Cameron vows 'to put Britain back on her feet'

David Cameron today promised to "put Britain back on her feet" as he set out his case to be Prime Minister.

The Conservative leader said he would create "the responsible society" by rolling back the culture of big government bureaucracy created during Labour's 12 years in power.



And he pledged to take the "tough choices" needed to get Britain out of the recession and pay off record national debts.



In his final conference speech before the election, expected in the spring, Mr Cameron acknowledged that his plans to cut back state spending would be "painful".



But Mr Cameron held out the prospect of better times ahead if voters take the tough Tory medicine.



Insisting he had the character, the temperament and the judgment to be Prime Minister, he told the Manchester conference he was "ready to be tested".



"If we cut big government back, if we move society forward and if we rebuild responsibility, then we can put Britain back on her feet," Mr Cameron said.



"I know that today there aren't many reasons to be cheerful. But there are reasons to believe.



"Yes, it will be a steep climb. But the view from the summit will be worth it."



Mr Cameron said the £175 billion state deficit was nearly twice as big as "when we nearly went bankrupt in the 1970s" adding that Labour were putting the economy at risk by failing to reduce it swiftly.



"The longer we wait for a credible plan, the bigger the bill for our children to pay," he warned. "The longer we wait, the greater the risk to the recovery. The longer we wait, the higher the chance we return to recession."



The "only responsible thing" for politicians to do in the current circumstances was to take "tough choices" like raising the pension age to 66, freezing public sector pay and cutting Whitehall spending, he said.



But he also sought to persuade voters the sacrifice will be worth it by outlining his vision of a better future, telling activists: "If we pull together, come together, work together - we will get through this together."



In a deeply personal speech, Mr Cameron repeatedly said that his politics were driven by what he described as "my DNA: family, community, country".



He recalled the death earlier this year of his son Ivan, which he said had made him question whether he wanted to continue in politics.



And he paid tribute to his wife Samantha, watching from the front row, for "sustaining" him at a time when "it's like the world has stopped turning and the clocks have stopped ticking".



Labour had allowed Britain's economy, society and politics to be "broken" because it relied on big government to sort out problems, rather than trusting individuals and families with responsibility.



"We are not going to solve our problems with bigger government," said Mr Cameron.



"We are going to solve our problems with a stronger society, stronger families, stronger communities, a stronger country. All by rebuilding responsibility.



"Family, community, country. Recognising that what holds society together is responsibility and that the good society is a responsible society.



"That's what I'm about. That's what any government I lead will be about."



There was little new policy in the speech, though Mr Cameron restated existing pledges to preserve the NHS free at the point of use, to give the Bank of England back responsibility for regulating the City and to devolve decision-making powers to doctors and headteachers.



He promised to send more troops to Afghanistan and to equip them properly, and confirmed that former Army chief General Sir Richard Dannatt - a strong critic of the Government's handling of the war - was a candidate for defence minister in a Tory administration.



Mr Cameron delivered a swingeing attack on Labour for failing the poor and vulnerable people it claims to represent, citing the case of Fiona Pilkington, who burnt herself and her daughter to death after police failed to stop bullying by local youths.



He also hit out at the tax and benefit system which he claimed costs a single mother returning to work 96p of every extra pound she earns.



"Who made the poorest poorer? Who left youth unemployment higher? Who made inequality greater?" asked Mr Cameron, jabbing his finger as he spoke.



"No, not the wicked Tories - you, Labour: you're the ones that did this to our society.



"So don't you dare lecture us about poverty. You have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party, to fight for the poorest who you have let down."



Tony Blair had "wasted his mandate" by ducking big choices, while Gordon Brown had governed by "turning every decision into a political calculation", he said.



A year after being dismissed by Mr Brown as "a novice", Mr Cameron presented himself as ready to be Prime Minister.



"I know that whatever plans you make in Opposition, it's the unpredictable events that come to dominate a government," he said.



"And it's your character, your temperament and your judgment - not your policies and your manifesto - that really make the difference.



"You can never prove you're ready for everything that will come your way as Prime Minister. But you can point to the judgments you've made. And you can learn from the mistakes that others have made.



"So I won't promise things I cannot deliver. But I can look you in the eye and tell you that in a Conservative Britain:



"If you put in the effort to bring in a wage, you will be better off. If you save money your whole life, you'll be rewarded. If you start your own business, we'll be right behind you. If you want to raise a family, we'll support you. If you're frightened, we'll protect you. If you risk your safety to stop a crime, we'll stand by you. If you risk your life to fight for your country, we will honour you.



"Ask me what a Conservative government stands for and the answer is this: we will reward those who take responsibility and care for those who can't."



The 57-minute speech was hailed as "absolutely inspirational" by shadow cabinet member Theresa May, while shadow business secretary Kenneth Clarke said it was "extremely moving at times - a very personal performance".



But Labour's Liam Byrne said Cameron had delivered "a traditional Conservative speech, not a speech of change" and had concealed "the judgment calls he has consistently got wrong".



Dave Prentis, the leader of the Unison union, said Mr Cameron's focus on cuts showed that "the Tories are still stuck in the Thatcher era".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all