UNITED KINGDOM

Cameron declares he’s ‘ready’ in keynote speech

Closing the British Conservative party’s annual conference on Thursday, party leader David Cameron set out his vision for the party, one that envisages a change in the party’s fortunes from the opposition to the ruling benches.

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British Conservative leader David Cameron is "ready to take power", he said in a speech on Wednesday at the end of the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, but warned of tough choices ahead.

 

Recent national polls put Cameron's Tory party on course to win the next general election - which must take place before June 2010.

 

But Cameron warned that the UK faces touch choices as it pulls itself out of one of the worst economic slumps in decades.

 

The Tories have announced a range of public spending cuts to tackle- if elected - the UK's deficit.

 

Party officials have said these are only some of the measures required to deal with the effects of the recession.

 

Cameron warned of a "steep climb ahead."

 

"None of this will be easy," he told the party faithful, gathered at the end of the four-day conference. “We will be tested. I will be tested. I'm ready for that - and so, I believe, are the British people.

 

"Don't get me wrong, I have no illusions. If we win this election, it is going to be tough... (but) I tell you this - the view from the summit will be worth it."

 

Lisbon Treaty referendum?

 

In his speech, the 42-year-old Tory leader also touched on his previously expressed view that there should be a referendum on the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, like in Ireland where voters approved the Treaty last week.

 

Britain has already ratified the treaty – but Cameron has said he will hold a referendum if it has not been ratified by all other member states by next year’s general election.

 

However, it remains unclear what path his party will take if the treaty is ratified.

 

Cameron is under pressure from eurosceptic Conservatives to commit to holding a referendum under any circumstances.

 

Foreign affairs spokesman William Hague won loud applause from delegates when he repeated his opposition to the new post of a European president that would come into force under the treaty.

 

Among other conservative views on the treaty, rank and file Tory activists hate the idea that Tony Blair, the UK's former Labour Prime Minister, is one of the candidates mooted for the EU presidency.

 

"We seek a European Union that acts by agreement among nations, rather than by placing its own president or foreign minister above any nation," Hague, who was himself leader of the Conservatives from 1997 to 2001, said.

 

“Failure" in Afghanistan

 

David Cameron has said he would set up a "war cabinet" for the Afghan conflict if he becomes prime minister, bringing together top ministers, armed forces and intelligence chiefs in a group similar to the US National Security Council.

 

"Our military is at war in Afghanistan, but quite frankly, Whitehall isn't," Cameron said, referring to politicians and civil servants.

 

In his speech Cameron confirmed that the former head of the British army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, would act as their policy advisor and could even be made a minister if they won the next election.

 

Dannatt has repeatedly criticised Brown's government for under-resourcing the war in Afghanistan, a line repeated by Conservative defence spokesman Liam Fox in his speech to the conference.

 

Fox attacked the government's "appalling failure" to define Britain's mission in Afghanistan, which he said was to stop it becoming a safe haven for terrorism, a failure which risked undermining support for the deployment.

 

He added: "If we were to leave Afghanistan prematurely, it would be a shot in the arm for every jihadist globally."

 

The Conservatives have previously said they would be "sympathetic" to a request for more troops in Afghanistan but primarily for training Afghan forces to take over their own security.
 

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