DAVID Cameron has set out plans to build “an aspiration nation” as he closed the Conservative conference with a speech promising to get “Britain on the rise”.
In a sometimes sombre address, the Prime Minister warned the UK faces an “hour of reckoning” in which the decisions it makes will determine whether it will “sink or swim, do or decline”.
The financial crash, coupled with the rise of new economic powers around the globe, mean that Britons can no longer assume that their country will be able to continue to earn its living as a major industrial country, he said.
But he told delegates that he was confident that Britain can “rise to the challenge” if it harnesses the “individual aspiration and effort” of all its people, no matter what background they came from.
He promised to support “the doers, the risk takers” and to push through reforms to deliver “a strong private sector, welfare that works, schools that teach”.
And he explained how the example of his disabled father had taught him that the key to success in life – and Britain’s recovery from recession – was “not complicated... Hard work. Strong families. Taking responsibility. Serving others.”
Mr Cameron insisted there would be no let-up in the Government’s deficit reduction programme, which was “not an alternative to a growth plan – it’s the very foundation of our growth plan”. He rejected Labour’s Plan B for borrowing to stimulate growth as “a massive gamble with our economy and our future”.
Dismissing Ed Miliband’s bid to snatch the Tory One Nation slogan for his party, he denounced Labour as “the party of one notion – more borrowing”.
While “intellectuals” like Mr Miliband “sneer” at those who try to better themselves, Tories “salute” them, said the PM, adding: “We don’t preach about one nation but practise class war, we just get behind people who want to get on in life.”
The Eton-educated PM acknowledged that his was “not a hard work story”, but said that the Conservatives were not “the party of the better-off”, as critics allege, but the party of the “want to be better-off – those who strive to make a better life for themselves and their families”.
He took on critics who view him as the product of privilege by declaring that he wants every child to enjoy the same great education he had.
“I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it,” he said.