In the next few hours, someone will do us the service of telling us which words and phrases were most used in David Cameron’s speech.
‘Big Government’ will, I suspect, be top of the pops. Whilst professing to hate Gordon Brown’s ‘dividing lines’ approach to politics, this was an attempt to make Big State v Small State the backdrop to the fight ahead, in many ways a classic Right-Left battle.
But even if George Osborne set out a few specific proposals on Tuesday, Cameron’s speech raises an awful lot more questions that will have to be answered in detail. All those education bodies that he seemed not to like. Are they being scrapped? When he says he will sweep away all those bodies that apparently snoop into our homes all the time, what are they and will they have to go too? Was he announcing more troops for Afghanistan? Has he found a way of ending the poverty trap? What are the other public spending cuts that will be required to deliver on his pledge to deal with national debt right now? The referendum fight William Hague is leading? What exactly is the referendum on?
He wanted to do the vision thing, all that climbing mountains to find a wonderful view at the end of the climb, and a description of the kind of country he thinks Britain can be. Bits of it reminded me of TB when he hadn’t put the work in, and lacked the energy really to put something across. Also, a lot of those changes he was seeing as he reached his summit will require his government to make change. That is what government in many ways is about. But without being clear what the changes are, we are left with lengthy sections of speech that will be rather quickly forgotten.
Interesting too that the tenor of the speech was that Britain is a basket case, and Labour a full-on disaster. Yet devolution was a good thing. The minimum wage was a good thing. Civil partnerships legislation was a good thing. They all required a bit of big government and they were all opposed by the Tories.
His big theme was that we did not need government but responsibility. But Sure Start was also a good thing. That needed big government to get it going. And of course the NHS is perhaps the best thing of all, and its basic principles untouchable. There was a little bit of having Labour’s cake and eating it going on. The best policies in the speech were the Labour ones he said a Tory government would keep. In terms of other detailed policy proposals, it was all a bit vague and woolly.
I’m more convinced than ever after his speech that the election is far from the foregone conclusion the media seemed to think as they gathered in Manchester. Even the man from The Telegraph seemed terribly underwhelmed.
Nick Robinson had told us beforehand that Cameron wanted to use the speech to show more of the personal side, who he was, what made him tick. I’m not sure he met that objective.
What he did was lay down a very old fashioned dividing line, but whereas sometimes GB stands accused of having too many ideas for government action, Cameron’s definition of small government seems to be to have lots of admirable goals, and just hope somehow that they come about. It was frankly a bit weird.
Ps. on the buzzword count, am I right in saying banks and bankers rated a Big Zero? His attempt to make the financial crisis all GB’s, and nothing to do with his friends and bankrollers, is a bit lame. Also, worth pointing out that Big Governments(s) round the world were essential to preventing recession from becoming depression.
Alastair, if you can keep this daily whistling in the dark up for the next six months, I will personally award you the Tony Benn Memorial Fantasy-as-Fact Golden Whistle so that never again will you have to put your poor lips through such – ultimately pointless – exertions.
Ronnie Ronalde would be proud!
actually Alastair it was big governments around the world that caused the recession….they where all happy to ride the credit boom, with no thought to the bust that would inevitably follow..oh but I forgot GB abolished boom and bust…
It wasn’t Cameron’s best speech by far – but that was deliberate. He didn’t want to make the same mistake as Kinnock did in 1992.
I thought he showed gravitas, real emotion, and a healthy dose of realism. This speech made Brown’s look even more dishonest.
The starkest contrast for me between Cameron and Brown was how Brown now looks totally like yesterday’s man.
Guess what – a hung parliament is still possible – but only if a supremely gutless Labour party finds the courage to ditch the biggest electoral burden they have had since Michael Foot.
Tories party of NHS. Tories party of international development. Tories party of the poor … No, sorry. They are playing catch up because they have to because it is Labour who change this world for the better. Even with the recession, we are far better off with Brown than Cameron.
