David Cameron's speech - live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Prime Minister's speech to the Conservative conference.

15:47 Closing his speech, Cameron returns to the theme of optimism. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog," he says. Our best days are ahead of us. But with unemployment up and growth down, how many will feel the same way?

15:45 Now it's health and safety. "Britannia didn't rule the waves with her armbands on," says Cameron, declaring that he has brought "common sense" to government. This speech is a Daily Mail reader's wet dream.

15:43 Cameron mounts a conservative defence of gay marriage. "I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a conservative", he says. Applause from the floor.

15:39 In another dig at Labour, Cameron says that the Conservatives don't boo their former leaders, they are proud of them. Loudest applause so far.

15:38 Promising a new "Tory housing revolution", Cameron vows to use the proceeds from the right-to-buy scheme to build new houses.

15:35 Turning to immigration, Cameron says that government is "clamping" down on illegal migrants. But he makes no mention of his unachievable pledge to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands" a year.

15:34 "Rigour back in education, standards back in schools ... the Conservatives are back in government," says Cameron.

15:34 Cameron says that he wants to see private schools start academies in the state sector. The "apartheid" between the private sector and the state sector must end.

15:30 The education system has been "infected by an ideology that makes excuses for failure," says Cameron. He adds that he is "disguted" by the idea that we should "aim for less for a poor child than a rich child".

15:30 Again refusing to attack Miliband directly, Cameron says that Labour gave us "the casino economy and the welfare society". It falls to the Conservatives to lift the poorest up.

15:29 Responding to his critics, Cameron says: "take your arguments down the job centre because we are going to get Britain back to work."

15:28 Cameron defends the government's planning reforms and rightly notes that just 9 per cent of land is built up.

15:27 Mounting a full-throated attack on EU regulation, Cameron cites a directive on whether diabetics should be allowed to drive.

15:25 He vows to cut employment regulation and accuses critics of forgetting the most important right of all: to have a job in the first place.

15:23 Without referring to Ed Miliband by name, Cameron rebukes the Labour leader. You will not achieve growth by dividing industries into "saints and sinners," he says. In his speech to the Labour conference, Miliband divided companies into "producers and predators".

15:21 Cameron says that it is fair for public sector workers to "work a little longer and pay a little more". What is not fair is to go on strike and hurt the country's recovery.

15:20 Audaciously claiming that the Tories are "the party of the NHS", Cameron says that only the Conservatives promised to increase spending on the health service.

15:19 "This is a one-nation deficit reduction plan from a one-nation party," Cameron says.

15:18 The richest are bearing the burden of austerity, claims Cameron. But, as the IFS has repeatedly showed, the coalition's measures hit the poorest hardest.

15:15 Cheers as Cameron promises that under his leadership "this country will never join the euro". But is anyone really surprised?

15:14 Cameron backs Plan A. "Our plan is right and it will work," he says.

15:13 This wasn't a "normal recession," says Cameron, it was "a debt crisis". And excessive government borrowing was primarily to blame.

15:11 The threat to the economy and to Britain is as serious in 2008, says Cameron. Even "mighty America's" ability to meet its debts is in question.

15:08 Cameron is sounding and looking unusually tired. On the bright side, it will counter those who claim he doesn't put the hours in.

15:06 Cameron attacks the politics of decline. It was depressing, he says, that some people thought not only that we shouldn't take action in Libya but that we couldn't.

15:04 Cameron turns to Libya and says we should proud of the role Britain played in helping Libyans "take back their country".

15:03 Turning to the Bible for inspiration, Cameron says that this is a country and a party that "never walks on by".

15:02 Cameron jokes that Osborne's book of choice is The Man Who Would Be King and that Boris's is The Joy Of Cycling. But after yesterday, he quips, there should be a group reading of Mog The Cat.

15:01 A rather hoarse-sounding Cameron praises the No to AV campaign: "you kicked that excuse for a voting system off the political agenda for a generation".

15:00 His emphasis is clear from the start: "In these difficult times, it is leadership that we need".

14:59 Cameron finally takes to the stage to the sound of The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done".

14:46 Large parts of the hall remain empty, a sign that fewer and fewer party activists are attending the conference.

14:25 Cameron has reportedly been delayed and may not start speaking until 2:55pm. A few more rewrites, perhaps?


George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.