How did Cameron's speech go down?

The return of the noteless Cameron won a warm but hardly electric reception.

According to Tim Bale's exhaustive history of the post-Thatcher Conservative Party, just 300 faithful journeyed to the 2003 spring conference. Although Iain Duncan Smith had been the choice of the grass roots to replace William Hague, two years on, his leadership was unravelling, progress in the polls was negligible and there was little appetite for early-spring tub-thumping.

It feels like a different party now, if not in its underlying wish to lurch rightwards, then certainly in an overriding thirst for victory (temporarily?) trumping factional differences.

Consequently, the numbers in Brighton this weekend have been strong and a long queue snaked around the Metropole's Durham Hall more than an hour before David Cameron, the fifth man to follow Thatcher, was due to speak.

Today saw the return of the noteless Cameron for the first time since the 2007 autumn conference. But in tone it felt more like the beauty contest speech he gave at conference two years earlier, when he was seeking the leadership of his party.

Now seeking leadership of the country, he promised frankness and openness, derided soundbites and sloganeering. And then delivered a series of soundbites and slogans. He talked of "compassionate conservatism", of "change"; he said "I love the NHS". He even rolled out "Vote blue, go green" (though no one applauded that one).

He didn't say that "we can't go on like this", proving that the internet backlash his airbrushed pledge received has contaminated that particular line. But what he did say, at least a dozen times, was that the country didn't want "another five years of Gordon Brown".

It's a line we'll hear again and again and is designed as a counter to the tightening opinion polls. The Tory high command hope all this talk of a Labour comeback will focus minds and that change will win out.

The mood in the hall was warm but not electric, and the ovation at the end was barely 90 seconds long.

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Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.