This is solely an analysis of the conference speech made by David Cameron. And, in a nutshell, it was presidential. I should begin, as previously, with a health and safety warning. This isn’t political analysis. I write without baggage.
His context is a fast-changing political scene. His weakness is a party appearing not to be ‘in it together’. His strength is to be considered more prime-ministerial than any rival.
And his speech did two very simple things:
He stressed the Tory ability to be inclusive, and he spoke like a leader.
David Cameron: Being Prime Ministerial
This was demonstrated in a number of ways. Some subtle. Some less so.
– Starting by gushing that he was proud to be prime minister of four nations
– Best moment of his year was celebrating the anniversary of D-Day
– The Union Jack stands for freedom and justice.
– The warm but jocular references to colleagues (particularly William Hague)
– Standing behind a White-House style lectern. It may not be as flash as striding around the arena with no notes (as he has done successfully in the past), but it looks and feels like a leader who is too busy to learn his speech by heart.
– The venue worked in his favour. An audience banked on three sides. A hall with some history and character. Not so easy to see on the TV, but a great speech can be augmented by a great venue.
As importantly, his speech was built around a vision. We may or may not believe in it, but he stuck to it.
It was based around a vision of people working hard, and being rewarded for it. And his polices were presented as a means to that end.
In the process, he was able to hit a number of important policy areas and details on Labour ground.
These included the minimum wage, zero hours contracts and the lowest rates of tax – all of which were included on the Union agenda at the TUC conference.
Again, not rocket science, but whereas Ed Miliband’s speech was based around ‘Together’ (an approach), Cameron’s was based around a target. From a speech perspective, it creates an end to work towards and that’s a winner.
Finally, the speech worked because it was well structured. It ticked all five of my suggestions to take a speech to the next level. The various parts linked smoothly from one point to the next. Sections were clear – with the exception of foreign policy which was split with EU at the end
Cameron also spoke with conviction …
… with pauses …
… and with PASSION at appropriate moments.
And he finished by reminding us of the key points – with an appropriate level of detail. And a half decent joke about Farage and Miliband.
Politics aside, it wasn’t flawless.
It was too long. By at least 15 minutes.
He started by refusing to mention the opposition by name. This was Prime Ministerial and mature. But as the speech progressed, he jumped into personal attacks on Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Tristram Hunt. He was clearly targeting the audience within the room, but the speech suddenly became more parochial.
The references to 140 characters on Twitter and Channel 4 property shows sounded contrived.
In short, my immediate reaction contains nothing new. David Cameron is a polished and powerful public speaker. This was a well-written, well-constructed and well-delivered speech. But it won’t win an election on its own.