David Cameron's speech - live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Prime Minister's speech to the Conservative conference.

15:47 Closing his speech, Cameron returns to the theme of optimism. "It's not the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog," he says. Our best days are ahead of us. But with unemployment up and growth down, how many will feel the same way?

15:45 Now it's health and safety. "Britannia didn't rule the waves with her armbands on," says Cameron, declaring that he has brought "common sense" to government. This speech is a Daily Mail reader's wet dream.

15:43 Cameron mounts a conservative defence of gay marriage. "I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a conservative", he says. Applause from the floor.

15:39 In another dig at Labour, Cameron says that the Conservatives don't boo their former leaders, they are proud of them. Loudest applause so far.

15:38 Promising a new "Tory housing revolution", Cameron vows to use the proceeds from the right-to-buy scheme to build new houses.

15:35 Turning to immigration, Cameron says that government is "clamping" down on illegal migrants. But he makes no mention of his unachievable pledge to reduce net migration to "tens of thousands" a year.

15:34 "Rigour back in education, standards back in schools ... the Conservatives are back in government," says Cameron.

15:34 Cameron says that he wants to see private schools start academies in the state sector. The "apartheid" between the private sector and the state sector must end.

15:30 The education system has been "infected by an ideology that makes excuses for failure," says Cameron. He adds that he is "disguted" by the idea that we should "aim for less for a poor child than a rich child".

15:30 Again refusing to attack Miliband directly, Cameron says that Labour gave us "the casino economy and the welfare society". It falls to the Conservatives to lift the poorest up.

15:29 Responding to his critics, Cameron says: "take your arguments down the job centre because we are going to get Britain back to work."

15:28 Cameron defends the government's planning reforms and rightly notes that just 9 per cent of land is built up.

15:27 Mounting a full-throated attack on EU regulation, Cameron cites a directive on whether diabetics should be allowed to drive.

15:25 He vows to cut employment regulation and accuses critics of forgetting the most important right of all: to have a job in the first place.

15:23 Without referring to Ed Miliband by name, Cameron rebukes the Labour leader. You will not achieve growth by dividing industries into "saints and sinners," he says. In his speech to the Labour conference, Miliband divided companies into "producers and predators".

15:21 Cameron says that it is fair for public sector workers to "work a little longer and pay a little more". What is not fair is to go on strike and hurt the country's recovery.

15:20 Audaciously claiming that the Tories are "the party of the NHS", Cameron says that only the Conservatives promised to increase spending on the health service.

15:19 "This is a one-nation deficit reduction plan from a one-nation party," Cameron says.

15:18 The richest are bearing the burden of austerity, claims Cameron. But, as the IFS has repeatedly showed, the coalition's measures hit the poorest hardest.

15:15 Cheers as Cameron promises that under his leadership "this country will never join the euro". But is anyone really surprised?

15:14 Cameron backs Plan A. "Our plan is right and it will work," he says.

15:13 This wasn't a "normal recession," says Cameron, it was "a debt crisis". And excessive government borrowing was primarily to blame.

15:11 The threat to the economy and to Britain is as serious in 2008, says Cameron. Even "mighty America's" ability to meet its debts is in question.

15:08 Cameron is sounding and looking unusually tired. On the bright side, it will counter those who claim he doesn't put the hours in.

15:06 Cameron attacks the politics of decline. It was depressing, he says, that some people thought not only that we shouldn't take action in Libya but that we couldn't.

15:04 Cameron turns to Libya and says we should proud of the role Britain played in helping Libyans "take back their country".

15:03 Turning to the Bible for inspiration, Cameron says that this is a country and a party that "never walks on by".

15:02 Cameron jokes that Osborne's book of choice is The Man Who Would Be King and that Boris's is The Joy Of Cycling. But after yesterday, he quips, there should be a group reading of Mog The Cat.

15:01 A rather hoarse-sounding Cameron praises the No to AV campaign: "you kicked that excuse for a voting system off the political agenda for a generation".

15:00 His emphasis is clear from the start: "In these difficult times, it is leadership that we need".

14:59 Cameron finally takes to the stage to the sound of The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done".

14:46 Large parts of the hall remain empty, a sign that fewer and fewer party activists are attending the conference.

14:25 Cameron has reportedly been delayed and may not start speaking until 2:55pm. A few more rewrites, perhaps?

 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Justin Trudeau points the way forward for European politics

Is the charismatic Canadian Prime Minister modelling the party of the future?

Six months after Canadian election day, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party continues to bask in the glow of victory. With 44 per cent of support in the polls, the Liberals are the most popular party amongst every single demographic – men and women, young and old, and people of all educational backgrounds. 

While most European mainstream parties only dream of such approval, this is actually a small dip for the Liberals. They were enjoying almost 50 per cent support in the polls up until budget day on 21 March. Even after announcing $29.4 billion in deficit spending, Canadians overall viewed the budget favourably – only 34 per cent said they would vote to defeat it.

