Just to be even handed, here's a filletted version of David Camerons speech to the Conservative Conference today, having done Gordon Brown's last week. For the full text go here, video here.
1. Moral themes
- Responsibility, which was a repeated refrain for family, economics, government, society at all levels.
- Defending the poor and vulnerable. Social justice was mentioned from a Conservative platform, which for those of us born before 1980 is quite remarkable in itself.
- Family and community as the core of society, not government.
- Standard Conservative stuff on mistrust of big government, and trust of individuals. But there was more on responsibility too: everyone's question will be how this commitment to 'freedom' and 'trust' won't just end up with the greed and division of the 1980's all over again.
- Family, marriage, & childrens need for love, security and discipline, and the need for a change of culture around children. I personally was thrilled to find a political leader willing to say 'we've got our culture wrong', whilst recognising that you can't just change culture from the top down.
- Generosity: interesting to find Cameron using the line 'to be British is to be generous', and applying that to ring-fencing of the aid budget. There was also a nod to fair trade.
- A green economy and society, led by scientific innovation.
2. Spiritual reference points
Cranmer and Paul Woolley have already commented on this, but here's a brief summary:
- Martin Luther Kings 'I have a dream' speech, which is a pretty audacious reference point. The speech kicked off with talk of 'the view from the summit', and ended with Cameron telling us 'what I can see' from the summit.
- Lau Tzu: Cameron's final flourish was "when we look back we will not say that the government made it happen.. but that the businesswoman, the teacher, the father made it happen - you made it happen." Compare and contrast the Tao:
with the best leaders,
When the task is accomplished,
The work completed,
The people all remark:
We have done it ourselves.
- The wisdom literature and prophets: which insist 'defend the rights of the poor and needy'. DC's version "it falls to us, the modern Conservative party to fight for the poorest"
- Jesus. Cameron said "the insatiable consumption and materialism of the past decade, has it made us happier or more fulfilled?" This hints at Mark 8 on gaining the world and losing your soul, and Woolley notes that this picks up on the Sermon on the Mount.
- Ian Dury 'there aren't many reasons to be cheerful'. It's a bit bizarre to find Dury and High School Musical referenced in the same speech (yes, we are still all in this together) but hey, that's the modern Conservative party.
Another serious speech, when Cameron had a go at Labour it wasn't knockabout, but an angry denunciation of Labour's failure of the poor. Whether enough of us have forgotten about the Conservatives failures in the same department is another issue. The closest we got to a reference to Thatcher was some words about Margaret Tebbitt.
I thought there was a lot of moral and ethical language in Browns speech last week, but Cameron has outstripped that, and there was a lot of vision and values on display today. It struck a balance between grim reality and realistic hope, though whether the 'I have a dream' references will be seized on - 'You're no Martin Luther King' - may be a hostage to fortune. But what would you rather have, optimism or cynicism?
Of the three speeches, this one outscored the others on recognising that there aren't just issues of law, economics and politics, but issue of culture too. However we still don't know how much Camerons 'character, temperament and judgement' have really been tested. Yes he's had a horrendous year in his family life, and to be deliving a speech like this just a few months later is an achievement in itself. But, like any vote for an untested government, a vote for Cameron will be a step of faith.
David Cameron '09, The Moral Compass Edit.
We will be tested. I will be tested...
...The view from the summit will be worth it....
...When such a big part of your life suddenly ends nothing else — nothing outside — matters. It's like the world has stopped turning and the clocks have stopped ticking. And as they slowly start again, weeks later, you ask yourself all over again: do I really want to do this? You think about what you really believe and what sustains you....
...My beliefs. I am not a complicated person. I love this country and the things it stands for.
That the state is your servant, never your master. Common sense and decency. The British sense of community.
I have some simple beliefs. That there is such a thing as society, it's just not the same thing as the state. That there is a 'we' in politics, and not just a 'me.'
