« Stephan Shakespeare: Do party conference speeches matter? Only a tiny, tiny bit. | Main | Anthony Browne: Lies and truths about the Human Rights Act »

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson: This is the flattest Tory Conference I can remember... but Cameron wants to reassure, not to excite

I have been coming to Tory conferences since 1976 and this is the flattest that I can remember. There are a number of explanations. It may be that sea air invigorates Tories soul in a way that a great if embattled industrial city cannot rival. Also, the absence of cheap boarding-houses has deterred some of the younger activists from attending. There are not nearly so many leather-jacketed kids to keep the bars open through the night.

There is a further factor. The heat has gone out of the Europe debate. Everyone knows that the EU is in retreat; no-one is afraid of a renewed federalist onslaught. That makes life easier for the leadership: harder for those trying to stir up controversy on the fringe. For just about the first time in twenty years, there is no danger of the headlines being dominated by: "Europe row splits Tories".

Equally, people are getting used to David Cameron. They are still not sure who he is and not everyone trusts him. It is unlikely that he will ever thrill the Tory soul in the way that Margaret Thatcher did. But he is a strong leader. Like the country, the party is seeking reassurance. Mr Cameron provides it.

This year, that is the Leadership's main ambition: reassurance. That impression will be conveyed as much by body language as by the texts of the speeches. The aim is to persuade both party and country that those in charge know where they are going: that Mr Cameron and his team have the strength and the resolve to cope with the hard months ahead.

So it has not been an exciting and enjoyable conference. That will not worry David Cameron.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.