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Britain's Cameron promises 'land of opportunity'

Britain's PM insisted that the economy was turning a corner after years of austerity as he set out his goal of a majority in the 2015 general election

AFP , Wednesday 2 Oct 2013
Cameron
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron delivers his keynote address to the Conservative Party annual conference in Manchester, northern England October 2, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
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British Prime Minister David Cameron urged voters on Wednesday to give his Conservative party time to finish the job of economic recovery and create a "land of opportunity" built on pro-business values.

In his keynote speech to the party's annual conference, Cameron insisted that the economy was turning a corner after years of austerity as he set out his goal of a majority in the 2015 general election.

Cameron repeatedly attacked the "socialist" opposition Labour party, on whom he blamed the record deficit that his government is tackling, and said that profit and tax cuts were no longer "dirty, elitist words".

"Together we will finish the job we've started and together we will build that land of opportunity," Cameron said to applause from delegates in Manchester, northwest England.

"A country built on that enduring principle, seared in our hearts, that if you work hard, save, play by the rules and do your fair share -- then nothing should stand in your way."

The Conservative-led coalition with the Liberal Democrats has pushed through three years of public spending cuts and finance minister George Osborne warned in his conference speech on Monday that they would continue to bite for years to come.

But Cameron is seizing on signs of recovery to try to create a more upbeat tone, painting a picture of a country where children are pushed hard at school, the jobless are helped "to stand on their own two feet".

In the penultimate party conference before what is likely to be a tightly-fought May 2015 election, Cameron said the Conservatives would not seek another coalition with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's Lib Dems.

"When that election comes, we won't be campaigning for a coalition, we will be fighting head, heart and soul for a majority Conservative government -- because that's what the country needs," he said.

He accused Labour leader Ed Miliband of failing people by expecting nothing of them, accusing the party of "1970s-style socialism" after Miliband last week pledged to freeze energy costs.

"The land of despair was Labour but the land of hope is Tory," Cameron said in a string of bitter attacks on Labour.

"We know that profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise -- these are not dirty, elitist words. They're not the problem, they really are the solution," Cameron said.

The Conservative party has announced a raft of policies this week aimed at "hard-working people", its new slogan.

They range from state guarantees for mortgages to help people afford their first home to making the long-term unemployed carry out community work for their benefits.

Cameron meanwhile insisted Britain had won allies in Europe by taking a strong stance on reform of the European Union.

"I vetoed that treaty, I got Britain out of the EU bailout scheme and yes I cut that budget," he said. "And in doing all this we haven't lost respect, we have won allies to get powers back from Europe."

Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU and put the new terms to an in-out referendum in 2017 if he is re-elected in 2015.

"That is our pledge, it will be your choice, in or out," he said.

He made no reference to the anti-EU UK Independence Party, which is pressuring the Conservatives on the right.

The Tories are slowly eroding Labour's lead in opinion polls -- but current electoral boundaries mean that Cameron's party will likely require a hefty margin of victory to secure a majority.

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