David Cameron’s conference speech in Manchester this autumn was one that very few commentators expected him to be able to make: the address of a Prime Minister who after five years of coalition, has led the Conservative Party to an overall majority. But as Cameron put it, “Britain and Twitter are not the same thing.”
His One Nation speech included a pledge to “an all-out assault on poverty”, and a denunciation of racial discrimination. Here was Cameron promising that Conservatives will achieve things which Labour only talks about. Thirty-two per cent of respondents made it their Conservative Speech of the Year.
Johnny Mercer’s maiden speech, in which, with an authority born of personal experience, he called for proper care for veterans, was runner up, on 25 per cent. He was closely followed by Heidi Allen, who in her own maiden speech defied the party line and attacked, in the name of compassionate conservatism, the proposed cuts in tax credits, which have since been withdrawn.
Charles Walker was in fourth place, with 14 per cent, for the speech in which he said he had been “played as a fool” by the Government, in its surreptitious attempt to evict the Speaker, John Bercow. Walker declared that he “would much rather be an honourable fool…than a clever man”.
Oratory remains an unrivalled way for an established leader to rally his followers, a newcomer to make a reputation, or a rebel to defy the powers that be.