David Cameron is now on his way back down to London after his conference speech. Here are some thoughts on what it means how it was received:
- He was more fired up than he has been for a while. I am told that he is genuinely convinced Ed Miliband is lurching to the left and that he now therefore has 'a proper enemy'.
- He spent a lot of time attacking Labour - much more than one might have expected - and it is pretty clear why: The Tories now intend to make the next election more or less a re-run of 1992, with similar dire predictions that the lights will go out if Labour wins.
- I think it is probably true to say that the Tories are winning the economic argument with the public, but I suspect they are also in danger of assuming that the country that is coming out of this recession is the same one that went into it - and I am less sure that is true. Yes, people accept that the economy is recovering, but what they see every day is that energy prices are rising, rail fares are rising, food prices are rising, banker bonuses are rising, executive pay is rising and the only thing that isn't going up is their own wages. Ed Miliband's answer to this may have been crude, but it is effective. The Tories' argument - that the best way to ensure prosperity for all is to have a stable, steadily growing economy - may or may not be correct, but it is considerably less populist.
- Ed Miliband has decided to cast himself as an insurgent figure battling vested interests. If I am correct in my analysis above, this is something the Tories need to be warier of than they are.
- David Cameron seems in general more confident and comfortable than he was a year ago. His private view is that he has now got to grips with the day-to-day business of being Prime Minister and can concentrate on what he really wants to do in the role, which is why he appears to have decided to go on longer than he originally intended (until 2020 if given the chance, we are told, though I have my doubts).
- It is worth noting that he appears incredibly secure as leader. He seems still to have the genuine and complete support of all the big Tory figures - Hague, Gove, Osborne. His only real rival is Boris, whom the Tory faithful love but also worry about. I am not sure that I buy the idea that Theresa May is a realistic successor.
- This was not his best speech, but it was much better than the last couple of efforts and it suggests he is re-discovering his hunger to win.