Ken Clarke promised to end the Conservative Party's losing streak and win the next election if he became party leader.
In his speech to the party conference, the former Chancellor emphasised traditional Tory themes - economic competence, tax cuts and smaller government.
Referring to his two previous attempts to secure the Conservative leadership, he said: "We are searching for a leader who will be seen by the public as a Prime Minister in waiting - well oh boy, have you kept me waiting!"
But the theme of his address was that if the party wanted to start winning again, the time had come to choose him at last.
The speech was more workmanlike and conventional than David Cameron's flashier effort earlier in the day.
Unlike his rival, Mr Clarke spoke from notes and remained ensconced behind the lectern, rather than prowling the conference hall stage.
Delegates clapped appreciatively and offered a standing ovation at the end, although one or two did remain obstinately seated. Europe, the issue which accounts for Mr Clarke's enduring unpopularity among some sections of the Conservative Party, was not mentioned once.
Mr Clarke got straight to the point, opening his speech by telling delegates: "I don't know about you, but I am getting fed up with our party losing elections.
"We used to be a party that won elections . . . In the 21st century it is a duty. We have got to do it again, and we can do it again."
He argued that the economy would be at the heart of the debate at the next election, and that he had already proved his economic competence to the British public during his four years as Chancellor.
"Remember the economy which Labour inherited from us in 1997 - low inflation, steady growth, falling debt. We were creating a modern enterprise economy in a country that had been a failure before the Conservatives came to power."
But the economy was now at risk from "big spending, high taxes and from too much debt", all due to Gordon Brown.
"Gordon Brown could have done great things with our inheritance. But he's blown it. He has turned out to be just another Labour tax and spend Chancellor, but on a lucky streak."
A Conservative government would need to "rebuild the enterprise culture," he said.
"We have to fight and win a new battle of ideas in favour of better but smaller governments in the 21st century. That is the best way of making Britain prosperous and free."
The Tories should also "aim to reduce and simplify taxes," he said.
Mr Clarke also claimed Labour had "undermined the health of our democracy", highlighting Downing Street's involvement in the compilation of intelligence in the run up to the Iraq war, and the way Parliament had been sidelined.
Mr Brown would be as much of a "control-freak" as Mr Blair, he said.
"With Tony Blair we have had a president; with Gordon Brown we are going to have an emperor. We must make sure this would-be Napoleon meets his Waterloo.