The Sketch: Cameron's tune is sweeter than PM's 'karaoke Conservatism'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The several elements of the PM's reputation have gone downhill like a herd of Gadarene swine, yes. But as a fair-minded person – and I'm moving away from reporting into the realm of imaginative fiction to say this – he looked good yesterday. His voice was strong, his manner confident, his assertions vigorous. He'd just borrowed £2.7bn to keep a 7,000 majority in Crewe, and at £400,000 a vote it was obviously a price worth paying. His sober, authoritative manner was deployed to show he was back in business.

His newly supportive back bench had been whipped to whoop. They hated it when Nick Clegg referred to the one million people who were still worse off after the Budget re-write. When he rose for his second question with the words "The fact remains", they created an entirely new parliamentary noise. An underlying roar of irritation laced with shame, and grace notes of yips and yelps. I hope it didn't come across on television.

David Cameron continues a faultless innings. Modest, purposeful, playful at times, and that rare political ability to do human. He is moving into a new and significant phase of his long campaign. He is now starting to win the argument. Part of this is the result of Brown's defective rhetorical strategy in fourparticular areas.

1) The PM can no longer say that Tory tax cuts inevitably mean cuts in public services. That line of attack had its boom days, but now it's bust.

2) The charge of "no substance" was dealt with in Cameron's reply to the "draft legislative programme" or Cones II. There was "lots we welcome," he said, because "we originally suggested it". The constitution for the NHS, flexible working, an independent exam regulator, "the list is almost as long as the draft Queen's Speech".

3) Brown wants us to believe that the Tories are merely pretending to be nice to get into power, whereupon they will disallow working-class access to health and education. Good things "can only happen under Labour," he said. Seriously. But presumably, once in power, Tories will do what is necessary to stay in power.

4) "The Tories are the party of 15 per cent inflation, three million unemployed and 75,000 repossessions a year." This has now got whiskers on it. And what happens to Brown's argument when we have 100,000 repossessions this year? The same thing that happens to Brown, I suppose.

PS: Peter Lilley noted that Gordon was offering morelocal control of police in one paragraph followed by a slew of central policing targets in the next. The PM was indulging in "karaoke Conservatism". He "recites the words but doesn't know what they mean".