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David Cameron rallies Tories with pledge of 'Greater Britain'

Published 06/10/2015

Home Secretary Theresa May delivers her speech to the Conservative Party conference at Manchester Central.
Home Secretary Theresa May delivers her speech to the Conservative Party conference at Manchester Central.
Boris Johnson is joining Tory calls for a fresh look at tax credit changes

David Cameron has set out his vision of a "Greater Britain" as he vowed to spend the second half of his 10 years in power taking on the country's deepest social problems - poverty, lack of opportunity, discrimination and extremism.

The Prime Minister said he would end the "passive tolerance" of the promotion of extremist ideas, promising to shut down Muslim madrassa schools which teach children hatred and intolerance.

And he said he would stand up for the British values of "freedom, democracy and equality", telling activists at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester that he wanted to see "less Britain-bashing, more national pride".

In his keynote speech to the first conference since the Tories' general election victory in May, Mr Cameron made clear he wants the party to occupy territory vacated by Labour as it moves to the left under Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour under Mr Corbyn had "completely abandoned" the principles of strong defences, sound money, an enterprise economy and equality of opportunity, leaving the Conservatives "the party of working people, the party for working people - today, tomorrow, always", he said.

And he won loud applause as he told activists: "We cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on the country we love."

Mr Cameron - who confirmed his plan to step down by the election scheduled for 2020 - said he wanted his time in power to be seen as a "turnaround decade" when the UK not only sorted out its economy but dealt with entrenched social problems.

He set out plans to improve social mobility, reform prisons and improve the chances of children in care, as well as spelling out details of his plan to allow the construction of affordable homes for purchase as he seeks to help young people get on to the first rung of the housing ladder.

He said Tories should be proud of their journey as a "modern, compassionate, One Nation Conservative Party", as he listed the women, children of immigrants and working-class MPs who now sit in the Cabinet and on the party's benches in Westminster.

And he cited not only the troops of the First and Second World Wars, but also the Suffragettes and Gay Pride militants among those who had fought to secure Britain's freedoms.

"Over the next five years we will show that the deep problems in our society - they are not inevitable," said Mr Cameron.

"That a childhood in care doesn't have to mean a life of struggle. That a stint in prison doesn't mean you'll get out and do the same thing all over again. That being black, or Asian, or female, or gay doesn't mean you'll be treated differently."

He called for "a Greater Britain - made of greater expectations, where renters become home-owners, employees become employers, a small island becomes an even bigger economy a nd where extremism is defeated once and for all."

Mr Cameron said he felt "sick to the stomach" at the thought of young Britons joining extremist groups like Islamic State.

And he said that Britain must tackle the "epidemic" of extremism by "tearing up the narrative that says that Muslims are persecuted and the West deserves what it gets".

There should be no "passive tolerance" of the "politics of grievance" or segregation within British communities, and the authorities should not be "so frightened of causing offence" that they fail to act on forced marriages and female genital mutilation, he said.

And he highlighted the madrassas where some children spend "several hours a day... being taught that they shouldn't mix with people of other religions, being beaten, swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people".

The Prime Minister said: "If an institution is teaching children intensively, then whatever its religion, we will, like any other school, make it register so it can be inspected.

"And be in no doubt: if you are teaching intolerance, we will shut you down."

At the conclusion of a conference which has been dominated by jockeying for position in the looming leadership race triggered by his announcement he will not seek a third term, Mr Cameron made a point of handing out praise to some of the leading contenders for the succession.

He hailed George Osborne as "our iron Chancellor" and Justice Secretary Michael Gove as "the great Conservative reformer".

And London mayor Boris Johnson was given a standing ovation as the Prime Minister said he wanted to single him out for attention, saying: "He's served this country. He's served this party. And there's a huge amount more to come."

By contrast, Home Secretary Theresa May - who was accused on Tuesday of trying to use a widely-criticised get-tough speech on immigration as a launchpad for a leadership bid - was named only in a list of ministers "who keep us safe at home and abroad", alongside International Development Secretary Justine Greening, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Mr Cameron told the conference that he had his bags "half-packed" as he prepared for the election results in May, but "as dawn rose, a new light - a bluer light - fell across our isles".

He said the Tories' surprise majority showed the British people were not "obsessives arguing at the extremes of the debate" but "decent, sensible, reasonable, and just want a government that supports the vulnerable, backs those who do the right thing and helps them get on in life".

And he claimed that, under the Conservatives, "we're on the brink of something special in our country".

"Wages are rising. Hope is returning. We're moving into the light," said the Prime Minister.

"But we're not there yet. We're only half way through."

Despite planning to step down by 2020, Mr Cameron said he was "in just as much of a hurry as five years ago".

And he said he was "fired up" by the challenge of his second term to take on "the scourge of poverty, the brick wall of blocked opportunity, the shadow of extremism hanging over every single one of us".

He said: "A Greater Britain doesn't just need a stronger economy, it needs a stronger society. And delivering this social reform is entirely fitting with the great history of the Conservative Party."

Mr Cameron said Tories should not accept a country in which an individual's salary is more closely linked to what their father earned than in any other major economy.

He repeated his ambition to make every state school an academy in order to raise aspirations among pupils.

And he insisted on the need to ensure people are "judged equally", citing examples of jobseekers who have to take on "white-sounding" names to secure interviews, Muslims who are abused for their faith, black people stopped and searched because of the colour of their skin, disabled people unable to find work and women paid less because of their gender.

"You can't have true opportunity without real equality," he said. "And I want our party to get this right. Yes, us, the party of the fair chance, the party of the equal shot, the party that doesn't care where you come from but only where you're going. Us, the Conservatives, I want us to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today."

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Cameron signalled his continued determination to "eradicate the death cult" of Islamic State, insisting Britain cannot "contract that out to America".

And he restated his ambition to secure reforms in the UK's relationship with the EU which will allow him to advocate a vote to stay in the in/out referendum planned by the end of 2017.

He insisted that more spending cuts were required to complete the battle for economic recovery at a time when Labour had "given up any sensible, reasonable, rational arguments on the economy".

Mr Cameron was joined on stage by wife Samantha as he took a standing ovation from activists at the end of his 55-minute speech.

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