|Dave's I Have a Dream moment Posted by Ian at 5 07 PM on Thursday, October 8|
So now we know what Prime Minister Cameron will look like.
Serious, determined, angry and driven. Clear of thought and purpose and an easy communicator without being slick or vacuous.
All week at the Tory Party Conference, Shadow Cabinet Ministers have been elbowing each other out of the way to tell the audience how bad things are, how tough it will be to win an election and how unpopular they are going to have to be if they win
Normally, the Leader's speech then lifts the troops and sends them on to the train with a skip in their step.
The delegates were treated to a grim litany of the state of
David Cameron gave a stinging denunciation of Gordon Brown – “Don’t you dare lecture us about poverty. You have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party to fight for the poorest who you have let down.”
This was pretty standard stuff for Cameron but the most effective parts of his speech were the glimpses he gave of what his government will look like.
Unlike Brown, who devoted just 40 seconds on Afghanistan including a 20 second ovation for the troops, Cameron opened his speech with his detailed plan to set up a proper War Cabinet on his first day in Government, send more troops to train the Afghan army and appoint General Sir Richard Dannatt as a Government Minister.
It is clear there will be a massive shake-up of government departments, or at the very least the establishment of a White House-style Office of the Prime Minister. Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith will be its anchor, with a wide-ranging brief to push through policies to mend what Cameron called “the broken society.”
The Ministry of Defence will be the beacon for that change – instead of cutting its budget, it will be told to spend it on far fewer things – the Met Office will be sold off, the RAF will be ordered to get rid of many of its 198 airfields (they only have 200 fighter jets) and other departments will pay for many of the services it offers now – like mental health counselling for troops, development work in Afghanistan etc.
A tax cut of some sort for the poor is likely – with Cameron dwelling on the fact that a young mum trying to get some extra money through part time work has to hand 96 pence of every pound she earns back to the State.
From this point he made a very good job of the hard sell – convincing the public that the Tories, not Labour, are the Party to be trusted to tackle poverty.
There are still some reasonable concerns about how much of Dave’s image is genuine and how much is a very slick PR job.
Eyebrows were raised when Cameron said “I want every child
to have the chances I had.”
As his wife, Sam, took to the stage at the end of the speech a bungling techie left his microphone switched on. “Now kiss me”, he instructed Sam as she stared at the massed cameras like a startled fawn.
It sounded like he was helping the poor woman, who looked like she wanted to disappear, but others will be quick to point out this is a man more aware than many of how he wants to look on the evening news.
But that is a minor issue, and a distraction from the main event – this is a man who is ready to govern and now wants to get on with it.
It is also easy to forget that this will not be a year David and Sam will want to remember, even if it has been the year that guaranteed he will be the next Prime Minister.
Instead, the death of his young son Ivan will be the defining moment.
And his articulate and simple response to that gave a very clear explanation of why he wants to be Prime Minister:
“For me and Samantha this year will only ever mean one thing. When such a big part of your life suddenly ends nothing else – nothing outside – matters.
“It’s like the world has stopped turning and the clocks have stopped ticking. And as they slowly start again, weeks later, you ask yourself all over again: do I really want to do this? You think about what you believe and what sustains you.
“This is my DNA: family, community, country. These are the things I care about. They are what made me. They are what I’m in public service to protect, promote and defend.”
Over the long months of what will be the dirtiest election campaign ever, it is those principles Cameron hopes will shine through.
And the challenge for him and his Shadow Cabinet is to remind the public of what they stand for, to keep spelling it out and hope Cameron can use them to turn the public’s disillusionment with Labour into a mandate for the Conservatives.