Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Turn your fire on Labour, PM urges

Prime Minister David Cameron is set to focus his sights on a culture of 'aspiration'

David Cameron has urged restive Tories to focus their energies on fighting Labour as he sought to quell unrest among activists over his leadership.

He used a speech to the party's spring conference to insist he was sticking to traditional Tory values after a turbulent fortnight of internal division. Mr Cameron suffered a damaging bout of leadership speculation and pressure to shift the party to the right after being beaten into third place by Ukip at the Eastleigh by-election.

He faces warnings from a new Tory group meeting at the conference that the party faces a "severe defeat" in 2015 if he fails to "reconnect" with party members and abandon gay marriage laws over which they have quit "in droves".

Mr Cameron did not address the issue directly in his speech to the London gathering - which he used to insist he was engaged in fighting for an "aspiration nation" in line with the traditional Tory values of party icons Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.

But he fired a warning shot that with less than 1,000 days until the next general election, the party had " a real fight on our hands" and must concentrate on the real enemy. "Anyone in this party who's in any doubt who we should be fighting, what we should be debating, where our energies should be focused, I tell you: our battle is with Labour," he declared.

"Let's not mince our words: this is a bunch of self satisfied, Labour socialists who think they can spend your money better than you can, make decisions better than you can and tell you what to do and we should never, ever let that lot near government again. "That's who we're fighting against. And we know who we're fighting for: for all those who work hard and want to get on."

He concluded: "Does this party ever shy away from the fight? No. I'm up for it. This party's up for it. So let's give it everything - I mean everything - we've got."

Mr Cameron warned his party that the Government's task was not going to get any easier as it battled to revive the UK economy - despite successes in key areas such as schools, welfare reform and job creation. "We always knew we'd face pretty big challenges right now," he said.

"It's mid-term. We're wrestling with historic debts. Recovering from the deepest recession since records began. Fixing a broken welfare system and education system - and yes, a broken society too. Anyone who thought it was going to be easy - they're wrong. Anyone who thinks it's going to get easier - they're wrong too.

"But let's remember - above all the background noise - what this is all about: The national interest: first, last, always. This is a battle for Britain's future we are engaged in. So let the message go out from this hall and this party: we are here to fight; we are here to win; and we have never been more up for the task of turning our country around."

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