David Cameron today urged Conservatives to focus on "the real enemy" of "self-satisfied Labour socialists who think they can spend your money better than you can," in an attempt to unify a party divided over recent weeks by leadership speculation.
After Eastleigh's byelection voters hammered the Tories into third place behind the Liberal Democrats and Ukip, speculation mounted that Home secretary Theresa May was mulling a leadership bid. This added to long-running tensions with the party's traditionalist right over gay marriage and Europe.
But today the Prime minister told his spring conference that he was sticking to traditional Tory values, and that the party has "a real fight on our hands" come the next election.
He said: "Anyone in this party who's in any doubt who we should be fighting, what we should be debating, where our energies should be focused, I tell you: our battle is with Labour."
"Let's not mince our words: this is a bunch of self-satisfied Labour socialists who think they can spend your money better than you can, make decisions better than you can and tell you what to do and we should never, ever let that lot near government again.
"That's who we're fighting against. And we know who we're fighting for: for all those who work hard and want to get on."
He concluded: "Does this party ever shy away from the fight? No.
"I'm up for it. This party's up for it. So let's give it everything - I mean everything - we've got."
Cameron faces warnings from a new Tory group meeting at the conference that the party faces a "severe defeat" in 2015 if he fails to "reconnect" with party members and abandon gay marriage laws.
He did not address the issue directly in his speech to the London gathering - which he used to insist he was engaged in fighting for an "aspiration nation" in line with the traditional Tory values of party icons Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
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