UK Politics

Conservative conference: Britain's confidence is back, says Miller

Olympic opening ceremony
Image caption The Olympic opening ceremony was watched by 27 million people in the UK

Britain's pride has been restored by the Olympics and Paralympics, with the smooth running of the events making the country "the envy of the world", Culture Secretary Maria Miller says.

Global attention had helped investment and jobs, which would be the "real legacy", she told the Tory conference.

Ms Miller called the BBC and Channel 4's coverage "ground-breaking".

She added the Olympic and Paralympic athletes would devote 5,000 days a year to coach and mentor young people.

Ms Miller, the final minister to address the conference in Birmingham ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron's closing speech, said the government was "exceeding expectations" in improving infrastructure.

'Embarrassment of riches'

The rollout of the 3G mobile phone network was six months ahead of schedule and, by 2015, 90% of the UK would have superfast broadband, she added.

Ms Miller also defended the Conservative leadership's policy of legalising gay marriage, telling activists: "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."

The summer saw celebrations for the Queen's 60 years on the throne, while Britain's Olympians and Paralympians won 185 medals at the London Games.

In what will be seen as a warm-up speech ahead of Mr Cameron's address, Ms Miller said: "To those that say it was just a summer of sport, just a jubilee, I would say realign your vision. Look beyond the moment and see what Britain at its best on the centre of the world stage can mean.

"Think of the jobs it can and has created, the influence it can and has exerted, the investment it can and has brought. This will be the real legacy of the Olympics."

She told Tory members: "We have always been proud of our union flag, of our culture, of our Queen, of our United Kingdom. Under a Labour government the British Spirit was dampened. Labour felt apologetic for being British.

"Conference, this summer with Conservatives in government, Britain has regained its pride.

"We have always said that Britain has an embarrassment of riches. And this summer we have been, quite simply, the envy of the world. Her Majesty the Queen standing on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, the Mall jam-packed, the Red Arrows flying overhead… made us proud to be British."

Ms Miller said: "And when the world turned its gaze on us, it saw a country confident of its unique cultural heritage.

"We didn't only exceed expectations on the track but the phenomenal global media coverage exceeded expectations too. The approach of the BBC and Channel 4 were ground breaking. You never had to miss a moment. The digital complexity behind that is astonishing and has set a new gold standard."

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