I’d love to give you a complete and comprehensive blow by blow account of David Cameron’s Manchester speech – but I started to doze off in the middle of it, and I can’t be sure I got it all. It’s the first time I’ve ever drifted off in the middle of a leader’s confrerence speech, espcially in an election year. Either I’m getting too old, or David Cameron has taken his foot off the gas.
I sense the latter. Looking around there were a lot of Tories who looked like they were flirting with the land of nod. It was a very downbeat speech, almost somnolent at times. The only reall standers – where Cameron got off his couch and gave it laldy – were for Afghanistan and poverty. His inequality sound bite was a good one. It really nailed Labour’s failure to deliver the social justice that is supposed to be its mission statement. For once he looked the camera in the eye and showed that he is capable of passion.
But the rest of it? Well, you tell me. There was stuff about the NHS – he repeated that it sums up his political philosophy “in three letters”. There was a lot about good old-fashioned competitive education, though wisely he avoided the Troops to Teachers initiative of Staff Sergeant Michael Gove. There was a lot about entrepreneurs being the people who will rebuild the economy. All very well. But how can small businesses get off the ground if the big monopoly banks, fattened on public funds, refuse to lend the capital necessary to get new businesses started? There was no coherent economic philosophy here.
We got alot about debt, of course, but not about the people who got us into the debt crisis – the banks with thier excessive leverage and predatory lending to home owners. There was nothing on housing – unless I missed it – and culture seems to begin and end with the world cup bid in 2018. You don’t expect poetry a from a political leader, but he could have given us a bit of vision surely. The sunny uplands, which was his peroration, didn’t convince. It wasn’t clear to me where these uplands are. He talked of everyone setting up a business, which is as unlikely as it would be undesirable,; about choice in schools and hospital . But his view from the summit appears to be a bit like an M&S vision of consumer choice, like Samantha’s dress.
The main policy theme was big government being the cause all our problems – and big government is bad when it is intrusive and takes away our liberties. He promised to scrap ID cards and end the surveillance state. But all politicians want to slim down the bureaucracies – it is a political cliche. Like the ‘bonfire of the quangos’ which fortunately Cameron didn’t offer. And really, it is ludicrous to blame the financial crisis on big government – it was the big banks wot done it. Intriguingly, he hardly mentioned the free market – perhaps because we don’t have one any more – only socialism for the City.
Will it convince the nation? Well, there was nothing too objectionalble. It wasn’t militarist or triumphalist. He sounds like a decent guy with a decent wife who has decent ane reasonable views. He is much more agreeable than mad Gordon Brown, so maybe he has done enough. Just wake me when he wins, will you.