Page last updated at 15:35 GMT, Sunday, 28 September 2008 16:35 UK

Cameron tells Brown: You are bust

Cameron says Brown is 'bust'

David Cameron has opened the Tory party conference with a message to Gordon Brown: "You have had your boom and your reputation is now bust."

The Conservative leader said only his party could offer the "strong" and "united" alternative to Mr Brown's government that voters wanted.

But he also warned the party faithful in Birmingham against complacency.

"We have a plan for change so let's show them, with everything we have, that we can be that change," he said.

The hall was full to overflowing to hear Mr Cameron open the conference - the first in more than 20 years in which the party has been ahead of Labour in the polls.

The party had planned to open proceedings with a celebration of its recent election victories but that was ditched in favour of a more sombre opening address, to reflect the current economic crisis.

'Positive alternative'

The party has launched a 40-page economic reconstruction plan, setting out how it would prevent future bank failures and reduce the national debt.

Mr Cameron stressed the need to show voters the party had "a very clear plan" to help people through the credit crunch and, in the longer term, to "make sure it never happens again".

Just as the difficult times are coming, there is no money in the government kitty

David Cameron

"I want us to show that at a time when the government has completely lost its way that there is a very clear, very strong and very positive alternative in the modern Conservative Party. That is what this week is all about."

He said the Conservatives were so united that they did not have to spend the conference week "talking about ourselves", but he warned party activists: "I don't want, at any stage, that unity to tip over into complacency."

He said the party still had to win voters' trust, and he warned that any new Conservative government would face a tough task to get the public finances back in shape.

"Just as the difficult times are coming, there is no money in the government kitty," he told delegates, adding it must "never, ever" be allowed to happen again.

He blamed Gordon Brown for leaving Britain with what he claimed was one of the biggest national debts in the developed world and for not putting money aside during the boom years to deal with a downturn.

Mr Cameron told delegates: "Who was it who said that he, and he alone, had rewritten the laws of economics to end boom and bust?

"The answer is our prime minister, the then chancellor, Gordon Brown. And my message to Gordon Brown is this: 'You have had your boom, and your reputation is now bust.'"

Mr Cameron was introduced to the hall by Shadow Foreign Secretary, and former party leader, William Hague who said Mr Brown had had his chance and "blown it" and called on the party to "re-double" its efforts to win power.

Earlier, on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Cameron brushed off recent polls suggesting Labour had cut back the Conservative lead since Mr Brown's conference speech, citing the 11-point poll deficit he faced a year ago: "Polls come and polls go," he said.

Mr Cameron gave more details about his party's plans to see more power given to the Bank of England to step in and rescue failed banks.

Yes, yes, yes
David Cameron on the idea of televised debates

And he outlined details of Conservative proposals to allow thousands of new non-selective schools to be set up in the state sector.

"I want to see that in the state sector, for everyone's children this is a revolution... basically saying to churches and voluntary bodies, and educational establishments and private schools as well, if you want to set up a school in the state sector... if you can attract pupils you get state money and people can go there for free," said Mr Cameron.

"This is about opening up the state monopoly and welcoming new schools in," he said, saying it was modelled on the Swedish system.

Mr Cameron would not be drawn on whether a Conservative government would hold a referendum on the EU treaty even if it had been ratified by the time they got into power.

But he said they "would not let the matter rest there" and would set out what they would do if and when the treaty was ratified by all EU states.

On the question of tax cuts, Mr Cameron said it was not possible for him "to write (shadow chancellor) George Osborne's" first Budget now.

Televised debate

But he said he was a "fiscal conservative" and that the party had already agreed on the need to get government debt down - although in the long term the hope was to be able to reduce taxes.

David Cameron talks to Andrew Marr about his party's plans

On the pledge to match Labour spending plans to 2011, he said: "He (Mr Brown) is pulling the walls of the building around him down onto the ground... we will stick to those spending plans. My worry is whether he will."

At Labour's conference in Manchester last week, ministers, including the prime minister, criticised what they said were Conservative claims that British society was "broken".

But Mr Cameron rejected the suggestion that his party had said British society as a whole was broken, telling the programme that "parts of our society are badly broken".

He highlighted knife crime and children growing up in homes where no adult worked - but added: "I'm not a pessimist - I think it can be mended."

In the wake of the debates between US presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama, Mr Cameron said, "Yes, yes, yes," when asked if he would take part in a televised debate with Gordon Brown.

He told the Marr show he had already asked Mr Brown - and Tony Blair before him - for such debates and said they could be a way to "liven" up politics.

The Tory leader confirmed that his wife Samantha was "not planning" to emulate Sarah Brown by introducing her husband onto stage for his keynote speech on Wednesday.

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