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David Cameron: Our whole country is crying out for change

Thank you all for coming to my first press conference in 2010.

Before I answer your questions, let me say a word about three things: mending the broken society, the state of the economy and change in the Conservative Party.

First, society.

Our draft manifesto chapter last week was a blue print for mending the broken society.

We set out our plans on schools, on crime, on supporting families, and on other areas too.

Yes, we did talk very frankly and openly about the things which have gone wrong in our country.

Not just the crime, the addiction, the education failure, the teenage pregnancy.

But also the really terrible things that have happened, including the horrific assault in Edlington.

This wasn't an attack on any one party or any one government - we made that clear right from the outset.

It was part of the honest and straightforward debate about mending the broken society that I have been addressing ever since I became leader of the Conservative Party over four years ago.

But Labour's response has shown just how little they have to contribute to this debate.

On the issue of what happened in Edlington, as we have been saying for months now - serious case reviews need to be published in full.

It is wrong - absolutely wrong - that something like this can happen and all that gets published is a summary that doesn't mention the name of any of the people who missed sign after sign of what was going wrong.

As I said in the House of Commons on Wednesday, when a mental health patient commits a murder we have a full report, with anonymity where appropriate.  Why do we allow a less rigorous system when children are tortured or even killed? If we become the Government this will change and reports into cases like these will be published.

On the broader issue of our society, just consider these facts:

Inequality is at a record high in this country.  The poorest are poorer - and there are more of them.

We have more children growing up in households where nobody works than any other country in Europe. And UNICEF said that Britain was the worst place in the developed world to be a child.

We have one of the highest rates of family breakdown in Europe.  And our figures for teenage pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse are amongst the worst.

That is why we are right to set out plans to mend the broken society - and Labour show just how out of touch they have become to deny this problem exists.

<h2>ECONOMY</h2>

Let me turn to the economy.

Tomorrow new figures are expected to show the first signs of economic growth after eighteen months of recession.

Obviously this will be very good news, but let's be absolutely clear what this means.

We were one of the first economies to go into recession - and we are the last big economy to come out.

Our recession - the great recession - is the longest and deepest since the war.

And coming out of recession doesn't mean that our debt crisis is over.

Far from it.

Labour's debt crisis is the biggest threat to our recovery.

So we'll only get this recovery right if we start right now on a proper debt reduction plan.

The case is clear:

We've just had the worst public borrowing figures for any December on record.

We face the biggest budget deficit of any large economy.

We're borrowing money at a rate of around £6,000 every second, which means that every five seconds the government borrows more than the average British person earns in a year.

This year we're expected to borrow almost 14 per cent of our GDP, that's almost twice as much as when we nearly went bust in the 1970s.

And we're spending more money on the interest on our debt than on almost anything else.

We cannot go on like this.

And you just need to look at Greece to see what happens if we do.

Since the world lost confidence in their ability to pay their bills, they're having to pay an extra 2.5 per cent in interest rates.

Britain is borrowing more than Greece - so if we follow Greece and have our credit rating downgraded, the interest bill on a £150,000 mortgage could go up by more than £200 a month.

The cost of credit for businesses would also go up, more jobs would be lost, and we would be paying billions more in taxes each year just to service our debt.

It's like a credit card - the more we spend and the longer we wait to pay off our bills the worse it can get.

So we need to get a grip of our debt crisis.

The Government's promise to halve the deficit in four years has failed to convince all those who we need to have confidence in Britain's economic future.

As we have been saying consistently, a key part of any plan is at least some early action to show that you are serious in your intent. 

That means some reduction in public spending plans in this coming financial year - 2010. The government's approach - to coin a phrase - is to do nothing. 

If we are going to have to wait until May for an election - and if there is going to be a budget in March - they need to show how they are going to start now. 

Now they are about to tell us that the economy is growing they have no further excuse to delay action, except naked political calculation. 

It is time they realised that it's time to do the right thing.

<h2>PARTY</h2>

So we need some big changes in our economy and in our society.

And when people ask me and my team whether we are up to delivering those changes, one of the ways we will prove it is by pointing out how much our party has changed.

That brings me to the final thing I want to say this morning.

Black and ethnic minority candidates now make up almost ten per cent of all selected Conservative candidates, that's roughly the same proportion as in the population as a whole.

In addition, we're on track to treble the number of Conservative women MPs.

There are 110 women candidates already selected - and many of them are fighting for really winnable seats.

So if we win this election, instead of just 18 Conservative women MPs, we'll have more than 60.

And instead of just two black and ethnic minority MPs, there will be between 10 and 15.

Not enough - but a sign of how much we've changed.

And in a year when our whole country is crying out for change and a new way of doing things, I believe it is a further sign that we are ready to serve.

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