Last week Gordon Brown made his conference speech to the Labour Party faithful, yesterday it was the turn of the Tories with David Cameron. I have to admit that for me Cameron did a good job. He always was going to have the advantage over Gordon in the presentational stakes and of course as the Tory conference follows that of Labour he could always amend his message to respond to what had happened before. There seems to be some consensus that Brown has been benefiting from the current financial turmoil in that he appears to be the solid experienced man with good international contacts, the right person (in his opinion at least) to navigate the country through the turbulent waters. It might be remembered that last summer when confronted with the abortive terrorist attacks, the foot and mouth outbreak and the flooding Brown was receiving a lot of praise with the way he responded. But I have pointed out before on this blog that this adulation was misplaced and that many another person could have done just as well under the circumstances. With the present problems in the banking sector it seems that Brown has been given some breathing space for the moment with a temporary truce in his party as regards trying to force him out. So Brown has again taken on the mantle of the person to be trusted to make the right decisions in our time of need. Hence his reference to this not being the time for a novice.
Cameron did a good job I thought in countering the experience argument although trying to draw a parallel with Margaret Thatcher in 1979 was pretty misleading bearing in mind that she had had ministerial experience in the Heath government compared with his relatively short career as an MP! But mention of her name let many of the Tory faithful get dewy eyed with their memories. As with Brown last week Cameron kept the jokes to the minimum, he smoothly ensured that his wife Samantha got a mention or two and he did look like a Prime Minister in waiting I thought. It has been suggested that Cameron and many in his Shadow Cabinet have never really had to struggle financially and therefore how could he empathise with the most downtrodden in society. I don't think that this is necessarily true and I suspect that some criticism in Cameron's case is because of envy of his wealth. He comes across as someone able to communicate at all sorts of levels - he is certainly a person I feel I could talk to!
Back to his speech I think he is right to stay 'policy light' - it could be nearly two years before the next election and in this fast changing world goodness knows where we will be when that day arrives. Much better the broad brush approach adopted indicating the general direction in which he wants to travel. Lots of plus points included the accent on personal responsibility, the promise of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty and the reiteration of the policy outlined in my last post of an improved railway system at the expense of a third runway at Heathrow. Good to see that he wishes to remove the more crazy excesses of the bureaucratic system. He was right to talk about our troops very early on in his address, I'm not sure that I agree with him about our continued presence in Afghanistan but he was absolutely correct to highlight the fact that our forces have been let down in a number of ways - of course this was a very popular sentiment with his audience. Interestingly no mention of Iraq, only Afghanistan.
I believe that Parliament is back next week. What will be fascinating now is how Cameron approaches PMQs in view of the current world financial problems. Usually Brown is very wooden at this weekly event and doesn't come over well. What is certain is that all parties will be taking a very keen interest in the polls this weekend and in the weeks to come. Nothing sharpens the mind like the threat of losing what you thought was a safe seat when the electorate have a chance to voice their opinion - where it really counts!