Cameron targets 'the culture of entitlement' crippling Britain
In the first hard-back party manifesto – looking more like a school textbook than a traditional election pitch – the Tories set out a clear election choice between their "Big Society" and Gordon Brown's "Big Government".
Yesterday Mr Cameron chose Battersea Power Station, on the banks of the River Thames, to launch the manifesto which – rather than simply pleading for votes – actually "invites" people to become part of the Government of Britain by regaining power over their lives.
The power station has been crumbling for about 30 years, victim of failed restoration projects, and Mr Cameron said it was a "building in need of regeneration in a country in need of regeneration" as he struck an optimistic note and promised a new system of power.
The Tory leader also delved into history, invoking the spirit of John F Kennedy's inaugural address in 1961 when he said: "So, ask what you can do for your country – and yes, for your family and for your community too".
His speech came on the back of an opinion poll which showed the Tories only two points behind Labour in Yorkshire – compared with 15 at the last General Election in 2005 – suggesting the party is on course to win a string of the key West Yorkshire marginal seats which could determine the outcome of the vote.
Striking an optimistic note, Mr Cameron said: "This is a manifesto for a new kind of politics and a new kind of country.
"Together we can get rid of our debts, get the economy moving, mend our broken society – even make politics and politicians work better. And if we can do that, we can do anything. Together, we can do anything."
Pledging to revive the economy, society and politics, the manifesto promised new powers for public sector workers to run their services as co-operatives; for parents to set up academy schools; for voters to sack MPs; for residents to veto council tax rises; for communities to buy under-threat post offices and for citizens to elect police chiefs.
It put the 6bn reversal of Labour's National Insurance hike at the heart of an economic strategy to eliminate "the bulk" of Britain's strategic deficit by the end of the Parliament, with a "credible plan" to be set out in an emergency Budget within 50 days of taking office.
But it failed to match Labour's pledge not to raise income tax and made no mention of VAT, which the Tories insist they have no plans to increase. Labour and Liberal Democrats claim they will have to raise it to 20 per cent to fund their plans.
The document reaffirmed the party's commitment to a high-speed rail line linking London and Leeds, while port firms welcomed plans to immediately freeze backdated business rates on ports which firms fear could lead to massive jobs losses.
Mr Cameron insisted he had successfully moved the party back to the centre ground for good and said mending the country's problems was "not about you, the government, it's about we, the people".
Urging activists to spread the word to friends and colleagues through email and on the internet through Facebook and Twitter, he said: "Let's make this the biggest call to arms the country has seen in a generation."
Mr Cameron said his manifesto offered voters "a real choice", urging them to reject "the path of decline" offered by Labour and instead accept his invitation to "change our future".
His speech was well received by activists but immediately condemned by opponents, with concern it offered little to explain how Mr Cameron would bring about such a radical transformation of British life.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said there was "a complete hole" in the Tory plans.
They would put Britain's economic recovery at risk and "leave people on their own to face the recession" and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's chief of staff, Danny Alexander said: "When the Tories say we're all in this together, what they really mean is you're on your own.
"Their agenda is to take away help from those who need it and offer it to those already at the top."
CONSERVATIVES SET OUT THEIR VISION OF FUTURE
Emergency budget within 50 days of taking office, eliminating "bulk" of structural deficit over a Parliament.
Reverse Labour's planned National Insurance rise for anyone earning under 35,000 next year, cutting 6bn of waste in spending this year.
Public sector pay frozen for one year in 2011, while tax credits no longer paid to families earning over 50,000 and Child Trust Funds dropped for all but the poorest families.
Reform regulation and structure of the banking to prevent repeat of the banking crisis, boost small businesses with rate relief and cut corporation tax to 25p and the small companies' rate to 20p.
Re-link the basic state pension to earnings by bringing forward increase in state pension retirement age, protect the winter fuel payment, permanently raise the stamp duty threshold to 250,000 for first-time buyers and help local authorities freeze council tax .
A Work Programme for all unemployed to get people off Incapacity Benefit, and to incentivise companies to employ people as the private sector leads economic recovery.
Promise to "begin work immediately" on high-speed rail line connecting London with Leeds, although does not specify a route, with "vision" for a wider network in future.
Maintain commitment to blocking third runway at Heathrow and second runways at Stansted and Gatwick, while Air Passenger Duty would be reformed "to encourage a switch to fuller and cleaner planes".
Longer and more flexible franchises to encourage private investment in railways.
No more central government funding for fixed speed cameras, while rogue clampers would be targeted. Consult on introduction of fuel duty stabiliser.
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the UK's share of global markets for low carbon technologies, while introducing a 6,500 Green Deal to fund home energy saving measures.
Proposals for state-funded "free schools" run by parents, teachers' charities, trusts and voluntary groups – based on the Swedish model – are confirmed as a centrepiece of the Tories' education policies.
Six-year-olds will be made to take reading tests to assess their abilities but league tables – and Sats tests for 11-year-olds – will remain.
School standards would be boosted by enhancing the status of teachers and allowing state schools the freedom to offer same international exams that private schools offer.
Patients would have power to choose any healthcare provider meeting NHS standards within NHS prices, while Tories would stop "forced" closure of accident and emergency wards and commission a 24/7 urgent care service in every area of England.
Local people given power to protect pubs and post offices threatened with closure.
"Deep clean of the political system" in the wake of the expenses scandal, allowing voters to kick out MPs who break the rules and a 10 per cent cut in the number of MPs.
Reforms include Parliamentary Privilege Act to stop MPs "evading justice", a cap on party donations, and banning ex-Ministers from lobbying government for two years after leaving office.
"Bureaucracy and perks" associated with Parliament will be cut and "generous" final-salary pension scheme for MPs could be ended.
On foreign affairs, promise a "new special relationship" with India and "closer engagement" with China, basing foreign affairs on "liberal Conservative principles".
Would create a National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minister, and "restore" Military Covenant to ensure care for troops and their families.
The manifesto confirms the Tories will offer a free vote on repealing the hunting ban but David Cameron insists it will not mean wasting hundreds of hours of Parliamentary time.
The Hunting Act, which bans hunting with dogs, has been described as bad legislation and the Tories say it has proved "unworkable", but Labour is seeking to make the Tory plans a major election issue.
Yesterday Mr Cameron insisted the issue could be "dispatched relatively quickly" as he launched the manifesto, which pledges a "free vote in government time on a government Bill" to repeal the Hunting Act in a section on "restoring civil liberties".
He said a free vote in government time on a government Bill could be dispatched relatively quickly.
"A free vote and a vote according to people's consciences – that is very important."
Pledge to "fight back" against crime and anti-social behaviour with crackdown on knife violence, binge-drinking and police paperwork.
"Honest" sentencing will mean judges can specify minimum and maximum sentences, while police authorities will be revamped with directly-elected individuals in charge.
Greater legal protection for householders who "act reasonably" against intruders
New dedicated Border Police Force Serious will become part of a "refocused" Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca), much criticised for costing a lot and apparently delivering little.
An annual limit will be imposed on the number of non-EU migrants coming to Britain to live and work, with net migration returning to "the levels of the 1990s – tens of thousands a year, not hundreds of thousands".