David Cameron’s Chequers speech writing session was held hours after Ed Miliband had finished speaking at Labour conference, and it showed today. This was Cameron’s passionate, sometimes angry, response to the Labour leader. He wanted to make the case that Miliband’s move to the left would endanger the British economy.
His message was give me the time and I will finish the job. What’s the job, building a ‘land of opportunity’. This seems to mean an enterprise economy with an education system good enough to enable social mobility. It is a very Tory message.
But Cameron was keen to show that he’s still a compassionate Conservative. As he discussed his plan to make youngsters either earn or lean, he sounded like the pushy parent, father of the nation. He argued that he wouldn’t accept his own kids sitting around on the dole, so why should he accept any kids doing that. He even got the conference to clap social workers.
Perhaps, the weakest area of the speech, though, was on the cost of living. Cameron argued that you couldn’t separate the cost of living from the wider economic debate. But, I suspect, that the Tories are going to need to say more than that. They need something to show that they get it, and that they have policies that will drive down household bills.
Cameron cut his political teeth on the Tories’ 1992 campaign. His attempt to be re-elected as Prime Minister will resemble that effort in several ways. There’ll be relentless attacks on Labour’s credibility and a leader that the Tories believe to be to the left of the public.