David Cameron reveals his inner Tory

David Cameron speaking at Conservative conference 2012 David Cameron says he's no "cartoon Conservative"

The general election may be three years away but David Cameron has begun his campaign. He used his conference speech to set out explicitly what he called the battle lines for the election and they run a little like this:

Labour, he claims, do not understand how serious the global economic situation is; the Conservatives do. They accept that the economy is worse than expected, and it will take longer to fix than planned. But progress is being made.

The government is trying to fix the economy not just by cutting the deficit, and eventually debt, but also by trying to get the economy into the right shape so it can compete internationally. That means simplifying planning laws so firms find it easier to build. That means creating more free schools and academies so that there is a better educated workforce. And that means reforming welfare so that more people are encouraged into work.

In other words, he presented an argument that tied together everything the government is doing, and the unifying theme was aspiration. He argued that by encouraging aspiration, the government could also encourage growth. And crucially he said that building what he called an "aspiration nation" was not just an economic mission, it was also a moral one. Reforming welfare, improving schools and creating jobs would help not just those who want to be better off, but it would also help others out of poverty.

And in so doing Mr Cameron revealed his inner Tory, perhaps for the first time in such clear, authentic terms Tory. For years many Conservatives have scratched their heads and wondered what makes the prime minister tick. Is he a metropolitan, liberal Conservative who hugs hoodies and huskies? Or is he a rural, right-wing Conservative with traditional views on Europe and law and order?

Today the prime minister's answer was that he may be an old Etonian from Berkshire with a stockbroker for a father, but he is not on the side of the better off, he is on the side of those who want to be better off. He is not a "cartoon Conservative" who does not care, but a compassionate Conservative who supports anyone who aspires to get on. In his most telling phrase, he said: "I am not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it."

Mr Cameron claimed that Labour, by contrast, did not get how serious the situation was. He talked of hard truths and painful decisions, a grave moment and an hour of reckoning, a serious risk that Britain might not remain a major industrial country. Labour, he said, was a party not of one nation, but of one notion, namely borrowing more to try to stimulate the economy, a notion that the prime minister claimed was a massive gamble that would lead to higher interest rates.

So, thus Mr Cameron's argument. A few thoughts in response:

1. It is extraordinary that seven years into the leadership of the Conservatives Mr Cameron is still having to define himself and tell his party what he is about. The world has certainly changed substantially since 2005 and he has had to change with it - no more sunshine winning the day and sharing the proceeds of growth - but it is still noteworthy that he felt the need to explain himself once again.

2. One answer to the point above is that he chose to define himself again because his opponents have spent so much time claiming he was an out of touch old Etonian who was favouring his rich friends with tax cuts. To that end, it was interesting that a substantial part of his speech was a rebuff to Labour's attacks last week.

3. A clear part of the Tories' strategy now will be not just to remind voters of the economic legacy they were left by Labour, but also to remind them of how serious the global situation is. Tory aides fear that many voters have forgotten just what is going on in Europe and elsewhere. They need to do this so that they can have the space to argue that a vote for Labour is more of a risky prospect. In other words, always keep a hold of nurse for fear of finding something worse.

4. This was a speech notable for its absences. Nothing on the coalition, nothing on police and crime; Europe, health and the environment barely touched on. Much of the redder meat - such as spending cuts and bashing burglars - had been left to other ministers earlier in the week. This cleared the way for Mr Cameron to focus on his positive, aspirational Toryism.

5. The bottom line is this. David Cameron today made a strong argument about how he thinks he can make the country more competitive. His conference slogan was "Britain can deliver". The question now is whether his government can deliver? The planning reforms will take some time to kick in, there are many schools that are not yet academies and the welfare reforms are very much a work in progress.

So Mr Cameron has an argument. The test is whether he can make it happen.

James Landale Article written by James Landale James Landale Deputy political editor

Could UK politics go a little bit Swedish?

BBC deputy political editor James Landale looks at whether a minority government could be held to ransom if a party like UKIP had the balance of power.

Read full article

More on This Story


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Dave M @ 41
    "The Tories are campaigning for a smaller state" = Cuts to Teaching Staff, Police, Armed Forces, Probation Officers etc
    "a more competitive work force", = lower wages for people already needing state support just to live.
    "less regulation and a reduction in benefits" = scrap health and safety, slash incomes of the poorest.

    "This will create long term growth" Open your eyes Dave!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    It is striking that, 7yrs on, Cameron's still trying to tell people what he believes. He may well be a decent chap, fairly normal and certainly witty.
    But his driving compulsion is power - getting it and keeping it. He has no grasp of why the underclass exist, or what it is like to try to escape from it. Like the girl in the song "Common people": he wants to be like us, but it's impossible.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Like Cameron or not, he is bang-on to highlight the depth of the economic crisis....it is a massive problem which most people dont comprehend and are still living beyond their means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Mary C
    1 Hour ago

    Privilege means that you are given an unfair advantage over others; by its very nature it cannot be spread out. The whole idea is nonsense."

