James Forsyth

Cameron’s speech delivers

Cameron's speech delivers
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When you watch David Cameron speak without notes you wonder why they ever let him speak with a text. You can tell when Cameron is on form as he stops and sets himself before he delivers the bit that he hopes will be clipped for the news and he was back to doing that today. To be sure, the speech was not as good as the 2007 conference one. But it did the job which was to frame the election as a choice between Cameron and five more years of Gordon Brown.

The speech was not as much about Brown as I expected it would be. But there were some sharp attacks on him. Cameron declared that ‘every day Gordon Brown is Prime Minister is a grey day for our country’. In a cleverly crafted section which will tap into the anti-politics sentiment in the country, he berated Brown for thinking that he was some kind of economic genius. Cameron ran through Brown’s economic record and then declared, ‘that’s not genius, that’s incompetence.’ If Cameron can destroy the image of economic authority that still somehow clings to Brown, the Tory task will be that much easier.

In terms of the substance, there was much that we can applaud. His summation of his policies as being about ‘giving people more power and control’ is true to the best parts of the Conservative tradition. It is also reassuring to know that Cameron appreciates that he has to be radical from day one; the great danger of the Cameron project was that he would not seize the moment straight after the election or that he would believe that nothing else could be dealt with until the economic question had been addressed.

There are, obviously, risks to delivering a speech without a text and there is currently a bit of a media flurry over Cameron saying the Tories would set out how they would support marriage in the system. The Tories are stressing that this is not a gaffe. But it was, at the very least, an unexpected bit of clarity.

So, what effect will all this have on the polls? I suspect that the Tory lead will grow in the coming weeks, a two-point gap seems artificially low and the prospect of Brown winning will probably push some wavering voters into the Tory column. If the Tory poll lead starts to increase, I expect that the Tories will say that the speech did the trick and that everything is back on track after an uncertain start.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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