Election 2010: Key Quotes

Here’s our pick of the best solemn statements, quick quips and assorted utterances from the campaign so far.

February 20th: Gordon Brown kicks the campaign into high gear with a major rally unveiling the party’s election slogan, ‘A future fair for all’.

“I know that Labour hasn’t done everything right and I know, really I know, I’m not perfect. But I know where I come from and I know what I stand for and I know who I came into politics to represent. First, we must secure the recovery, not put it at risk. Second, we must support new industries and future jobs. Third, while we will reduce the deficit, we must protect and not cut frontline services. Fourth, we must stand up for the many, not the few.”

February 28th: David Cameron comes out fighting at the Conservatives’ spring conference in Brighton amid a slip in the Tory poll lead, as his party unveils their slogan ‘Vote for change’:

“It is an election we have a patriotic duty to win because this country is in a complete and utter mess, and we have to sort it out… I defy anyone to look at our plans and call them timid – because the truth is they cannot be timid if we’re to confront and defeat these problems.”

March 2nd: Business secretary Peter Mandelson gets snappish over Michael Ashcroft’s non-dom status:

“What is unique about Lord Ashcroft is he is absolutely central to the whole Conservative electoral machine. He has a seat in Conservative party headquarters. He has what he regards as his own staff in marginal seats… money that he might have given in tax he has instead given to the Conservative party to help them buy these seats, to help them steal the election.”

March 14th: Nick Clegg reaches out beyond the conference hall at the climax of his speech to the Liberal Democrats’ spring conference

“If you once voted Labour but have lost hope. If you once voted Conservative but don’t know what they stand for any longer. If you have given up voting altogether because nothing ever seems to change… vote for something different this time. Vote Lib Dem: get fairness. Vote Lib Dem: get change. Vote for what you believe in. or you will wake up on May 7th facing another five years of more of the same.”

March 16th: Shadow education secretary Michael Gove attacks Charlie Whelan’s links with the Unite union, which gave Labour £11 million in the last three years – and is behind the British Airways strikes

“There can be few more powerful forces of conservatism opposed to the flexibility, freedom and choice of the post-bureaucratic age than the Whelanist Tendency now in control of the Labour party. Labour’s re-unionisation has put them in bed with the past at a time when it is crucial that this country wakes up to the future.”

March 24th: Alistair Darling wraps up his overtly political pre-election Budget speech:

“Because of the steps we took, opposed by the party opposite, the recovery has begun, unemployment is falling and borrowing is better than expected. The choice before the country now is whether to support those whose policies will suffocate our recovery and put our future at risk.”

March 25th: Shadow leader of the House Sir George Young responds to allegations that three ex-Cabinet ministers, Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, were the worst offenders in the ‘cash-for-influence’ scandal:

“The sight of former Cabinet ministers offering to lobby government on behalf of corporate interests for private gain, in one case as a kind of ‘cab for hire’ for up to £5,000 per day, will have deeply appalled the public and further undermined trust in politics at a moment, when we all hoped we were turning the corner.”

March 30th: Former prime minister Tony Blair’s first speech on British politics since he stepped down in 2007 contained real praise for his former rival:

“Hard decisions lie ahead, but though the sea is still rough the storm has subsided,” he told supporters. This is for a simple reason. The right decisions at the outset of this crisis were taken. At the moment of peril, the world acted, Britain acted, that decision required leadership and Gordon Brown supplied it.”

March 31st: Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd explained why the Welsh and Scottish nationalists hoped a hung parliament could help their cause:

“With all the polls showing that a hung parliament is the most likely outcome following this election, we believe that a strong Celtic block of Plaid and SNP MPs could have a once in a generation opportunity to secure the best deal possible for the people and communities of Wales and Scotland.”

April 6th: Gordon Brown called the general election, flanked by his Cabinet, in Downing Street:

“I will take to the people a very straightforward and clear message: Britain is on the road to recovery and nothing we do should put that recovery at risk. That is why I’m asking you, the British people, for a clear and straightforward mandate to continue the hard work of securing the recovery, building our industries for the future and creating a million skilled jobs.”

April 7th: David Cameron appeared to have the better of the final prime minister’s questions:

“As this is the last PMQs this parliament it is the last chance for this prime minister to show he is accountable for the decisions he has made… This prime minister would wreck the recovery by putting a tax on every job. This government would wreck the recovery.”

April 11th: Nick Clegg uses an interview with the Observer to flag up the dangers he views from a Conservative government:

“Imagine the Conservatives go home and get an absolute majority, on 25% of the eligible votes. They then turn around in the next week or two and say we’re going to chuck up VAT to 20%, we’re going to start cutting teachers, cutting police and the wage bill in the public sector. I think if you’re not careful in that situation. you’d get Greek-style unrest. And so my warning to people who think the old politics still works, is be careful for what you wish for.”

