Page last updated at 16:37 GMT, Sunday, 28 February 2010

David Cameron tells Tories he can turn Britain around

David Cameron tells of 'patriotic duty' to oust Labour

Conservative leader David Cameron has said he has "got what it takes to turn this country around", in his party's final get-together before the election.

He told the spring conference he was more confident every day and it was his "patriotic duty" to beat Gordon Brown.

But, after one opinion poll suggested the Conservatives' lead had narrowed to two points, Mr Cameron acknowledged his party faced a "real fight".

Labour said voters would find the speech "wanting" for substance.

The Conservatives have outlined six key election campaigning areas: dealing with the deficit; boosting enterprise; shoring up families; backing the NHS; raising standards in schools; and cleaning up politics.

'Roll up our sleeves'

Mr Cameron, speaking without notes at the conference in Brighton, said: "They don't hand general election victories on a plate to people in this country and quite right too."

He added: "This is not an election that it would be quite good to win because we have got some good policies...

In this country, with all of our difficulties, we are going to need some salesmanship
David Cameron

"It is an election we have a patriotic duty to win because this country is in a complete and utter mess, and we have to sort it out."

Mr Cameron said the economy was the "key issue" ahead of the election, attacking Mr Brown for "incompetence".

He said the government had to "get to grips" with public finances, adding: "I think the British people know that we are right...

"We've got to roll up our sleeves to deal with this deficit and debt."

The Conservative leader also told delegates: "Gordon Brown sometimes says that I'm a bit of a salesman and, you know what, I plead guilty.

"In this country, with all of our difficulties, we are going to need some salesmanship.

"I want to get around the world, not filling up the aeroplane with journalists but businessmen... I want a really clear message to go out that Britain is under new economic management and that we are open for business again."

Mr Cameron said his party's election manifesto would be the "most family-friendly" in British political history and added: "I love the NHS and I will stand up to protect it."

'Dark tunnel'

He said: "In the four-and-a-half years that I've been doing this job, every day that goes by I feel more confident that I have, with this team behind me, got what it takes to turn this country around... That's what we badly need to do."

Mr Cameron said people expected a "sense of optimism" from him: "With all our difficulties and the deficit and the debt and the social problems and the political system that has gone so wrong, it can feel like we are looking down some dark tunnel.

"But there is a bright light at the end of it."

For Labour, Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper told the BBC: "I found it [Mr Cameron's speech] wanting. People aren't going to be fooled by some platitudes or spin.

"They want to know what the substance is behind it."

'Dragged out'

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: "I thought he was surprisingly nervous. Clearly the party has been shocked, and perhaps he and his team have been shocked, by the fall in the poll ratings.

"Perhaps they had started to take that a bit for granted."

The general election must be held by June, but it is widely expected to take place on 6 May.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson told the BBC he thought this date - the same as local elections - would be best, as voters did not want to be "dragged out on a wet Thursday" more than once.

According to a YouGov poll published in the Sunday Times, the Conservative lead over Labour has narrowed to two points - down from six points last week.

It suggests that 37% would vote Tory, while 35% would opt for Labour and 17% for the Lib Dems.

This, the Sunday Times says, could give Labour 317 seats, nine short of an overall majority, with the Tories on a total of 263 MPs.

YouGov spoke to 1,436 people from 25 to 26 February.

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