Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Report from the Cameron 'Built to Last' Speech

Sorry about the lack of posts today but I've been in London doing various things (how cryptic!) and have not had any computer access. Anyway, this evening I attended the Cameron speech event at Vinopolis near London Bridge. Quite an experience, one way or another. About 400 people congregated in a dimly lit bar area to be served with lager, water or smoothies before the main event got underway. I was aghast to walk into the main auditorium to find there were no seats and we were faced with the prospect of listening to seven speeches standing. There was no podium and the audience surrounded the raised small circular stage. Boris Johnson got things underway in typically Boris style. As I surveyed the room I spotted a pensive looking Stuart Wheeler standing at the back. So I wasn't the oldest one in the room, after all. Other notables there were George Osborne, William Hague, Michael Ashcroft, Andrew Mitchell and Hugo Swire. A succession of younger fresh faces addressed the throng. Grant Shapps got things underway and was followed by Justine Greening, Margot James, Sayeeda Warsi, Zak Goldsmith and a sparky lady whose name I didn't catch who described herself as a 'social entrepreneur'. All were impressive and spoke without notes. Boris then introduced a film which he called 'Cameron the Movie', a sort of Cameroonian greatest hits video, which got us all suitably hyped up for the main event itself. In walked Dave to rapturous applause, waving to the crowds. I wondered to myself how this would look on TV, but having just seen it on Newsnight, it looked great. DC gave a relatively short speech and outlined the main points of the Built to Last document. He rehearsed again many of the themes which have become familiar over the last few months. The key passage for me was this...

This party voted for change. Now we have to show what that change means. Not just what we're changing from, but what we're changing to. We have to show that the change is real, that it means something, that's it's built to last. That's why today I'm setting out, in this statement of aims and values, what we stand for and what we're fighting for.

The document itself is far from detailed, but no the worse for it. It gives the Party a compass from which to develop a detailed policy platform. But we need be in no hurry to do that. DC was asked by the BBC's James Landale if he wasn't squaring for a fight with the right. He denied it and said he wanted as many people as possible to sign up to his statement of values. He also took head-on the belief that there is now little difference between the Conservatives and New Labour. He proceeded to outline many key areas where there is a chasm of difference.

But when people say there's no choice in politics any more, that politicians are all the same, I couldn't disagree more. There's a clear choice between our approach and Gordon Brown's. A Labour prime minister who says that only the state can deliver fairness, and a Conservative party fighting for people and communities, to unleash the power and positive spirit of our fantastic voluntary organisations and social enterprises. A Labour prime minister in Gordon Brown who wants the state to take an ever-bigger slice of the nation's income in tax and spending, and a Conservative party fighting for a dynamic economy, understanding that this can only be built by sharing the proceeds of growth between public services and lower taxes. A Labour prime minister in Gordon Brown who thinks that public services can only be run by the state, and a Conservative party fighting to improve public services for everyone through an understanding that public services paid for by the state don't have to be run by the state. A Labour prime minister in Gordon Brown who's said nothing and done nothing about the environment and a Conservative party that's put the environment at the top of its agenda. A Labour prime minister in Gordon Brown who will continue with Tony Blair's ineffective authoritarianism and wasteful ID cards, and a Conservative party that will stand up and fight as the hard-nosed defenders of freedom and security. A Labour prime minister in Gordon Brown who seems to think that Britishness is about telling people to plant flags on their lawn, and a Conservative party that understands the deepest instincts of our great nation.

The only part of the event which was disappointing was the Q & A. I often take the view at this type of event that anyone putting their hand up to ask a question should be automatically disqualified from doing so. And so it proved this evening, with the nutter question quota unusually high. I suspect if this had been a New Labour event all the questions would have been planted. I'm not advocating we do that, but it would perhaps have been better to have had no Q & A.

And so to the Built to Last document. There's always a degree of motherhood and apple pie in this type of statement of aims, but reading it on the train home, there is actually more to this than just a simple run through of traditional Conservative values. If you want to run through the whole document, you can download it HERE. Read in particular the words which are underneath each of the 8 statement of aims in the section What We're Fighting For. They are quite thought provoking, especially the sections on public services and the role of government. I was amused to see the David Davis line of 'standing up for the victims of state failure' given prominence. I could see DD's handiwork in the section on Security and Freedom, which was also highlighted in DC's speech. He made a clear pitch for smaller and less intrusive government and made clear he intends the Conservative Party to take a stand against ineffective authoritarianism. He said he did not want to live in a country with ID cards, where you could be taking your dog for a walk and be 'asked for your papers'. Hear, hear to that.

