The North West Hants Patrons Club met under the Chairmanship of Sandy Copland at the Carlton Club for their Annual Dinner, at which the guest speaker was the former Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind. He was introduced by Sir David Mitchell, President of North West Hampshire Conservatives, and thanked by Sir George.
In his speech, Sir Malcolm said that Michael Howard clearly had the qualities of a Prime Minister-in-waiting, and had successfully united his Party and ended the debate about its Leadership. By contrast, the Labour Party was split on key issues such as Iraq, top-up fees and foundation hospitals.
Comparing the Prime Minister's first seven years with those of Margaret Thatcher, he said that, if Tony Blair stopped tomorrow, he would be remembered for three wars, a bungled reform of the House of Lords and wasting time on fox-hunting. By contrast, after seven years, Margaret Thatcher had delivered on the right to buy, had curbed the power of the Trade Unions, and had successfully privatised loss-making nationalised industries that were now making money. He described Mr Blair as a good politician but a bad Prime Minister.
Answering questions, he said that the recent emergence of UKIP had underlined the position of the Conservative Party as the mainstream party on Europe. UKIP want to stop the train and get off; the Liberal Democrats and Labour want further integration; the Conservatives reflect public opinion in wanting to resist both the Euro and the proposed new constitution, but retain the benefits of being at the table of a powerful free trading organisation.