…but only posting it all afterwards. Because let’s face it, nobody is going to come here for their coverage of David Cameron’s speech (I hope they’re not, anyway).
Here is what I thought, in the order I thought it:
14:15 – They don’t seem very good at recognising where they’re meant to clap.
14:16 – Communism. Is that really the point any more?
14:17 – Women candidates; fair enough.
14:18 – “I didn’t do that, you did that, and you should be proud of what you’ve done.” Bored with this catchphrase now. Apart from anything else, most of the things he referred to had quite a lot to do with him.
14:19 – Loud applause for Sayeeda Warsi. What a surprise.
14:19 – “A force to be reckoned with in every part of our country” (except the north, Scotland, the west, Sedgefield and Ealing Southall).
14:20 – Is he trying to trump Gordon Brown in his use of the word “change”? It’s just as well there’s an election now. Come next year, Cameron and Brown might well have got up on stage and simply repeated the word “change” for an hour.
14:22 – EU law makes British jobs for British people illegal, apparently. You learn something every day.
14:24 – He is actually quite strong on Brown’s faults, now he has something to go on. It’s so much more convincing than the “roadblock to reform” or the “clunking fist” stuff.
14:24 – “I am by nature an optimist”. It’s not quite “let sunshine win the day”, is it?
14:26 – He’s not very well lit, really. Sorry, theatre techie thoughts creeping in.
14:30 – “Tear up the rules”. Again.
14:31 – Abolish regional assemblies. Power back to local councils. This sounds familiar…
14:32 – The Big British Castle have highlighted a quote I missed: “Our democracy is still in the dark ages”, apparently. Pity no mention of electoral reform, then.
14:33 – “Sharing the proceeds of growth”; presumably no proceeds of growth to be given to the effort to come up with a better soundbite on tax than this one?
14:34 – There seems to be an awful lot of Redwood in here. I wonder if there will be as much Goldsmith-Gummer?
14:35 – Cameron wants all his kids to go through the state sector, he says. I do hope he breaks that.
14:37 – Choice, diversity and innovation. Academies. Churches, voluntary bodies, charities, etc, to be invited into the state sector. I feel queasy.
14:38 – “Action on standards now”. Meaning what?
14:38 – Cameron admits cosy consensus on education: “Ed Balls gave a speech the other day that I could have given myself”.
14:41 – “Appeals panels have got to go”. Not sure about this. It does sometimes happen that a school, even an individual teacher, just takes a dislike to a pupil, and their behaviour spirals downwards from there. In such a situation, I would think it wise of their parents to go elsewhere if possible, but if they feel it best for their child to fight their corner to remain there, and they have a legitimate grievance to take to an appeals panel, why shouldn’t they?
14:42 – “George showed how we’re going to cut stamp duty”. No he didn’t. He asserted that it could be done by a highly dubious looking “seemingly voluntary” tax on non-domicile tax status.
14:45 – “Sometimes globalisation can increase inequalities within a country…freedom is not enough…make society more responsible.” Sounded encouraging in identifying problems, but unless he means some serious legislation to make corporate citizens more responsible, I don’t see how his prescription of “stronger families, more responsible society” is really going to provide a solution for the hypothetical mother halfway up a tower block he cites.
14: 47 – “Treat people like statistics, rather than human beings”. [PAUSE FOR APPLAUSE…. APPLAUSE DOESN’T COME]
14:48 – We can copy Wisconsin! Excellent idea. I’m pretty sure we must be fairly analogous to Wisconsin in most respects, right?
14:48 – We will ask charities to run this stuff for us. So once they are co-opted into the state’s work, are they still charities? How do we demand accountability of them? Unless he means simply abdicating the state’s responsibilities, and leaving it to charities. Which sounds a lot like pretty hard-right stuff to me. Also, it’s not as if charities don’t already get a fair amount of funding, in the areas they are useful. Don’t know I would want to go to a school run by a charity, though.
14:49 – “The best welfare system in the world: it’s called the family”. Is it bollocks. If you come from a poor family, or your parents are unemployed, then how the hell is your family going to be able to help more than the state? And more to the point, why the hell is it desirable that they do so? This is a fluffier version of “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”.
14:51 – “Using the benefit system to drive people apart rather than bring them together.” Yes. That is exactly what we are doing. Recognising the financial benefits of cohabitation equals trying to drive cohabitees apart. OK. Fine.
