David Cameron evoked the spirit of Baroness Thatcher today as he launched the Conservative local election campaign by mounting a withering attack on Labour profligacy - and ignoring his Liberal Democrat coalition partners.
Speaking in the Warwickshire town of Nuneaton, he accused Labour town halls of spending residents' cash "like it's theirs" and insisted the Tories wanted to protect the "pound in your pocket".
He insisted the party was on the right economic course and quoted the words of the Victorian author George Eliot, who came from Nuneaton: "Never be ashamed of doing right. Decide what you think is right and stick to it."
Mr Cameron added: "Couldn't those exact same words have been spoken by the Conservative Party's most famous daughter too?
"Margaret Thatcher knew what was right. She stuck to her guns. She saved our country. And I know everyone here is proud that she was not just a great woman and a great Prime Minister but a great Conservative too."
Mr Cameron ridiculed a £12,000 clothing allowance for Durham council leaders as "the latest line from 'Geordie Armani'".
He also attacked Sheffield City Council for having 391 employees with salaries of more than £50,000 and the London boroughs of Greenwich and Lambeth for "shamelessly spending your money on their propaganda".
Mr Cameron did not even mention the Liberal Democrats or the UK Independence Party as he argued the only real choice in next month's local elections was between the Conservatives and Labour.
He said the Tory campaign would focus on three themes - "the services on our streets", "the pound in your pocket" and "the future of our country".
The Tory campaign launched was delayed because of Lady Thatcher's death, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats suspended their campaigns for three days last week.
Elections will take place on May 2 in 35 English councils, including 27 county councils and eight unitary authorities, and in the Welsh unitary authority of Anglesey.
The Conservatives are braced for a grim night as the seats up for grabs were last contested in 2009 when Gordon Brown's Labour government was deeply unpopular.
* The Green Party launched its campaign in Oxford today. It is calling for the introduction of a living wage, rather than a minimum wage, and opposing cuts to benefits.
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