Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Monday, 19 April 2010 12:37 UK

Cameron: Don't treat public like a 'bunch of mugs'

David Cameron says other parties are treating the public like 'mugs'

David Cameron has said politicians must stop treating the public like a "bunch of mugs" in thinking only new laws and more money can solve problems.

Speaking in London, the Tory leader said the era of "top-down" government was over and parents and businesses needed to take more responsibility.

The Tories' "big society" concept was the only "new idea" on offer, he said.

Other parties have said the Tory plans would not empower people but leave them to fend for themselves.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the Tories are offering a "do-it-yourself" approach to public services that will result in fewer jobs and lower standards.

Reflecting on the state of the campaign, Mr Cameron said the first prime ministerial debate - which opinion polls have suggested triggered a surge of support for the Liberal Democrats - had livened it up.

'Clean break'

Both Labour and the Conservatives have accepted that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg performed strongly in Thursday's TV encounter - the first of three during the campaign.

The big government way has not worked. It is time for something genuinely different
David Cameron

However, they insist the "real choice" remains between the two of them and that they have the answers to driving growth and reducing the huge government deficit while protecting frontline services.

Mr Cameron said the reaction to the debate showed people were "fed up with the status quo" and were "desperate" for change.

He urged people to back the Conservatives as the only party capable of providing a "clean break" with the past, saying Labour were only offering "more of the same".

Renewing his call for government to hand power to communities and for people to become more involved in running public services and community projects, he said that too many schools were failing, too many people were not working and pensioners were being let down under the "big state".

"The big government way has not worked. It is time for something genuinely different," Mr Cameron said.

"There has only been one big idea to come out of any of the manifestos. It is what the Conservatives are talking about with the "big society". It is the only way we can get real change."

'Big lie'

Mr Cameron said it was "a fraud and a fixation" that passing new laws and regulations or spending more money would solve problems of persistent inequality, crime or educational under-achievement.

"For decades politicians in this country have been treating the British public like a bunch of mugs.

"Politicians have been saying 'just give us a little bit more of your money, just let us pass one more law, one more regulation, one more little order from on high and suddenly we will solve all the country's problems.

"It is a lie, it is a big lie, it is rubbish. It doesn't work."

Instead, he said parents needed to take more responsibility to ensure their children attend school and have a healthy diet while businesses needed to act to stop selling alcohol to under-age drinkers and get more involved in anti-crime initiatives.

"Think about every single subject and it is about the responsibility you need to bring to your lives, communities and country that is going to make a difference," he said.

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