Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Friday, 2 October 2009 12:46 UK

Cameron makes deficit a priority

David Cameron and George Osborne
Mr Cameron said he wanted to prevent long-term unemployment

David Cameron has said reducing the UK's fiscal deficit will take "a great national effort" and cannot be done by "cutting waste" alone.

Speaking to the Sun ahead of the Tory conference, he also promised "big, bold and radical" plans to tackle the "appalling scourge of unemployment".

And Mr Cameron said he would set up a "war cabinet" - or National Security Council - to handle the Afghan mission.

The Conservative conference will begin in Manchester on Monday.

Ahead of the event, chairman Eric Pickles gave a message to delegates in a video on the party's website, telling them: "Be under no illusion, the general election is not in the bag."

'Waste of life'

Mr Cameron told the Sun he would be "straight" with people about the deficit.

"You cannot deal with it just by cutting waste," he said. "This is going to require a great national effort."

He also said he would make getting people back to work a priority, so that long-term unemployment did not become commonplace.

"It's a waste of life. I must stop it happening," he said.

The military are fighting that war, but I want Whitehall fighting it too
David Cameron, on Afghanistan

Earlier this week, the Sun announced that it was abandoning Labour and would back the Conservatives at the next general election.

One of the key reasons it cited was the government's handling of the conflict in Afghanistan.

Mr Cameron said: "The military are fighting that war, but I want Whitehall fighting it too."

He said he would make setting up a National Security Council - with senior Cabinet ministers and armed forces and security service heads - an urgent priority.

The Conservative leader also gave an interview to the Spectator magazine in which he said he would use the conference to show his party had "the grit and determination to turn the whole country around".

But in terms of the deficit, he added: "I want to be realistic - both for what a government can achieve, but also realistic in terms of taking the country with me."

Labour has said it plans to introduce a 50p rate of tax for the highest earners - a policy Mr Cameron said he would honour.

Nevertheless, he told the Spectator he thought high marginal tax rates were "a fantastically bad idea" and if the 50p policy ultimately drove Britain's rich to move overseas, "clearly it would be painless and advantageous to get rid of it at an early stage".

Europe

The Conservative conference comes after an Irish referendum on whether or not to sign the EU's Lisbon Treaty.

We want that referendum early in a Conservative government
Shadow foreign secretary William Hague, on the Lisbon Treaty

The Tories have previously pledged to give British people a chance to vote on the treaty, although some commentators have suggested it could already be in force by the time of the next general election.

However, shadow foreign secretary William Hague told the BBC there was "still no certainty" about that.

"In that situation, our long standing commitment to a referendum before it is in force is absolutely there," he said.

"We want that referendum early in a Conservative government and we would recommend a 'no' vote."

On Thursday, Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the Tories' EU policy a "national embarrassment" and accused the party of associating with "extremists".



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