Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Tories 'have to be progressive'

David Cameron
Mr Cameron said "top-down centralisation" did not work

Conservative leader David Cameron has said his party must retain a "progressive" outlook if it wins the next general election.

Despite the economic downturn, it should focus on promoting fairness, protecting the environment and maintaining public safety, he added.

In a speech to the think tank Demos, Mr Cameron also warned against too much state interference.

The economic crisis should bring people together not divide them, he said.

Mr Cameron said the Conservatives shared its objectives with parties "right across the mainstream political spectrum", including Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

But he believed in "influencing behaviour rather than issuing diktats" and placed emphasis on institutions such as the family, he added.

Mr Cameron also warned against Labour's "fiscal irresponsibility" in dealing with the economic crisis.

He said: "Now we know how not to do it: we just need to look at the last decade.

"Labour's approach was a whole new regime of targets, public service agreements and micro-management. I don't need to spell out in any detail the effects of all this top-down centralisation.

"The distortions, the unintended and perverse consequences, and the undermining of professional responsibility and morale are all well documented."

Mr Cameron added: "This recession doesn't vindicate big government; it hammers the final nail in its coffin. We know that we're in this mess is because of too much debt. Too much banking debt, too much personal debt and too much government debt."

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