that we have play hard and learn new ways of local aggressive campaigning. When it comes to playing political hardball with Liberals I am no shrinking violet. I play to win.
We need to appear - I need - to appear omnipresent. I gather Norman Lamb not only enjoys opening garden fetes, he will appear at the opening of an envelope. Well, I’ve got to be one step ahead of him and make sure it’s me that seals not only the envelope but seals his fate.
Margaret Thatcher inspired me to get involved in politics. In her day we used to win general elections almost at will. I remember that feeling. I remember being so proud to stand on people’s doorsteps knowing that what I was doing was helping her stay in Downing Street.
I want you to feel that same way about your candidate in North Norfolk. I want you to feel that the hard work you are putting in is all worth it. That the person you are campaigning for is not only worth electing but will do good for the constituency and the country.
I will leave no stone unturned in my campaigning and won’t be satisfied until we win. I am certain that with such a hard working association, a superb team of councillors and me as your candidate we will hear Peter Snow on election night utter those four magic words. North Norfolk – Conservative gain.