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Wednesday, October 03, 2007 

"Well, that's it. That's what I believe."

Is it cos I is white?

If there's one thing you can't accuse David Cameron of, it's half measures. His speech wasn't just long; it was bladder pressurizingly lengthy. Delivered with only light notes, as both he and the Conservatives are crowing, it was in the region of 8,500 words of not very much. Prime example was that he just had to mention MySpace and Facebook, as every politician who wants to look vaguely "with-it" has to do, to help with a highly dubious point about having "to take what we're given" with politics, as if his entire speech wasn't an example of just that.

If anything, Cameron was taking his cue from Gordon Brown's similarly lengthy and rudderless speech last week. Both had no overall theme, a pedestrian stroll through their respective policies, without anything to draw it all together. Cameron's, if it's possible, is even more soporific; if I feel like dozing off speed reading through it, what was it like to actually sit there, in the probably stifling heat having to clap your hands together like a deranged seal every five minutes?

His real triumph, if you can call it that, was that his scattergun approach helps make it more difficult to object to the policies that were somewhat fleshed out. He rehashed the exact same things said by David Davis yesterday, for instance, but while his speech was aggravating and objectionable, Cameron has the quality to soften the blow. He still talked nonsense, obviously, like that you can't deport those responsible for gun and knife crime because of "Labour's Human Rights Act", or that Brown's speech was full of "dog whistles"; just ever so slightly rich from the man who wrote the dog whistling manifesto to end them all just 2 years ago.

Perhaps most significantly, he didn't mention inheritance tax once. The Tories' really big grab for middle class, middle England support, and he didn't cast minds back to it. Either this was because he felt he didn't need to, after the banner headlines, or that he wanted to be this person who is still all things to all men, rather than this tax-cutting, middle class subsidising traditional Tory pressing all the familiar buttons, just with a green tinge. Families were the biggest nod towards that front: 10 mentions, whether as the best welfare system or as the justification for ending the (non-existent) benefits bias towards single parents. Those who really don't need it are still going to get the equivalent of £20 a week simply for being married, a bribe of the sort that New Labour, for all its failed policies and quirks has never been as blatant to attempt.

Truly offensive and a hark back to the old nasty Tory party though was Cameron's promise that those on benefits who refuse a job "that they can do" will lose their money, while the ever wonderful private and voluntary sector will provide such brilliant jobs that no one ever will. We're talking about some of the most vulnerable, sick and depressed people in our society having their umbilical cord cut simply if they reject a job they don't feel up to or simply aren't suited for. So much for the broken society, but then those who might lose out are never going to vote Conservative anyway.

This wasn't an election winning speech, and Cameron never intended it to be so. It was a further attempt to mould him as this acceptable, friendly face of the Conservative party, an alternative to Gordon Brown, but without pretending to be anything like him, even if the vast majority of their policies are so similar that you couldn't get a cigarette paper between them. It was enough, and they'll now see what the wider response is. The real battle, if Brown is to risk an election as Cameron dared him to, is still yet to come.

Related posts:
Tygerland - More of the Same
Chicken Yogurt - Re-branding the herd
John Harris - Not Dave-ing, but drowning

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Seeing that picture brings one word to mind "Booyakasha"!

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