Cameron still has much to do

Now you know what the headline is. Cameron gave the cautious speech of a potential Prime Minister who didn’t dare count his chickens, not a rouser on the eve of victory. The central argument of the Leader’s speech was that under Labour: It is not that Big Government has failed to solve some problems, it has helped to cause them” Meanwhile the latest YouGov poll taken before the speech shows a cut in the Conservartive lead of six per cent.Three main themes but lightheadedly light on policy. First, on tacking the debt crisis: “The longer we wait, the longer we waste.” Then in some Gordon bashing picked up big by the turncoat Sun, he eschewed old-style Tory dog whistling about tax and stirred himself to passion over the mother of 2 on £150 a week “who keeps only 4p in the £ for every extra pound she earns”. ( Is that quite so bad if she’s on high benefit and credits)?
“ I want to show anger for 96% tax for the poorest people in our country.” Come to think of it, was that standing ovation really for anger about tax rates as such, never mind the rest of the sentence?

Three, attacking the nanny state and Big Government, the best- sounding line of the speech:
The government have got to stop treating children as adults and adults like children” ( sounded great, whatever it meant precisely. And doesn’t it take Big Government to break Big Government?).

Policy headlines. Break the cycle of welfare dependency. We are giving the NHS back to the people
(fewer central targets.) Give the money to the head teacher and stop wasting it on Whitehall. (Wot with no supervision? How then do you prevent costs climbing?)

Then there was Britishness.

“People say they don’t know what it stands for. People in Scotland want to leave the UK and people in England want to let them go. I am passionate about the Union and will never do anything that puts it at risk… Because of our new Force with the Ulster Unionists, I am proud that we are the only party fighting in every single part of the UK.”
And that, really, seems to be the main point so far in the Union strategy so far – little more than including Northern Ireland in a name check of the component parts of the devolved UK, as I said earlier. In government, the Conservatives are right not to want to act as back seat drivers of devolution in general. But they are failing to register that the NI settlement is about much more than that. It’s about working through the complex, still edgy three strands of a very difficult relationship. There’s nothing wrong in making UK institutions work but in neglecting balance and seeming to ignore nationalists, the Conservatives risk being accused of trying to play a new, if much lower Orange card and repeating the ancient, fatal error of failing to address the whole of our society.
There was personal detail about the impact ofthe death of his five year old son that avoided any charge of exploitation. And a cheesy peroration I’ll leave you to read if you’re so inclined.
P.S Was Bono’s appearance in the warm-up video pro bono? (courtesy; the Times) Remember his likening Blair and Brown to Lennon and McCartney at a Labour conference?

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

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