All in all, a very worthwhile exercise, which has had great media coverage and reenforced the message that the Conservative Party is changing. The emphasis now is on what it is changing to, rather than what it has changed from. And that is certainly progress.


Anonymous said...

"Conservative party fighting for a dynamic economy, understanding that this can only be built by sharing the proceeds of growth between public services and lower taxes" - Dave.

Iain, so does Mr Cameron's Conservative party not accept that taxes are are already too high and need to be reduced not when growth allows but NOW? More critically, does Mr Cameron's Conservatives therefore disagree with the statement that cutting taxes is the ONLY way to achieve a dynamic economy which leads to greater individual wealth and thus a higher tax receipt for the State.

Mr Osborne's recent trip to Ireland seemed to suggest that he was beginning to understand that in a global economy this is the only way forward - taxes must be cut. Osborne appers to twig that Ireland's low corporate taxes generate jobs, economic growth and wealth. Mr Cameron's suggestion is that he does not understand this fairly basic economic point.

Can you confirm that we now have a situation where all three main parties disagree with the statement "UK taxation rates are too high and need to be cut at once."

If we have reached such a dire position can you explain to hard working entrepreneurs, wealth and job creators for Britain, why we should not relocate our families and our businesses (and the vast taxes we both pay) overseas and why, from a basic economic perspective, we should bother voting Conservative as we make my plans to relocate?

Guido Fawkes said...

Thought I saw you, missed the main event due to it being Shrove Tuesday for us "devout Catholics" / pancake eaters.

Sounds like there wasn't enought booze for Guido anyway.

Anonymous said...

Those of us at the back didn't get to hear the questions, however from the murmurs, I guessed that the very first question asked by someone called 'James' was not well received by the audience.


Iain Dale said...

rememberrinka, see my latest post on the case for lower taxes. I am not unsympathetic to what you say. Taxes ARE far too high and are making us uncompetitive. GG, it was on pensions.

Anonymous said...

Iain - you are not unsympathetic to what I say. Well that is heartening but if so why not say so rather than just lavishing praise on Dave as you did in your original post?

You appeared to suggest that Dave's presentation was wonderful but I am afraid that what he said was both wrong (as you appear to acknowledge in your latest post, tax cuts create wealth they are not to be paid for out of wealth) but also ideologically not Conservative.

Most people in this country think that taxes are too high. Why cannot Dave say so? And why cannot he put a coherent ideological case explaining why lower taxes are good?

What worries me is that for many "professional politicians" in the Tory party winning is all that matters. So they are prepared to say that Dave's vacuous nonsense is great stuff. For the 99% of us who are not profressional politicians it does not matter which party has most MPs but what policies are being followed. And if Dave does not cut taxes but follows this misguided Social Democrat view that he will cut taxes IF the economy grows (presumably he would increase taxes the if we went into a recession?) then our lives (the 99%) will be less good.

Most people will just sit there and suffer. But some of us will upsticks and move to a more fiscally friendly country. Globilisation means we can do this. And those of us who can move are generally those of us who pay most taxes (namely corporates and HNW individuals). If we go in decent numbers then Dave will have no choice but to increase taxes.

So Iain can you categorically show that you are not a "winning is all that matters career politician" by stating explicitly that what Dave said about tax last night was complete and utter tripe?

Anonymous said...

Wasn't sure if you were you were standing directly in front of me, but was too embarassed to find out. If you were the guy with a laptop style bag, standing in front of a small guy (me) in front of one of the platforms on the right hand side of the room, then it probabaly was you, and I regret not saying hello.

I though Grant Shapps was very impressive, and especially articulate seeing as he's been in parliament for under a year.

The Q&A session was a bit bland, and at first I had a slight suspicion that the "West Lothian question" question by someone with a thick scottish accent might have been planted, seeing as if it had come from an english perons they'd probabaly have been accussed of being racist.

Iain Dale said...

anonymous, no I don't think it was me. I didn't have a bag with me. I was over the side of the room where the speakers walked onto the stage from. If I had been standing in front of you, you wouldn't have been very pleased as I;m 6'2!

wonkotsane said...

6'2"? Can we have that in Kinnockese please?