Conservative Party leader David Cameron has delivered a key note speech at the party’s spring forum in Brighton. Although he made no direct reference to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgenered) issues, he did attempt to portray the party as modern, tolerant and compassionate.
Mr Cameron’s speech came on the same day that a poll for the Sunday Times showed that the Tories have the slimmest lead over Labour for two years. The YouGov research places the Conservatives on 37% and Labour at 35%. A quirk in the first past the post system means that the Conservatives need to have a nine per cent lead over Labour in order to form a majority in the House of Commons. However, Tory polling indicates that progress in the key marginal constituencies are not reflected in national polls.
Mr Cameron told delegates: “What sort of party are we? You decided that four-and-a-half years ago when you elected me as your leader.
“We decided then that we wanted to modernise our party to get back in touch with the country that we wanted to govern.
“I didn’t do that on my own, you did it.”
He added: “We can now look the British people in the eye and say this country, our country, this tolerant, compassionate, brilliant multi-racial country, we are like you, we are for you and we are ready to serve you. This modern Conservative party has made its choice and it is never going back.”
Over the years of Mr Cameron’s leadership, the Conservative party has been at great pains to improve its perception among the gay community as well as with other minority groups. There is one gay member of the shadow cabinet, Nick Herbert and a number of other high profile gay Tories including shadow prisons minister, Alan Duncan.
Mr Cameron added: “We have got to inspire people with the potential of what we can be in this country and how optimistic we are that if we take the country on this journey we can achieve it.”
“We need to give people a sense that if we make these difficult decisions we will say ‘Yes we did these
difficult things but we came through it together.’
“We need to give people a sense that being a citizen is not just about paying your taxes and obeying the law – it is about being part of something bigger than yourself.
“A sense that when you are growing up in your country you really are part of a big and rich and vibrant society.
“I want us to be a country that fells like a community – that is what our optimistic ambitions should be all about.”
Mr Cameron labeled anti-gay British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin as a “ghastly piece of filth “
The party leader warned his members: “They don’t hand general election victories and governments on a plate to people in this country, and quite right too.
“This election was always going to be close, this election was always going to be a real choice – Labour or Conservative, Gordon Brown or me.
“And this election was always going to be a real fight for our party, a fight to make sure we serve the country we love and that is the fight that we are going to have.”
In a speech delivered without an auto-cue, Mr Cameron said: “It is an election that we have to win because our country is in a complete mess and it is our patriotic duty to turn it around and give this country a better future.
“I think everyone in this country knows that another five years of Gordon Brown would be a disaster for our country.
“Another five years of spending and bloat and waste and debt and taxes. Another five years of failing to get to grips with our big social problems, another five years and the politics of that big top-down, bossy ‘I know best’ sort of approach and another five years of a Government that is so dysfunctional, so divided, so weak.
“You have got a bunch of ministers that can’t work with him but can’t get rid of him, you have got a Prime Minister who can’t work with them and can’t make his Government work.
“They are just locked in this dangerous dance of death that is dragging our whole country down and it is only the Conservative Party that can give people the hope of a different future.
“As we leave this conference today we must resolve: ‘We will not let you down.”‘
Mr Cameron turned to the economy and questioned whether Prime minister Gordon Brown is really an economic “genius.”
“What sort of genius is it that doubles the national debt? What sort of genius is it that takes one of the best pension systems in the world and wrecks it?” he said
“That’s not genius, that’s incompetence and at this coming election we are going to out your (Mr Brown’s) record and tear it apart piece by piece.”
“I want a really clear message to go out that Britain is under new economic management and we are open for business again,” he said.
Mr Cameron went on to say: “People I think really understand that the economic changes we are going to have to make to deal with our deficit will be tough and will be hard and they don’t want that hidden from them.
“I think people know that the changes we need to make in our society will be difficult and we will have to confront some really deep vested interests and frankly the same goes for turning round our politics.
“When I say we need to be frank about Britain’s problems, I mean all of them.
“We have got an energy crisis looming and we need to tell people that if we don’t invest in some extra capacity now the lights are going to go out.
“People want us to be frank about the issue of immigration. It has been too high for too long and it needs to be cut and I will cut it,” Mr Cameron said.
“We have set out reasonably, sensibly, calmly how that will be done.
“As well as frankness I think people are right to expect radicalism. Let’s be frank about it.
“We are not going to turn around the performance of our schools and our education system unless we are radical from day one. We are not going to sort the welfare system and make sure it genuinely helps people, that doesn’t allow you to live an idle life through choice unless we are radical.
“People want to hear that from us.”
“With all our difficulties and the deficit and the debt and the social problems and the political system that has gone so wrong, it can feel like we are looking down some dark tunnel.
“But there is a bright light at the end of it.”
“Imagine what it would be like that instead of having so many sink schools we have got the best state schools in Europe that people will really want to send their children to.
“Imagine if instead of a country where we have got a closed sign over our economy it is the best place again to do business, to invest, to set up, to get things moving again.
“Every day Gordon Brown is running this country is a grey day for Britain.
“Every day he is in charge is another day we are not gripping our problems, another day of wasted opportunities, another day when this country is not being all it could be.
“And while you do it I want you to think of the incredible dark depression of another five years of Gordon Brown and say ‘No. No we are not going to do that.
“So come on then – let’s get out there and win it for Britain.”
Liberal Democrat response
Lib Dem ome affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “I thought he was surprisingly nervous. Clearly the party has been shocked, and perhaps he and his team have been shocked, by the fall in the poll ratings.
“Perhaps they had started to take that a bit for granted.”
Work and Pensions Secretary Yvette Cooper told the BBC: “I found it wanting. People aren’t going to be fooled by some platitudes or spin.
“They want to know what the substance is behind it.”