Good point on the bankers. Not one word. Not one word on all the calls he made at the time. Big calls. Wrong calls. I agree with what you have been saying – this week has not been great for them. If only the Labour Party could get stuck in a bit more
‘His friends and bankrollers’
Isn’t Sir Fred Goodwin a good friend of Gordon Brown’s ?
Which is probably why he has kept his knighthood for ‘services’ to the banking industry.
Trying to suddenly link the irresponsible banks and bankers to the Tories is a lame even for you and smacks a bit of desperation !
What next ? blame them for the Iraq war.
It was a competent and refreshing speech from a man who knows he will have a huge job on his hands in sorting out the mess he will inherit.He cannot be expected to have all the answers now and nor should he be. He is honest and enthusiastic about these challenges. Contrast him to Brown, who’s government created the mess and think they can lie and deceive their way to the next election. Roll on May or whenever he has the guts to call an election, when the electorate finally get their chance to have their say.
P.S. On a positive note it’s nice to see that the recession hasn’t affected everyone and that someone has actually prospered under a Labour government with the news that TB has recently purchased yet another million pound plus home. How many does he own now 4, 5 ?
Cameron set out a vision and a strategy for achieving it. The specific policies will come later.
After the nauseating introduction from his wife, Gordon in his speech set out a few welfare policies which were unfunded and written on the back of a postage stamp and he completely ignored the two elephants in the room – Afghanistan and the public debt he has bequeathed the nation.
I think you will find that Cameron’s speech will go down very well – dream on if you think Labour will recover.
As the son of a steelworker and someone who remembers the 1980s (and indeed the 1970s) I admit that I’m analysing Cameron’s speech from a somewhat biased position. However, after all the pre-speech hype even I was expecting something of more substance but there was absolutely nothing. It was rhetoric and totally lacking in anything new. I really now hope the media goes to town on Cameron over the speech. After the big build up it was given, frankly even to them it surely must be seen as a very damp squib. How can you trust this man with running the country? Having said all that, Labour really needs to get off its knees and start exposing the Tories for what they are. I agree with you that the outcome of the next election is far from settled. Politics is about to get interesting again . . .
I only caught the end of this speech and what struck me was how underwhelmed the faithful sounded. They had finished applauding by the end of The Monkees song that started as Dave finished. They did not seem to reflect the title “I’m a believer”.
That thing about all state pupils having the same resources as private school pupils will cost a fair bit
just watched the final speech of the Tory conference; and have now just joined the Labour Party.
Alistair when will this Labour government take off its gloves and begin to fight back?I’ve been a Labour supporter all my life and live in a working class community that have benefited greatly from Labours time in office through Surestart and Working Tax Credits.But all of this is set to be taken from us by the Tories if Labour don’t get their act together and take them on.We want to see a government we can trust to stand our corner and I dont personally believe that the Tories can deliver that and Labour seems to act like its beaten before the fight has even begun.Come on guys Cameron is all smarm and no substance he can be beaten
f this conference had happened three years ago, Gordon Brown could have won the biggest landslide simply by pointing out all the gaffes, gaps and guffaws of Tory policy announcements.
The on/off referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, the raising the retirement age policy that turns out to be only a review, the “gimmick” of hiring a serving soldier and the cack-handed way in which it was announced, the shortfall in George’s budget plans, and, my own personal favourite, the idea that schools with discipline problems can call in the army! Such wonderful visions that brings to mind.
But still, the media have decided. Even Eddie Mair yesterday went for Lord Foulkes for suggesting that General Dannett had been told what to say regarding his move to join the Tories, rather than questioning why a man in his position just happened to be criticising Labour policy in general and Gordon Brown in particular all over the airwaves at this particular time.
I cannot believe that Cameron will be able to get away with calling his party the party that supports the poor, the party that wants banks regulated to the hilt, the party that loves the NHS, the party that feels all our pain. I despair that they will win the next election, because Labour seem to be rolling over and accepting the inevitable. Not at activist level, I’m sure, but their politicians are deathly quiet. Time will run out!
