Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Nice performance, shame about the song

The party trick of doing a speech without notes is impressive - although Tom Watson queries quite how spontaneous the speech was, given that journalists were thoroughly briefed in advance.

We had the sly little dig at Gordon's pronunciation of Bournemouth - because there's nothing funnier than a rich kid having a go at someone born without his advantages. How my sides nearly split. You smug little git. (That may not have been quite the phrase I used, but I'm a little less splenetic in print).

Oi - Whitless! Get with the programme! Your big mate Dave has spoken:
I believe it's time in our big cities for elected mayors, so people have one person to blame if it goes wrong and to praise if it goes right

Dave's an optimist. He's going to withdraw from the Social Chapter and rely on business responsibility

we need business to be responsible in the way they market to children, in the way they treat their employees, in the way they encourage family life - all of those things will help us to get tax and regulation down for the long term good of our economy
There's a non-sequitur. The lesson of history is that businesses exist to make money and, by and large, they only do what they legally have to. The minimum wage, the new laws guaranteeing every employee a minimum 24 days' holiday a year (soon to rise to 28), time off for dependents, extended maternity leave - all of these have been brought about through legislation. Many of them have been fought all the way by the Tories - the ones who opposed the minimum wage.

He paid his dues to the swivel-eyed nutters who demand immediate withdrawal from the EU and probably a return to the Gold Standard and Imperial Measures, with a promise to campaign for a no vote on a putative referendum on the EU treaty. Dave's already had the experience of putting himself in hock to the Europhobic wing of the Tory party with that promise to withdraw from the EPP grouping in the European Parliament and to make common cause with the bigots of the even-further-right. But he's not afraid to take a step further - the Human Rights Act has to go. Don't worry that the origins of the HRA lie in post-war Europe when a group of jurists (a fair few of them committed Conservatives) drew up the original convention. Don't worry that all the HRA does is bring into UK law the articles of the European Convention (drawn up by those Tories, don't forget) and allow them to be used in British courts, rather than having to rely on them being taken to Strasbourg. And don't worry that in 1997, the British people voted for the HRA - it was a manifesto commitment of the Labour Party. None of that matters when it comes to finding a whipping boy for the ills of the country - the HRA will do for that.

And then, Lord above, Dave - the leading light of the Bullingdon Club, that Oxford society of rich twits devoted to drinking and smashing up restaurants - talks about discipline in schools.
And I stopped a boy as he was running into his GCSE exam and I said 'What's the problem?' and he said 'Well, I got completely pissed last night, I've got a hangover and I'm going to flunk this exam'.
'I know how you feel,' I said. 'I remember parties like that at Oxford.'
(That may not be an exact transcript).

if a head teacher wants to exclude a pupil ... they should be able to do so, the appeals panels have got to go.

Oh look at Freedom Dave running roughshod over the concept of natural justice. If a head teacher wants your child out of school, then tough.

Then there's the little lie highlighted by Devil's Kitchen, but repeated by Cameron
the Thames barrier meant to be lifted once every six years, is now being lifted six times a year.

DK referred to Factchecking Polyanna

In fact, the barrier had to close six times in 1990, and not at all in 1991. Nine times in 1993 and only once in 1994. Only twice in 2004 and 2005, though this comes after 18 times in 2003.


But you know it is more cynical than that. Boy has this guy got a plan. It's to appeal to that 4% of people in marginal seats. With a dog whistle on immigration there and a word about crime here, wrap yourself up in the flag and talk about Britishness enough times and maybe, just maybe, you can convince enough people that you are on their side. Well I say, God we've got to be better than that.
Well, you weren't back in 2005, were you?

Although he talks as though he understands the green agenda, the speech gives us nothing but vacuous promises. He praises single parents for the job they do, but still promises to prioritise the two parent family. Lots on the NHS, from the party that spent two decades running the whole operation into the ground.

That's a recurrent theme during the speech - detail on key Tory touchstones, but generalities at best. For sheer guts, you have to admire his unmitigated gall:
I went to a fantastic school and I'm not embarrassed about that because I had a great education and I know what a great education means. And knowing what a great education means there is a better chance of getting it for all of our children

Floreat Etona indeed. Yes, Dave reckons that his experience at Eton enables him to understand how the state system works.

In summary - great performance, wonderful spin, but little real substance to sustain those outside the Tory faithful.

Of course, the real question is has it done enough to stave off a general election? The first polls should start hitting within the next few hours, but we probably aren't going to see if there's a Cameron effect until the weekend. Even if there is, I suspect that we are now too far down the road for Gordon to back away without looking nervous.

The game's afoot.

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