David Cameron: Bulldog spirit key to ending debt crisis

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.

Mr Cameron (pictured left making his speech) issued the rallying call  in his closing speech to the Tory party conference in Manchester.

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.”

David Cameron speech: Let’s show some fight

DAVID Wooding gives a quick instant analysis of David Cameron’s keynote speech at the Conservative party conference in Manchester.

Cameron in debt speech U-turn

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

DAVID Cameron has been forced to tear up his big  speech to the Tory conference amid a backlash over a section urging people to pay off their credit card bills.

The Prime Minister had planned to tell supporters that the only way to end the financial crisis was to get rid of family debts.

But his remarks – briefed out by Number 10 ahead of this afternoon’s address – sparked claims he is out of touch.

Hard-hit families complained that they don’t have the spare cash to pay off the outstanding balances – and using plastic was the only way to buy essentials during hard times.

Experts also warned the economy would shrink even further if people stopped buying by credit card.

This morning Mr Cameron hastily re-wrote the section of the speech referring to the bills – and Number 10 staff hastily put out a “clarification” of the pre-briefed remarks.

Mr Cameron had planned to say: “The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills.”

In his speech to the Manchester rally at 2.30 this afternoon he will now say: “The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That’s why households are paying down their credit card and store card bills.”

The PM will say he understands voters are living through an “anxious time” of rising bills and job losses and will promise to deliver real leadership for troubled times.

Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC it was common sense for people to pay off debts when they could and that the Government would lead the way.

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Theresa’s got her claws out for boss cat Ken

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

KITTEN-heeled Theresa May got in a right cat flap with Cabinet colleague Ken Clarke today – over the Human Rights Act.

The Home Secretary had her claws out after he poured scorn on her claim that an illegal immigrant dodged a deportation order to look after his pet pussy.

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Home Secretary Theresa May chats to David Wooding in her office.

Mrs May had seized on the story to highlight her opposition to the controversial laws in a speech to the Tory conference in Manchester.

She won a standing ovation when she told of “the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I’m not making this up – he had a pet cat.”

But moments later, Cabinet top cat Mr Clarke stamped all over her claim with his size 11 Hush Puppies by claiming she had over-hyped the story.

The Justice Secretary declared: “I will have a small bet with her that nobody has ever been refused deportation on the grounds of a cat.

“I’ve never had a conversation on the subject with Theresa, so I’d have to find out about these strange cases she is throwing out. I cannot believe anybody has ever had deportation refused on the basis of owning a cat.”

He later quipped: “I heard Theresa refer to it and I sat there with a Victor Meldrew reaction. I thought… I can’t believe it.”

Mrs May was privately furious at the cat-astrophic intervention by Mr Clarke, who’s had a ban run of his own over his “soft” stance on prison sentences.

It was the fist Cabinet bust-up since the rally opened on Sunday and tonight both sides were hurling details of the case at each other to defend their corner.

A Home Office source said the case highlighted how illegal immigrants were taking the Act to extremes by exploiting the section which gives them a right to a family life.

Claws out: Ken Clarke

Mr Clarke, who is due to receive a recort on the European Convention on Human Rights,  said the Home Secretary had failed to consult him before making her remarks.

He said: “When I found out what these examples are that have upset her, I will probably find that she agrees with me. It is these daft misinterpretations of the Act which are giving the whole thing a bad reputation, when we should be a force in favour of human rights and individual liberty in the modern world, not in any way resiling from it.”

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Tories wake up and smell the coffee

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

TWO former Tory girls are helping to kick start the party conference every day – with a mega caffeine boost.

Katie Perrior and Jo Tanner have set up a VIP marquee where MPs, journalists and other visitors can get down to business over free-flowing Starbucks coffee.

Jo (left) and Katie in the London Lounge.

Guests of the ex-Central Office Press officers can enjoy a complimentary cuppa and a pastry while they charge their mobile phones, connect to their internet wi-fi or use one of their private meeting areas.

It’s like an airport departure lounge with ministers,  broadcasters and public relations chiefs checking in throughout the day.

Jo and Katie’s company InHouse PR teamed up with sponsors Starbucks and the Total Politics magazine to launch the “London Lounge” inside the conference arena in Manchester.

It has proved such a big hit that plans are already afoot to extend it next year. Katie said: “We’ve been attending conferences for years and the biggest complaint is that there’s so few places to hold meetings.

