Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Conference speechwatch number 3 - David Cameron

I spent the afternoon in a small studio at Sky News, commenting live on David Cameron's speech to the Tory party conference.

It was a much longer speech than those from the other two party leaders, with a different tone. Clearly, the financial turmoil had to be addressed, and he paid it due attention, in a very sober opening passage. The story had been put about that the speech had been hastily re-written in the last 24 hours (which may be true, but the same story is "leaked", every year, about every party leader's speech).

It was a speech designed to present David Cameron as a Prime Minister in waiting. He used the term "prime minister" several times, as a "dog whistle" (subliminal message) to potential supporters. The main theme of the speech was "responsibility", and I lost count of the number of times the word was used. the staging of the event was markedly different from last year - a larger hall, the shadow cabinet on stage (he was bracketed by Hague and Osborne, who looked rather serious throughout), and a static Cameron, with his speech in note form on a lectern.

The "memorised speech" of last year was probably deemed to lack the gravitas required. In fact, last year's speech was also from notes, but the camera cutaways to the applauding audience took place as he consulted his notes. The big difference was staying in one spot. Personally, I think Cameron is more effective on the move, but his advisors clearly thought otherwise.

I think he was stung by Gordon Brown's jibe about being a "novice". He was at pains to point out that "experience often means doing the same things". Of course, that isn't true, but it helped him to make the point that the Tories are about "change" - a word used about as often as "responsibility". There was an echo of Obabma in this, and I know that Cameron's speechwriters have studied the US campaign closely.

Overall, it was a low-key and somewhat defensive speech, I thought. Some of it could easily have been delivered by Tony Blair, in much the same words and tone. That's how politics is these days.

After the dust has settled, I doubt whether any of the conference speeches have altered opinion in the country very much. But no-one dropped a clanger.

The event I'm really looking forward to is Palin v Biden in the early hours of Friday morning.

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