That was a persuasive speech by any measure. From the first standing ovation I was persuaded that Gordon Brown could still be there after the election. Normally, Cameron is good at these things, but at no point yesterday did he produce the tingle that tells you you're a Tory. Nor was there any handy message to take to the doorstep. All we had was our old friend, "the hopey-changey thing". People power not state power.
Loving the NHS. No more trashing of family values ("this has got to change!"). And no more soundbites. There was a sound-bitey reference to Gordon being "locked in a dangerous dance of death which is dragging the country down" – so maybe it's an aspiration more than a target.
Early on, he had a moment about making sure young single mothers wouldn't lose their benefits if their boyfriends moved in with them. "Crazy!" he said. But in what way, you could see the audience wondering. Was it good or bad that young solo mothers could have boyfriends and benefits? Tories still have two answers to that. As they do to many others.
Thus: "I want to answer some big questions," he said. Aha, we thought, now we get the beef. "What sort of party are we," he said, "and what do we stand for?" My notes then are splashed with a commentary that can be rendered only in asterisks. The gist of it was, "It's a bit late to be asking that, chum, isnt it?"
He put up one argument about their deficit reduction idea, that when you've maxed out a credit card you can't just get another one. Is that true, I wondered? Then: "We are going to win this argument with the British people!" he cried. Ditto.
And we entered some real danger zones: "I think in George Osborne the British people can see ..." I defy you to finish that sentence in a vote-winning way. And then: "And Andrew Lansley will make ..." Oh, don't put the thought in our heads.
Ken Clarke looked like he'd done 15 rounds with a cubic metre of claret, and Theresa May was pitching for the dog-fighters' vote. If only they could play on the "measures" and not "the men".
Whatever they say, the weekend poll shook the Tories to the core as they realised they've got an entirely new core and they don't entirely like it. "We never thought it would be easy," they said in the corridors and cafes, "but we are quietly confident."
But when I said, "My private polling still gives you a 25-seat majority", then their whole attitude changed. They beamed, they chuckled, they glowed suddenly. One of the nicer MPs said: "THANK you!" as though I was paying a compliment, well-meant but obviously unbelievable.Reuse content