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Jane Merrick

Jane Merrick is the Political Editor of the Independent on Sunday. She has been a political journalist for seven years, previously working at the Press Association and the Daily Mail

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Cameron: the magic many were expecting was not there

Posted by Jane Merrick
  • Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 04:02 pm

The reaction to David Cameron's speech is mixed, but I haven't heard anyone say it was his greatest, or say they were swept away by his oration.
But were we supposed to be? Would a passionate belter of a speech fitted with the theme of the week, not to be complacent or triumphalist? No. But the audience beforehand was pumped up, there was a "best bits" film at the start (including a clip from his stellar 2005 leadership bid - perhaps they should have run the whole tape instead).
The expectation in the Manchester Central conference hall was high, and Cameron's speech fell short. Cameron is good orator, usually, so we can only think the low-key approach was deliberate. And yet, this was the moment that we were supposed to see the Prime Minister-in-waiting, and some will feel they are still waiting. 
Aides say there was a deliberate build-up, and yes, there was a flicker of passion was the final section - the stuff about "I see a country". There was a good section on crime, and the NHS - that it should not be a machine - and on telling us how Blair wasted his mandate and how Brown is messing up. Some of it was convincing.

But other sections were stodgy. He sounded rather exhausted. And some bits were just downright unconvincing. The most ill-advised line was "I want every child to have the chances that I had." Yes, we realise he doesn't literally mean go to Eton. But it reminded people of his charmed childhood. Cameron shouldn't be afraid to discuss Eton, but he could have put it better.

There were contradictions - attacking big government, while setting out a vision of the home and family life he thinks Britons should have. And I am not convinced by being told, day in day out, that we are living in a broken society, because this is simply not true. So it was good that, as well as repeating his broken Britain theme, he acknowledged that in 2009, this country is "in so many ways, a great place to live". Finally.

This speech is not going to change the political landscape - he looks set fair to win in 2010 anyway. But the magic many were expecting was just not there.


Fairy dust
paulstpancras wrote:
Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 04:05 pm (UTC)
Quite agree! Pedestrian, dull, uninspiring and lacking in any sense of responsibility or leadership or vision.

Trust me I'm a politician.

Trust me I'm Blair Mark II.

Trust me I'm not Gordon

erm ..... What a blown opportunity, chaos on Europe, no different to Labour on welfare, employment, health ..... but on housing we will remove security of tenure frow millions of elderly, disabled and poor in housing
Re: Fairy dust
hurstgreen wrote:
Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 06:17 pm (UTC)
I thought it wasn't his finest in terms of energy but the whole subject of his son seemed to be playing heavily on him. It didn't look contrived and if that is the case then it's highly understandable. However, he made a lot of very good points, did a lot to emphasize the need to address poorer sections of society abandoned by Blair and by Brown, did a lot to show what a bureaucratic, restrictive state we are now living in and he laid out a vision of his values that should play well to the floating voter while highlighting the real difficulties this country now has. How Jane Merrick can argue that this isn't a broken society given teenage pregnancies, violent crime, drink, drugs, poverty, education and health being substantially more problematic than suffered by our European cousins, I don't know. She obviously hasn't been into the centre of Nottingham on a Friday night, been into the Wexham Park Hospital on a Saturday evening to see a failing hospital, not been told by a policeman that the local force can't come to look at your burglary because they're too busy, not been to Wormwood Scrubs and looked at the overcrowded conditions, not walked down the Holloway Road and been mugged and watched the drug addicts walk past, not walked past the graveyard of the farmers killing themselves because their livelihoods are being systematically destroyed, not had the local council come snooping round to search her house on some false pretext that has nothing to do with terrorism, not seen the curricula that the schools are teaching, etc. etc. etc. This country's become a disaster. I liked Cameron's messages and I think many floating voters will too. Not all. But many. Initial YouGov response looks consistent with that but it's always difficult to judge. Anyway, having seen Clegg two weeks ago, Broon last week and Cameron today, I don't think any were classics but Cameron was the best by a few lengths and, unlike the PM, he seems to have integrity whilst being pragmatic. You need both to be a good PM. Brown has no integrity, he isn't pragmatic and he's the worst Prime Minister since Tony Blair.
Mr Cameron's speech
tedthedog wrote:
Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 07:10 pm (UTC)
Re the comment- "I want every child to have the chances that I had." Yes, we realise he doesn't literally mean go to Eton.

Well of course he didn't mean Eton. I have the same wish - and I came from a family in S Yorks whose income was less than £6 per week at th end of WW2.


Not particularly wonderful teaching, but an atmosphere of learning and sporting excellence, with the general discipline which is needed for these things to flourish.
Yes, I wish every child had the chance that I had. And that's what Cameron meant.
Labour or Lavatories = Cancer or Cholera. The choice is
stanleycorbett wrote:
Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 09:20 pm (UTC)

Not much of a choice for poor British people who keep being ripped off by one government after another.... and they love being humiliated. They believe anything they see on TV.
Or perhaps it was deliberate?
m1chaels wrote:
Thursday, 8 October 2009 at 10:04 pm (UTC)
The Tories fear is that Cam is seen as Tony Blair lite and the country has had its fill of spin over substance and messianic speaking and so the delivery was deliberately dull and technocratic, moving closer to Brown so as not to leave room to be attacked...
leedsman wrote:
Wednesday, 2 December 2009 at 12:04 pm (UTC)
I think Cameron's getting a bit wobbly of late. It seems hard to believe that he can't quite seem to take advantage of the open goals the Govt. has left lying around (although partly that's down to his earlier misjudgements in supporting the broad thrust of tax/spend).

I know this post is old, but I was reminded of it when Cameron was making his "elf 'n' safety" speech last night. It just seems a bit... clunky. I suppose in a sense, we'll only really see his true colours when he's PM. If he carries on like this though, he's going to be working with a small minority...
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