The Sketch: The thief who stole the party's hearts

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The Independent Online

Super speech, insofar as these speeches can be super. Fine moments of eye-prickling pathos, gasp-inducing indignation and some very good laughs. The best was when he told us the Conservatives were "the party of the NHS. Labour have had their chance and they've blown it!" That would have made Ed Balls' eyeballs throb – and everyone enjoys that.

Did he say he was determined to be "tough on the causes of crime"? That was a crime in itself (larceny), but we understand the causes. There was also an end to "the something-for-nothing culture", stolen directly from the PM's speech – as was the "Who am I?" section. As for the Conservatives being the party of social justice – the most daring theft of all in broad daylight. Still, to understand is to forgive. Hug him.

I ran into Tony Blair's old speechwriter outside: "Did you have a hand in that speech, Phil?" I asked. "Blair wrote most of it," he laughed. Some of the effective tropes were indeed in the old master's style. Cameron assumed and allowed the presence of an intelligent interlocutor and created an argument rather than a series of bald assertions. Of health visitors: "To those who say this is the Nanny State, I say remember what it was like the first few nights after your first child is born, the worry, the uncertainty." And there was a sketch of watching a child going off to his first school "not looking back"; and a glimpse of a marriage ceremony "when you get up in front of your friends and you say it's not just 'me' any more it's 'us'." I swore I wouldn't fall for this sort of thing but the screen's gone misty.

The intellectual fight is going the Tories' way. They had turned the "no time for a novice" idea back on the PM, and yesterday won a debate started by Mrs Thatcher. Cameron unpicked a recent remark of David Miliband's: "Unless government is on your side, you're on your own." Cameron said: "I thought it was one of the most arrogant things I'd heard a politician say." A little over the top? But he went on: "For Labour there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between." Oo, that's right. "No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow up in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in".

Brilliant. With a wonderful punchline yet to come. "No one but the minister. Nowhere but Whitehall. No such thing as society." What a counter-punch; it's been 20 years in the making. It's Burke's answer to Rousseau, and for those who incline that way, a complete answer.

The applause came hardest for the baldest conclusions: "This is wrong!" "This is mad!" "God, we've got to change that!" And the most aggressive remark drew the longest applause: "I mean this almost literally – a declaration of war" on the reactionary parts of the educational establishment."

Justice! Decency! Warfare! The Tories are back in business.

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