Above all, the importance of family. That fierce sense of loyalty you feel for each other. The unconditional love you give and receive, especially when things go wrong or when you get it wrong. That powerful sense you have when you hold your children and there's nothing, absolutely nothing — you wouldn't do to protect them.
This is my DNA: family, community, country. These are the things I care about. They are what made me. They are what I'm in public service to protect, promote and defend....
...we are not going to solve our problems with bigger government. We are going to solve our problems with a stronger society. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger country. All by rebuilding responsibility....
...it means showing that the rich will pay their share ...
...Self-belief is infectious and I want it to spread again throughout our country especially through the poorest places where Labour let hope fade away.
...the personal and social responsibility that should be the lifeblood of a strong society....
...the man who has dedicated himself to the cause of social justice and shown great courage in standing up for those least able to stand up for themselves...
...(Labour) you have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative party to fight for the poorest who you have let down....
...We'll start with what is most important to me – and what I believe is most important for the country — families.
I believe that a stable, loving home is the most precious thing a child can have. Society begins at home. Responsibility starts at home. That's why we cannot be neutral on this.
Now I don't live in some fantasy land where every family is happily married with 2.4 kids. Nor am I going to stand here and pretend that family life is always easy.
But by recognising marriage and civil partnerships in the tax system and abolishing the couple penalty in the benefits system, we'll help make it that little bit easier....
...Why aren't we building homes with enough room for a family to sit round a table and actually eat a meal together?...
...It's about our culture. Why do so many magazines and websites and music videos make children insecure about the way they look or the experiences they haven't even had?
And it's about our society. We give our children more and more rights, and we trust our teachers less and less. We've got to stop treating children like adults and adults like children...
...A breakdown of morality in the minds of those thugs a total absence of feeling or conscience. A breakdown in community where a neighbour is left to reach a pitch of utter misery....
...We cannot rebuild social responsibility from on high. But the least we can do the least we can do is pledge to all the people who are scared, who live their lives in fear and who can't protect themselves, … We will be there to protect you...
....To be British is to be open-minded. We don't care who you are or where you're from, if you've got something to offer then this is a place you can call home.
To be British is to be generous.
To be British is to be sceptical of authority and the powers-that-be.
And to be British is to have an instinctive love of the countryside and the natural world....
...Yes, we need to change the way we live. But is that such a bad thing? The insatiable consumption and materialism of the past decade, has it made us happier or more fulfilled?
Yes, we have to put our faith in technologies. But that is not a giant leap. Just around the corner are new green technologies, unimaginable a decade ago, that can change the way we live, travel, work....
...Let's work together on the things where the EU can really help, like combating climate change, fighting global poverty and spreading free and fair trade.
...what holds society together is responsibility, and that the good society is a responsible society. That's what I'm about – that's what any government I lead will be about.
...I know that whatever plans you make in Opposition, it's the unpredictable events that come to dominate a government. And it's your character, your temperament and your judgment, not your policies and your manifesto – that really make the difference.
...there aren't many reasons to be cheerful. But there are reasons to believe. Yes it will be a steep climb. But the view from the summit will be worth it. Let me tell you what I can see.
I see a country where more children grow up with security and love because family life comes first. I see a country where you choose the most important things in life — the school your child goes to and the healthcare you get. I see a country where communities govern themselves — organising local services, independent of Whitehall, a great handing back of power to people.
I see a country with entrepreneurs everywhere, bringing their ideas to life — and life to our great towns and cities. I see a country where it's not just about the quantity of money, but the quality of life — where we lead the world in saving our planet. I see a country where you're not so afraid to walk home alone, where you're safe in the knowledge that right and wrong is restored to law and order.
I see a country where the poorest children go to the best schools not the worst, where birth is never a barrier.
...And when we look back we will say not that the government made it happen … not that the minister made it happen … but the businesswoman made it happen … the police officer made it happen … the father made it happen …the teacher made it happen.
You made it happen.