David Cameron asked voters on Wednesday to let the Conservative Party "finish the job we've started", as he devoted much of his party conference speech to attacking Ed Miliband and the Labour Party.
With less than two years to go to the next election, the prime minister told Tory activists in the Manchester convention centre that he would not "be campaigning for a coalition" but rather would be "fighting heart and soul for a majority Conservative government – because that is what our country needs".
However the audience for the prime minister's speech was voters at home rather than those gathered in the aircraft hanger style hall - and reading from a large autocue in the middle of the room, he delivered most of the key lines directly into the camera.
"We look people in the eye as equals and say: yes, you’ve been down – but you’re not out, you can do it, you have it in you, we will give you that chance," he said.
"And that’s why we can say today that it’s this party that is fighting for all those who were written off by Labour, it’s this Party that’s for the many not the few. Yes – the land of despair was Labour, but the land of hope is Tory. We have done some big things to transform Britain. But we need to finish the job we’ve started."
He added: "Let us pledge today that we will build something better - a land of opportunity," he said. "A country built on that enduring principle, seared in our hearts, that if you work hard, save, play by the rules and do your fair share - then nothing should stand in your way."
Unlike Miliband, who used his speech at the Labour Party conference to unveil specific policies including a freeze on energy bills, Cameron set out a broad vision for what approach the next government needed to take. "Let us never forget the cast-iron law of British politics," he said. "Yes – the oceans can rise and empires can fall but one thing will never, ever change. It’s Labour who wreck our economy and it’s we Conservatives who clear it up."
And he singled out Ed Balls for personal criticism, mocking the 'flatline' hand gesture the shadow chancellor likes to make to wind up Cameron during prime minister's questions. "I’ve got a gesture of my own for Ed Balls," he said to laughter. "Recently, it’s gone a bit quiet. Could it be because there was no double dip and the economy’s now growing?"
Cameron also lay claim to the coalition policy of taking lower earners out of tax, much to the irritation of Liberal Democrats as it was in their manifesto. "They were trying to take all the credit for these tax cuts, as though they had been twisting our arm to do it," Cameron said. "Well, memo to the Lib Dems: you lecturing us on low taxes is like us lecturing you on pointless constitutional tinkering."
Ed Miliband responded to the speech on Twitter: "The last thing families want is him to ‘finish the job’ when prices have risen faster than wages and average pay is down by almost £1,500," he said. "David Cameron’s speech shows he does not know where to start in tackling the cost of living crisis facing Britain’s hard-working families."Suggest a correction