David Cameron revives ‘classless society’ promise

David Cameron  at a meeting with a group of health workers in Manchester yesterday. Picture: Reuters
David Cameron at a meeting with a group of health workers in Manchester yesterday. Picture: Reuters
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DAVID Cameron will today chart his course for a potential second term in office, telling his party that “for the first time ever” they must plan recovery from the economic crash to spread opportunity outside Britain’s traditional privileged groups to make it available “for all”.

In a pro-enterprise speech designed deliberately to contrast with Ed Miliband’s attack on energy firms last week, the Prime Minister will also bluntly assert his backing for the profit motive, insisting that they are not “dirty words”.

Instead, he argues that businesses, along with government reforms in welfare and education, will be the cornerstone for “a land of opportunity” he sees emerging from the recession.

That recovery cannot, however, see a return to Britain’s unbalanced economy, he says, slamming both the “casino economy” of the boom years and the “welfare society” which has left people on benefits.

A second-term government will have “one mission in mind,” he adds. “To make this country, at long last, and for the first time ever, a land of opportunity for all,” he will tell conference delegates in Manchester.

Echoing John Major’s call 23 years ago to create a “classless society” he adds that in the recovery, it should make “no difference” to people’s life chances whether “you are from the north or in the south, whether you’re black or you’re white, a man or a woman, the school you went to, the background you have, who your parents were”.

The same message was highlighted earlier yesterday by Chancellor George Osborne during a fringe event where he insisted that a good education should not be regarded as “a privilege” for those who could afford it. He also argued that setting up a business should be “something for everyone”.

The vision of a more broad-based recovery comes amid nervousness among many Tories following Mr Miliband’s conference speech last week when the Labour leader set out populist plans to freeze energy bills until the end of 2017.

It also reflects criticism from Mr Miliband that the recovery is only benefiting the very rich, with ordinary families still to feel any noticeable change.

Mr Cameron will hold back from repeating Mr Miliband’s blunt criticism of the “big six” energy firms and will instead tackle Mr Miliband’s experience head on. He will argue that “wishing for something, caring about something – that’s not enough. You can’t conjure up a dynamic economy, a strong society, fantastic schools all with the stroke of a minister’s pen.”

In a key pro-business section, he will directly counter Mr Miliband’s rhetoric by insisting that “profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise . . . are not dirty, elitist words.” He will add: “They’re not the problem. They really are the solution because it’s not government that creates jobs, it’s businesses.”

Mr Cameron will also use the speech to reassure the party faithful that he does not intend to stick with his three-year coalition with the Liberal Democrats after 2015.

He will say: “When the election comes, we won’t be campaigning for a coalition. We will be fighting heart and soul for a majority Conservative government – because that is what our country needs.”

The call for more action on the economy was pushed earlier yesterday by London mayor Boris Johnson who called on Mr Cameron to scrap stamp duty, which he said was “stamping on the fingers of those trying to climb the property ladder”.

Mr Johnson also called on the party to win an outright majority in 2015 to “cut that yellow Liberal Democrat albatross and let it plop into the sea”.

Aides say Mr Cameron will remain cautious about the extent of the economic recovery. He used an interview with ITV last night to acknowledge that, despite signs of growth, many families whose wages had been frozen had yet to feel the recovery themselves.

He said: “There are millions of people in our country who have worked hard through this recession, who have held on to their jobs, who haven’t seen a pay rise, who have seen prices go up for their weekly shop. They need to know that we’re on their side and that help is on its way.”

Analysis: Forget serious Boris, it’s the panto king they really want

Boris was in town yesterday and both versions of the Tory darling were on display.

There was the one the delegates had come to see, despite the early hour, their expressions already expectantly preparing to grin and giggle. You are twice as likely to be murdered in Brussels than in London, he declared, and “presumably with Lobster picks”.

He slammed the “geezer for the Kremlin” who had derided Britain as a small island, noting that his comments now risked him getting “polonium in my sushi”.

He boasted about Britain’s economic muscle by noting that two million cucumbers are grown in London. “Two million cucumbers! Eat your heart our Vladimir Putin!”

And then he recalled a recent trip to a factory in Manchester where they make the destination signs for London’s new Routemaster buses. “Manchester telling London where to go and where to get off!” he quipped.

Then there was the other Boris.

This one called on George Osborne to end stamp duty on houses, a tax that was “stamping on the fingers of those trying to climb the property ladder”.

He questioned the upbringing of British youngsters, saying politicians needed to “give them boundaries and solidity in their lives”.

He backed fracking, and warned that an extra runway at Heathrow would “wreck the quality of life for millions of Londoners”.

He did, in other words, what serious politicians usually do in speeches.

This latter Boris was the one Johnson seemed to want to be paraded yesterday, if only to demonstrate that a real politician lurks behind the tomfoolery.

The trouble for the mayor, however, is that it is the court jester that the crowd is wanting to hear. And so he is forced to oblige; no Boris speech is complete without at least one reference to a bendy-bus, and two howling double entendres.

Yet, in the hall, the daftness all felt a little like going through the motions, all a bit 2012. No wonder he wants the more serious political player to be seen in full view. Because, the alternative is a dreadful future role as the panto king of the Tory faithful; a BoJo with no Mojo.


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