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By Peter Hoskin
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Judging
by the extracts that have been released so far, David Cameron’s speech to the
Conservative Spring Conference is about one thing above all others: aspiration.
He will talk of a building an “aspiration nation”. He will say that aspiration
is “what this party has always been about”. And he will celebrate three Tory
leaders – Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan
and Margaret Thatcher – for putting “ladders in place” for folk to ascend. Aspiration, aspiration,
aspiration.

This,
you may be thinking, is far from surprising. Politicians like to spray the
A-word around – and, besides, Mr Cameron used it in his speech
on the economy
last week, and recently promised
Tory MPs
that it would underpin the next election campaign.


But
there’s still something noteworthy about Mr Cameron’s recent ardour for
aspiration. It has been complained in the past that he flits from theme to
theme, never landing on one long enough to convince the public that he means iT.
Indeed, I mentioned this in a column for ConservativeHome last year, using a
particularly striking example:

And there
has been inconsistency of another sort: even when Mr Cameron does sound a clear
bugle call, he generally drops it soon afterwards. A case in point was the
“don’t you dare lecture us about poverty” attack that he made against Labour in
his 2009 conference speech. This was powerful, persuasive and overflowing with
potential — and it has barely been heard of since.”

And this, as the weeks
and months have gone by, is how it seemed it would be for his well-received
speech
to the 2012 Conservative conference, which also had aspiration as
its central theme. Yet now Mr Cameron is humming the same tune again. Indeed,
some of the lines in today’s speech…

“My dream for Britain is that opportunity
is not an accident of birth, but a birth-right.”

…sound like an echo of
those in his conference speech…

“I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to
spread it.”

…which
is progress.

The
trick now, of course, is for Mr Cameron to keep on saying it such that people
believe he actually means it – and go beyond saying it, too. As Paul Goodman advised
recently
, the Prime Minister should take himself to the places – from
schools to housing estates – where “aspiration” and “opportunity” aren’t just
written in speeches, but in brick and in the actions of people. That way, this
message might just stick.

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