Fox promises "timetable for action"

Tories are "reinvigorated" says Fox
Tories are "reinvigorated" says Fox

The Conservative Party chairman, Dr Liam Fox today opened the party's annual conference with the promise of a "timetable for action" to restore the public's faith in the party.

Admitting that "natural conservatives" are not voting for the Tories because they had failed to explain what they stood for, he promised to announce a timetable for the first day, first week and first month of a Conservative government.

Opening the party's annual conference in Bournemouth, Dr Fox said the Conservatives faced a task just as great as the one that confronted Margaret Thatcher in 1979 when she was faced with "a broken economy crippled by socialism".

This time, the party had to restore not only trust in politics itself, he said, but also "the balance of power between the government and the British people".

Arguing that, contrary to recent suggestions in opinion polls, the party is "renewed and reinvigorated" and will use this conference to "set out a clear and hopeful alternative for our country - one that promises freedom and security."

He accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of presiding not over a nanny state -"that makes it sound too cuddly" - but an "intruder state, which is eroding our historic liberties, strangling our self- reliance and suffocating our freedoms".

People were tired of Labour's "soundbites and empty promises - they are tired of being preached at", he added.

And in a veiled attack on the UK Independence Party, he said: "We begin by reclaiming as our party colours the red, white and blue that reflects our pride in our country. We will never surrender the colours of our flag to those on the dangerous fringe of British politics. We are the party of all Britain and all Britons."

Turning to the Liberal Democrats, Dr Fox warned that a vote for them "is not just a wasted vote, it is a dangerous vote". They would be "even softer" on crime than Labour, and would "sell out" Britain over Europe.

He added: "They know they can never win office in Britain. But what they can never achieve in this country they would conspire to impose upon the British people from Brussels."

On the Conservatives' plans, Dr Fox, said: "People are fed up with talk. They want action. They don't want vague promises. They want to know exactly what a Conservative government would do - and when.

"That is why, that at this conference, will do something that has never been done before. We will set a timetable for action. We will set out what we will actually do in our first day, our first week, our first month in office. So that people will know how to judge our performance, so that we can be held to account - so that we can restore trust between the government and the people of our country," he said.

He denied the Conservatives' asylum policies were showing "a lurch to the right", insisting they were an "overdue" response to the anxieties of British people.

On Europe, he pledged that if the party win the next general election - expected in May - it would hold a referendum on the European Constitution before its party conference later in the year - but would campaign vigorously for a 'No' vote.

Following on from Dr Fox, this afternoon the Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin will focus on the Conservatives' plans for the economy, and flesh out tax and spending policies.