David Cameron tells the Conservative conference he wants to create a society built on hard work, tax cuts and enterprise, in which everyone has “the chance to make it”.
David Cameron said his ambition was to make Britain “a land of opportunity for all”. In his keynote speech to the Conservative conference in Manchester, the prime minister accused Labour leader Ed Miliband of adopting an agenda that is anti-business and anti-enterprise.
He told Tory activists that profit, wealth creation, tax cuts and enterprise were “not dirty words” and that business provided the solution to Britain’s problems.
Mr Cameron made it clear his ambition was to cut taxes: “We’re Tories. We believe in low taxes. And believe me – we will keep on cutting the taxes of hard-working people.”
But he warned of further spending cuts after the election, saying the Tories would continue to bear down on the deficit “until we’ve paid off all of Labour’s deficit, not just some of it”.
He said a Conservative government would run a surplus, spending less than is raised by taxes, even after the deficit was eliminated.
There was also a signal that the Tory manifesto could include measures to prevent young people from claiming unemployment benefits after leaving school or college, with Mr Cameron saying that every under-25 should be “earning or learning”.
The speech was a response to Mr Miliband’s pledge to the Labour conference last week that a government he led would freeze gas and electricity bills, increase corporation tax and threaten compulsory land purchases if developers are refusing to build houses on plots they own.
The prime minister said the economy was finally “turning the corner” after the recession caused by the banking crisis.
But he said the job was not over and the Conservatives wanted to move on from “clearing up the mess” they inherited from Labour to “building something better in its place”. He said he wanted his party to be given the chance to “finish the job we’ve started”.
He rejected Labour accusations that the Tories only represented the “privileged few”, saying he wanted to create a society in which everyone who works hard has “the chance to make it”, no matter what their background and whether they are from the north or south, black or white, male or female.
He said that, unlike Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, he would not be campaigning to be part of a coalition after the 2015 general election, but “fighting heart and soul for a majority Conservative government”.
During the conference, the Conservatives have unveiled plans for tax breaks for some married couples. They are also bringing forward the help to buy mortgage scheme and have raised the prospect of a fuel duty freeze lasting until the election.
Mr Cameron set out the kind of economy he said he wanted to build. “In place of the casino economy, one where people who work hard can actually get on; in place of the welfare society, one where no individual is written off; in place of the broken education system, one that gives every child the chance to rise up and succeed.
“Our economy, our society, welfare, schools all reformed, all rebuilt with one aim, one mission in mind – to make this country at long last and for the first time ever a land of opportunity for all.”
“When the left say you can’t expect too much from the poorest kids, don’t ask too much from people on welfare, business is the problem not the solution, here in this party we say that’s just wrong.”
The prime minister added that “profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise are not dirty, elitist words. They’re not the problem, they really are the solution”.
Mr Cameron also appealed to Scottish voters to reject independence in the 2014 referendum. He said the message “from us here in this hall, from this party, from this country, from England, and yes from Wales, Northern Ireland too” was “we want you to stay”.
He added: “We want us to stick together. Think of all we’ve achieved together, all the things we can do together. The nation, as one. Our kingdom – united.”
Michael Dugher MP, Labour’s vice chairman, said the speech showed Mr Cameron “just doesn’t get it”. He added: “There’s a cost of living crisis facing Britain’s hard working families, and he’s got nothing to say about it.
“Last week Ed Miliband set out Labour’s plan to deal with the cost of living crisis by freezing energy bills, transforming childcare and backing small businesses with cuts to business rates. This week David Cameron showed he doesn’t even know where to start.”