William Hague has urged the Conservative party to “re-double” their efforts to take control from a “weak and washed-out” Labour government.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham, the shadow foreign secretary said Mr Brown had presided over “the most incompetent government in the modern history of Britain”.

He added that UK borrowing levels showed Mr Brown had his “chance and blown it”.

“This is a government so incompetent that they will let out 30,000 prisoners ahead of time this year because they didn’t plan for the right number, so blundering that they lost the name and address of every child in the country, so cack-handed that their leak of stamp duty changes hit the housing market instead of helping it, so staggeringly inept that you meet Labour MPs who are misty-eyed about the good old days of John Prescott, when only his half of the government was in chaos rather than the entire administration,” he said.

The former Conservative leader slammed Labour’s handling of the 10p tax route and accused Mr Brown of “seeking to make a virtue of the government’s lack of any new purpose, direction, or ideas”.

“According to Gordon Brown, however abysmal the performance of the British government under his leadership, no one else in the country could possibly do any better,” he said.

“Well, the British people have had the benefit of his experience for long enough to know they need urgently to experience something different.”

He added: “When Gordon Brown talks of the age of irresponsibility, he is not the answer to the age of irresponsibility, he is the definition of the age of irresponsibility.”