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'It's just great to be British'
“PRIDE in being British is back” – that was the message from Basingstoke MP Maria Miller when she made a keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham.
The MP, who is the newly-promoted Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, gave a 10-minute headline speech on the last day of the conference.
In what was one of the most high-profile public speeches by a Basingstoke politician, Mrs Miller said that the summer of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic Games had given communities divided by the 2011 riots “harmony and healing”.
She pledged to continue to fulfil the Olympic legacy, and announced that Team GB athletes will inspire future sports stars by mentoring and teaching in UK schools.
“Our Olympic athletes will be dedicated to helping the next generation to shine as they themselves have shone this summer,” she said.
Mrs Miller spoke as part of a 45-minute section titled Celebrating the UK, which preceded Prime Minister David Cameron’s main conference speech.
During her speech, Mrs Miller pledged to boost super-fast broadband access, and said the Government is making headway in rolling out next-generation mobile broadband (4G) access. By 2015, she said, “90 per cent of the UK will have super-fast broadband in urban and rural areas.”
And the former minister for the disabled said that the Paralympic Games had altered the nation’s perception of disability.
“One undeniable legacy of the Games is that it made us think about disability differently; thinking about what individuals can do, not what they can't – treating each other with respect,” she said.
“We have to now make sure that gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and disability are not barriers to full and equal participation.”
The married mother-of-three used the conference speech to reaffirm her belief about the importance of marriage, and she endorsed same-sex marriage.
“I still believe in marriage – it’s the bedrock of our society” she said. “'The state should not stop two people from making the commitment to be married unless there's a good reason. I don't believe being gay is one of them.”
But the central theme to her speech was how the country had regained its pride.
She said. “This summer we have been the envy of the world.
“It made us proud to be British. Britain has clearly shown that we can lead the way.”
Following her closing statement, Mrs Miller left the stage to make way for sports minister Hugh Robertson, who interviewed Olympic cycling team pursuit gold medallist Joanna Rowsell, and women’s hockey bronze medallist Anne Panter.