By Tim Montgomerie
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I can't remember a Cameron speech that has had such a good response from the whole centre right…
But what now?
A speech rarely changes anything. We must now wait to see if Cameronism 7.0 (copyright Matthew Engel in today's FT (£)) is the real settled thing or if it's just another iteration, designed for the Tory leader's seventh party conference speech but not for beyond. Ever since it was first forged in very different times Cameronism has struggled to find definition. His inner circle has sometimes given the impression that Cameronism is whatever Cameron says it is – seeming to believe that the Tory leader's own reasonable, moderate personality is the personification and sum of what modern Conservatism needs to be. Up until now Tory modernisation has been pursued with carelessness, even recklessness. The NHS was put centre stage but then a massive reorganisation was introduced, contrary to promises. The big idea of the Big Society was never tested in focus groups or in opinion polls and flopped on the doorsteps. Greenery – as a political message – has been all but abandoned since Cameron became PM.
Are we to believe then that this new seventh explanation of Cameronism is for real and for good? The reaction of the conservative family should encourage Cameron to stick with this new message. It is not its only advantage, however:
The challenge for Team Cameron is to start living in this speech, immersed in its words and arguments. Craig Oliver and his team need to spend time with neglected conservative commentators and reassure them that Cameronism 7.0 is for real and for good. Every minister needs to go on TV to explain the compassionate purpose of reforming welfare, reskilling the labour force and producing public finances that can underpin world class public services and a world class safety-net. Every Tory leaflet needs to communicate this speech's big ideas. Every Tory TV broadcast. The conservatives.com website needs to be reorganised and redesigned to help explain Cameron 7.0. And so on and so on. It would be a shame if the Cameron operation thought the work had been finished yesterday. The work of popularising a new Tory narrative has only just begun.
There must also be policy implications too. Nick Wood reminds his Mail readers that it's very difficult to have an aspirational society when the government is accounting for nearly half of national income and imposing the commensurate, enervating taxes to finance it. The Government needs to take still bolder steps towards building a society that rewards the job and wealth creators. John Redwood provides a policy shopping list on his blog this morning with recommendations on bank lending, energy, re-training and deregulatory policies. They would help ensure that Cameron 7.0 is good policy as well as good politics.