Dead parrots, rap and a red head

John Rentoul

cpc10 300x221 Dead parrots, rap and a red headMy commentary on David Cameron’s speech for The Independent is here. Three bits for which there wasn’t space are here:

Remember what they said about us? They called us a dead parrot. They said we had ceased to be. That we were an ex-party. Turns out we really were only resting.

This was the first joke, an important moment of getting the audience to relax and unite with the speaker. This was a rather feeble one: quoting Monty Python sketches being the fall-back of adolescent males of a certain generation. Margaret Thatcher 20 years ago had to be persuaded that a similar “dead parrot” reference to the Liberal Democrats was funny; from her, it really was.

Just look at what we are achieving already – together, in the national interest. Conservative policies, policies you campaigned on, policies we are delivering.

Two hundred new academies.

Ten thousand university places.

Fifty thousand apprenticeships.

Corporation tax – cut.

The jobs tax – axed.

Police targets – smashed.

Immigration – capped.

The third runway – stopped.

Home Information Packs – dropped.

Fat cat salaries – revealed.

ID Cards – abolished.

The NHS – protected.

Our aid promise – kept.

Quangos – closing down.

Ministers’ pay – coming down.

A bank levy – coming up.

A cancer drugs fund – up and running.

£6 billion of spending saved this year.

An emergency budget to balance the books in five years.

An EU referendum lock to protect our sovereign powers every year.

For our pensioners – the earnings link restored.

For our new entrepreneurs – employees’ tax reduced.

And for our brave armed forces – the operational allowance doubled.

Look what we’ve done in five months. Just imagine what we can do in five years.

The first of two “rap” sections of fast-paced rhythmic declamation that may have been designed to provoke a rising tide of clapping from the audience over which Cameron would have to shout to complete the sequence, as Gordon Brown did, listing Labour’s achievements, at his final conference as Prime Minister. But the Tory audience barely responded, apart from a ripple of Europhobia at the obscure “referendum lock”, until the “five months-five years” punch line.

I expect you all watched lots of the Labour conference last week. Every time I caught a glimpse of it it wasn’t so much Red Ed as Red Head. I don’t know if you noticed: Neil Kinnock was everywhere. He even said he’s got his party back. Well, Neil, you can keep it.

The only time Cameron mentioned the new leader of the opposition, and not by his proper name, but with an attempt to tie him to the losing ways of Labour’s past. This wasn’t in the text (as opposed to the Tory party transcript), so it was a late addition, and it was delivered with rather good comic timing.

Update: Max Atkinson has been running an interesting commentary on the craft of speech making during party conference season. Here he has a good analysis of Cameron’s failure to elicit expected applause at the right moments.

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  • LancashireLad

    And Blair wasn’t the messiah, he was just a very naughty boy!

  • greggf

    Crafting conference speeches may be more important than just saying what the audience want to hear. Cameron is not that impressive. I still remember admiring Micheal Foot’s forthright call about the atrocities in the Balkans, Tony Blair and Mrs T, similarly could always turn heads.
    Whereas Cameron does not sound like a leader. I cannot decide whether this is diffidence or purposeful. Perhaps he feels sounding like a leader is too right-wing or slightly demagogic for his coalition partners.

    He has spent a lot of effort “modernizing” the Conservative Party to make it more (socially) liberal, progressive, “at ease with common mores” etc., so that it is “fit” for government. In this process he has eschewed his right wing, ineptly in my view, in order to fit the new model, and generally sought a shift to the centre of the political spectrum.
    However the result on show at this conference is a collective blandness, nodding to fashionable issues, which for example, I saw on Tuesday women speakers supplicating for Africa, women in Africa and Afghanistan etc.
    But he leads a coalition with the Libdems and call for Tory values are not appropiate are they?


  • Ciaran Rehill

    Under the Crime & Security Bill 2010 they will also have to defer to Strasbourg on deleting over a million innocent DNA files. This will have to do be accomplished transparently as the police are mendacious in extreme. If you ask me The Tooth Fairy did it.

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