A strong performance from David Cameron this morning speaking to the Conservative Spring Forum in Manchester.
He started off comparing the Labour and Conservative teams. He singled out George Osborne, Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith for praise and contrasted them with their Labour shadows.
The Prime Minister then compared himself to Ed Miliband:
When it comes to party leaders, people need to be clear.
Only one of us can walk through that door in Downing Street.
It’ll either be me – or it’ll be Ed Miliband.
Now five years in this job teaches you some things.
I know what this role needs – and frankly, I don’t think Ed Miliband has it.
Some might say “don’t make this personal”…but when it comes to who’s Prime Minister, the personal is national.
The guy who forgot to mention the deficit could be the one in charge of our whole economy.
The man who is too weak to stand up to the trade unions at home could be the one facing down our enemies abroad.
The leader who thinks leadership is climbing aboard the latest bandwagon – he could be the one taking the make-or-break calls in the middle of the night.
Now I don’t claim to be perfect.
I haven’t got everything right.
But I have always tried to do what’s right for our country long-term.
And that’s why I’m shocked by what the Labour Party are trying to do today.
They want to crawl up Downing Street on the coat-tails of the SNP.
Salmond and Miliband.
The SNP and Labour.
The people who want to break up our country – and the people who want to bankrupt our country
In the warning against a minority Labour Government beholden to the SNP there was an appeal to patriotic traditional Labour voters. Favourable mentions of Attlee, Wilson and John Smith chimed with this.
The broader theme was “We are with you”. Statistics indicated a recovering economy with rattled off but there was also an effort in the speech to connect them to groups in society:
“We’re saying to the young couple who are saving each month – we are with you.
To the teenager who wants an apprenticeship – we are with you.
To the pensioner who put money aside for decades – we are with you.
This is the point, the purpose, the whole reason for the Conservative party..the core of our plan, the crux of our policies…to say to the hardworking people of this country: “we are with you.”
Tell it to young people: if you want your first job, your first pay-cheque, your first business, your first home – we’re with you.
Youth unemployment is the lowest since the 1970s. There is also the matter of the budget deficit. Labour “want you to pay it off for the rest of your lives – because they don’t have the guts to clear up their own mess.” By contrast:
Well, let us in this hall tell young people:
With the Conservatives: the deficit will come down, we will run a surplus, we’ll get back in the black…because unlike Labour, we’ll back you, we’ll build something better for you, we are with you.
Then there was a message to families:
Let’s say it to families too: “we are with you”.
I am a father and a husband – and nothing is more precious to me than my family.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a Prime Minister, a driver, a shop-worker, a doctor, a teacher – nothing matters more than knowing your children are safe and happy.
And underlying all that is security. Financial security.
And we are with you.
When you’re juggling the family budget, we’re with you…freezing your council tax, keeping mortgage rates the lowest on record.
We’re with you at the petrol pump – taking £10 off a tank every time you fill up.
And we’re with you at the end of every month, when you open your payslip and find less taken away in tax.
Then there were pensioners..
And let’s say it to pensioners too: “we are with you”.
You know, some people say this Government has done too much for the older generation….that somehow it isn’t fair to younger people.
But have you ever met a young person who doesn’t care about how their parents or grandparents are going to be looked after?
Me neither. Because this comes back to some simple values.
We are talking about the ones who raised us, built homes for us, won wars for us, made sacrifices for us.
This is a generation that stands for one word above any other: duty...and we must always do our duty by them.
That’s why five years ago I made a clear promise to Britain’s pensioners.
We’d keep their free benefits: their winter fuel payment, bus passes, TV licences....we kept that promise – and we would do the same all over again.
Five years ago we made a commitment to get the State Pension rising...it’s up by £850 so far...and we’d see it rise further each year – by earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent; whichever is highest.
And what’s more: the Pension Credit is changing, so that in future, every pound you’ve saved is really worth saving.
The compulsory annuities are going, so every pound you’ve saved is yours to spend how you like.
The tax on your pension pot is going, so you can pass it to your loved ones tax free.
This is a record to shout from the roof-tops: not paltry 75p rises in the pension and raids on private saving....but backing those who’ve worked hard and done the right thing all their lives – real Conservative values in action.
The main news item in the speech concerned the NHS:
For years it’s been too hard to access the NHS out of hours.
But illness doesn’t respect working hours.
Heart attacks, major accidents, babies – these things don’t just come from 9-5.
And the truth is that you are actually more likely to die if you turn up at the hospital at the weekend.
Some of the resources, like scanners, are not up and running. The key decision-makers aren’t always there.
So I can tell you this.
With a future Conservative Government, we would have a truly 7 day NHS.
Already millions more people can see a GP 7 days a week, but by 2020 I want this for everyone… with hospitals properly staffed, especially for urgent and emergency care … so that everyone will have access to the NHS services they need 7 days a week by 2020….the first country in the world to make this happen.
So whether you’re a patient, a school leaver, a homebuyer, a parent, a pensioner – we can say it: “we are with you.”
He concluded with the plea:
Let’s build a better future for you, your family, for the country we all love.
Often in opinion polling the Conservatives score well on being good for the economy or good for the country – but rather less well when people are asked about their own financial prospects or whether the Conservatives are on the side of “people like me”. The focus of Cameron’s speech this morning was to offer reassurance to the electorate as to the motivation for Conservative policies and to convey a sense of their relevance.