David Cameron promised to cut taxes for millions of workers if the Conservatives win the next election - and sought to portray next year’s poll as a personal battle between himself and Labour leader Ed Miliband for the keys to Downing Street.
In his conference speech to the Tory faithful in Birmingham, Mr Cameron spelt out the themes that Conservatives will seek to hammer home between now and polling day on May 7.
The first message is that the Conservative-led government has begun the task of fixing the economy, while Labour would return the country to the days of recession and massive public debts.
The second is a ruthless focus on Labour leader Ed Miliband’s supposed failings as a leader, as well as those of his Shadow Chancellor, Ed Balls.
Mr Cameron will portray himself as the strong leader the UK needs while stressing that he has a competent “team” around him, including his Chancellor, George Osborne.
The Conservative leader also fought back against Labour claims that the Tories plan to destroy the NHS, highlighting the care received by his son Ivan who had a rare condition and died in 2009.
Displaying a flash of anger, he told the conference hall: “From Labour last week, we heard the same old rubbish about the Conservatives and the NHS. Spreading complete and utter lies.”
He added: “For me, this is personal. I am someone who has relied on the NHS – whose family knows more than most how important it is . . . how dare they frighten those who are relying on the NHS right now?
“It might be the only thing that gets a cheer at their Party conference but it is frankly pathetic.”
As expected, Mr Cameron pledged to protect the NHS budget if he won a second term in office - and “continue to invest more” on top.
The most dramatic new announcement was a promise to raise the income tax personal allowance to £12,500. This would take one million more workers out of income tax entirely and give a tax cut to 30 million more, Mr Cameron said.
“So with us, if you work 30 hours a week on minimum wage, you will pay no income tax at all. Nothing. Zero. Zilch.”
The announcement was described as “shameless” by Liberal Democrats, who were the first to back the idea and now see the Tories adopting one of their most popular policies.
Mr Cameron also announced plans to raise the threshold at which people pay the 40p income tax rate from £41,900 today to £50,000.
He said: “The 40p tax rate was only supposed to be paid by the most well-off people in our country, but in the past couple of decades, far too many have been dragged into it.”
Other manifesto pledges in the speech, some of which were first announced earlier in the week, included:
* Maintaining the highest employment rate of any major economy.
* Having the lowest corporate tax rate in the G20 group of major economies.
* Preventing people aged under 21 who have never worked from living of benefits, and funding three million apprenticeships.
* Banning zero hour contracts which prevent workers from seeking work elsewhere.
* Fighting criminal gangs who exploit migrant workers with new legislation outlawing “modern slavery”.
* Building 100,000 new homes to be reserved for first-time buyers and sold at a 20% discount.
* Guaranteeing a place on National Citizen Service for every teenager in the country.
Mr Cameron also promised to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the European Union, in particular rules allowing unrestricted immigration into the UK from EU states, and then to hold a referendum on EU membership.
Presenting the next election as a choice between himself and Mr Miliband, he said: “If you want those things, vote for me. If you don’t, vote for the other guy.
“And let’s be clear. This is a straight fight.
“It doesn’t matter whether Parliament is hung, drawn or quartered, there is only one real choice.
“The Conservatives or Labour. Me in Downing Street, or Ed Miliband in Downing Street.”A vote for UKIP would help Mr Miliband become Prime Minister, he said.
Conservative Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Tory candidate for Berwick in Northumberland, said: “It was a fantastic speech by the Prime Minister in which he set out the issues we need to finish off fixing after Labour’s destruction of our economy.
“The changes to personal taxation are very positive and exactly what working people need.”