By Tim Montgomerie
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Speech preparation: A rare photograph of key members of Cameron’s inner team. From left to right: Craig Oliver, Gabby Bertin, Ed Llewellyn, Clare Foges, Ameet Gill, David Cameron, William Hague, Kate Fall. Photograph by Andrew Parsons.
It's going to be hard but we can do it. That will be Cameron's message to the Conference and to the nation when he stands up later today. The Prime Minister and his advisers are worried that gloomy economic talk will only worsen an already fragile position. They believe that a return of economic confidence is vital and that endless warnings of bleak times – of the kind issued by Vince Cable at the Liberal Democrat Conference – are counter-productive.
In his speech he will launch a war on pessimism and the belief that Britain is again a declining nation. “I'm here to tell you that it isn't true,” he will say.
“Nobody wants false optimism. And I will never pretend there are short cuts to success. But success will come: with the right ideas, the right approach – the right leadership.”
That word leadership is the big theme of the Conference. Ed Miliband has been largely ignored by platform speakers and is expected to be ignored by David Cameron too but the 'l' word has been on every minister's lips. Tory strategists believe Cameron is the party's strongest asset and they are betting on turning the next election into an almost presidential choice.
In words that will remind many people of his much mocked “let sunshine win the day” speech the Prime Minister will promise “can-do optimism”.
He will address concerns that he doesn't understand the huge squeeze in incomes being suffered by ordinary families. “It is an anxious time,” he will say. “Prices and bills keep going up – petrol, the weekly shop, electricity. On the news it's job losses, cutbacks, closures. You think about tuition fees, and house prices, the cost of a deposit, and wonder how our children will cope. Of course, government can help – and this one is. We have cut petrol duty, kept the winter fuel allowance and kept cold weather payments. We froze council tax this year – and as George announced in that great speech on Monday, we're going to freeze it again next year too.”
He will say that the reason times are so tough is that “this was no normal recession”. He will recommit to his deficit strategy identifying the causes of current difficulties as “too much borrowing, by individuals, businesses, banks – and most of all, governments.” In remarks that will appall Keynesian economists he will urge households as well as governments to repay their debts. “All of us,” he will urge, should “pay off the credit card and store card bills.”
At the core of the Prime Minister’s speech will be a recommitment to deficit reduction: “Our plan is right. And our plan will work. I know you can't see it or feel it yet. But think of it like this. The new economy we're building: it's like building a house. The most important part is the part you can't see – the foundations that make it stable. Slowly, but surely, we're laying the foundations for a better future. But this is the crucial point: it will only work if we stick with it."
> Read this article and the whole of today's ConHome party conference newspaper here.