I note you say the speech reminded you of Blair on a bad day. Sorry to wake you up from your slumbers but your old mate isnt running things anymore. What we have compare it to is the 1970’s rivival show we saw last week, complete with Union leaders calling the tune, ‘rich’ bashing and fantasy island spending promises. Against that display Cameron scores very well.
Moreover I seem to remember New Labaour were quite adept at taking on board the political ideas of the Conservatives and your hate figure Mrs Thatcher in the 1990’s. This can be examplified by the retention of Tory policy on the 40% tax rate/incentives, Nuclear weapons and Union/Employment law legislation to name but three.
To this list can be added the acceptance of Conservative thinking on free markets and globalisation.
So as Mr Cameron is happy to accept the good parts of New Labours legacy perhaps you might have the courtesy to accept that New Labour shamelessly accepted much of the Thatcher economic settlement in the mid-90’s and carried on with it in Government. (Despite Mr Browns rhetoric that he would never take advice from a Tory).
Whereas your line was “We don’t do God” -the Tories’ is “We don’t do policy”. A recent poll -which I don’t think should be taken at face value -showed that the vast majority of respondents would not vote according to “Policy” -but to -in essence -“Personality”. For any arch-pragmatist the solution is obvious. Have a “Big Brother” style knockout to see who gets to be Prime Minister. Will it be Brenda -the shy Goth Hottie -who edges it, or is the smart money on “Cheeky Colin”- the electrician from Luton with the cheeky grin and winning patter?
It was not big Government around the world that caused the banking melt down……it was the deceitful bankers misrepresenting the toxic assets and selling the shareholders short. All in the knowledge they had most governments over a barrel.
Only big Government could have saved this crisis from becoming a world wide depression lasting decades.
Cameron is puppet of the grandees just he doesnt know he is a puppet yet. Watch out for the old values returning with a vengance if he is elected.
I left the labour party two months ago, I was one of the many to become very tired of Brown and also of the way we became too centric. But boy I am going to rejoin by the end of this week. The prospect of a Tory government is simply too hard to take and watching Cameron today actually say a lot but no policy showed how much they are hiding.
for example how on earth can you reduce government by a third, without mass sackings and degrading the NHS ?
If people accept that notion the poor will suffer heavily and as someone on average earnings I never want that.
We have to fight hard in the next 7 months, we have to show that a vote for labour is one for fairness and a better soceity.
After this vacuous speech I am wondering if GB is now going to finally seize the initiative and start taking it up to this lot? What about a major speech deconstructing Cameron’s platitudes and make a full on challenge to bring on the series of debates between leaders and cabinet/shadow cabinet ministers? He should use as a basis that portion “don’t ask me, ask the Tories” from his own speech to detonate Cameron’s crap and say “time for debates is now”
For eg Lisbon. This Tory paranoia about the EU presidency isn’t about TB himself, but the policies he represents which are now shared by the overwhelming majority of European governments. And were supported 60% by the Irish people in the referendum vote. Yet the Tories are standing there looking back to the future side by side with anti semitic neo fascists. The global financial crisis proved to everybody except the Tories that more integration is not just the answer, but the inevitable future. If anybody wants to know what the Tories would really be like in government all they have to do is note how they line up in the European parliament. No-one has been more cautious about the EU than Gordon, but that should give him the political credit to use Lisbon as the basis to define Labour and himself from Cameron and Tories and put the pressure on the Tory cracks?
Also, Labour needs to diffuse this issue of the troops equipment – it’s extraordinary to me that so many Defence Secs have allowed this to get away from them?
Big government works in Finland. It is said to be behind success stories like Nokia, and our pupils are the best in the world according to tests.
Excellent Question Time last night.
Star of the show had to be Ian Hislop, watching him tear apart the responses from Yvette ‘Inheritance Tax’ Cooper was hyterical, with her perfromance being cringeworthy.
