British Labour leader 'terrorist sympathiser' – Cameron

  • 08/10/2015
British Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters)

British Prime Minister David Cameron has wrapped up the Conservative conference amid growing speculation over who could succeed him - the bumbling mayor of London, an ambitious finance minister, a hardline home secretary or an outsider.

Cameron used his keynote speech on Wednesday (local time) to attack new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a "terrorist sympathiser" and vowed to fight for EU reform ahead of Britain's in-out referendum, adding he had "no romantic attachment to the European Union".

Long-standing divisions between europhiles and eurosceptics within the party have come to the fore ahead of an EU membership referendum planned by 2017.

But much of the focus on the sidelines of this week's conference was on who had auditioned best to replace Cameron, who announced before May's general election that his current five-year term would be his last.

At the front of the queue is finance minister George Osborne, a close ally of Cameron.

He is often seen as the power behind the throne and the architect of Britain's austerity drive that is widely credited with winning the election.

But if Osborne is banking on his fiscal record to woo the party, then his likely main rival Boris Johnson looks set to use his affable personality, if his speech on Tuesday is any indicator.

His joke-packed address brought delegates to their feet, but beyond the buffoonery Johnson swiped at Osborne for copying his policies and warned the finance minister over his plans to cut tax credits for low earners.

Meanwhile, interior minister Theresa May made her assumed leadership pitch on a platform of asylum reform and immigration tightening that drew criticism even from the right-wing press.

"It's hard to know where to start with Theresa May's awful, ugly, misleading, cynical and irresponsible speech to the Conservative Party conference," wrote Telegraph columnist James Kirkup.

"If you haven't seen reports of it, allow me to summarise: 'Immigrants are stealing your job, making you poorer and ruining your country. Never mind the facts, just feel angry at foreigners. And make me Conservative leader'."

Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, emerged from the conference as a potential dark horse after delivering a barnstorming speech.

Cameron himself gave few clues as to his preferred candidate, but did call Osborne the "Iron Chancellor" while also heaping praise on Johnson's record as London mayor.

Instead, the Tory leader aimed his guns on Labour's new leftist leader Corbyn.

"Thousands of words have been written about the new Labour leader. But you only really need to know one thing: he thinks the death of Osama bin Laden was a 'tragedy'," the PM told the audience, who responded with a standing ovation.

"We cannot let that man inflict his security-threatening, terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology on this country we love."

In his last five years, Cameron also vowed to tackle discrimination, extremism and "big social problems", rework Britain's relationship with the EU and promised an "all-out assault on poverty".