Cameron’s message and why it will have resonated beyond the Conference hall
A Tory’s perspective of Cameron’s conference speech
Today, David Cameron delivered his first conference speech as Leader of a Majority Government, a moment he has waited a long time for. He visibly enjoyed it and it was a clear reflection of his priorities and ambitions as Prime Minister over the next five years. Underpinning the speech were three key messages: Security. Stability. Opportunity – the same that worked so effectively throughout the General Election. They appealed to the centre ground of politics, just as New Labour did throughout my early childhood.
Security was a central message in the 2015 election campaign as the Conservative Party warned the nation about the threat Ed Miliband posed to the economy, and the threat of a Labour-SNP coalition. Today, Cameron explicitly stated that under Corbyn’s leadership Labour is a threat to our economic, national and family security. Whilst his comments on Corbyn and the threat he poses were strong, and understandably evoked strong reactions from Labour supporters, they weren’t unfounded. Cameron outlined that the real tragedy was not Bin Laden’s death; instead it was the murder of nearly 3,000 people in New York. This has invariably been seen as an attack on Corbyn, but just because it is an unpopular message amongst some that doesn’t mean it fails to resonate amongst others.
Just as some people believe that Cameron only has the interests of the rich at the top of his agenda, others feel that Corbyn fails to encompass theirs and Britain’s interests. That idea is compounded further by, as Cameron described it, the ‘self-righteous way’ that some Labour supporters make their arguments – the same approach that turned me and many other younger voters away from Labour during the General Election campaign, and the same approach that has created the idea that it is acceptable to call Conservative voters ‘Tory scum’. Cameron also made the point that ‘the vast majority of people aren’t obsessives, arguing at the extremes of the debate’, and he’s right. That is why his rhetoric and policy proposals today will have resonated with so many up and down the country, and the Corbynista’s rebuttal of his proposals will be seen as vitriolic.
Security made up just one part of Cameron’s conference speech – the others were Stability and Opportunity. As a moderate Tory I was more interested to hear how Cameron plans to ‘finish the fight for real equality’, and bring an end to low levels of social mobility in the UK. All-in-all he tackled many topics head-on as he set out his priorities for the next five years, some of which are more attainable than others. He aims to create 500 new free schools (attainable), get the ‘brightest and best to the frontline of social work’ (attainable), and his plans to transform Generation Rent to Generation Buy (less attainable).
With a five-year maximum to his premiership, it will be difficult to fully achieve even half of his proposals but he is setting the agenda for the next ten to twenty years, not just his own parliamentary and leadership term. For instance, on housing he is aiming to fulfil Thatcher’s aim of creating a property-owning democracy. While this is unattainable within the next five years, it is a start. He is taking radical measures to address the housing crisis. His campaign for greater home ownership will also help the electability of Zac Goldsmith as next Mayor of London as he too has placed the housing crisis front-and-centre of his election campaign.
There is no doubt that his personal attack on Corbyn was blunt and forthright, but there should also be no doubt as to Cameron’s ambition to craft a successful lasting legacy over the next five years and cement the Tories as the party of British politics. His messages will, and have already, resonated with so many – if you’re yet to see it, it’s because they’re probably just too shy to show it. That’s because his proposals are no more radical than New Labour’s in the early 2000s and knowing that he has just five years left to deliver it, he will take all necessary steps to make his plans a reality.