April 12th: Gordon Brown launches the Labour party manifesto with a pledge to make New Labour constantly self-renewing:

“In building the future Labour will be restless and relentless reformers – reformers of the market, and reformers of the state. [I will build] a Britain where we demand a new culture in the City – with standards in the boardroom and finance that look to the long-term interests of British business and industry – and safeguards investors, workers and consumers too.”

April 13th: David Cameron launches the Tory party manifesto with an invitation for ordinary people to join the ‘government of Britain’:

“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. So many things to do. So little time in which to do them. The country wants change and I want to get started.”

April 14th: Nick Clegg launches the Lib Dem manifesto with a focus on fairness:

“I believe every single person is extraordinary and the tragedy is we have a society where too many people don’t get to fulfil that extraordinary potential. Our manifesto will hardwire fairness into British society. This isn’t a promise, it’s a plan.”

April 15th: Nick Clegg gets his message across in the first ever televised leaders’ debate:

“I’m here to persuade you that there is an alternative. Don’t let anyone tell you the only choice is old politics. We can do something new.”

April 17th: Home secretary Alan Johnson reaches out to the Lib Dems in an interview with the Times, as the likelihood of a hung parliament increases:

“I am a supporter of PR and so I believe we have to kill this argument that coalition government is dangerous. Leaving this election aside, I don’t have a horror of coalitions. You see what happens in many other progressive countries.”

April 18th: Gordon Brown follows David Cameron in criticising a hung parliament, in an interview with the Guardian:

“I want a majority, so obviously a hung parliament would be a bad thing for this country because I want a majority… People said this election was going to be a fait accompli before it started. Actually it’s open. As we move from the presentational issues of the debate… it’ll move to who’s best to equip this country for the future?”

April 20th: The Scottish National party’s Alex Salmond makes his views on a hung parliament clear as he launches his party’s manifesto:

“It is a development that is welcome here in Scotland and one which we embrace enthusiastically. For it is with a balanced parliament that Scotland’s greatest opportunity exists: the more SNP MPs, the stronger Scotland’s hand will be.”

April 21st: Nick Clegg lashes out at Gordon Brown in an interview with the Telegraph:

“Brown systematically blocked, and personally blocked, political reform. I think he is a desperate politician and I just do not believe him. And do I think Labour delivered fairness? No. Do I think the Labour party in its heart has a faith in civil liberties? No. Do I think they’ve delivered political reform? No. They are clutching at straws.”

April 22nd: Gordon Brown gets in the best line of the second televised leaders’ debate:

“These two guys remind me of my two young boys squabbling at bathtime.”

April 24th: Former deputy prime minister John Prescott gets frustrated on the Today programme by all the talk of hung parliaments and coalition speculation:

“What we need is turnout. We’ve got to persuade them to come back to Labour.
If you keep on yacking about whether you’re going to work with other parties, don’t be surprised if the public think that’s the issue.”

April 26th: David Cameron rejects Lib Dem overtures over the weekend, in an interview with the Sunday Times:

“You can avoid the muddle and confusions you’ve had from the Liberal Democrats at this election. The only way to get change is to vote for a Conservative government.”

April 27th: Peter Mandelson warns of the perils of voting Lib Dem, in a press conference at Labour party headquarters:

“If people flirt with the Liberal Democrats, if you flirt with Nick Clegg, in those crucial Labour marginals you’ll wake up with David Cameron, and worse, with George Osborne, William Hague and Eric Pickles as well. That’s something you would live to regret. I think you’d wake up thinking something has gone horribly wrong in your life.”

April 28th: Gordon Brown risks the utter ruination of his campaign with some ill-advised comments about a Labour supporter made when an open mic was still attached to his lapel:

“That was a disaster. You should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? It’s just ridiculous… She was such a bigoted woman.”

April 29th: David Cameron’s closing remarks to the final leaders’ debate, which instant polls suggested he won:

“I’m standing here for a very simple reason. I love this country and we can do even better in the years ahead. But there’s something else you need to know about me. I believe the test of a good and strong society is how we look after the vulnerable. There will be difficult decisions but I want to lead us through those to better times ahead.”

April 30th: Former prime minister Tony Blair, making a return to the campaign trail, gives Labour strategists his advice on how to win:

“Labour will succeed best if the focus is on policy. That’s where we’re strong.”

May 1st: Nick Clegg encourages voters to damn the consequences and back his party, in an interview with the Lib Dem-endorsing Guardian newspaper:

“In an election where the tectonic plates are moving so quickly and so radically, people have got to go with their gut instincts. Once in a while there are elections where people should be released to do what they want, and I think this is one of those elections – I really do.”