    Oh yes it can - if you are in the same gang - how do you think he and Cleggers got their first jobs? His very rich Mother-In-Law got him his one & only job!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.


    Very average speech.

    BUT...better than Ed or Nick.

    Best of a bad bunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    I still don't understand how people can think Gove's education policies will produce 'a better educated workforce'. It would be hard to think of policies more calculated to lower the educational standards of the UK than Gove's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    @38. What an odd analogy.
    I would have thought cutting a deficit is more akin to cutting alcohol from an alcoholic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Nice Speech! Touching about his son and father, i think he might need some special help in coping with the lost as it's showing with disabled people working not claiming.
    For the damage and respect lost from last years riots he chooses to punish 16-24 year old's also the family's of those by cuts to benefits.
    He hates the Rich Poor debate but try's to widen it.
    I think he really needs Help!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Well thanks to him we are certainly an "AsprinNation" now - a headache we may never recover from.
    He is the problem - not the solution. He forgets he has caused the dark clouds, with his Bullingdon Club pals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The Tories are campaigning for a smaller state, a more competitive work force, less regulation and a reduction in benefits. This will create long term growth and prosperity. Labour say none of this is needed if we just spend. This will reduce short term pain at the expense of future generations and medium term collapse. I just hope people see it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I couldn't agree more with 'sailorman21'. I am disgusted with the Labour party right now, they seem to resent anybody who wants to do well for themselves but they seem happy for the likes of Tony Blair to pay well under 40 % tax on his £13 odd million of income last year. Champagne socialism!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    No34 Lawrence,
    Were they spending more to bailout the 'socially useless bankers' and avoid financial meltdown?
    'It affects everyone' it certainly does, an estimated 8-10,000 are to receive £40,000 each year in tax cuts for their sterling efforts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    #26. Marjay, very soon now, the markets, like the IMFhas just done, will realise that trying to cure a migraine by slashing your throat is not going to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    It's so boring to hear comments on here banging on about Cameron's elitism. What on is wrong with coming from a well off background and being well educated? The greatest time your country's history reflected leaders of similar ilk. Your sporting achievements similarly this year which were impressive came from many with similar backgrounds. It's just petty jealousy bleating about elitism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.


    The last two Labour leaders oozed it and Balls is just a clone of Brown and Ed just a poor clone of his brother. Bring back Tony Blair, I forgot he is too busy making money on the Republican circuit in the USA and doing out his Mansion. One question to ask WANAITT, can you show me a poor labour mp?
    So don't think I am off to place my vote for Balls and Milliband.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Love it, a speech about the need to work hard and aspire to better things gets the left out in force again. Find it genuinely frustrating that we have a whole generation who expect something for nothing thanks to the last government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Let's be totally honest: if someone in your family spends more money than you all take in, then someone, or all of you, have to tighten your belts and pay it off. It affects everyone in that family. And that is the place we find ourselves in since 2007 in this country. There was a collapse in the banking system worldwide, so why oh why did our then Government keep spending more and more?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    The difference for me is this:
    Both labour and tories are "for people who want to be better off". The difference is that the tories believe you have to work to be better off, labour don't. I, for one, am sick and tired of labour taking my hard earned money and giving it away to people who do "sweet fa" for themselves or the country as a whole. Benefits should be a safety net (only).

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    An Oscar winning performance from Flashman in the Crimson Tide. Forgetting that this is the man who gave us Flashman's Carta (in case Letterman asks: Bully's Charter) increased job insecurity, then wants workers to trade in their Lawful Rights at work for £2k, at a time when bullying at work is rampant - people turning up to work even when ill. Can we do whip round and give him a few bob to leave

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Conservatives are at least being honest - more cuts are required. Labour seem to think spending yet more cash will fix the mess they, yes they (by not regulating, spending in the good times instead of saving for the bad, selling to gold at all time low price) made.
    Within a year, Labour will be forced to confirm that every single cut proposed by Conservatives & already made will NOT be reversed.


Page 8 of 10



  • Mukesh SinghNo remorse

    Delhi bus rapist says victim shouldn't have fought back

  • Aimen DeanI spied

    The founder member of al-Qaeda who worked for MI6

  • Before and after shotsPerfect body

    Just how reliable are 'before and after' photos?

  • Lotus 97T driven by Elio de AngelisBeen and Gone

    A champion F1 designer and other notable losses

  • A poster of Boris Nemtsov at a rally in St Petersburg, Russia, 1 MarchWho killed Nemtsov?

    Theories abound over murder that shocked Moscow

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.