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Forgettable speech from Cameron ends a party conference season that was good for the Conservatives

By Tim Montgomerie

Jonathan Isaby has already identified the main themes of David Cameron's speech.

Despite the hype it's rare that any leader's party conference speech makes much of a difference and this speech will be quickly forgotten. It contained no memorable phrases. No great economic vision. No new policies.

Although the explanation of the Big Society was the best yet attempted by the Tory leader I would have preferred a bigger focus on the economic challenges that weigh heavily on every family's mind. The Big Society should be one of half a dozen big themes, not the dominant theme. In particular I wish the Prime Minister had focused on economic growth. Ministers may talk about growth but where is the big vision for simpler taxes, lighter regulation and a welcome mat to foreign investors? Nonetheless, the speech wasn't wasted. It did contain a big thank you to the Tory grassroots. Lines on Margaret Thatcher, immigration, Trident and welfare reform will also have encouraged the party base.

I'm far from downbeat, however. If today's speech will be quickly forgotten I think the three week party conference speech can be judged good news for the party.

  1. First, and most important, was the Liberal Democrat Conference. Journalists went to Liverpool hoping to find a party in revolt. It didn't. Clegg's members are anxious but resolved to make coalition government work. If this Coalition can stick together through the valley of cuts David Cameron has a big chance of being re-elected on the back of helping to deliver a return to growth.
  2. Second was the election of Ed Miliband. The new Labour leader shouldn't be underestimated but his multiple weaknesses make him a less formidable opponent than his brother.
  3. Third, the Prime Minister leads a united party. As revealed on Monday morning Cameron has greater support amongst his party than at any previous stage of his leadership. They are also united behind his deficit reduction mission and willing to forgive some concessions to the Liberal Democrats if that mission is achieved. There was good and bad content to the Tory Conference itself. The welfare reform proposals are as exciting as they are compassionate. The child benefit proposal appeared too rushed but I sign up to the fundamental basis upon which George Osborne decided it was necessary: those with the broadest shoulders must bear the burden of deficit reduction.
Now on to the big event; the comprehensive spending review.


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