I'm no prisoner of Thatcherism, says Cameron

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David Cameron has broken with the memory of Margaret Thatcher in a determined effort to modernise his party and move it towards the political centre ground.

He also launched a withering personal attack on Gordon Brown, whom he expects to face as Labour leader at the next election, denouncing the Chancellor as a "creature of the past".

Mr Cameron has been on the front foot over the past two weeks, announcing new initiatives on the environment, poverty and immigration designed to update its appeal to the millions of voters who have deserted the party.

The Tory leader has built up his momentum just as problems are piling up for Tony Blair, who is due to return to work from holiday tomorrow. He faces backbench rebellions over education, health and welfare reforms, and difficult decisions on pensions and nuclear power.

Mr Cameron rounded off his publicity onslaught with a series of interviews and articles and a six-point policy declaration aimed at demonstrating how the party had changed. It included a strong defence of the National Health Service, a promise to stand up to big business and a commitment to tackle poverty at home and overseas.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, he said: "At the next election, a whole generation of people will be voting who were born after Margaret Thatcher left office.

"So when it comes to tackling the big challenges our society faces, I won't be the prisoner of an ideological past."

The Tory leader set out his policy pledges, which omitted the traditional right-wing commitment to tax cuts, in an advertisement in The Sunday Telegraph.

He signalled his intention to abandon the Tories' flagship "patient's passport" policy of subsiding private health care, pledging to improve the NHS for everyone, rather than help a few people to opt out.

Mr Cameron distanced himself from the party's allies in industry by highlighting the dangers from global warming and promising to "stand up to big business when it's in the interests of Britain and the world".

He backed "radical reform" of the police service, boosting economic stability, a fight against global poverty and a reduction in the gulf in life expectancy between the rich and poor. He said: "The right test for our policies is how they help the least well-off in society, not the rich."

Despite his promise to avoid "Punch and Judy" politics, he used an interview in The Sunday Times to argue that his relative inexperience was an asset compared with Mr Brown.

Mr Cameron, who is 39, said: "He's a creature of the past to me, really, and by the next election he'll have been in office for 12 years and Parliament for 27."

He said the voters would have a choice between his "new approach" and Mr Brown's "rather old-style 1980s approach to politics".

He added: "Gordon Brown is the old-style thump-thump-thump and I think that's exactly what turns people off. I find [him] awful because it's just like listening to a speak-your-weight machine on propaganda." A Downing Street source dismissed Mr Cameron's policy pledges as "rhetoric without substance" and described the attack on Mr Brown as "desperate stuff".

Harriet Harman, the Constitutional Affairs minister who is a close ally of the Chancellor, said: "David Cameron's new style of politics seems to have lasted less than a month. He has woken the Tories from their slumber only to walk them up a blind alley of shallow personal abuse."

Another ally said Mr Brown was happy for his record in government to be contrasted with Mr Cameron's inexperience. He said that the new Tory leader's tactics of combining pledges of compassionate Conservatism with personal attacks had been borrowed from the US President, George Bush.