BBC News – Your country needs you, David Cameron says

6 October 2010
Last updated at 10:32 ET

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Your country needs you, David Cameron says

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter, BBC News, in Birmingham


David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the conference centre ahead of his speech

David Cameron has said his government will help build “a nation of doers and go-getters”, in his first party conference speech since becoming PM.

Stressing his “Big Society” theme, he said: “Your country needs you.”

He said a “spirit of activism” was needed to meet modern challenges. He made a point of saying it was “not a cover for spending cuts”.

Mr Cameron also thanked voters for giving his party “a chance” after three election defeats.

He said the party was back governing “in the national interest” after 13 years “in the wilderness”.

“You have given us a chance and we will work flat out to prove worthy of that chance,” he said.

At the start of the speech, he paid tribute to his predecessors as Conservative leaders – William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard – as well as paying tribute to Lady Thatcher, who celebrates her 85th birthday next week.

Mr Cameron said he knew some felt the Conservatives should have formed a minority government when the general election resulted in a hung parliament.

But he said that would have “limped through Parliament, unable to do anything useful for our country”.

Paying tribute to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg for entering a coalition agreement, he said the Lib Dems were “proper partners, getting stuck in, making big decisions… and taking responsibility”.

“That’s why we can form a proper government and you can be proud of what we’ve done,” he said.

AV referendum

On the referendum for changing the voting system – something demanded by the Lib Dems but opposed by Conservatives – he urged Tory MPs not to “waste any time trying to wreck the bill” but to try to win the argument.

He got loud applause after listing the coalition’s achievements and finishing: “Look at what we’ve done in five months, just imagine what we can do in five years.”

He also paid tribute to troops in Afghanistan and said he would take “no risks with British security” in the spending review, stressing his commitment to renewing the Trident nuclear missile system.

Mr Cameron said he knew people were anxious about spending cuts – due to be outlined in the comprehensive spending review in a few weeks’ time.

“I wish there was another way, I wish there was an easier way but I tell you: There is no other responsible way,” he said.

He accused Labour of having “mortgaged Britain to the hilt” and said under their plans to halve the deficit in four years – debt interest payments would continue to grow and cuts would be bigger.

“I promise you that if we pull together to deal with these debts today, then just a few years down the line the rewards will be felt by everyone in our country,” he said.

Wealth creators

There was loud applause among Tory members as Mr Cameron said Labour should “not be allowed anywhere near our economy, ever, ever again”.

Mr Cameron also referred to the row over child benefit which has dominated the party conference in Birmingham, saying it showed cuts would not be easy .

Chancellor George Osborne announced on Monday that, from 2013, child benefit would no longer be paid to couples if one of them was a higher rate taxpayer.

It led to criticism it would hit families where one parent does not work, while those with two working parents both earning just under the £44,000 higher rate tax threshold would still receive it. Some Conservative MPs were among those to raise concerns.

Mr Cameron said it was “fair that those with broader shoulders should bear a greater load” but also said planned welfare reforms meant those who could not work would be looked after but those who could, and refused to do so, would not be allowed to “live off the hard work of others”.

He pledged to back the “doers and the grafters” and “wealth creators” – but said it was time for banks bailed out by the taxpayer to start lending to small businesses.

Have you watched David Cameron’s speech? What do you think of his message? Send us your comments.

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