Cameron talks compassion but should he have talked growth?
By Tim Montgomerie
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I liked the modern compassionate conservatism. I liked it very much. Cameron talked about his commitment to the NHS. To ending school failure. He talked about supporting families and gay marriage. He focused on helping people move off welfare and into work. He announced a new policy to encourage adoption. There was lots on the Tory commitment to the poorest people overseas. There seems to be a belated realisation that the Big Society isn't an idea that's strong enough to convince families that today's Conservative Party is a party that is genuinely on the side of ordinary families. BS got one tick box mention but 'one nation' was the phrase Cameron used most. By emphasising the compassionate side of his government the Tory leader was addressing the dangerous sense that the decent things done by the Coalition are all because of the Liberal Democrats. Clegg had promised to cut the NHS budget, Cameron reminded his audience, and it was only the Tories in the whole of British politics who had pledged to maintain health spending.
But was this the time to remind people of Cameron's broader, gentler conservatism? A Belgian bank has gone bust. Italy's being downgraded. American politics is in gridlock. I hoped this Conference would give us much more on growth. It didn't (although I may be underestimating the importance of credit easing). Perhaps the Liberal Democrats vetoed any big announcements, insisting that any fireworks are owned jointly and not used to get good reviews for the Tory Conference. Or perhaps the Government isn't going to supercharge the economy in the ways suggested in the ConHome growth manifesto. The Autumn Statement is the next big date in this Government's calendar. It's the last big opportunity for the Chancellor to show that he has pro-jobs policies that are as big as the country's economic challenges.