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Tory manifesto: we can fix broken Britain

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 13 April 2010

As the the Conservative party launches an election manifesto promising people power and less bureaucracy, a new poll in The Times shows the Tory lead over Labour narrowing to just three points.

David and Samantha Cameron at the Conservative manifesto launch (Credit: Getty)

The Populus poll on the Times website suggests that voters are now hoping for a hung parliament.

Conservative support is at 36 per cent, while Labour's is up a point at 33 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are unchanged on 21 per cent.

Earlier today, David Cameron had launched the Tory manifesto as "a manifesto for a new kind of politics and a new kind of country".

Promising to keep the party in the centre ground of British politics, Mr Cameron pledged a big increase in help for workers in both the public and private sectors to become their own boss, help for parents to set up and run their own schools, powers for neighbourhoods to elect their own police chief and for voters to sack an errant MP.

The smaller state would include a 10 per cent reduction in the number of MPs, a one-third cut in the cost of Whitehall, and a 5 per cent reduction in ministers' pay.

But there was little detail on tax and spending, with no pledge on either income tax or VAT and no figure for the planned scale of deficit reduction.

For more Channel 4 News coverage of Vote 2010
- UKIP manifesto pledges to leave EU
- Plaid Cymru pledge to 'protect' vulnerable
- Vote 2010: today's election barometer
- Vote 2010: latest stories

Shadow schools secretary Michael Gove, interviewed by Jon Snow, said that there was waste in the current education budget.

He said the "handover report" commissioned by Schools Secretary Ed Balls had revealed significant examples of waste and misallocated expenditure within his department.

Mr Gove believed the report contained "telling details" – but it has not yet been published. And referring to advice by Conservative party efficiency adviser Sir Peter Gershon, Mr Gove said it was "serious" about dealing with waste.

He pledged a future Conservative government would be more transparent than the present one. "We're going to publish the cost of every item of expenditure incurred by government," he said.

The Tories, he promised, would get rid of the contact point database – "which, far from keeping children safer, actually puts children at risk", as well as the Qualification and Curriculum Development Authority, which he called "a millstone round the neck of teachers".

Pressed by Jon Snow about the Conservative manifesto pledge to allow parents to set up their own schools, the shadow schools secretary accepted that there was already a postcode lottery in the country as a whole. "We have one of the most segregated and stratified education systems in the developed world," he claimed.

He said that you will find that the parents who are most anxious and most desperate to have a greater choice and to have new schools "are in those areas, overwhelmingly run by Labour for years, in which education standards simply haven't been good enough".

He continued: "Planning and health and safety rules… at the moment inhibit people who want to set up schools. We’ll get rid of them."

And echoing the theme of today's Conservative manifesto, Michael Gove concluded: "We believe we need to march with everyone together in our society."

The Conservative manifesto launch
The wider message to voters of today's manifesto was that the Conservative party had changed. It was no longer the party of Mrs Thatcher, writes Malcolm Boughen.

"We stand for society. That is the right idea for a better future for our country and it runs through everything in our manifesto and in our campaign," said David Cameron.

Demonstrating - as Gordon Brown put it last week - that he was one of a team and not a team of one, Mr Cameron took to the stage at the launch in London's Battersea power station only after seven of his front-bench team had already set out the party's "invitation" to the British people to join them in putting right what was wrong with the country.

And, from the start, his message was that it could only be done together.

"We can deal with our debts. We can mend our broken society. We can restore faith in our political system, " he promised.

"But only if millions of people are fired up and inspired to play their part in our nation's future...We say we are all in this together, so come with us and we will build a better country together."

Quoting President Kennedy ("Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country"), the Conservative leader said that public involvement was needed in every aspect of creating this "Big Society".  And he offered a potted version of what was on offer.

"Yes, there will be cuts," he declared. "Not just in government spending - everybody knows about that - but in the number of MPs and ministers' pay, in corporation tax to get our country moving again, in Labour's waste to stop their jobs tax, in police paperwork to get police on the beat.

"And yes, we will stop some things. We will stop the gravy train at Westminster, stop giving out benefits to those who can work but won't work, stop the bias against couples in the tax system, stop council tax rising for two years, stop bad behaviour in schools with new powers for teachers and, yes, stop uncontrolled immigration with an annual limit on non-EU economic migration."

He also promised a high-speed rail network, a national citizens' service for young people, a green investment bank, more directly-elected city mayors.

The party also says it will offer residents chance for neighbourhoods to sack their MP and to save their local post office, more home energy efficiency measures and the publication online of every item of public spending of more than £25,000 for public scrutiny.

Mr Cameron hailed the manifesto as the fruit of the changes he had made to the party over the last five years.

"Yes, it is a modern, progressive Conservative manifesto - it is a confirmation that this party has changed, that we have returned to the centre ground of British politics and that is where we will stay," he said.

Gordon Brown criticised the Conservatives' manifesto, claiming it had a "complete hole" at the centre with "nothing in it to help the recovery".

He added that the Tory's manifesto policies have not changed since 1997.

He said: "They're saying you're on your own. They're leaving people on their own to face a recession. They've got no measures to get us through this recovery.

"Indeed their measures would mean that unemployment would rise, businesses would be lost, and the growth that we fought so hard for would be put at risk.

"They're giving no commitments (on public services) on policing; no commitments on our schools; and the health service guarantees we're giving (like) the cancer guarantee, the patients guarantee to see the GPs. It's not in the Conservative programme at all."

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg dismissed the Tory document as a triumph of "style over substance" which promised voters "something for nothing".

Of launching the Tory manifesto from Battersea Power Station, Clegg said: "They've just launched it in a power station that doesn't have any power"

Earlier, he criticised the Tories during the party's morning press conference that promised to crack down on bankers' bonuses.

He said that it was "unforgivable" for both the Tories and Labour to allow bankers to continue holding the British taxpayer to ransom.

He said: "Yesterday Labour said next to nothing on the subject (banking). I predict today the Conservatives will say little more. They'll say 'we're all in this together'.

"In fact under the Conservatives you're on your own. They talk about a 'big society'. In fact all they want is a DIY society, where if you are a banker you get off scot-free, and you only get tax breaks if you are a millionaire."

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