14:52 – “Time is the most precious commodity of all”. OK. Right to flexible working. I think we passed something like that at our conference the other week, didn’t we? Except that, since we are the sensible party on the economy, we recognised that a straightforward “right” to flexible working could cripple small businesses, so we made it merely a right to request it, and therefore make your employer at least tell you why you can’t have it!
14:54 – Nice little bit about “throughput and output and patient episodes and all that”.
14:55 – An awful lot of NHS, actually. It seems like the NHS has replaced the environment as his totemic fluffy policy. I have heard barely a mention of the environment yet, actually. The one time he did mention it, he felt the need to weaken it by making clear he didn’t “just” mean climate change, but also litter, which he then majored on.
14:57 – “Allowing GPs to choose between whatever hospitals they like”. Sounds a lot like patient passport, to me.
14:58 – Fighting for district general hospitals. Really? Personally, I think we do need to strongly reconfigure the NHS, and a lot of what we can learn from places like Cuba is that lots of basic, local health services are often more helpful than big, “all under one roof” hospitals. Cottage hospitals, anyone? It’s so easy, as a conservative, to simply oppose all change. Of course, that doesn’t mean no one should oppose these changes when the replacement for these services is inadequate.
15:00 – The new world order is “not going to happen”. Interesting comment.
15:02 – Proud of his support for renewing Trident. Boo!
15:04 – Chooses to talk only about the bravery of our soldiers in Afghanistan. No real mention of Iraq.
15:05 – Accusing Labour of breaking the military covenant. Good.
15:06 – Interestingly strong support for tweaking the rules on giving soldiers leave.
15:06 – Returning to the theme of hospitals for the third (?) time this speech, to touch on separate military wards. I can’t say it would be uppermost in my mind if I had been wounded, but there you go.
15:07 – “Realistic and not utopian” foreign policy; a fairly strong slap in the face to neoconservatism and the Iraq war, but still no mention of the actual word “Iraq”, despite it being the clear meaning of his pledge to make Afghanistan his “number one priority”. Why is the word “Iraq” so apparently toxic to him?
15:10 – Now we’re onto the dodgy dossier, and still he won’t name the war he’s talking about.
15:10 – Banning Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Sigh. There are two possible stances on free speech…
15:12 – Finally! Green-ness.
15:13 – “The party of sensible green leadership”. OK. Announce some policy then. Oh, that’s right, you can’t, your party would kill you if you did anything much more than witter about litter.
15:14 – Broken society guff. Like Ming said, it is simply ludicrous to infer from a few dreadful incidents that our society is “broken”. What does that even mean?
15:15 – Also: I make that about 2 minutes of green-ness. Compared to about ten of Vulcanism peppered throughout. So I guess we know who won that internal struggle.
15:15 – “Beat-based zero-tolerance policing that everyone wants to see in their neighbourhood.” I don’t know I do, actually…
15:17 – “I’m not advocating a return to national service”. Thank goodness for that, it sounded a lot like it for a minute there.
15:18 – Er.. what is national citizens service exactly? Cuz it sounds a lot from what you just said like it’s… boxing. Um?
15:18 – Time-filling: “I have told you this….”. I know. I was watching you.
15:19 – “I went to a fantastic school, and I’m not embarrassed about that.” Name it then.
15:20 – I want to tell you about my mum… Fuck’s sake. You wouldn’t find Ming doing this.
15:22 – Election posturing. Quite well done.
15:22 – “Who’s really making the arguments on the changes that need making in our country?” The Lib Dems, naturally.
15:23 – “We will fight, Britain will win”. Bit of a hostage to fortune there?
And that’s it. Not a single mention of the word Iraq. Very little environment. Very solid on conservative territory, but not going to convince many others, I don’t think.
The audience didn’t really seem to know how to react to it either. The applause was hesitant and relatively infrequent, or so it felt to me; I suspect because everything about the wider context of the speech would imply that it should be a barnstorming election rally, when in fact it was much more thoughtful and content-heavy than that would suggest.
Anyway, not a speech that’s going to set the world on fire, and certainly not one that would lure many Lib Dem voters. Brown is wrapping himself in Tory colours, Cameron targeting Labour (we weren’t even mentioned). Never has the cosy consensus seemed more obvious to me than after following this conference season.