Fraser Nelson

Cameron resuscitates the Big Society

Cameron resuscitates the Big Society
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This was the perhaps the lowest-octane speech David Cameron has ever given to the Tory conference. He didn't need to give the speech of his life, for once - so he didn't. He dutifully ran through all the various points of government policies, but there were too many of what Art Laffer calls MEGO figures (my eyes glaze over).

It's odd, because Cameron can speak so well when he needs to. Compared to the speeches we heard yesterday - from Gove and IDS - it was oddly uninspiring. He spoke about his government's "beating, radical heart" with no real enthusiasm - as if he received the speech only recently, and didn’t rehearse too much. It was too long, was repetitious in places.

The best part was what he called the shift in power from state to society, and asked his audience (in a roundabout way) what they can do for their country. Demand a new school, take interest in a police beat, etc.

The problem is that he's trying to resuscitate the Big Society agenda (or BS, as it’s derisively known by activists). The latest effort: his "it takes two" riff at the end (as soon as I heard him say that, I knew what the song played at the end would be.) The problem with the BS is it disguises a good idea as a bad one - and Cameron's speech did likewise. It made a radical, energising agenda sound a bit average and dull.

This is necessarily harsh to Cameron, because it judges him by his own standards. Previous conference speeches have been punctuation marks in his leadership, or his thinking. This was not such a speech, and will be rather forgettable. Had Ed Miliband delivered it, the speech would doubtless be hailed as a Socratic masterpiece.

The reverse midas touch of the Big Society has struck again. Just as well for Cameron that his government's actions are speaking louder than his words.