David Cameron’s speech: Reaction

Please find below passages from David Cameron’s speech and our commentary. We will be updating this throughout the afternoon so please check back later.

“There will have to be cutbacks in public spending”

But what about tax rises? The public are split between spending cuts and tax rises.

“So yes, there is a steep climb ahead. But I tell you this. The view from the summit will be worth it.”

This was taken from Obama‘s speech on winning the US election. Obama said, “Our climb will be steep.”

“So our method should be clear……send more soldiers to train more Afghans to deliver the security we need. Then we can bring our troops home.”

But earlier today Liam Fox acknowledged that “successful counterinsurgency must begin with better protection for the population of Afghanistan.” That is what the Obama / McCrystal approach is based on. Training the Afghan army is a secondary priority that will only serve to protect the population properly in the long term. So what is the purpose of the proposed Cameron troop surge: Afghan troop training or civilian protection oriented counter insurgancy? The former can be done with fewer troops and less risk over a longer period of time. The latter requires more troops and more risk over a shorter period of time.

“That those brave men and women we send into danger have every piece of equipment they need to do the job we ask of them. I will make sure that happens.”

How can they afford it when Liam Fox just recommitted to Trident?

“I’m proud to announce today that someone who has fought for our country and served for forty years in our armed forces will not only advise our defence team but will join our benches in the House of Lords and if we win the election could serve in a future Conservative Government: General Sir Richard Dannatt.”

General Lord Guthrie, the former Chief of the Defence Staff, said: “If he’s going to the House of Lords, it’s best to be a crossbencher. I will give advice to anyone, Labour or Conservative, but I wouldn’t want to be associated with any one political party.”

“Look what we’ve done together… the party of the NHS”

What about Dan Hannan who criticised the NHS over the summer?

“we’ve won the argument on the economy and debt as George Osborne showed in that magnificent speech on Tuesday.”

Not according to Danny Blanchflower, Richard Lambert, or Lord Skidelsky

“I’m not a complicated sort of person”

This sounded very similar to Tony Blair’s claim to be a “pretty straight sort of guy

“I know how lucky I’ve been to have the chances I had … I want every child to have the chances I had.”

This sounds like an uncosted spending commitment. Cameron’s background costs £28,851 per year in Eton fees alone.

“Do you know the worst thing about their big government? It’s not the cost, though that’s bad enough. It is the steady erosion of responsibility.”

It was, of course, big government in bailing out the banks that paid for the “erosion of responsibility” in the City.

“Why is our society broken? Because government got too big, did too much and undermined responsibility.”

But society’s problems go back way before the Labour Government

“It ends with them making you register with the government to help out your child’s football team.”

This is a misunderstanding of Ed Ball’s plans. Chris Grayling made the same mistake recently.

“Our national debt has doubled in the last five years. ”

This is simply untrue. Using OECD figures (Table 32) previously used by the Conservative Party, UK debt was 43.5 per cent of GDP in 2004 and is now 75.5 per cent (ie not twice as large). In 1997, debt was 52.0 per cent.

“Printing money leads to inflation”

The Conservatives were first against quantitative easing but then supported it

“We must pay down this deficit. The longer we leave it, the worse it will be for all of us … The longer we wait, the higher the chance we return to recession.”

This is a misunderstanding of Keynesian economics. Danny Blanchflower wrote recently, ““If spending cuts are made too early and the monetary and fiscal stimuli are withdrawn, unemployment could easily reach four million.”

“And it means showing that the rich will pay their share which is why for now the 50p tax rate will have to stay and Child Trust Funds for those on middle and higher incomes will have to go.”

What about inheritance tax?

“Because of the difficult choice we’ve made on the pension age we’ll be able not just to deal with our debt but to raise the basic state pension in line with earnings. Not just for one year, but for every year.”

Left Foot Forward has shown this has a disproportionate impact in some cities.

“That’s why we will give back to the Bank of England its power to regulate the City powers that should never have been taken away.”

Sir Andrew Large, former Deputy Governor for Financial Stability of the Bank, writes a few months back, “To my mind the architecture of which institution does what is secondary, yet the Conservatives appear to have fallen into the trap of thinking that altering the architecture will deliver a better outcome. The fact is there is no perfect supervisory architecture.…So I am not convinced that to split the FSA and put supervision squarely into the Bank is wise or necessary, or that it will deliver a better result than the improvements under way. Changing architecture involves real risks and the burdens of migrating roles. Besides this, the consumer improvements suggested by the Conservatives do not require splitting the FSA in two. Finally, is this the right time to experiment – for the second time in 12 years – with the architecture?”

