As a trendy pop song played delegates in the hall were fired up with the traditional warm-up video. Amongst the talking heads, cheers could be heard as footage reminded them of Ed Miliband’s pledges ‘set in stone’, Ed Balls losing his seat and Nigel Farage failing to win in Kent. Introduced with a pop-stars welcome to “the Prime Minister” (not David Cameron this time) he looked like a man eased by knowing that he will never face that level of electoral pressure again.
Briefly reflecting on the election, David Cameron claimed that the pollsters had got the result wrong because they didn’t understand the country or that it was different from Twitter.
Then, for the next hour, reaffirming his decision to not stand in 2020, the PM put forward how he wanted to finish the job he had started.
As one nation, he said we could make Britain greater still and that he would defend the Union with everything he had. This would be guided by Conservative values applied to not just economic but also social reform.
Turning to defence, he reiterated that the first duty of the PM is to keep Britain safe and that the drone killings of British citizens in Iraq was necessary.
Popular in the hall he also confirmed a commitment to spend 2% of GDP on defence, the renewal of four Trident submarines, and requested a standing ovation to thank the commitment of the armed forces.
The PM also said that while our hearts went out to those affected by the refugee crisis we “must keep our heads” as only 4% of those displaced had come to Europe so far. Echoing Home Secretary Theresa May’s speech, he added that Britain should be proud of its work in the region and that we, unlike other countries, had kept our commitments on foreign aid.
“Believe me, I have no romantic attachment to the EU or its institutions” said the Prime Minister adding also that he was not interested in ever closer union. What he was interested in however was Britain’s prosperity and Britain’s influence. The European Union he argued was the single biggest market in the world, an institution that we were shaping all the time and that as well as looking at what was wrong with an increasingly “bossy” and “interfering” EU we should look at what was right with it.
Mr. Cameron stated that whilst we had had more foreign investment than anywhere else in Europe, the battle had only just begun on the economy. Praising his “Iron Chancellor” - interesting choice of phrase – he said it had never been more vital to get the economy right and he was sick of Labour’s self-righteousness about their approach. If you wanted a lecture about poverty he said turn to Labour, if you want something done about it, look to the Conservatives.
Attacks on Labour and Jeremy Corbyn
His description of the Labour Party was of one that had ‘lost its head.’ The biggest laugh, and joke that has received the most attention, was to ridicule their approach to the economy. Their economic guru, who had advocated printing money, had brought a book out called ‘The Joy of Tax’. As the camera panned to a slightly uncomfortable looking Samantha Cameron, the PM said he’d taken it home and all 67 positions didn’t work.
Of its new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the Prime Minister said you only needed to remember one thing, that he had called the death of Osama Bin Laden a tragedy. He then said that Corbyn a “security threatening”, ‘”Britain hating” man should never be inflicted on the country.
Housing: Unfinished business
The Prime Minister said his unfinished business on the economy was housing. In line with conservative beliefs in aspiration, a greater Britain must mean more people owning their own homes. Mr Cameron announced that from now on new developments would provide not just affordable housing for rent but to buy as part of his national crusade to get homes built.
Tackling Social Problems
Claiming they were not just a ‘one-trick party’ the PM said that economic success was the foundation to build a better society and to build that society politicians had to venture into ‘no-go’ areas of social problems. He stated he wanted to see an ‘assault on poverty,’ and its causes, work had to pay, under-performing social services would be taken over, prisoners whilst we had their “full attention’ would be rehabilitated. The PM also wanted his party to be the one of ‘fair chance’ allowing schools to throw off the ‘shackles’ of Local Authorities and that opportunity was meaningless if people were not judged equally.
Confront, Really Confront, Extremism
The last policy area within the speech was one of the most powerful. The Prime Minister wanted to do three things. Firstly, tear up the politics of grievance that creates a narrative that Muslims are persecuted and the West deserves what it gets. Secondly, stop the seed of hatred and take on extremism in all its forms. Thirdly, tackle segregation. The PM announced that any teaching institution will be registered and inspected. Those found teaching intolerance will be shut down. The wider truth, he added, was that we had become so frightened of causing offence that we had created ‘passive tolerance.’ It was this he said that led to forced marriages and FGM, social scandals which he said now had legislation that need to be enforced.