An extremely competent and honest display from George Osbourne with plenty of substance to his answers, which the audience, by no means pro-Tory, seeed to appreciate.
The differences between Osborne and Cooper really highlighted why Labour are absloutely finished as a credible goverenment and can now only rely on the support of a blinkered and naive minority.
History shows that a public spending programme is a critical route out of a depression and could be why we are only in a recession instead of the full blown onslaught that was expected, thanks to the negligence of global banking. How will the Tories pay for the increase in unemployment benefit if public sector jobs are lost??? Surely it is better to have a productive tax paying workforce than a disheartened slump?
On the contrary, I thought Yvette Cooper (state educated) did an admirable job of holding her own against the two bullies Hislop and Osbourne (public boarding schools). Pathetic. British Class System at it’s worst. Just like the inheritance tax issue.
But then I’ve not got Yvette’s patience and in the spirit of their Class-driven condescension….
Hislop is indeed an “ugly little pug-faced cnut”
Osbourne has a Bum for a Nose.
© Steve Bell.
Admirable job ?, she didn’t have any response at all apart from trying to constantly refer to inheritance tax. This is from a Labour Cabinet minister, if she cannot take a verbal interrogation from Ian Hislop she should not be in the job !!, even the audience were laughing at her inablity to answer the questions she was asked.
What have their educational backgrounds go to do with it ? now that is pathetic Bernie.
“….make a full on challenge to bring on the series of debates between leaders and cabinet/shadow cabinet ministers?”
Had to laugh out loud at this. Do some people on this blog live in an alternative universe?
I thought it was a good speech…for Labour. Idealogically we are back to the classic left/right divide.A flank has opened up and valuable centre ground is there for the taking.. With a Leader the Country has not given up on it could be won…
Mmmmh. Going by ollie’s previous posts here I would say his kneejerk response to mine indicated two alternatives: either, ollie is confident GB and Labour is not serious in calling for a series of substantive debates or ollie believes that in the debates Cameron and the Torys would wipe the floor.
If ollie’s right about the first (and I don’t know since have only been here for six weeks) then the game is almost certainly over before the last quarter, as we would say in Australia about our Aussie football grand final.
As for the second …well a Labour government that can’t take it up to that lot after the mogadon crap Cameron delivered yesterday and create Lisbon as an issue to define the essential differences – and keep taking it up to this lot every day until the electtion results are in – doesn’t bloody deserve to win. Simple as that.
I’d have thought that anyone who makes vulgar use of the death of his own child in an electioneering speech has a fairly well established personality disorder. What a disgusting creep and how alarming that the press claims that his wife advised/encouraged him to use this (alleged) familial tragedy. Cameron is clearly devoid of moral sense; as a Prime Minister he may be expected to be incapable of empathy. Please,someone in NL point this out.
Please think about this one
Scrap all taxes and replace with one simple carbon tax
Imagine the savings!
Imagine the frudless society
imagine the chang in attitude toward fossil fuels
Imagine the longterm future
imagine the fossil fuel reseves for our children
Cameron is desperately trying to style himself as the heir to Blair. Where Blair used his genius for presentation to sell his progressive agenda and improve the lot of millions, Cameron is cynicaly trying to dupe the british people because his real agenda doesn’t bear scrutiny.
Its easy to slag off this country’s public institutions but by and large they try to do a good job and any failings are rarely as a result of being over resourced.
I read into his calls for small government and people taking greater responsibility as code for the sort of winner take all economy we find in the states. Not a place I want to raise my family in.
AC – please tell us you’re about to step in and help – or at least you are advising behind the scenes – the country needs your insight and what’s more needs you to spur the Labour Party into a proper offensive…
Yesterday’s leader in the Observer was all about Cameron, and nailed him very effectively – final line says he “looks immensely naive or hugely cynical or both”. Impossible to escape the conclusion that the leader-writer has been reading this blog!