Cameron: "Painful" cuts will lead to a brighter future

Conservative leader to close conference on an optimistic note

David Cameron will seek to strike an optimistic note in his keynote speech to the Conservative conference today.

The Conservative leader will tell delegates in Manchester that while Britain faces a "steep climb ahead" as it struggles to reduce the deficit, "the view from the summit will be worth it".

Cameron's approach reflects Tory concerns that shadow chancellor George Osborne's speech, which announced plans to freeze public-sector pay, to cut spending and to raise the retirement age to 66, may have appeared too punitive to voters.

Cameron will acknowledge that "painful" spending cuts lie ahead if the Conservatives win the election but he will also outline his vision of a brighter future.

"We all know how bad things are... massive debt, social breakdown, political disenchantment but I want to talk about how good things could be," he will say.

His speech is expected to contain no new policy announcements and will instead focus on Cameron's leadership, character and judgement. He will promise to reward "responsibility" in every area of life.

"I can look you in the eye and tell that in a Conservative Britain: if you put in the effort to bring in a wage, you will be better off; if you save money your whole life, you'll be rewarded; if you start your own business we'll be right behind you; if you want to raise a family, we'll support you; if you're frightened, we'll protect you; if you risk your safety to stop a crime, we'll stand by you; if you risk your life to fight for your country, we will honour you."

He will add: "Ask me what a Conservative government stands for and the answer is this: we will reward those who take responsibility and care for those who can't."

The Tory conference is the last before a general election which is expected to return the party to power after more than 12 years out of office. The latest YouGov/Sky News opinion poll put the Conservatives on 43 per cent, 14 points ahead of Labour who were on 29 per cent.