David Cameron has launched the general election campaign with a warning in Downing Street that the British people face a stark choice between a safe and secure future under the Tories or economic chaos under Labour.
In a sign that the Tories will run a highly personalised campaign against Ed Miliband, the prime minister took the rare step amid the formalities of the day to name check the Labour leader on three occasions on the Downing Street steps.
Speaking as he returned to Downing Street after formally informing the Queen that parliament had been dissolved at midnight, the prime minister said in a message to voters: “In 38 days time you face a stark choice. The next prime minister walking through that door will be me or Ed Miliband.
“You can choose an economy that grows, that creates jobs, that generates the money to ensure a properly funded and improving NHS, a government that will cut taxes for 30 million hardworking people and a country that is safe and secure. Or you can choose the economic chaos of Ed Miliband’s Britain — over £3,000 in higher taxes for every working family to pay for more welfare and out of control spending. Debt will rise and jobs will be lost as a result.”
The highly partisan remarks by Cameron, which contrast with speeches by his predecessors who usually try to place themselves above the political fray in such circumstances, show that the Tories believe they have their work cut out to deliver one of their key messages of the campaign. This is that voters face a binary choice between Cameron and Miliband.
The Conservatives enter the election campaign in nervous mood after a YouGov/Sunday Times poll placed Labour four points ahead of the Tories – 36% to 32%. Lynton Crosby, the party’s election campaign director, had told the party they would have achieved “crossover” – the point at which the Tories take a decisive lead over Labour – by now.
The prime minister added in his speech: “Ed Miliband pays lip service to working people while planning to hike taxes and increase debt. After five years of effort and sacrifice, Britain is on the right track. This election is about moving forward - and as prime minister here at Number 10 that is what I will deliver.”
In his speech, the prime minister said he would travel to all four constituent parts of the UK during the election campaign to explain how he has turned the country round after inheriting a nation “on the brink”.
He said: “Five years ago, when I walked through that black door, millions of people were unemployed, there was no economic security for our families and there were worries about whether our country could pay its debts. Britain was on the brink.
“Five years later, because of our long-term economic plan and the difficult decisions we have taken we have more people in work in our country than at any time in our history, living standards are on the rise and we are more economically secure. Of course we haven’t fixed everything, but Britain is back on its feet again.”
The prime minister’s visit to the Queen was largely symbolic, providing the Tories with invaluable television pictures, after the coalition changed the law on the calling of an election. Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, the power to dissolve parliament no longer remains in the hands of the monarch in the royal prerogative. It is now a statutory power. This meant the prime minister was simply informing the Queen that parliament had been dissolved rather than asking her, as all his predecessors have, to dissolve parliament to allow an election to be held.
Nick Clegg also met the Queen in his role as lord president of the council for the last scheduled meeting of the privy council before the election. The deputy prime minister said the Liberal Democrats offered voters an alternative to the “dismal choice” of a lurch to the left or right under Labour and the Tories.
Clegg said: “About the very last thing the country needs is a lurch to the left or the right. And yet that is exactly what the Conservative and Labour parties are now threatening ... That is a dismal choice.”
This article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Monday 30th March 2015 13.21 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010