Cameron urges Conservatives to stay the course

Prime minister stresses importance of traditional family values at speech to unhappy party members

Sat, Mar 16, 2013, 16:08

British prime minister David Cameron has today urged his Conservative Party's grassroots “not to shy away from the fight” as the party struggles to overcome mid-term electoral blues.

Delivering a speech for Conservative loyalists in London this morning, Mr Cameron, repeatedly recalled the values of Winston Churchill while rounding on Labour's “left-wing establishment”.

The Conservatives/Liberal Democrats coalition is “wrestling with historic debts”, while attempting to recover “from the deepest recession since records began”.

"Anyone who thought it was going to be easy – they’re wrong. Anyone who thinks it’s going to get easier – they’re wrong too," Mr Cameron told the Conservatives' spring conference.

The traditional theme struck by Mr Cameron is evidence of a realisation on his part that he has put too much distance between himself and the party's national organisation - one that has withered dramatically.

Many of them are furious about the coalition's decision to introduce gay marriage - an issue that has brought many Conservatives MPs who voted for it into conflict with local supporters.

Today, strikingly, Mr Cameron made no mention of a piece of legislation he has often trumpeted elsewhere, preferring, instead, to stress traditional Conservative family values.

"We give people the tools to succeed. Yes, we believe self-reliance is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean ‘you’re on your own’. You can’t just say to the teenager who no one has ever believed in: ‘pull yourself up by the boot-straps’.”

"I know the leg-ups I got in life. A loving family, wonderful parents, a great school and university. Aspiration needs to be nurtured. And this party has always understood that," he declared.

On education, he backed “pushy parents” - counting himself and his wife, Samantha amongst their number - who encourage their children to do well in school.

"I want the education system in this country to be like the pushiest, most sharp-elbowed, ambitious parent there is. Because for years we had the opposite.

"We had a left-wing establishment that had bargain-basement expectations of millions of children. They dumbed down the qualifications. They turned their face away from sinking, failing and coasting schools."

Such “so-called progressives did more to stunt progress and opportunity than almost anyone else in our country”, because they left children from poorer backgrounds “marked down and written off”.

Later, delegates privately welcomed the tone struck by Mr Cameron, but expressed concern that he and other leading Conservatives will not adopt a similarly forthright defence of the party's values to the public at large.

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Theresa May finally acknowledged that the British Government cannot do anything to stop Romanians and Bulgarians having full rights to come to the UK from next January.

The issue has become increasingly controversial in British politics in recent months, particularly because of the attention by tabloid newspapers and the anti-EU UK Independence Party.

Up to now, there has been persistent declarations in private that London would seek to force through some last-minute restrictions on nationals from both countries, who joined the EU in 2007.