David Cameron is the Conservative Party’s biggest electoral asset. ConHome subscribes to Mike Smithson’s view that the Tories do better in the polls when the Tory leader is in the news. There is a real danger, however, that Mr Cameron is overdoing one part of his public role – giving speeches. He has given five within the last week and has not given a really good one since the Party Conference.
A speech by the leader of the Conservative Party should be an occasion. It should matter. It should be very well-written, thoroughly pre-briefed and water-tight. Nothing should be done that endangers the Cameron brand.
Here are four reasons why Cameron shouldn’t give quite so many speeches:
- On occasions there appears to be a temptation to find something to say. This has led to (1) rushed policy announcements – for example, the widely-criticised employment recruitment subsidy – and (2) a rush to controversial rhetorical positions that are vulnerable to charges of posturing. Today’s Mail criticises the remarks on welfare made by David Cameron yesterday while today’s FT criticises Cameron for Monday’s speech against bankers.
- Restricting the number of speeches would encourage more imaginative ways of presenting ideas. It’s easy to give a speech but sometimes more impactful to produce a viral video that makes the same point or to hold a regional media event.
- It would give more opportunities for frontbenchers to step forward. The Conservative team is an impressive one and they could do with a bigger share of the public stage.
- Fewer speeches would also give the inner Cameron team more opportunity to consult experts inside and outside the Conservative Party. The sheer number of speeches means that there is inadequate time to absorb the views of others – a process that could turn an interesting speech into a genuinely persuasive speech.