>Cameron closes conference season


Picture from The Guardian

Conference season came to a close in Birmingham, if not quite with a bang,  then at least with a sense of purpose from David Cameron. 

The Prime Minister’s speech, the first delivered by a Conservative leader in Government for 14 years, was not quite as impressive as the notes free barnstormer that won him the leadership. It did though embellish his election themes of ‘The Big Society’, and deficit reduction. This was all tied together in a call-to-arms for the country, even using the immortalised phrase ‘your country needs you,’ to stir emotions. 

However the most rabble rousing bits where two rather long lists, delivered at shot gun speed, and praise for a 92 year old activist. The first and longest list was that laying out the Coalitions many achievements since taking power. It included everything from scrapping ID cards to the banking levy, and was greeted with rapturous applause. Almost as much applause, in fact, as the devastating analysis of Labour’s years in government that followed shortly after. That list was delivered in the same style, and highlighted the ruined economy and centralisation of power.

A few moments in the speech would have made Lib Dems shudder. The first was the description of Margaret Thatcher as ‘Britain’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister’. It was also announced that No. 10 will hold a birthday party for her in the coming weeks. VN can’t help wondering if Clegg will be invited… Cameron also said that Trident would not be scrapped, and said that there would be a new nuclear deterrent based on Trident. This is was a key Liberal Democrat manifesto commitment, and this announcement will surely make some wobbly Lib Dem activists keel over completely. It would be interesting to know if this speech was seen by Clegg’s office, in the same way Clegg’s speech was seen by No.10 prior to delivery.

Cameron is the only leader to have chosen to have his front bench team sitting behind him, and it brought a whole new meaning to Lynne Featherstone’s phrase ‘male and pale’. He proceeded to pick out George Osborne, Iain Duncan Smith (twice), William Hague and, most humorously, Eric Pickles for individual praise at various points in the speech. 

What came through clearly, as it did at Lib Dem conference, was that those in the coalition get it. Labour do not. At the top of the government there is a unified approach to a heavily debated programme of government, based on compromise and compassion. Ed Miliband and his team must have sunk into their seats as the size of the task they face dawned on them, and the inevitably of a PMQs pasting come Wednesday became even clearer. But that is for then. Today David Cameron steered his ship through waters that were becoming increasingly sticky for him personally. He matched his liberal pro-coalition inclination, with tough dinosaur talk on Al Magrehi , against electoral reform, and praise for Thatcher 

In fact, after Trident, the thing he got most wrong was his choice of exit music-the self explanatory ‘It Takes Two” by Marvin Gaye. You could almost get the whiff of cheese through the television…


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