Eric Pickles urges Brown to "call the election now" as William Hague says the choice facing Britain is "change or ruin"
The spring conference has opened with rousing speeches from Party Chairman, Eric Pickles, and Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague.
"I'm sick of the speculation; just do it Gordon, call the election now - let the people decide."
He characterised the choice as being between "five more years of Gordon Brown's tired government or David Cameron and the Conservatives who have the energy, leadership and values to get the country moving again".
“Britain’s most crucial election for a generation will be held in a matter of weeks. Gordon Brown will not so much decide to call it as be finally dragged kicking and screaming to call it. His decision will be made for him, as so many of them are, by time running out. This is a Prime Minister who got ready for an election when he thought he could win it, then was too frightened to hold it, then has dragged out this miserable parliament to its fullest, bitter end, dithering and vacillating over every decision; a Prime Minister no one ever elected kept in office by Lord Mandelson who no one voted for at all, and who should have had the moral courage and political decisiveness to hold an election long ago."
And he added:
"It is that most crucial election because I believe the choice for Britain is as stark as this: it is change or ruin. When Gordon Brown took over, this, our great country, was the 4th largest economy in the world. Now it is falling behind and forecast within 5 years to be the 11th, behind not just growing giants like China, but behind our neighbours France and Italy. We were ranked 7th in the world for the competitiveness of our economy. Now we are 13th. We were 4th in the world for our tax and regulation. Now we are 84th and 86th."
Those final statistics drew gasps of shock from the audience.
Later in the speech he challenged those who said they did not know what a Conservative Government would do by stating a series of commitments the party is making:
- We will cut the spending that cannot go on and the borrowing that leads to ruin.
- We will help the hard-pressed taxpayer, by freezing council tax for two years, abolishing stamp duty for most first time buyers, and helping small businesses.
- If we can, we will spare millions of working people Labour’s extra tax on jobs due next year.
- We will create a culture of saving instead of a culture of debt, helping people to stay in the home they worked all their lives to pay for, and removing millions of middle-income people from the inheritance tax they should never have been expected to pay.
- We will reform welfare, create more apprenticeships, make sure new regulations mean the end of old ones, fund more university places this year and scrap a large slice of expensive quangos.
- We will make Britain the most family friendly country in Europe.
- We’ll back the NHS, which matters more to families than anything else.
- We will strengthen communities by the biggest transfer of power this country has ever seen to councils and communities to decide on what is built, what is spent, what is saved and what is preserved in their city, town and village.
- We will bring to education the galvanising effect of new schools in the state sector but not run by the state and a long overdue emphasis on discipline and standards for all.
- We will give our public sector workers the biggest opportunity they have ever had to run things themselves, as they know best.
- Where Labour have refused to control immigration we will properly control it.
- Where they betrayed democracy by refusing a referendum we will build a referendum whenever the powers of the voters are given away into our law.
- Where they have presided over the greatest disillusionment with politics and government in centuries we will reduce our own salaries as ministers, cut the size and cost of parliament, make the House of Commons more democratic let everyone see how their taxpayers’ money is spent – and demonstrate that people can have faith in their leaders again.
I imagine that most of these will be developed by David Cameron in his keynote address tomorrow afternoon.