Gordon Brown has claimed that "2008 will be the decisive year of this decade" in preparing Britain for the future.
In his New Year message to the public, released on 30 December, the prime minister warned of tough times ahead but pledged to "make the right decisions, not only this year but for the years ahead, to safeguard and strengthen our economy".
He also promised "measurable changes in public services", including education, health, welfare and energy legislation.
And in a pledged to deliver improvements on the ground he added that "2008 will be the year when the public sees services becoming more personal to their wishes and aspirations".
The message came as Jack Straw, one of Brown's closest allies in government, warned that Labour must "make clear progress" this year as David Cameron's Conservatives are "resonating" with sections of the public.
"All periods are crucial in government – and up to two-and-a-half years before the next election, which is a long time – but for sure we have got to make clear progress in the next year and everybody understands that," the justice secretary told the Sunday Times.
The prime minister's New Year message in full:
For Britain, 2008 will be a year of real and serious changes.
With important legislation making long-term changes in energy, climate change, health, pensions, planning, housing, education and transport, 2008 will be a year of measurable changes in public services.
A year for stepping up major long-term reform to meet challenges ranging from globalisation and global warming to the great unfinished business of social reform in our country.
And we will continue to work with our international partners to counter the ongoing threat of global terrorism, most recently witnessed in the atrocities in Pakistan.
So we will not shirk but see through changes and reforms in the vital area for our future – secure energy, pensions, transport, welfare, education, health and national security.
We will strengthen the democracy and unity of our country. Our priority at all times, our guiding purpose: One Britain of security and opportunity for all the British people.
And through the publication of our national security strategy we will set out the scale of both the challenges we face and our response at home and overseas to counter the terror threat.
Our strong economy is the foundation. And with unbending determination, in 2008, we will steer a course of stability through global financial turbulence.
The global credit problem that started in America is now the most immediate challenge for every economy and addressing it the most immediate priority.
But just as we withstood the Asia crisis, the American recession, the end of the IT bubble and the trebling of oil prices and continued to grow, Britain will meet and master this new challenge by our determination to maintain stability and low inflation.
We will make the right decisions, not only this year but for the years ahead, to safeguard and strengthen our economy – and by keeping inflation low, keep interest rates for business and homeowners low.
I promise that we will take no risks with stability. Upon it all else depends: family prosperity and our capacity to build the good society – better educated, healthier, safer and fairer than we have known before.
Economic stability alone does not secure any of this, but makes all of it possible.
So we will not rest on our economic success, but build on it. And 2008 will be the decisive year of this decade to put in place the long-term changes that will prepare us for the decades ahead.
To lead in the skills of the future and create a full employment Britain, we will guarantee young people the right to school or college, an apprenticeship or training free of charge until the age of 18. This is the greatest change in education in our country in half a century.
Along with our welfare reforms and our Children's Plan, it is part of a revolution in learning and life chances that can finally help unlock all the talents of all young people.
We are the first generation in which that ideal can become a reality. And this is not only morally right but economically essential because in this global age the prosperity of each of us now depends on developing the talents of all of us.
And by ensuring every child has a better start in life we will also address the continuing challenge of child poverty.
To lead not only in opportunity in work, but security in retirement, we will complete the pensions bill so that everyone is saving for a pension and every employer is contributing.
To lead in safeguarding the environment, the climate change bill will make Britain the first country to legislate legally-binding cuts in carbon emissions.
And because a good environment is good economics, we will take the difficult decisions on energy security – on nuclear power and renewables - so British invention and innovation can claim new markets for new technologies and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.
To build for the future of our families and our economy, we are starting the biggest housing programme to boost owner occupation – and will provide historic levels of investment in transport and infrastructure through Crossrail, at Heathrow and across the country.
We will lead in the public services of the future – services not just universal but tailored to people's needs with more voice, choice and accountability for the parent and the citizen.
2008 will be the year when the public sees services becoming more personal to their wishes and aspirations. And we will not be deflected from our commitment to cleaner hospitals and to change to increase the opening hours of GP surgeries.
Illness is not a nine-to-five condition – and the NHS cannot be just a nine-to-five service.
We have other promises to keep, from neighbourhood policing in every community to the renewal of our democracy and the revival of confidence in our political process. We will define a new citizenship of rights and responsibilities – and establish a new points system as a condition of living and working in Britain.
And in 2008, with firm conviction and resolve, we will make the case for the United Kingdom – standing up for the cause of the Union and against secession, showing people in all parts of the country that for so many of the challenges our country faces – from climate change to terrorism – there are no Wales-only, Scotland-only or England-only solutions.
This season is above all a time to pay tribute to those who serve and sacrifice for our country, often in places far away. And we pledge that the men and women on the frontlines of our security, at home and overseas, will have all the resources they need for our defence and their own safety.
All these policies reflect our shared vision of a new Britain rooted in enduring traditions and values. A Britain, strong, prosperous and fair. A country proud of its progress toward equality and confident of its future. That is what I want to see when we look back on another New Years Day years from now.
We will only achieve this through hard, persistent effort and by continuing to reach out to all who want to see a better Britain – not the old politics, but new policies equal to the demands of a new time.
30 December 2007