David Cameron’s speech today was directed predominantly at his party rather than the country (in contrast to Ed Miliband’s speech last week, which was the opposite).
It is remarkable that a man who has won his party’s first election in thirteen years only five months ago felt the need to fawn to his party so obviously. Ingratiating himself to the room through references to party darlings Pickles and Osborne was a plea for easy applause. Nostalgia, nationalist tub-thumping and attacks on Labour followed to inspire the crowd in the room, rather than the audience at home. The wink and a nudge to the eurosceptic right was calculated to say “I’m one of you”. The torturous attempt at a football joke that suggested Cameron isn’t entirely comfortable with sporting lingo was an attempt to be ‘just a normal guy’.
But more importantly in this speech weighed down with anecdotes, there was a glimpse of a future from the Tories, and the first real sight of a Tory end-game for this parliament.
Cameron talked about the ways in which the money spent on servicing the debt could otherwise be used. Here was an opprtunity to provide a list of big Tory ideas – ways in which an intelligent use of a future windfall could benefit the British people, or rebuild the communities that will be shattered by years of savage cuts. Instead, Cameron talked of the millions of people who could benefit from tax cuts (a nod towards a pre-election giveaway), and perhaps more importantly, lifting all businesses out of corporation tax. This may be a different Tory Party, but there economics are the same, and so is their end game – small state, low-taxes and little interest in high-quality, well-funded public services.
What we’ve seen here is a brief, perhaps unguarded look into the future, and into the psyche of Cameron and his team. When it comes to the Big Society that he hopes will come after the big cut – it’ll be tax cuts for businesses – rather than investment in public spending – that we can expect. These aren’t cuts in the national interest, these are cuts in the ideological interest. That’s the real story of Cameron’s speech today.