“Big government has all too often helped cause them by undermining the personal and social responsibility that should be the lifeblood of a strong society.”

What evidence was provided for this?

“To the young mum working part time, trying to earn something extra for her family “from every extra pound you earn we’ll take back 96 pence.”

“Marginal deduction rates” above 90 per cent only apply to around 60,000 families. It was 130,000 in 1998 but has fallen because of the minimum wage, tax credits (which David Cameron wants to cut) and a lower basic rate of income tax. See Table 5.2 of the 2009 Budget for more.

“Who made the poorest poorer? … Who made inequality greater? No, not the wicked Tories… you, Labour: you’re the ones that did this to our society.”

This is not true. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (i) “between 1998–99 and 2004–05, Labour oversaw the longest decline in poverty since the start of our consistent time series in 1961. However, this decline in poverty came to an end in 2004–05, and poverty has now risen for two consecutive years.” and (ii) “Taking the period 1996–97 to 2006–07 as a whole, incomes have grown relatively evenly across the bulk of the income distribution (in contrast to the period of Conservative government that preceded it, when income growth was unambiguously higher further up the distribution).”

“We trust our teachers less and less. We’ve got to stop treating children like adults and adults like children.”

Why then did Michael Gove announced yesterday more edicts for teachers

“that doesn’t mean the NHS shouldn’t change. It has to change because for many people, the service isn’t good enough. Mostly, that’s not the fault of those who work in the NHS. The fault lies with big government. With their endless targets and reorganisations, Labour have tried to run the NHS like a machine … this party is the party of the NHS now, today, tomorrow, always.”

We have an article up later today on Left Foot Forward about why Lansley’s plans are no panacea.

“[We] will reform the police, reform the courts, reform prisons.”

At what cost?

“I want to know that every penny of the education budget is following her and the other children into that school and that classroom”

Only pledging to have vouchers on school budget, not capital spend

“Big government has totally failed in state education and with Michael Gove we will get the radical change we need.”

Labour introduced academy programme that the Tories are seeking to expand.

“And yes, we need global co-operation. But that shouldn’t be difficult. It just takes leadership, and that’s what we need at the Copenhagen summit this December.”

But Green MEPs have rounded on Cameron for his new alliance in the European Parliament. This was also one of only two mentions of climate change. “Vote Blue, Go Green”?

“We are just starting the job of building the new politics we need.”

Why then does Cameron oppose proportional representation?

“But let’s return to democratic and accountable politics the powers the EU shouldn’t have. And if we win the election, we will have as the strongest voice for our country’s interests, the man who is leading our campaign for a referendum, the man who will be our new British Foreign Secretary: William Hague.”

Is that a pledge for withdrawing from some aspects of the EU? David Mathieson sets out some of the risks.

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17 Responses to “David Cameron’s speech: Reaction”

  1. Tony

    ‘This is simply untrue. Using OECD figures previously used by the Conservative Party, UK debt was 43.5 per cent of GDP in 2004 and is now 75.5 per cent (ie not twice as large). In 1997, debt was 52.0 per cent.’

    That’s the percentage re GDP, not what he claimed. Has the actual debt figure doubled?

  2. Will Straw

    Line-by-line response to David Cameron’s speech http://bit.ly/LzGi6

  3. Anthony Painter

    Actually, @leftfootforward has had a first bash at it. Good starting point. http://bit.ly/LzGi6

  4. Will Straw


    He said “our national debt has doubled”. As a proportion of GDP (the only meaningless definition used by economists) this is simply not true. Nominal figures are completely useless since they don’t take into account growth or inflation.

  5. Bearded Socialist

    Have to say his thing about education stands out. He said state school children should get the same as private school children, but that would involve HUGE investment in state education, when in fact they’re going to cut it

  6. Jonathan Bryning

    RT @wdjstraw: Line-by-line response to David Cameron’s speech http://bit.ly/LzGi6 #cpc09

  7. Compassionate Centrist

    ““Why is our society broken? Because government got too big, did too much and undermined responsibility.”

    But society’s problems go back way before the Labour Government.”

    What an absolute kop-out of a rebuttal, that’s akin to saying “you started it, not us”. If you truly want to solve issues you have to recognise they exist, which Cameron did here, and outlined a way to tackle them.

  8. Fayyaz Muneer

    Yeah, because Obama was definitely the first person ever to invoke mountaineering as a metaphor for political struggle, and everybody else who invokes the metaphor is obviously a copycat.

