What do you mean, David Cameron's the prime minister and has been for the last two and a half years? How can he possibly be? How can you have been in power for that period of time and still be blaming every single problem you face on either the previous government or on other outside forces apparently conspiring against you? How can someone who praises the virtues of taking responsibility be so completely unwilling to accept it himself? How can someone with such intellect be so wilfully obtuse? Or is it that intellect, that apparent belief that all you need to do is aspire and work hard and you'll achieve greatness, in the face of all the evidence that it is still overwhelmingly privilege or lack of it that defines where you'll end up in life, that makes Cameron such a dull boy?
To get away from answering my own questions for a second, we should give Cameron some credit. Most party leaders lay off the blatant untruths until they're at least a tenth of the way through their conference speech. Not Cameron: 60 words in and he claims that he came into office with the challenge of making an insolvent country solvent again. Now, you can play around with what the true definition of insolvent is, but by most reasonable measures we are not and were not insolvent: even if we class insolvent as needing a bail-out, we have not needed one, and would not have needed one regardless of which party won the election. As pointed out yesterday, George Osborne is now thanks to his superb management of the economy going to eliminate the deficit later than Alistair Darling planned to. Despite this, the markets have not decided we can't pay our way in the same way they have Spain or Greece. Half-way through the current parliament, it really is about time that the coalition dropped the act that it's thanks to them we've avoid bankruptcy.
Not that this is even close to crucial when neither George Osborne or David Cameron can bring themselves to admit that there has been no economic growth for the past nine months. The word recession has not so much has crossed their lips. Instead Cameron can't "tell us that all is well"; all he can say is that "the damage was worse than we thought, and it's taking longer than we hoped". All our woes were placed squarely on the Eurozone crisis, down to how Ireland, Spain and Italy aren't buying as much from us as before. As for who got us in this mess, it was Labour. Yes, it was Gordon Brown who personally and purposefully crashed the economy. It wasn't anything to do with the popping of a bubble that politicians of all parties and stripes encouraged, or the sub-prime crisis in America, or the neoliberalism of the past 30 years finally collapsing under its own contradictions, it was Labour. Labour, Labour, Labour.
And now what do Labour propose, even though they shouldn't be so much as allowed to continue to exist as a party considering what they did to us all? They want us to borrow more. It's their solution to everything. It doesn't of course matter that the coalition is borrowing far more than it planned because of the unmentionable recession to pay for out of work benefits, in spite of which we still have the phenomenally low interest rates the Tories never stop raving about, if we were to so much as deviate from austerity even slightly it could mean our doom. It also doesn't matter that the high priests of austerity, the IMF, on Monday admitted they'd completely underestimated the effect of cutting government spending and that it was now really time to consider a Plan B, Cameron and Osborne know better. As for the IMF's prediction that there will be negative growth of 0.4% this year, should that be proved correct it will obviously Labour's fault as well.
When a political party is in trouble, it can do one of three things. It can change its leader, it can do a thorough analysis of where it's going wrong and why it isn't appealing to voters in the same way as it used to and act on it, or, as the Tories under Cameron are doing, they can just reprise their old tunes and hope it works. Yesterday it was murder a burglar; today from Cameron it was aspiration, aspiration, aspiration, the supposed magic ingredient that propelled Thatcher and Blair to successive terms of office once again being turned to. The problem is, most people only dream and aspire to more when they're comfortably off, when the support's there to help them realise their aims. The vast majority at the moment are struggling to make ends meet, they're not saving, they're paying off their debts. And how is the government itself trying to inspire workers? By telling them to give up their rights in exchange for shares. Truly empowering stuff.
At its heart, this was a truly with us or against us speech. Cameron portrayed everyone who disagreed with his policies as either wreckers, snobs, sneerers, scroungers, or comfortable with under achievement. The section on welfare especially was a disgrace, not just a tissue but a fabric of lies, claiming that some actively made a choice not to get on in life from their very earliest days, not bothering to try at school as they could live on the dole instead, get a free house or flat and laugh at all the strivers doing the right thing, looking in on them as the hard workers look "out of the window dreaming of a place of their own". He mentioned families claiming 40, 50 or £60,000 a year in housing benefit, when even the slightest attempt at checking found that 99% of claims are under 15k a year, with 0.0025% over 50k. And yet again there was no recognition that the overwhelming majority of new housing benefit claims are from those in work. As for the work programme and Cameron's hyping of it, it simply isn't working. But then how can it when there are simply not enough jobs out there, and when Cameron himself uses such dodgy statistics to claim that under the coalition there have already been more private sector jobs created than under 10 years of Labour?
It wasn't all bad, however. While it was nothing like the old days under Blair when almost every year saw him all but launching an attack on his own party, Cameron did all but accept it was often his own natural supporters that block new housing developments with nimby or banana attitudes, urging them to accept we need to build more.
That was though more or less it, and there were so many egregious sections that anything even slightly conciliatory was completely overwhelmed. Like giving all the credit to Theresa May for the deportation of Abu Hamza, as though it wasn't a legal process that started under the last government simply reaching its conclusion. Or hilariously claiming that the Queen is the best head of state in the world. Or telling blatant lies about the coalition's stewardship of the NHS, while not so much as mentioning the reform bill. Or not so much as mentioning the police after Plebgate, although considering the walloping every other section of the public sector received just for existing, perhaps that was a merciful decision. It wasn't then so much a flat speech as the final confirmation that Cameron hasn't adjusted to being a leader of the country rather than just a leader of a party, and we're the ones paying for it.