The speech did contain two important points. First, Cameron talked about what government should do when it was asking people to ‘put up with tax rises and spending cuts.’ He also, unusually, cited his own experience at the Treasury, saying that he had hated putting up taxes but it had been the right thing to do. The implicit message was that there will be tax rises under a Tory government. Second, Cameron is already appealing for patience. He stressed that the benefits of paying down the debt might not be apparent within the lifetime of a Tory government but that children and grandchildren would thank them for doing the right thing for the country. On top of this there were several mentions of the importance of sticking together—the government and the public but implicitly the party too—as these hard choices are made.
On 50p, Cameron deftly threaded the needle. He derided the move as a ‘pathetic piece of class war posturing and as a ‘distraction burglary.’ But he stopped short of saying he would repeal it.
When Cameron pledged to sack spending Ministers who did ‘less with more’, Philip Hammond, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury and the man who’ll police the spending ministers, was the first shadow Cabinet member to applaud and the only one to do so with any real enthusiasm.