LONDON -- The British Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday warned that the “warm glow” of the Olympics must not create a “false sense of security” for Britain as it attempts to claw its way out of a recession and compete in the global marketplace.
In his annual speech to the Conservative party conference, Cameron insisted there was no “Plan B” to the government’s austerity program and urged Britons to draw on their can-do, entrepreneurial spirit.
Cameron’s speech in Birmingham on Wednesday closes Britain’s party-conference season and comes days after the International Monetary Fund downgraded Britain’s growth forecast.
“Yes it’s worse than we thought, yes it’s taking longer, but we are making progress,” Cameron said of the British economy, the seventh largest in the world.
Describing “old power” countries as ones with “fat, sclerotic, over-regulated” economies, Cameron said that Britain risked losing out to China, India and other emerging countries if it doesn’t boost productivity. He also warned of further cuts to the welfare system and reforms to the education sector.
Halfway through the five-year election cycle here, Cameron has seen better days. His party is trailing the opposition Labor party by 10 points in some polls. Next Monday, he is meeting with the first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, to finalize details around a referendum on Scottish independence. He is endlessly compared to Boris Johnson, London’s flamboyant mayor and the Conservative party’s most popular politician.
But Cameron on Wednesday vowed to build an “aspiration nation” under his leadership, insisting that the country was on the right track and could “win in the tough world of today.”
Cameron also sought to combat critics who say his party is drifting to the right and out of touch with ordinary voters.
“The Conservative party is for everyone: north or south, black or white, straight or gay,” he said.