Progressives around the world are suddenly intrigued by Canadian politics. Why is Justin Trudeau so successful?

Of course it helps that the new Prime Minister is young, handsome and loves pandas (who doesn’t?) But it’s also true that he was leader of the Liberals for a year and half before the election. He brought with him an initial surge in support for the party. But he also oversaw its steady decline in the lead up to last year’s election – leadership is important, but clearly it isn’t the only factor behind the Liberals’ success today.

Context matters

As disappointing as it is for Europeans seeking to unpack Canadian secrets, the truth is that a large part of the Liberals’ success was also down to the former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s extreme unpopularity by election time.

Throughout almost ten years in power, Harper shifted Canada markedly to the right. His Conservative government did not just alter policies; it started changing the rules of the democratic game. While centre-right governments in Europe may be implementing policies that progressives dislike, they are nonetheless operating within the constraints of democratic systems (for the most part; Hungary and Poland are exceptions).

Which is why the first weeks of the election campaign were dominated by an ‘Anybody But Harper’ sentiment, benefitting both the Liberals and the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP was even leading the polls for a while, inviting pundits to consider the possibility of a hung parliament.

But eight days before election day, the Liberals began to pull ahead.

The most important reason – and why they continue to be so popular today – is that they were able to own the mantle of ‘change’. They were the only party to promise running a (small) deficit and invest heavily in infrastructure. Notably absent was abstract discourse about tackling inequality. Trudeau’s plan was about fairness for the middle class, promoting social justice and economic growth.

Democratic reform was also a core feature of the Liberal campaign, which the party has maintained in government – Trudeau appointed a new Minister of Democratic Institutions and promised a change in the voting system before the next election.

The change has also been in style, however. Justin Trudeau is rebranding Canada as an open, progressive, plural society. Even though this was Canada’s reputation pre-Harper, it is not as simple as turning back the clock.

In a world increasingly taken by populist rhetoric on immigration – not just by politicians like Donald Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and other right-wingers, but also increasingly by mainstream politicians of right and left – Justin Trudeau has been unashamedly proclaiming the benefits of living in a diverse, plural society. He repeatedly calls himself a feminist, in the hope that one day “it is met with a shrug” rather than a social media explosion. Live-streamed Global Town Halls are one part of a renewed openness with the media. Progressive politicians in Europe would do well to take note.

Questioning the role of political parties today

Another interesting development is that the Liberal party is implicitly questioning the point of parties today. It recently abolished fee-paying, card-carrying party members. While this has been met with some criticism regarding the party’s structure and integrity, with commentators worried that “it’s the equivalent of turning your party into one giant Facebook page: Click ‘Like’ and you’re in the club,” it seems this is the point.

Colin Horgan, one of Trudeau’s former speechwriters, explains that Facebook is “literally a treasure trove for political parties”. All kinds of information becomes available – for free; supporters become easier to contact.

It was something the Liberals were already hinting at two years ago when they introduced a ‘supporters’ category to make the party appear more open. Liberal president Anna Gainey also used the word “movement” to describe what the Liberals hope to be.

And yes, they are trying to win over millennials. Which proved to be a good strategy, as a new study shows that Canadians aged 18-25 were a key reason why the Liberals won a majority. Young voter turnout was up by 12 per cent from the last election in 2011; among this age group, 45 per cent voted for the Liberals.

Some interesting questions for European progressives to consider. Of course, some of the newer political parties in Europe have already been experimenting with looser membership structures and less hierarchical ways of engaging, like Podemos’ ‘circles’ in Spain and the Five Star Movement’s ‘liquid democracy’ in Italy.

The British centre-left may be hesitant after its recent fiasco. Labour opened up its leadership primary to ‘supporters’ and ended up with a polarising leader who is extremely popular amongst members, but unpopular amongst the British public. But it would be wrong to assume that the process was to blame.

The better comparison is perhaps to Emmanuel Macron, France’s young economy minister who recently launched his own movement ‘En Marche !’ Moving beyond the traditional party structure, he is attempting to unite ‘right’ and ‘left’ by inspiring French people with an optimistic vision of the future. Time will tell whether this works to engage people in the longer term, or at least until next year’s presidential election.

In any case, European parties could start by asking themselves: What kind of political parties are they? What is the point of them?

Most importantly: What do they want people to think is the point of them?

Ultimately, the Canadian Liberals’ model of success rests on three main pillars:

  1. They unambiguously promote and defend a progressive, open, plural vision of society.
  2. They have a coherent economic plan focused on social justice and economic growth which, most importantly, they are trusted to deliver.
  3. They understand that society has changed – people are more interconnected than ever, relationships are less hierarchical and networks exist online – and they are adapting a once rigid party structure into a looser, open movement to reflect that.

*And as a bonus, a young, charismatic leader doesn’t hurt either.

Claudia Chwalisz is a Senior Policy Researcher at Policy Network, a Crook Public Service Fellow at the University of Sheffield and author of The Populist Signal: Why Politics and Democracy Need to Change