Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Sunday, 26 July 2009 11:12 UK

Economic mess daunting - Cameron

David Cameron: 'If we sort out the budget problems, this is still a great country'

Conservative leader David Cameron has said the "scale of the economic mess" he would inherit if he became prime minister was "incredibly daunting".

Mr Cameron told the BBC he was "looking the British people in the eye" and saying public spending had to be cut.

Decisions taken on spending and tax had to be "fair", he said, adding that the wealthy would "pay their fair share".

He said there was no complacency as his party still had an "enormous mountain" to climb to win the election.

The Norwich North victory - where the Conservatives reversed a comfortable Labour majority to win by 7,348 - had been a "great success" but he was taking "one step at a time".

He added: "We are well aware that Margaret Thatcher had to win around 40 seats to get an overall majority. We want to win 120, we still have an enormous mountain to climb."

Fantastic opportunities

Mr Cameron told the Andrew Marr Show that some savings would come from cutting things the Conservatives opposed - like ID cards.

But he said more action would be needed because of the "daunting scale" of the mess being left.

He said: "I can't remember an opposition leader who has looked the British public in the eye and said we are going to cut public spending. We have to do that. We have to be clear about that.

"But I think the British people recognise this and they are crying out for someone, actually, who is going to lead them and who's going to say 'right, we're all in this together, we've all got to take these steps together'.

"Let's start by making parliament smaller, by having fewer ministers, by cutting the cost of politics. We're going to share in these difficult decisions and in this pain, but then the whole country has got to take part in this."

Mr Cameron added: "If we sort out the budget problems, this is still a great country, we've still got fantastic opportunities for the future."

He said his party was now drawing up a list of things they wanted to see happen, but which they felt could not be afforded if Britain was to live within its means.

He also said they planned to use transparency as a means to cut public spending - with all public sector spending over £25,000 and every public sector salary over £150,000 having to be published online.

Destiny shaped

As with the effect of transparency on MPs' expenses, this would lead to people starting to "behave better and to claim less", he said.

The Conservatives have said that health and overseas aid budgets would be protected from any cuts, but Mr Cameron said there was a "huge amount of waste and bureaucracy" to be tackled across Whitehall.

He highlighted what he said was the half a billion pounds spent on government advertising and the fact that people earning over £50,000 a year could still qualify for tax credits.

Chancellor Alistair Darling meanwhile told the same programme he believed Labour "can and will win" the next election if the party could "come out fighting" after the summer.

He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show he was not a natural optimist but was confident despite Labour's heavy defeat in this week's by-election.

Mr Darling said: "Whoever wins the next election will shape the destiny of this country - not just for the next five years, beyond that... I believe that we can win and we will win, but we really do need to come out fighting."

Asked by the presenter "even under Gordon Brown?", Mr Darling replied: "Yes, absolutely."

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