The Conservative Party Conference has ended with the prime minister delivering the keynote speech. David Cameron chose to deliver a speech the traditional way, with notes and auto cues rather than chance a script-less address favoured by Ed Miliband the day before.
Unlike George Osborne two days before, Cameron pitched his speech to a wider audience. It was one fresh attempt to define his brand of Conservatism, something that many delegates struggle to understand. This year’s buzz phrase was ‘aspiration nation’, with the PM trying the weave all the threads of his various reforms, such as schools, NHS and welfare into a proper political narrative.
It did work, though much of the rhetoric was outmatched by the way it was delivered. Cameron thumped and prodded the lectern a number of times in a speech that he was very angry, very contrite, very sad and at times quite emotional.
All in all a tubthumping attempt at establishing his statesmanlike demeanour, something that could have been pitched at differing him from Ed Miliband. Or perhaps he was trying to fend off the Boris surge?
The London Mayor swept into Birmingham the day before. Surely no Tory has the magic dust of popularity Boris possesses. His speech was packed with national policy demands. The spoke of tax cuts for top earners and less regulation in the public sector – all good traditional Tory issues. It went down well in the audience, who gave him a standing ovation longer than most of the cabinet put together.
British politics may currently be a scramble for the centre ground, but is Boris looking to pitch for the right wing Conservative voter now he doesn’t need to target London’s typically centre-left?
Policy announcements were few and far between today. Cameron committed his government in some strong and passionate ways to building more homes. Will this persuade his own MPs and, in some case, ministers to row back from supporting endless nimby campaigns?
There was also a commitment to pursue a strategy for investing in Shale gas extraction, a process known as fracking. £10billion will be saved from from welfare cuts and council taxpayers will have an automatic vote which will be triggered if a council decide to raise council tax by more than 2%.