By DAVID WOODING in Manchester
DAVID Cameron urged cash-strapped Britain to adopt the bulldog spirit to drag ourselves out of debt and despair.
The Prime Minister called for the nation to stop being “paralysed by gloom and fear” – and instead show some fight and energy to get our great country back on the road to prosperity.
He called on people in every walk of life to work together to turn things round and make Britain a beacon of enterprise for the world.
He declared: “Britain never had the biggest population, the largest land mass, the richest resources – but we had the spirit.
“Remember, it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. Overcoming challenge, confounding the sceptics, reinventing ourselves, this is what we do. It’s called leadership.”
The final flourish of his address – echoing on the conference slogan: “Leadership for a better future” – was aimed at contrasting his leadership skills with those of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Mr Cameron said: “Let’s turn this time of challenge into a time of opportunity. Not sitting around watching things happen and wondering why. But standing up, making things happen and asking why not.
“We have the people, we have the ideas, and now we have a government that’s freeing those people, backing those ideas.
“So let’s see an optimistic future. Let’s show the world some fight. Let’s pull together, work together. And together lead Britain to better days.”
The 50-minute speech covered a wide-range of issues. Here’s a summary in nugget form:
JOBS AND DEBT: Mr Cameron said: “It’s an anxious time. Prices and bills keep going up – petrol, the weekly shop, electricity.” He admitted the “uncomfortable” truth that the slump is caused by too much debt and the only way out is to cut spending and live within our means.
EUROPE: Britain will never join the euro while Mr Cameron is Prime Minister, he vowed. And he won’t let us be sucked into “endless bail-outs” of countries that are in the single currency.
SCHOOLS: He promised to tear down the “apartheid” between private and state schools. It was “disgusting”, he said that we should aim for any less from a child from a poor background than a rich one.
IMMIGRATION: Mr Cameron vowed to get tough with criminals who use human rights laws to try to stay in this country. But he warned we must not lock out talent and should give the red carpet treatment to the best entrepreneurs, scientists and students from around the world to attract them here.
JOBS and BENEFITS: More than 2.5 million people have been “parked” on sick pay as a con trick by governments to keep unemployment figures down. The PM said: “Under Labour they got something for nothing. With us, they’ll only get something if they give something.” He will spend up to £14,000 on long-term jobless to get them trained and back into work.
GAY MARRIAGE: He promised to give equal marriage rights to same sex couples – “not despite being a Conservative but because I am a Conservative”.
ADOPTION: Action to find homes for the 65,000 children in care. Only 60 of the 3,660 kids without parents under the age of one were adopted in Britain last year. He promised action to end this scandal. “How can we let this happen? We’ve got people flying all over the world to adopt babies, while the care system at home agonises about placing black children with white families.”
LIBYA He urged everyone to remember what Gaddafi did – he bankrolled the IRA, was behind the shooting of a police officer in London and the bombing of a plane in the skies over Lockerbie. Mr Cameron said: “Let’s be proud of the part we played in giving Libyan people the chance to take back their country.”
HEALTH and SAFETY: Mr Cameron said he would overhaul barmy health and safety rules and scale back criminal checks rules to common sense levels. He remarked: “Britain didn’t rule the waves with arm bands on.”
Mr Cameron got the biggest ovation of the afternoon when he took a sideswipe at Ed Miliband who was met with jeers when he mentioned Tony Blair at Labour’s rally in Liverpool last week.
He said he had lucky enough to have strong support from all previous Tory leaders, including Michael Howard, Iain Duncan Smith, William Hague, John Major and Lady Thatcher.
The PM quipped: “You know what? We don’t boo our leaders. We’re proud of our past and what those people did for our country.”