David Blackburn

Cameron wants to offer the “right” leadership

Cameron wants to offer the “right” leadership
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As flat as flat champagne — that’s the verdict on this year’s Tory conference, which is ironic given that the two year ban on champagne was lifted this year. Bruce Anderson argues that the dour atmosphere is intentional. These are serious times for sombre politics, not the frivolity occasioned by a conference at a seaside resort. David Cameron’s first objective, Bruce says, is to reassure the country and present himself as a leader for a crisis.

Cameron’s conference speech has been widely trailed by most news outlets this morning. Tim Montgomerie has a comprehensive overview of the speech. Cameron’s first challenge is to emote: these are "anxious times” for ordinary people, he will say. But, he will insist that Britain stays on its current course. Like George Osborne, he will defend the government’s deficit reduction programme. “Our plan is right,” he will say, which is significant because “right” is a moral term. This might be seen as a riposte to Ed Miliband’s rather cumbersome attempt to re-moralise politics last week. The implication is that there is nothing “right” about a country living beyond its means.

Perhaps this explains why Cameron will go on to insist that the entire nation to “pay off its credit card”, to relieve a debt crisis that has engulfed both private and public finances. It’s a striking statement that will have Keynsians groping for the phrase ‘paradox of thrift’. It must also be noted that Cameron’s government is actually increasing Britain’s national debt by 52 per cent over the course of this parliament. How 'right' is that? The disciples of Hayek ask.

Above all, though, Cameron’s task is to insist that he can solve the dire economic situation, which has taken another turn for the worse this morning with the publication of yet more dismal growth figures. He will emphasise growth and “building the new economy…to lay the foundations for a secure future.” Osborne offered a glimpse of the sunlit uplands in his speech on Monday, albeit from a great distance. Cameron will follow suit by saying:

“Nobody wants false optimism. And I will never pretend there are short cuts to success.  But success will come: with the right ideas, the right approach — the right leadership.”

Leadership has been the theme of this conference, which, as Danny Finkelstein notes in today’s Times (£), contrasts with the Tories' 2010 election manifesto: “An invitation to join the government of Britain”. There are rumours around Westminster that the Big Society is dead and will not be resurrected for some time; the political and economic climate has changed and the clothes of authority must replace those of permissiveness. Cameron’s speech seems calibrated to complete that, dare I say it, rebranding.