Cameron's hollow speech on "popular capitalism"

His speech was eloquent and historically rich but desperately short on specifics.

You can't fault David Cameron's chutzpah. His speech earlier today was an audacious bid to seize the territory of "responsible capitalism" or, as the Prime Minister called it, "popular capitalism" from Labour. True, during his brief flirtation with "Red Toryism" in 2009, Cameron spoke of the need for "markets with morality" but we've heard little since.

The political assertion at the heart of his speech was that only the Conservatives - those who "get the free market" - can build a better and fairer economy. In a well-crafted passage, he recalled the Conservative figures who had reformed capitalism in the public interest. It was Burke, he reminded us, who insisted on public accountability for the East India Company, and William Pitt who brought it under the control of government. It was Peel who repealed the Corn Laws and Disraeli who passed the Factory Act. "Social responsibility has been part of the Conservative mission from the start," he said. Standing in this tradition, Cameron promised to "change the way the free market works, not stop the free market from working."

But though eloquent and historically rich, Cameron's speech was also overly abstract and often contradictory. He damned Labour's "Faustian pact with the City", conveniently forgetting that himself and George Osborne were calling for more, not less, deregulation in 2007. He promised to deliver genuine "equality of opportunity" but ignored the need for greater equality of outcome, the former dependent on the latter.

With Vince Cable's report on executive pay still to come, it would be premature to judge Cameron's commitment to reform. But his belief that merely "empowering shareholders" will transform the system is hopelessly naive. Just 18 of the company remuneration policies put to a vote since Labour first gave investors a say 10 years ago have been defeated.

In the Q&A session following the speech, Cameron pointed to the government's £2,000 limit on cash bonuses at state-owned banks, ignoring the fact that the likes of Stephen Hester will still take millions in shares. He did, however, strongly hint that he supported moves to strip Fred Goodwin of his knighthood. Though officially impartial, Cameron said the forfeiture committee - the Whitehall body responsible for revoking honours - was "right to examine this issue". But while Goodwin, a convenient sacrifical lamb for the political class since the crisis began, is roundly denounced, the system he embodied continues as before.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May’s stage-managed election campaign keeps the public at bay

Jeremy Corbyn’s approach may be chaotic, but at least it’s more authentic.

The worst part about running an election campaign for a politician? Having to meet the general public. Those ordinary folk can be a tricky lot, with their lack of regard for being on-message, and their pesky real-life concerns.

But it looks like Theresa May has decided to avoid this inconvenience altogether during this snap general election campaign, as it turns out her visit to Leeds last night was so stage-managed that she barely had to face the public.

Accusations have been whizzing around online that at a campaign event at the Shine building in Leeds, the Prime Minister spoke to a room full of guests invited by the party, rather than local people or people who work in the building’s office space.

The Telegraph’s Chris Hope tweeted a picture of the room in which May was addressing her audience yesterday evening a little before 7pm. He pointed out that, being in Leeds, she was in “Labour territory”:

But a few locals who spied this picture online claimed that the audience did not look like who you’d expect to see congregated at Shine – a grade II-listed Victorian school that has been renovated into a community project housing office space and meeting rooms.

“Ask why she didn’t meet any of the people at the business who work in that beautiful building. Everyone there was an invite-only Tory,” tweeted Rik Kendell, a Leeds-based developer and designer who says he works in the Shine building. “She didn’t arrive until we’d all left for the day. Everyone in the building past 6pm was invite-only . . . They seemed to seek out the most clinical corner for their PR photos. Such a beautiful building to work in.”

Other tweeters also found the snapshot jarring:

Shine’s founders have pointed out that they didn’t host or invite Theresa May – rather the party hired out the space for a private event: “All visitors pay for meeting space in Shine and we do not seek out, bid for, or otherwise host any political parties,” wrote managing director Dawn O'Keefe. The guestlist was not down to Shine, but to the Tory party.

The audience consisted of journalists and around 150 Tory activists, according to the Guardian. This was instead of employees from the 16 offices housed in the building. I have asked the Conservative Party for clarification of who was in the audience and whether it was invite-only and am awaiting its response.

Jeremy Corbyn accused May of “hiding from the public”, and local Labour MP Richard Burgon commented that, “like a medieval monarch, she simply briefly relocated her travelling court of admirers to town and then moved on without so much as a nod to the people she considers to be her lowly subjects”.

But it doesn’t look like the Tories’ painstaking stage-management is a fool-proof plan. Having uniform audiences of the party faithful on the campaign trail seems to be confusing the Prime Minister somewhat. During a visit to a (rather sparsely populated) factory in Clay Cross, Derbyshire, yesterday, she appeared to forget where exactly on the campaign trail she was:

The management of Corbyn’s campaign has also resulted in gaffes – but for opposite reasons. A slightly more chaotic approach has led to him facing the wrong way, with his back to the cameras.

Corbyn’s blunder is born out of his instinct to address the crowd rather than the cameras – May’s problem is the other way round. Both, however, seem far more comfortable talking to the party faithful, even if they are venturing out of safe seat territory.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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