Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 12:21 UK

Conservative manifesto analysis: Promising change

By Carole Walker
Political correspondent, BBC News, London

David and Samantha Cameron
David and Samantha Cameron arrived together for the launch

There have been previous radical plans for this once great and powerful structure. This time it looks as if they might just be realised.

After years of decay, Battersea Power Station in south London is being transformed into a new cultural and community centre.

An apt place, David Cameron hopes, from which to convince voters that this was more than just another manifesto launch.

The Tory leader's strategists claim it is a detailed blueprint for real change and real hope.

At the heart of the Conservatives' programme is the idea of handing power from government to individuals, businesses and voluntary groups.

So it includes direct invitations to voters: be your own boss; sack your MP; run your own school; own your own home; veto council tax rises; vote for your police; save your local pub or post office.

It will be hard for any future Conservative government to live up to this rhetoric; we can't all be bosses or homeowners.

But the Tories hope the invitations will help voters understand of their key theme of the "big society" instead of a big government.

'No big surprises'

It is also a starkly different approach to the "active government" which Prime Minister Gordon Brown is promoting.

There are no big policy surprises, no new big spending commitments.

But that won't stop the Tories' opponents accusing them of black holes in their funding and of plans to cut public services to fund their tax cuts.

David Cameron at the Conservative manifesto launch

Mr Cameron insists he would make a start on tackling the huge budget deficit sooner than Labour and would go further and faster in reducing it.

The manifesto includes a pledge to eliminate the bulk of the structural deficit over a parliament.

But the 150-page hard-backed book still does not explain exactly how the Conservatives would achieve this.

Yet Mr Cameron insists all his tax cuts are costed.

So the much-heralded promise to stop Labour's planned increase in National Insurance contributions will be paid for by an extra £6bn in efficiency savings this year.

The controversial tax break for married couples will come from a levy on the banks. And the cut in inheritance tax will be funded by the charge on non-domiciled workers.

But like his Labour opponents, the Tories have not included a specific pledge not to increase VAT.

'Greater transparency'

Running through this programme is an attempt to address the public anger over the expenses scandal.

There are promises to cut the number of MPs by 10%, open up government accounts and give voters the power to sack MPs who misbehave.

The manifesto is also an attempt to confront what Mr Cameron has called Labour's "lies" over the Tories' plans.

So there are specific pledges to keep pensioners' winter fuel payments, free bus passes and TV licences.

Immigration gets a mention with the pledge to set an annual limit and reduce the number of people coming here from outside the EU to the tens of thousands.

And there's the pledge that a Bill to trigger a referendum if the EU seeks to take more powers from the UK will be included in the first Queen's speech of a new Conservative government.

But overall the tone is very different from those offered by the Tories at the last three elections.

Mr Cameron is promising that if elected he willl lead "the greenest government in history" and legislate to meet international commitments on international aid.

This is a manifesto for a country only just emerging from recession.

The Conservatives know they have to convince voters not to believe their opponents' warnings of drastic cuts to public services to fund their plans.

Above all Mr Cameron and his team will be hoping the optimistic message of change and a fresh approach will convince a public more cynical than ever about the promises of any politician of any party.

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