  9. Toby Perkins

    He’s certainly running scared of making any further actual policy commitments. Interesting that the minute that Boy George actually committed the Tories to any policies their poll lead plummets.

    The line about every school being as good as Eton is just so insultingly coy and meaningless, it’s a miracle that an intelligent man actually allowed the words to pass from his lips.

    And Tories, champion of the poor… laughable.

    Opposed Minimum wage, oppose tax credits, oppose the job creation programmes and re-skilling programmes that were a part of Labour’s spending our way out of recession, it takes more than just warm words.

    All in all, an amazingly uninspiring speech from someone who can at least do presentation well normally, makes you wonder if it’s all getting a little bit real for him.

    GAME ON!!

  10. Judy Dickinson

    How much of the extra govt debt as % of GDP comes from the money given to prop up the banking system?

  11. Jessica Asato

    Excellent line by line analysis by @leftfootfwd of Cameron's speech http://is.gd/46qOk

  12. Michael Lewis

    RT @Jessica_Asato: Excellent line by line analysis by @leftfootfwd of Cameron's speech http://is.gd/46qOk

  13. Will Straw


    Bearded Socialist – thanks for those graphs. I hope they satisfy Tony that while the deficit has doubled, debt has not. Our graph from a few weeks back shows why we are not in a “debt crisis”: https://www.leftfootforward.org/2009/09/conservative-research-shows-theres-no-debt-crisis/

    Compassionate centrist – I’ll admit that it wasn’t our best rebuttal but we did 29 and so some were bound to be more discursive than others. But the point remains, the “broken Britain” narrative ignores the facts about crime reduction and poverty alleviation by conflating a persistent 30-year problem into something apparently created in the last decade.

    Fayeez – Obama certainly wasnt the first person to invoke a “steep climb” but it was definitely the most memorable in recent history. My guess is that Cameron was quite self-consciously copying Obama in what you might call an attempt to sub-consciously associate himself with a popular figure.

    Judy – very good question and one worth looking into. We’ll get onto it.

  14. Roger

    Cameron didn’t say debt as a percentage of GDP has doubled – so your comment is simply wrong.

    It took me 3 minutes to google up the national debt figures for the past 5 years:

    Net Debt £bn
    2003/4 381.5
    2004/5 422.1
    2005/6 461.6
    2006/7 497.9
    2007/8 526.9
    2008/9 609.5

    However this excludes financial sector interventions (which at least at the time the Tories supported), include them in and you get:

    2003/4 381.5
    2004/5 422.1
    2005/6 461.6
    2006/7 497.9
    2007/8 621.2
    2008/9 743.7

    And if you take the most recent monthly net debt figure for August 2009 you get £804.8bn.


    A rise from £381.5bn at March 31 2004 to £743.7bn at March 31 2009 is indeed as near as dammit double.

    I haven’t got a figure for August 2004 to hand but it would have been c.400bn so I’d guess that between then and August 2009 has almost certainly more than doubled.

    So Cameron is technically right.

    But why the hell are we quibbling over this at all – the size of the national debt is irrelevant if we get the economy growing again.
    Attlee, Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home and Wilson all handled much higher rates of national debt compared to GDP and delivered three decades of sustained growth.

  15. Roger

    A second qualified defence of Cameron is that HE does not misunderstand Keynesian economics – he simply does not accept them.

    You and I and Paul Krugman may call ourselves Keynesians these days, but the fact is that for three decades academic economic departments have been dominated by various strands of classical, monetarist, Austrian and rational choice theorists – who even if they disagreed on much else all denied that Keynesianism was the only path to macro-economic success.

    Cameron recieved whatever education he got in economics at precisely the point that this new orthodoxy was established and has spent his entire adult life in the more or less exclusive company of people for whom Keynesian is an insult.

    His beliefs may be profoundly wrong but he’s not necessarily dishonest or inconsistent.

  16. Roger

    On Cameron and PR

    He would and has argued that his ‘New Politics’ can only triumph with a strong Conservative majority and would be held back by coalition politics

    This is pretty much a mirror image of what we on the Labour left almost all used to argue up until the penny dropped and we realised just how few voters really supported us.

    And talk about glass houses and throwing stones – it was Tony Blair who reneged on a clear commitment to introduce PR in his first parliament, and Gordon who has just taken it off the agenda for what may well be another generation by ruling out a referendum on election day.

    Again the Tories may be wrong but that doesn’t mean they are inconsistent on this issue.

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