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Britain's Cameron pledges new political era, focus on health, education

Britain's Cameron pledges new political era, focus on health, education

British Conservative Party leader David Cameron pledged Wednesday to end what he called Tony Blair's arrogant politics, but laid out a vision which closely mirrored the British prime minister's focus on health, education and families.
Cameron, 39, closing his first annual conference as leader of Britain's main opposition party, compared himself directly to his chief political opponent, recalling Blair's rise to become Labour leader in 1994.
"Twelve years ago, there was an energetic young party leader," he said. "People voted for him, but he let them down."
Cameron has used the four-day rally to move his party toward the political center ground, pledging to maintain high investment in schools and hospitals and rejecting calls for a return to a traditional Tory tax-cutting agenda.
Though some frustrated members on the party's right accuse him of abandoning the principles of low taxes, small government and less involvement in the European Union, most have backed Cameron's bid to woo moderate voters.
Party leaders used the conference in Bournemouth, on England's south coast, to broaden the Tories' appeal and capture young voters' attention, with debates conducted by text message and delegates voting by keypad on policy ideas.
Left-leaning speakers were invited to offer views opposed to party doctrine and international figures, including U.S. Sen. John McCain and Google chief executive Eric Schmidt, spoke on world affairs.
Cameron said he did not expect voters "to jump from Labour straight into our arms," but would prove to them he was fit to win Britain's next national election, expected in 2009.
He criticized Blair's informal style of politics, saying too many key decisions had been made on the sofa of the prime minister's office, instead of at formal government meetings.
"We have got to end this arrogant and unaccountable style of government in Britain," Cameron said.
Cameron, who became leader in December after pledging to reform his right-leaning party, also said a future Conservative government would seek to draw together British communities divided by religion or race.
He said immigrants to Britain should be required to speak English and that it was intolerable to have "communities where people from different ethnic origins never meet, never talk, never go into each others' homes."
Cameron also pledged to place help for Britain's national health service at the heart of his future election platform.
"When your family relies on the NHS (National Health Service) all the time _ day after day, night after night _ you know how precious it is," Cameron said.
Cameron's 4-year-old son Ivan has a rare condition combining cerebral palsy and epilepsy, and requiring 24-hour medical care, party officials said.
The lawmaker rejected claims he had caused offense by criticizing Britain's relationship with the U.S in a speech delivered last month, on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"Questioning the approach of the U.S. administration, trying to learn the lessons of the past five years, does not make you anti-American," Cameron said.
Cameron told delegates he hoped to encourage marriage and family stability _ with aid to reduce the costs of child care.
Many of the roughly 7,000 Tory delegates left confident that Cameron's stewardship would return them to power.
"This country needs hope and I think it got it today," said delegate Howard Ligg, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, in northeastern England.


Updated : 2021-04-18 15:57 GMT+08:00