Howard launches Tory campaign

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Voters do not "have to settle" for five more years of Labour government, Conservative leader Michael Howard said today as he launched the party's election campaign.

Voters do not "have to settle" for five more years of Labour government, Conservative leader Michael Howard said today as he launched the party's election campaign.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was "already secretly grinning" at the prospect of a third poll victory, Mr Howard said.

But Conservatives offered an alternative to the "smirking politics of Mr Blair or the woolly thinking of Liberal Democrats", he said.

Pre-empting Mr Blair's declaration of the election, the Tory Leader said: "There is a better way."

He was joined by wife Sandra and dozens of supporters at a central London hotel to launch the party's campaign before travelling on to Birmingham and the North West.

Mr Howard said: "The choice before voters on May 5 is very clear.

"They can either reward Mr Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

"Or they can vote Conservative to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that matter to hard-working Britain.

"Mr Blair's Labour Government has lost the plot.

"Hard-working families - honest people who do the right thing, who respect others, who provide for their children, who look after their homes and contribute to their communities - are being taken for granted by Mr Blair."

People were fed up that their hard work was not rewarded while patients worry they will pick up infection in dirty hospitals, the Tory leader said.

Pensioners worry about going out during the day - never mind the night - because crime was out of control and parents worry that children cannot learn in class because there was too little school discipline.

"And all this despite Mr Blair's huge stealthy tax increases," Mr Howard said.

"Imagine another five years of it. If you're thinking, 'We shouldn't have to settle for this', then I say to you today, 'Don't'.

"Britain is the fourth richest country in the world.

"We can afford world class public services - the good, local schools and clean hospitals that hard-working Britons deserve.

"There is a better way."

Mr Howard added: "By rewarding people who do the right thing - who play by the rules - we will build a better, brighter future for our country."

The Conservative Timetable for Action was a "bold public commitment" to get a grip on issues facing Britain.

A Tory Government would reward people who do the right thing by giving them value for money and lower taxes, restore discipline by giving head teachers control of schools and hand matrons the power to close wards infected by the MRSA superbug, Mr Howard said.

Crime would be cut by putting 5,000 more "real police officers" on the streets and introducing tougher sentences for burglars and drug-dealers.

Immigration would be cut by setting an annual limit on the numbers who can come into the country.

"Now some people say I shouldn't talk about difficult issues like the abuse of our asylum system or travellers who stick two fingers up to the law," the Tory leader said.

"But we cannot make Britain a better place if we sweep difficult issues under the carpet.

"Everyone knows you won't fix a problem if you aren't even prepared to discuss it.

"I am not prepared to appease special interest groups because I believe passionately in fair play.

"We are all British and we should all have to play by the same rules.

"Nor will I be distracted from what I believe is best for Britain by the smirking politics of Mr Blair or the woolly thinking of Liberal Democrats."

A Conservative Government would be held to account by the detailed, published Timetable for Action.

"Beware yet another election where Mr Blair says one thing to get your vote on polling day and does something quite different afterwards.

"Mr Blair is already secretly grinning at the prospect of his third victory.

"Well you don't have to settle for that."

Conservatives stand for school discipline, cleaner hospitals, more police and controlled immigration, Mr Howard said.

"So I say again, the choice before voters on May 5 is very clear.

"They can either reward Mr Blair for eight years of broken promises and vote for another five years of talk.

"Or they can vote Conservative to support a party that's taken a stand and is committed to action on the issues that really matter to hard-working Britons."





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