I'm typing this as I listen to David Cameron's speech. I'm impressed. OK most of you might expect me to be. Some of you might even expect me to say I was even if I wasn't. I particularly liked the opening few lines about Boris. Especially the bit where he said "We're not New Labour. We don't mind if people go off message." I'm sure I caught Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome smiling at that stage... I of course wouldn't do such a thing. Oh no.
This is a speech which I hope will resonate with people who haven't decided to come back to the Conservatives yet, but are thinking of doing so.
The NHS passage was particularly strong and I liked what he had to say about the armed forces. My only slight quibble was when he said "We are the servants of the NHS". I would beg to differ. The NHS is the servant of the people, not the other way around. It has to respond to patient needs, not the other way around. It is not a static public service. It has to evolve and respond to new discoveries, new medical procedures and new patient requirements.
His commitment to abolishing the Human Rights Act is welcome, but before all the lefties start ranting, it will be replaced by a British Bill of Rights, which is long overdue.
The best section was on foreign policy and relations with the US. "I became involved in politics in the 1980s when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were defeating the Societ Union. Unlike some people, I never had any doubts whose side I was on." I will leave you to speculate on his intended victim.
He continued: "But now Mr Blair objects when I say our foreign policy should not simply be unquestioning in our relationship with America. William Hague and I have said we must be steadfast not slavish in how we approach the special relationship. Apparently Tony Blair disagrees. Well if he's accusing me of wanting to be a British Prime Minister pursuing a British foreign policy... ...then I plead guilty. Questioning the approach of the US dministration......trying to learn the lessons of the past five years... ...does not make you "anti-American."Ask John McCain. I'm not a neo-conservative. I'm a liberal Conservative. Liberal - because I believe in spreading freedom and democracy, and supporting humanitarian intervention. That is why we cannot stand by and watch further genocide in Darfur. But Conservative - because I also recognise the complexities of human nature, and will always be sceptical of grand schemes to remake the world. We need more patience, more humility in the way we engage with the world."
This was a grown up speech, almost free of the traditional party political jousting. It was an overt attempt to appeal to liberally minded people who want their politicians to ooze decency. David Cameron looked like a man you'd to have leading your country. Anyone who says there was no substance to this speech must have made up their minds before he opened his mouth. He has refashioned the Leader's speech to his own character. This was not a rabblerouser. Not a tubthumper. It was reflective, statesmanlike and substantial.
In short, it hit the mark, even with a wizened old cynic like me.