DAVID Cameron yesterday attempted to realign the Conservatives on the side of hard-working “strivers”, telling his party conference that he wants to lead an “aspiration nation”.
In a speech that sought to reconnect with the lower middle and working class voters who bought into Margaret Thatcher’s vision of Britain, Cameron said the Conservatives must be the party of the “want to be better-off”.
Defending plans to cut benefits payments he said starkly: “There is only one real route out of poverty and it is work.”
“What are hard-working people who travel long distances to get into work and pay their taxes meant to think when they see families [receiving] housing benefit to live in homes that these hard-working people could never afford themselves?”
Emphasising the need for the UK economy to remain competitive on a global stage, Cameron declared that “unless we take difficult, painful decisions” then “Britain may not be in the future what it has been in the past”.
The Prime Minister also confronted critics who have attacked his Eton education: “To all those people who say: he wants children to have the kind of education he had at his posh school, I say: yes – you’re absolutely right. I’m not here to defend privilege, I’m here to spread it.”
He also attacked opponents of new housebuilding, bemoaning planning laws that stop young people getting on the housing ladder: “We are the party of home ownership. We cannot let this carry on. We must accept we need to build more houses in Britain.”
Party chairman Grant Shapps told City A.M. in Birmingham that the speech was about rewarding those who seek to improve their own lives: “If you live in Essex and commute into the City then you are the hard-working person who’s bothered to get up early and make something of your life.”
“Rather than fight a phoney class war, David Cameron is saying that he’s not ashamed of having a good education – but he’s passionate about giving everyone a good education,” Shapps added.
The party conference in Birmingham was dominated by discussion of how to target middle and low income swing voters – dubbed “white van conservatives” by Harlow MP Robert Halfon – who the party believe will decide the 2015 general election.