Britain can get through tough times: Cameron

5th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Prime Minister David Cameron sought Wednesday to lift Britons from the economic doldrums, urging them to show a "can-do" attitude and help make the country great again.

In an upbeat and patriotic speech to his Conservative Party conference, Cameron said he understood that people were struggling with rising inflation and energy bills, stagnant growth and the fear of unemployment.

"But the truth is, right now we need to be energised, not paralysed by gloom and fear," he said, in a speech aimed more at the wider public than the delegates in the packed hall in Manchester, northwest England.

Cameron attacked a climate of "sogginess" in Britain, saying it would lead to decline, and frequently held up emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil as examples of countries with drive.

He admitted the threat to the world economy "is as serious today as it was in 2008 when world recession loomed" and acknowledged that "people want to know why the good times are so long coming".

But he insisted his coalition government's plan to focus on slashing the budget deficit through spending cuts was the right approach, adding: "The way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts."

A draft speech circulated beforehand called for householders to pay off their credit cards to help Britain weather the economic storm, but after it sparked widespread criticism Cameron dropped the line.

Finance minister George Osborne's speech to the conference on Monday was boosted by confirmation of Britain's top "AAA" credit rating by ratings agency Standard and Poor's.

But Cameron's speech coincided with more gloomy growth forecasts as revised official data showed the economy almost ground to a halt in the second quarter, growing by just 0.1 percent in the three months to June.

Cameron won the biggest cheers from the crowds when he pledged Britain would never join the euro and would not be sucked into bailing out Greece, as well as for his attacks on the opposition Labour Party.

The prime minister savaged Labour's record in office, saying they could never be trusted with the economy again, although he also adopted Labour leader Ed Miliband's call last week to end a "something for nothing" culture.

Cameron regularly looked back to Britain's history, insisting the struggling country could be great once again -- providing certain regulations were removed, and providing people worked hard enough.

Leadership was another theme, with Cameron using the word 19 times during the speech.

Conservative delegates responded with an enthusiastic standing ovation, and those leaving the Manchester conference centre used words such as "uplifting", "inspiring" and "absolutely amazing" to describe the address.

"He set out a very clear vision for the kind of country that we want to develop," said Oliver Colville, a Conservative MP elected last year.

He particularly welcomed Cameron's emphasis on social issues, including a pledge to boost the number of adoptions and a strong defence of new plans to legalise gay marriage -- which prompted loud applause.

Colville said he won a marginal seat only by dealing with wider issues than the traditional Tory concerns of the economy, crime, immigration and Europe -- a subject that has returned to the top of the agenda with the eurozone crisis.

"David Cameron gets that. He's a very modern Conservative," the lawmaker said.

© 2011 AFP

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