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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 September 2007, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Tories to make stamp duty pledge
David Cameron
David Cameron promised to "give people more opportunity"
The Conservative Party conference is due to get under way in Blackpool with a pledge that the Tories would abolish stamp duty for most first-time buyers.

Amongst a raft of new policies, leader David Cameron is expected to say that he would scrap the tax for first-time buyers on homes worth under 250,000.

And amid rumours about a snap election, he urged Prime Minister Gordon Brown to "stop dithering" and call a poll now.

Mr Cameron told the Sunday Times he is ready for "a very big fightback".

He has promised to challenge Labour's recent opinion poll lead amid speculation that Mr Brown is preparing to go to the country this autumn.

Mr Cameron told the newspaper that a key theme of the conference will be "giving people more opportunity, power and control over their lives."

He insisted that his party was ready to fight an autumn election, adding that Mr Brown had "got himself into a position where he either bottles it or he has given us a hell of a lot of notice of his intentions".

His comments came after polls suggested that Labour have an 11-point poll lead.

Parliamentary gains

The Tories are expected to propose an Airline Pollution Duty, designed to encourage airlines to fly with full planes and penalise them for flights with only a few passengers on board.

The new policy announcements are also expected to include tax breaks for families with children worth up to 2,000 a year.

Clearly they're thinking in the Labour Party that if they don't have an election soon, then Brown will be rumbled, and people will be fed up with him in very short order
William Hague
Shadow foreign secretary

The measure would be funded by a crackdown on "work-shy" benefits claimants including "aggressive" penalties for those who turn down jobs.

The government has dismissed many of the policies, saying Mr Cameron has to explain how the ideas are going to be paid for.

"It's not proper opposition politics, let alone government politics, to come along with billion-pound announcements which you can't show where the money's going to come from," said Schools and Families Secretary Ed Balls.

BBC political correspondent Mark Sanders said that this year's Tory conference was crucial for Mr Cameron, who has faced criticism of his leadership from within his party.

'Brown bounce'

In an interview, Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary and a Tory moderniser, said internal critics of Mr Cameron had handed Labour an electoral advantage.

Love him or loathe him, no-one can deny that Cameron's ideas are original
George Madden, Birmingham

Mr Brown is expected to spend the next 48 hours weighing up whether to go to the country with an early general election.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said the Tories were ready for an early election.

"Clearly they're thinking in the Labour Party that if they don't have an election soon, then Brown will be rumbled, and people will be fed up with him in very short order," he said.

"That's influencing a lot of their thinking about a quick general election. But we're ready for that, our organisation is absolutely ready.

"We are well funded, we have excellent candidates in place and, as I say, I think you will see when we've finished this week, a very strong policy platform for that election as well."

Labour has enjoyed its lead - dubbed the "Brown bounce" - since Mr Brown took over as prime minister in June.

'Very encouraged'

An Ipsos/Mori poll for the Observer found Mr Cameron trailed Mr Brown on almost all indicators of public opinion.

The poll showed 60% of voters thought Mr Brown was best able to handle a crisis with 13% for Mr Cameron.

Mr Brown even led on the issue among Tory supporters with 32% opting for Mr Cameron compared to 37% for Mr Brown.

A YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph gives the party an 11-point lead, with Labour on 43%, the Conservatives on 32% and the Liberal Democrats on 15%.

The survey of 2,165 voters across Great Britain between 26 and 28 September suggests that 45% believe Mr Brown is in touch with people's concerns, compared to 18% who say the same of Mr Cameron.

A separate Populous poll for the Times puts Labour on 41%, the Tories on 31% and the Liberal Democrats on 17%.

But the Conservatives have said they are "very encouraged" by the latest English council by-election results - in which they took a seat from Labour, and achieved swings that would translate to Parliamentary gains.

William Hague on Tory chances in a snap election


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