David Cameron
David Cameron's speech to the Conservative party conference in Birmingham pledged commitment to austerity (Reuters)

Prime Minister David Cameron accused the Labour party of "class war" and said that the opposition's economic policy would be a "massive gamble" with Britain's future in his speech to fellow Conservatives at the party conference in Birmingham.

Cameron's speech focused largely on his government's welfare, education, and spending reforms, as he pledged his unwavering support for austerity as a means of tackling the budget deficit and dismissed calls for more fiscal intervention to reverse the economic downturn.

"We don't preach about One Nation but practise class war, we just get behind people who want to get on in life," Cameron told the conference hall.

"The doers. The risk takers. The young people who dream of their first pay-cheque, their first car, their first home - and are ready and willing to work hard to get those things.

"While the intellectuals of other parties sneer at people who want to get on in life, we here salute you. They call us the party of the better-off.

"No. We are the party of the want to be better-off, those who strive to make a better life for themselves and their families - and we should never, ever be ashamed of saying so."

Labour leader Ed Miliband had attacked the coalition government in his own party conference speech a week beforehand for cutting the top rate of income tax to 45 percent.

"Did you hear what Ed Miliband said last week about taxes? He described a tax cut as the government writing people a cheque," Cameron said.

"Ed, let me explain to you how it works. When people earn money, it's their money. Not the government's money - their money."

Cameron also ridiculed Labour's calls for the government to ease its programme of spending cuts and invest more instead, in light of the longest double-dip recession since the Second World War.

"If we did what Labour want, and watered down our plans, the risk is that the people we borrow money from would start to question our ability and resolve to pay off our debts. Some may actually refuse to lend us that money. Others would only lend it to us at higher interest rates," said Cameron.

"That would hurt the economy and hit people hard."

He continued: "Labour's plan to borrow more is actually a massive gamble with our economy and our future ... We are here because we spent too much and because we borrowed too much. How on earth can the answer be more spending and more borrowing?

"I honestly think Labour haven't learnt a single thing."

£10bn welfare cuts

Following on from Chancellor George Osborne's announcement that a further £10bn will have to be sliced off the welfare budget over the next couple of years, Cameron labelled the current benefits system as "unfair".

"Welfare isn't working and this is a tragedy," added the Conservative leader.

"What are hard-working people who travel long distances to get into work and pay their taxes meant to think when they see families - individual families - getting 40, 50, 60 thousand pounds of housing benefit to live in homes that these hard working people could never afford themselves?"

He noted the government's capping of housing benefit payments and the new plans to remove it from under-25s who are able to live at home with their parents.

Cameron also praised the Work Programme which takes the unemployed and offers them training and support to help them back into work.

"Work isn't slavery, it's poverty that is slavery and again it's us, the modern compassionate Conservative party, who are the real champions of fighting poverty in Britain today," he said.

More free schools

Attacking a "toxic culture of low expectations" and a "lack of ambition for every child" Cameron said he wants his education secretary Michael Gove to build more academies and free schools under the government's reforms.

Free schools and academies are autonomous of local authorities and manage their own budgets as well as set individual curriculums.

Cameron referred to them as independent schools in the state sector.

"I don't want great schools to just be the preserve of those that can pay the fees, or buy the nice house in the right catchment area - I want those schools to be open to every child - in every neighbourhood," he said.

Defending his Eton education - one of the most expensive schools in the world which boasts royalty as students - Cameron said he wants all children to have a similar educational experience to him.

"To all those people who say 'he wants children to have the kind of education he had at his posh school' I say yes. You're absolutely right," Cameron said.

"I went to a great school and I want every child to have a great education. I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it."

Cameron's personal story

Similar to his Labour counterpart, Cameron focused parts of his speech on his own background to give a more personal account of his politics in a bid to woo voters.

His voice croaked and eyes welled as he spoke of his disabled son Ivan who died in 2009 aged six.

Praising the Paralympic Games, Cameron said his favourite moment of the summer was putting the gold medal around disabled swimmer Ellie Simmonds' neck.

"When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair, not the boy," Cameron said.

"Today more people would see the boy and not the wheelchair - and that's because of what happened here this summer."

Cameron's father Ian, a wealthy stockbroker from Berkshire, passed away in 2010 aged 77. In his speech, Cameron spoke of the influence his father's experience had on his outlook of life.

His father was born with leg deformities and struggled in his early years, having to have several operations to try and correct what was wrong.

"Because disability in the 1930s was such a stigma, he was an only child, probably a lonely child," Cameron said.

"But dad was the eternal optimist. To him the glass was always half full, usually with something alcoholic in it.

"When I was a boy I remember once going on a long walk with him in the village where we lived, passing the church he supported and the village hall where he took part in interminable parish council meetings. He told me what he was most proud of.

"It was simple. Working hard from the moment he left school and providing a good start in life for his family. Not just all of us, but helping his mum too, when his father ran off.

"Not a hard luck story, but a hard work story."

Cameron used his speech to acknowledge his own privilege in a bid to combat attacks on his background.