Thursday 7 October 2010

Why Cameron's speech was important

There was something rather strange about David Cameron's leader's speech yesterday, and I have been trying to put my finger on it.  It was partly the slightly strained delivery, partly the muted response from the audience.  It was partly peculiar because he was talking about the involvement of ordinary people to an audience which, arguably, rarely meets them. 

But I've slept on the question and I think I have the answer, and this explains why the enthusiasm might not have been there for the Conservatives who were actually listened.  The reason was that Cameron was giving a Liberal speech and not a Conservative one.

Yes, of course there were things in there which would only be in a Conservative speech (encouraging marriage for example).  There are endless sentences you could take out of context which are obviously Conservative.  But overall, with the repetition of 'fairness' and the pupil premium and so much else, the context was Liberal.  No wonder the audience was not quite sure about it.

Perhaps most Liberal, actually, were the implications for the Big Society and the Kennedy-esque request for help.  We Lib Dems might not have put it quite like that, but if I had been writing that speech for a Liberal prime minister, that is what I would have said too.  The old days when politicians claimed the exclusive right to deliver everything to a grateful and passive society are over.  They can't do it alone any more, if indeed they ever could.

That is Liberalism. 

What interests me about it is why.  Nobody forced Cameron to make a Liberal speech.  There was no pressure to do so.  It wasn't as if Clegg had made a Conservative speech at his conference (though perhaps some people might say he did).  Of course we are yet to face the cuts avalanche, and things may look different then - it clearly is not yet a Liberal government, after all.  But something is going on, and I hardly dare articulate what I think it is.


Anonymous said...

Hi, great post and something close to my recent thoughts on Cameron. I have a thought though about your question. I think he has pounced on an idea which is bubbling, which I think is an inevitability. A move to more collaborative government. It is happening all over the world in different ways. I have been writing about these changes and I think he has seen them. I think he sees no choice but to position the Tories in this area as if he does not do it now, no one will believe them when they pick these ideas up, as these are not conservative ideas. I wrote this which explains it better: amongst others but I won't put loads of links up here.

David Boyle said...

I very much agree. Hence the muted response from the Conservatives in the hall.

Liberal Eye said...

Yes indeed. Cameron seems to have been remarkably apolitical as a student. Did he join the Conservatives because that's what you do if you come from his class and background? I think so.

But he is an intelligent man and as he's had to get to grips with policy as an MP he moved Liberal-wards for the simple reason that traditional Tory nostrums are a busted flush and he's gradually worked it out.

This leaves him inhabiting the Con/LD borderlands which is, of course, where Clegg also lives. It's not surprising they get on.

However congenial that may seem to some Liberals it still leaves us with a big problem. For the LDs have spend the last 20 years trying desperately to triangulate themselves into a comfortable niche in the existing landscape and have neglected the heavy lifting of developing a new and fully liberal economic paradigm.

Now that the old economic paradigm introduced by Thatcher has brought us to crisis we desperately need a new one but the Party hierarchy is now overwhelmed by 'events'.

What can we do?