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A five-point guide to David Cameron's big article

By Peter Hoskin
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What can I say? Perhaps I just see everything in five bullet points. There was my five-point guide to William Hague’s interview with the Evening Standard on Friday, and now there’s this, below, the five quick points that I’ve taken from David Cameron’s article for the Mail on Sunday today. Here you go:

The vision thing. The main purpose of the article, I think, is to hit back at those who think Mr Cameron is more mouse than man, pussyfooting around (so to speak) when it comes to our economic recovery. He uses words like “fighting” and phrases like “frankly, I’m frustrated” to describe what the government has achieved and what it is hoping to achieve. Most of this “vision” he sets out is both familiar and broad. He talks of tackling welfare dependency, of encouraging a dynamic private sector and of entrenching social mobility. But there is something slightly new and specific: much as ConservativeHome did yesterday, the Prime Minister dwells on the building of new houses. “A key part of recovery is building the houses our people need,” he writes, “but a familiar cry goes up: ‘Yes, we want more housing; but no to every development — and not in my back yard.’” And then he adds: “The nations we’re competing against don’t stand for this kind of paralysis and neither must we.” What’s clear is that Mr Cameron is preparing for a struggle, perhaps with his own party, over housing policy. We shall hear more about this on Thursday, but already it looks as though the loosening of green belt restrictions will prove controversial.

No longer the last lot’s fault. Or, rather, New Labour is still partially to blame — but, strikingly, Mr Cameron doesn’t mention it here. I doubt this is an accident. Many in government are aware that, halfway through this Parliament, they’re entering a new period in which blaming the last lot is less persuasive to voters. This article typifies how they might go about highlighting what the Coalition has already achieved and what they still intend to achieve.

The Olympics as a Conservative message. Before Mr Cameron went off on his summer holiday, he tried to capture some of the Olympic gold dust for himself and his government. And he’s still at it now that he’s back, although now the message is more explicitly conservative:

“But Britain’s Olympians and Paralympians have taught us another lesson: graft equals success. You don’t get to the podium without making huge sacrifices and really wanting to win. That lesson can be applied to our country. It will be a hard road to success – but that’s the road we must take.”

It’s worth noting that Matthew d’Ancona recommended this as “the lesson of the Games” for Mr Cameron, a few weeks ago. I also argued for a similar attitude towards deficit reduction in a recent article for the Times (£).

Claiming credit for the collapse of Lords reform. One of the most intriguing lines in the article is Mr Cameron’s claim that “I wasn’t prepared to allow the debate on House of Lords reform to crowd out the parliamentary timetable.” If you remember, the story used to be that Cameron was trying his best, for Coalition relations, to bring Tory backbenchers around to some form of Lords reform. Now he’s trying to make a virtue out of the policy’s demise.

Cameron’s fiscal concerns. Given his article for the Daily Telegraph on Friday, I suspect my old boss Fraser Nelson is itching to highlight Mr Cameron’s claim that “countries across Europe have found there’s a tipping point where piling on more debt isn’t just counter-productive, it is lethal” — and when the British government is adding £600 billion to the debt over this Parliament, too. As for me, I’m one of those people who think the government couldn’t be doing much more on the debt front; in terms of manoeuvrability, the public finances are more an oil tanker than a synchronised swimmer. But this gap between that the government is doing and what the public may think they are doing is still, as the CPS has recently argued, a problem for the Prime Minister. I'll have more to say on this shortly.


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