Begging for more
Like an ad-libbing actor, David Cameron meandered across the stage at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
No written text. No cue cards or teleprompter. And no strutting, no overblown oratory.
Was it good? It was, rather.
The wicked elf that resides within me occasionally thought of the old political counsel: “The key is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”
But, casting the internal elf aside, I was mostly impressed. As an opposition leader, just how do you deal with an apparently popular government and a new prime minister?
Satirical comedy won’t work. Your audience in the hall love it, the audience at home hate it.
Tragic bleating doesn’t do it. Pretending your opponents are the embodiment of all evil is bogus - and the voters know it.
So David Cameron tried empathy.
Labour ministers were, generally, honourable. They were well-intentioned, for the most part.
The snag is their policies, for example on poverty, hadn’t worked. Tories would do better.
Of course, it wasn’t all just cuddly and warm.
Mr Cameron needed applause in the hall - so he offered the audience some classic red Tory meat. Discipline in schools, curbs on immigration, support the troops, scrap benefits for those who won’t take reasonable offers of work.
At one point, he talked nostalgically of National Service.
A few representatives sat forward in eager anticipation. He wouldn’t, would he? No, he was talking of citizens service, urging teenagers to help with social projects.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about dog-whistle politics - targeted messages which focus upon the core concerns of the party faithful. Well, he whistled - and they begged for more.
Does it make an early General Election more or less likely? Still no firm decision - but now looks inevitable.
Does it make the outcome more or less predictable? Not in itself, but at least this week in Blackpool the Tories stayed united and advanced policies, for example on inheritance tax, which could win votes if they can withstand criticism from rivals.