Michael Howard has launched an attack on the "culture of political correctness" in the UK.
In a speech in Stafford, the Conservative leader said that "political correctness has gone mad".
The speech is the latest in a number of high profile Conservative attempts to gain the political initiative by focusing on the "decent, silent, majority". On Tuesday, frontbencher Theresa May pledged that the Conservatives would tackle graffiti and vandalism in local neighbourhoods. There have also been a number of announcements on tackling waste and "fat government".
Mr Howard said that the Conservatives would introduce measures to protect teachers from 'frivolous' lawsuits, change the Children Act to prevent officials from interfering in families' lives, and review the "roundly abused" Human Rights Act.
He said: "The systematic spread of political correctness has a corrosive effect on our society."
It provided officials with an excuse to "meddle and interfere" in people's lives, created "expensive, time-consuming and pointless" litigation, and undermined people's respect for British institutions.
"Political correctness is, in essence, about power. It is someone telling someone else what to do, how to behave, how to speak, how to think," he said.
Mr Howard declared his support for anti-discrimination laws that he said had made Britain a kinder, more tolerant place in the last 40 years, but insisted that political correctness had become unbalanced and out of proportion, leading to a "wholesale assault on common sense and individual responsibility".
Schools were now being advised to replace sports days with "problem-solving" sessions and to scrap games such as musical chairs because they encouraged aggression, he added.
Mr Howard said a balance should be urgently restored.
"[We need] the balance which will protect children but not to wrap them in cotton wool. The balance which will protect minorities but ensure that the police can continue to do their job effectively. The balance that will deliver clean hospitals but allow patients to eat sponge cake."
He vowed to protect the "ordinary man and woman on the street" from the excesses of political correctness.
"You should be free to lead your lives as you see fit. We will only intervene when the need to do so is clear and necessary.
"We will end the culture of regulation, interference and centralisation which is destroying our sense of community. Once again, government will serve the people. It will no longer be its master."
Measures would be introduced to protect teachers from litigation, as they were especially vulnerable to "frivolous faddism" and unjustified lawsuits, he added.
"Experienced, valued and trusted teachers can too often have their careers and reputations ruined on the word of a single child, all too often acting unthinkingly or maliciously, who chooses to allege abuse."
He also reiterated his opposition to the McPherson report's recommendation that all police stops should be recorded. Police should record stop and searches, but not ordinary encounters with potential troublemakers, he said, as the paperwork for each encounter would take seven minutes, leaving police filling out paperwork when they should be on the street.