“Most hotel meeting rooms have been booked up months in advance and there’s nowhere to have a private chat at short notice. We’ve tried to recreate the experience you have when you travel first class – comfort, free refreshments and plenty of room to get on with your work.

“We issued 750 passes to a wide range of people and are delighted with the take up.”

Why council tax freeze is £144 winner

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

IT went down a storm last time so who can blame George Osborne for pulling the same trick again.

The Chancellor announced a freeze on council tax for the second year running to help ease the strain on cash-strapped families.

The move will save the average household an estimated total of £144 over the past two years and means bills will not rise before April 2013 at the earliest.

George Osborne talks to David Wooding

Mr Osborne can’t force councils to peg council tax but he is stumping up an extra £805 million to give to those who limit spending increases to 2.5 per cent.

Labour have scoffed at the move, claiming it will only lead further cuts in services provided by town halls.

But deep down they know this will prove enormously popular with millions of families who struggle to pay what must be the most begrudge bill in their household budget.

Mr Osborne obviously remembers the huge applause he received in the conference hall – and mass acclaim outside – when he announced the current freeze on council bills.

That must have driven him to find the cash to put on a repeat performance at the Tories’ annual rally inManchester. Money will also be offered to Scottish and Welsh administrations to spend as they wish.

Mr Osborne said: “I am doing everything to help you, your family, to help the economy, to get people into work, to keep people in work.

“That is what we are working flat out on. We reject the idea that governments can’t do anything in the face of these global storms. My job is to take the difficult decisions that help families to put food on the table and keep the people in work who bring the bread home. That’s my job.

“We are working flat out, using every tool available to us. We are not standing on the sidelines.”

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A vote on Europe at last…but we’re staying in, says Hague

By DAVID WOODING in Manchester

WILLIAM Hague has ruled out letting the public decide whether Britain stays in the EU – even if MPs vote for it.

The Foreign Secretary has brushed off a 100,000-name petition demanding a referendum and appears to have shed his hardline Euro-sceptic beliefs, insisting: “Our place is in the European Union.”

His remarks will infuriate the Tory right-wing who are already threatening to use the issue to hijack this week’s party conference in Manchester.

MPs have been forced to stage a Commons debate on Britain’s future in Europe after Independent MEP Nikki Sinclaire handed in a petition demanding a referendum at 10 Downing Street.

More than 80 backbench Tories want voters to have the final say and many Labour MPs could back the move because it would be hugely popular with the public, who now pay an average of £299 a year each to run the EU.

It would be the first time Parliament has held a major debate on a giving the public a say since the 1975 referendum confirmed the decision to join the Common Market – and could be held before Christmas.

But if MPs vote in favour of a referendum, it would not be binding on the government.

And asked if he would grant one, Mr Hague said bluntly: “No”.

He admits the EU is “cumbersome, slow and bureacratic” but stresses the upside is the power of 27 nations uniting on vital issues such as imposing sanctions against Syria.

Mr Hague (pictured left with David Wooding) said: “When you you’ve negotiated them, 95 per cent of the sales of crude ooils are stopped because 27 nations together act on that.”

The former Tory leader’s comments are more remarkable because he fought and lost the 2001 general election on a tough anti-EU stance.

He still believes Brussels has too much power but since entering government has seen the bloc of nations acting as a power for good in the world.

Mr Hague’s referendum snub will anger his party’s Right-wing gathering in Manchester today – but cheer pro-EU Lib Dem coalition partners.

Mark Pritchard, secretary of the Conservative 1922 committee of Tory backbenchers, said: “Europe is back as an issue. That is my message.”

Human Rights

But Home Secretary Theresa May has delighted the Right by calling for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped.

She said: “I’d personally like to see it go because I think we have had some problems with it.”

Her words fly in the face of Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s speech the the Lib Dems two weeks ago when he said the controversial Act was “here to stay”.

Europe and human rights will be among the hottest issues for David Cameron in his second conference as Prime Minister.

The economy, law and order and welfare reform will also be high on the agenda.

Mr Cameron will also be keen to reach out to woman after polls show he has problems appealing to female voters.

When asked to score on his understanding of women’s issues, respondents gave him just one out of 10.

In an interview with The Sunday Times today,  Mr Cameron admits he made a “terrible mistake” with his “calm down, dear” remark at Labour MP Angela Eagle in the Commons earlier this year.

He declared: “It’s my fault. I’ve got to do better, I totally accept. I’m the one who’s got to explain who I am, what I think and what I’m like.”

Follow me on Twitter: @davidwooding