Today was David Cameron’s big set-piece speech at the Tory spring conference. After several weeks of ever-reducing poll leads, this was his chance to change strategy from Gordon Brown is bad to something different. Something that, you know, works. This was the opportunity to sell his vision of Tory government.
Firstly, Cameron once more gave his speech without autocue or invisible screeny things. It’s an impressive feat of memory, for sure, and shows he’s a consummate actor. But it doesn’t make me think he can run a country. Nonetheless, from a presentational point of view it was a good speech. Not his best, but certainly not bad. The problem isn’t presentation, it’s content.
He did the traditional thanking of his shadow cabinet and name-dropped a few MPs and candidates from minorities, including Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones who campaigned from the back of a horse, and then moved on to his theme. Change. Change is required because, you guessed it, Gordon Brown is bad. Cameron threw away a golden opportunity to tell the public what a Tory government would do and stuck with the same old line. He told his audience about all the things he thought were wrong with the country, but failed massively to say how a government led by him would fix these problems. He did take time to admit to being a salesman, though.
Gordon Brown sometimes says that I’m a bit of a salesman. And do you know what? I plead guilty.
Then he continued with more on his goal of change, which bothers me because change can’t be a goal. Change is a process leading to some defined goal, not a goal in itself. There follow a host of platitudes we’ve all heard before from Cameron about what we could expect from him which didn’t actually tell us what he was going to do, or how he intended to do it. No big policy statement, no game-changer. It was all more of the same and very mundane for it.
But the thing I objected to most in this speech wasn’t the attacks on Labour policies. It wasn’t the lack of substance. That’s nothing new after all. What bothered me most was the following phrase:
[This] is an election we have to win because our country is in a complete mess, and it is our patriotic duty to turn it around.
It’s patriotic to vote Conservative, and put Cameron in power. Therefore, according to David’s logic, it must be unpatriotic to vote any other way. Labour supporters, activists and politicians must be unpatriotic. Patriotism is defined as ‘(noun) devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country.’ Now, I’m not jingoistic or obsessed with nationalist politics, but I consider myself patriotic. I like Britain. I love the people, the mix of cultures, the countryside, the cities, the quirkiness. And I like to think I want the best for Britain. So for Cameron to suggest we’re not patriotic because we choose a future fair for all over change for the sake of it, is insulting to say the least.