David Cameron’s conference address was well received by a broad coalition across both wings of the Conservative party, as the Telegraphreports. Although this has been a low-key gathering, delegates left yesterday lifted by one of the best speeches of Mr Cameron’s career in which he sought to reclaim the one nation badge from Labour. The focus on the “aspiration nation” allowed the Prime Minister to make sense of his privilege, as I wrote in my Telegraph blog:
“Where Mr Miliband tried last week to disguise the privilege that allowed him to sail from the gilded life of metropolitan academics to Oxford and beyond by parading himself as a survivor of a gritty urban comprehensive, Mr Cameron embraced his prosperous background and legitimised it.
The leaders are favourable to Mr Cameron, praising his performance while emphasising that it must be followed up by action. The Sun describes it as “seriously good”, while the Mail headline theirs as “a statesman’s speech, but now the PM must act”. The Telegraph leader takes a similar line:
“The Prime Minister’s ability to deliver a good speech has never really been in doubt. However, in too many areas he has failed to deliver policies that match the rhetoric...Mr Cameron’s message was nevertheless uncomplicated and distinctively Conservative: a belief in aspiration, hard work, decency, family and country.”
Peter Oborne goes further. Writing in today’s Telegraph, he asserts his belief that Mr Cameron has restored the Conservative claim on being the party of morality:
“He made an equally stark contrast between the culture of low expectations entrenched within the teaching unions, and Tory plans for better teaching, more rigorous exams and giving genuine opportunities to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. I have not heard Conservative arguments for social reform made with such skill and moral force since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.”
As with Mr Miliband’s speech to Labour conference, there is notable praise for Mr Cameron’s demeanour from across the spectrum. TheIndependent’s Steve Richards writes that Mr Cameron’s speech was “statesmanlike, resolute and human”, although he is likely to struggle at the next election. In the Mail, Max Hastings writes that Mr Cameron is a “decent and honest man [who will be] remembered in the same breath as Harold MacMillan [behaving as though] a gentleman should not be seen to try”. Meanwhile, in the Guardian, Jonathan Freedland writes that the Prime Minister’s speech was a reflection of how hard Ed Miliband’s resurgence has “got under the PM’s skin”:
“Proof that Labour attacks have got under the PM's skin...came in a high-risk passage in which he spelled out the criticisms one by one. ‘Tory cuts, slashing the state … cruel Tories’... Even an otherwise affecting passage on Cameron's father seemed designed to make a tacit contrast with Miliband's personal history: ‘Not a hard luck story, but a hard work story.’”
Mr Miliband himself was not impressed with Dave’s answers. Writing in theMirror he describes Dave’s vision as one in which “the wealthiest swim while working people sink”. Whatever happened to one nation Ed?
The day was not without its ironies, though. The Sun reports that George Osborne was seen quaffing champagne with an, ahem, mystery man who looks suspiciously like me, at the Spectator party the night before Mr Cameron’s speech. Then there was the speech itself. As the FT’s (£) diary notes:
“David Cameron dedicated a portion of his speech to bashing work-shy benefits claimants, including an attack on ‘the guy who’s been out of work for years, playing computer games all day, living out a fantasy because he hates real life’. It was a risky line, given the characterisation of him by some Tory backbenchers as ‘chillaxing Dave’, who spends too little time governing the country and too much playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad.”
BAE / EADS DEAL SHOT DOWN
The merger between BAE and EADS is off. Angela Merkel seems to be taking most of the heat. The Telegraphreports that the German Chancellor objected to the deal in the round, rather than being hung-up on a particular issue. EADS chairman Tom Enders wrote to employees saying he “never imagined facing such opposition to the deal, particularly not from Berlin”.A source close to negotiations told the paper:
“We knew governments would have questions but Merkel’s finite refusal has come as a surprise. It is not one issue – she didn’t like that transaction full stop.”
The FT (£) spreads the blame more broadly across the British, French and German governments. The paper cites German sources who say that wrangling between Paris and London over the size of the French stake was also responsible. While the collapse throws up the question of BAE’s future direction, particularly given spending cuts in defence on both sides of the Atlantic, many critics are relieved. In the Mail, Alex Brummer writes the collapse of talks was “all but inevitable from the day it was announced”, adding:
“Wise heads should have known from bitter experience that allowing defence companies in particular to merge with overseas firms nearly always ends in tears, with a loss of control of the business.
