We will change the world again, Brown tells party

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The coming general election will present Britain with its "biggest choice for a generation" between a Labour Party offering prosperity and hope and Conservatives who have "no hearts", Gordon Brown said today, in his last conference speech before the poll expected in the spring.

In what was billed as a make-or-break speech, Mr Brown set out a wide-ranging programme for a fourth Labour term, including free personal care for elderly people with the greatest needs, new measures to crack down on anti-social behaviour, a referendum on voting reform and a new power for constituents to recall misbehaving MPs.

While acknowledging once more that Labour will have to make tough choices on tax and spending after the election, Mr Brown promised that a fourth-term administration would "protect and improve" frontline services every year of the coming Parliament and will invest more money in schools.

In a slogan designed to draw clear defining lines with David Cameron's Tories, Mr Brown repeatedly promised that Labour would always choose "the change that benefits the hard-working majority, not the privileged few."

With Labour plumbing new depths in the polls - including one which this morning put them in third place behind the Liberal Democrats - Mr Brown insisted that the party was "united and determined to fight for the future".

Introduced on stage by wife Sarah as "my husband, my hero", he won immediate applause and cheers from delegates as he opened his speech by telling them that Labour were "the fighters and believers who change the world - we have changed the world before and we are going to do it again".

He told delegates he had acted "decisively and immediately" when Britain was "looking over a precipice" as banks teetered on the brink of failure last year, while Conservatives had taken decisions on the economy which were "consistently wrong".

"The Conservative Party were faced with the economic call of the century and they called it wrong," he said.

"And I say a party that makes the wrong choices on the most critical decisions it would have faced in government should not be given the chance to be in government."

Mr Brown warned voters that allowing the Conservatives to return to power at the election would put at risk the future of their jobs, schools, hospitals and communities.

"The Conservative Party want people to believe that the ballot paper has an option marked change without consequence - that's it's only a change of the team at the top," he said.

"They've deliberately held their cards close to their chest. They've done their best to conceal their policies and their instincts. But the financial crisis forced them to show their hand and they showed they had no hearts.

"And so I say to the British people the election to come will not be about my future - it's about your future. Your job. Your home. Your children's school. Your hospital. Your community. Your country."

The choice facing voters will be between "Conservatives who embrace pessimism and austerity and progressives like Labour who embrace prosperity and hope", he said.

And he added: "There are only two options on tax and spending - and only one of them benefits Britain's hard-working majority.

"One is reducing the deficit by cutting front-line public services - the Conservative approach.

"The other is getting the deficit down while maintaining and indeed improving front-line public services - the Labour approach."

While Labour would reduce the deficit by raising tax "at the very top" putting up National Insurance by 0.5%, cutting costs and having "realistic" public sector pay settlements, the Conservatives would take "a different approach" of cutting spending on front-line services and giving tax breaks to the rich, he warned.

"These are not cuts they would make because they have to - these are spending cuts they are making because they want to. It is not inevitable - it is the change they choose," said the Prime Minister.

Without naming Mr Cameron, Mr Brown stressed his own upbringing in "an ordinary family in an ordinary town" with parents who "could not easily afford to put me through fee-paying schools" in a clear attempt to draw a contrast with the privileged background of the Eton-educated Tory leader.

And he drew a contrast between the bankers who "lost sight of basic British values of acting responsibly and acting fairly" and the lives of ordinary people in a Britain "that works not just by self-interest but by self-discipline, self-improvement and self-reliance... a Britain where we don't just care for ourselves we also care for each other."

He said: "Call them middle class values, call them traditional working class values, call them family values, call them values to live by, call them all of these; these are the values of the mainstream majority; the anchor of Britain's families, the best instincts of the British people, the soul of our party and the mission of our government.

"And I say this too; these are my values."