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Britain's Conservative Party launches election campaign

2010-04-14 15:52 BJT

Special Report: Britain General Election |

LONDON, April 13 (Xinhua) -- The British Conservative party, currently ahead in opinion polls prior to the May 6 general election, launched its manifesto Tuesday with a promise to create a "big society."

"This is a plan to change Britain for the better. But not in the traditional way. We don't stand here and make the usual promises - we say no government can solve all the problems on its own, no individual can solve all their problems alone," Conservative leader David Cameron said at the launch.

The manifesto's title - "An Invitation to Join the Government of Britain" - captures the Conservatives' bid to put distance between themselves and the ruling Labour party.

The Conservatives want to portray Labour as a party of bigger government, which makes decisions on behalf of voters. The Conservatives aim to contrast themselves as the party of more efficient government that gives voters the power to make their own decisions.

"It is the idea that drives the Conservative party. There is such a thing as society, its just not the same as the state," Cameron said.

By so doing, he underlined that his party had moved towards the center, away from the right and away from the political legacy of Margaret Thatcher, the most powerful Conservative prime minister since World War II.

Cameron outlined his vision of a "big society" rather than a "big state".

"Be your own boss. Sack your MP. Choose your own school. Own your own home. Veto high council tax rises. Vote for your police commissioner. Save your local post office. See how government spends your money," he said.

That chimes with traditional Conservative dogma, which favors smaller government, leading to lower costs and to lower taxes.

Cameron also struck a traditional note when he pledged that "real growth (in the economy) will only come when we get the private sector going."

One of the strongest themes in the election campaign for voters is their disgust and disillusion with politicians and politics in Britain in the wake of the Members of Parliament (MPs) expenses scandal. The scandal saw 150 MPs sacked.

The manifesto pledged reforms:

-- reducing the number of MPs by 10 percent, and to cut ministers' pay by 5 percent. To freeze ministers' pay for five years.

-- publishing salaries online of senior civil servants.

-- banning former ministers from parliamentary lobbying for two years after they step down.

-- publishing online all items of spending over 25,000 pounds (about 38,000 U.S. dollars).