“And as for our pusillanimous politicians, they should hang their head in shame for even considering handing over the command of one of our most successful businesses to foreign powers.”
MITCHELL UNDER INTENSE PRESSURE
Andrew Mitchell’s future is in the balance. Number 10’s efforts to control the story have been haphazard, with MPs cheerfully explaining to the Sunthat they are banned from speaking on the topic, although they will add that Mr Mitchell has “no authority”. The Telegraph reports that his fate will be determined by a meeting with rank-and-file police officers tomorrow. The pressure is still intense. In the Mail, Stephen Glover writes that it is Thrasher’s Rwandan aid payment which should see him resign.
In his absence, the Chief Whip has become the punchline to a number of conference jokes. ITV reports that IDS suggested he be exiled to Rwanda with his friend Paul Kagame. The move would suit him because, “I hear there are no gates in Rwanda”.
As I wrote on my blog yesterday, the lull between conference season ending and Parliament returning from recess offers the best opportunity to get the deed done:
“The answer to the 'why dump him?' question can be found among the 300-odd Tory MPs in whose eyes Mr Mitchell is a reduced figure, and in the prospect of his position becoming a weekly source of torment for Mr Cameron at PMQs...It's just a hunch, but there's a brief lull before politics kick off again. The next couple days would be a good time to get this over with.”
CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE: WHAT DID WE LEARN?
“White van Conservatism is now the dominant ideology in the party,” Andrew Sparrow writes in today’s Guardian. He has also taken away from conference the ideas that the big society is dead, globalisation worries the party, Biris is contained for now, and that:
“The Conservatives have spent all week trying to assert their own one nation credentials although, as George Osborne made clear in his speech, there's a difference between their one nation and Labour's. Theirs is for strivers; benefit claimants who lie in bed with the "blinds down" instead of going to work aren't included.”
In today’s Telegraph, Sue Cameron adds that we have also learned that the Prime Minister is never likely to find a challenger in Michael Gove, irrespective of his turn as a conference darling. Meanwhile in the Times (£) reports that the Conservative counter-punching at conference wrested control of the agenda from Ed Miliband:
“Ed Miliband’s attempt to grasp the mantle of One Nation from the Conservatives was the most audacious moment of the conference season...but a solid performance from Nick Clegg and a cogent counter-attack from David Cameron meant that Labour was not the clear winner from the past three weeks. Some in the Shadow Cabinet are acutely aware that in the past Mr Miliband has failed to back up his stronger moments as leader. They are determined to ensure that his pledge to reach out to centre-ground voters is followed up with solid policies.”
Last, but not least, there is some more good news for the Camerons in this morning’s Mail. The paper has declared that SamCam is still “first lady in fashion” when it comes to “political plus-ones”. The paper sighs that:
“SamCam is just one of those women who wears clothes well. Now if only her husband could take a leaf out of her book when it comes to footwear.”
LYNTON TO THE RESCUE?
The Independentreports that Boris Johnson’s election guru Lynton Crosby is being lined up to direct the Conservative effort at the next election. According to the paper, Mr Crosby has held talks with the Prime Minister’s aides over the last couple of days, although no firm decision has yet been made.
I was told however that the opposite is true, that No10 and Mr Crosby had flirted at various times but that the chances of him joining are marginal at best.
VOTES FOR 16 YEAR-OLDS IN SCOTLAND
A deal between David Cameron and Alex Salmond has seen the Prime Minister trade giving 16-year-olds the vote for a simple ‘in-or-out’ question on the ballot paper, according to the Mail. A Downing Street source emphasised to the paper that the move did not create a precedent for later elections.
CIVIL SERVANTS TO LOSE PERKS
Holidays will be cut, working weeks will be lengthened and flexible hours will be reduced for up to 450,000 public employees, according to theGuardian. The latest round of the Coalition’s civil service reform will not pass without stiff opposition. The chief executive of the PCS union has already called it a “sickening blow”. Expect this one to roll on.
TWEETS AND TWITS
Chris Heaton-Harris continues his stand-up routine :
@chhcalling:“Past, Present and Future walked into a bar. It was tense. ”
06:30 pm: Chairman of the Financial Services Authority Lord Turner speaks at the annual City Banquet. The Lord Mayor of the City of London David Wooton will also be speaking after the dinner. Mansion House