Conservative Conference

David Cameron calls for 'can-do' optimism

Britain can fight its way to a better future for its economy and its society with energy and a spirit of "can-do optimism", Prime Minister David Cameron said today.





In a speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester delivered against a backdrop of gloomy economic data, Mr Cameron acknowledged voters' anxieties about cuts, inflation and the prospects of recovery.



Speaking amid growing concern over eurozone stability and just hours after official figures downgraded UK growth in the first two quarters of 2011, he warned that the threat to the British and global economy is "as serious today as it was in 2008 when world recession loomed".



But instead of being "paralysed by gloom and fear", he said that Britain must reject pessimism and "turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity".



Mr Cameron promised he would offer the leadership needed to "turn this ship around". And he called on people across the country to show leadership too by working hard, building up innovative businesses and contributing to their communities.



He paid tribute to householders who went out to clear the streets following this summer's riots, teachers who have set up free schools in deprived areas and GPs who have taken control of their budgets.



And he said: "Let's reject the pessimism. Let's bring on the can-do optimism. Let's summon the energy and the appetite to fight for a better future for our country, Great Britain."



Invoking the "spirit of Britain", Mr Cameron said the UK needed to show the "hard-working, pioneering, independent, creative, adaptable, optimistic, can-do" qualities that had allowed it to make an out-sized impact on the world throughout its history.



"Remember: it's not the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog," he said. "Overcoming challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves, this is what we do. It's called leadership.



"We have the people, we have the ideas, and now we have a Government that's freeing those people, backing those ideas.



"So let's see an optimistic future. Let's show the world some fight. Let's pull together, work together. And together lead Britain to better days."



Mr Cameron was forced into a last-minute rewrite of his speech to clarify that he was not calling on households to pay off their credit card bills - something that economists warned would seriously damage growth.



But he said dealing with debt was the only way of escaping economic peril, rejecting Labour calls for temporary tax cuts and spending to boost growth as a recipe for interest rate hikes and further crisis.



"The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That's why households are paying down their credit card and store card bills," he said.



"It means banks getting their books in order. And it means governments - all over the world - cutting spending and living within their means."



On a day when the Office for National Statistics downgraded its estimate for UK GDP growth between April and June from 0.2% to 0.1%, Mr Cameron acknowledged voters had yet to see signs that his austerity programme was delivering recovery.



But he insisted: "Our plan is right. Our plan will work.



"I know that you can't see it or feel it right now. But think of it like this. The new economy we're building: it's like building a house. The most important part is the part you can't see - the foundations.



"Slowly, but surely, we're laying the foundations for a stronger future. But the vital point is this; if we don't stick with it, it won't work."



Mr Cameron rejected accusations that the Government has no plan for growth, insisting: "Whatever it takes to help our businesses take on the world, we'll do it." Deficit reduction was "line one, clause one of our plan for growth" but the Government was ready to cut regulations, get credit flowing, invest and intervene to help business.



He cited firms producing Formula One cars, jumbo jet parts and information technology as the kind of businesses that would drive Britain's "new economy".



But he said Labour's suggestion that businesses could be divided into saints and sinners to be taxed and regulated differently was a simplistic "insult" to financial services.



Mr Cameron was scathing about Labour's failure to apologise for leaving a record deficit, telling cheering activists: "We must never ever let these people anywhere near our economy again ever again."



He accused a "self-righteous" Labour of preaching equality but failing the poorest in society on education, welfare, immigration and housing.



And he denounced union plans for strike action on November 30 over public sector pensions as "not fair (and) not right".



But he also took on some of his critics in the Conservative Party, defending plans to increase in spending on international aid, recognise gay marriage and reform planning laws.



While promising he would never put the countryside at risk, he insisted that a streamlined planning system - like high-speed rail and superfast broadband - was necessary to let business thrive. And he told opponents: "Take your arguments down to the job centre. We've got to get Britain back to work."



In a speech which was light on new policy, Mr Cameron promised a "new focus" on children in care and said he would triple the scale of National Citizen Service. And he said he wanted the kind of speedy justice handed out to rioters to be applied in the courts all the time.



Mr Cameron's 50-minute speech won him a standing ovation and plaudits from Cabinet colleagues.



Katja Hall, chief policy director of the CBI, said: "The Prime Minister is right that dealing with the deficit is helping to build solid foundations for UK growth, and we need to stick to 'plan A'."



But Labour's business spokesman, Chuka Umunna, said: "On the day that official figures confirmed the economy has stagnated since last autumn, David Cameron told Britain that he would continue with an austerity plan which is hurting but not working.



"This is a Prime Minister who talks a lot about leadership but, because he and his party are wedded to outdated thinking and refuse to learn the lessons of the past, he has shown the Tories are unable to lead Britain to a better future."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
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

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea