BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom — David Cameron’s speech to the Conservative Party conference today struck a nostalgic tone – and it makes perfect sense why he adopted such a routine: this conference may well be his last.
So the speech extended gratitude, it harked back to the early days of his premiership, it gave credit to the people Cameron has had around him, and in a lot of ways, the speech was as much about himself as it was about the Conservative Party or the United Kingdom.
Beginning on the Scottish referendum, an English Parliament, the UK’s role in the wider world, and doffing his cap to William Hague, Cameron showed an ability to breeze through issues while not looking like they were simply fleeting thoughts.
His message to ISIS sympathisers was firm. Expected to be treated like enemies of Britain if you try and go to Syria or Iraq. But the realities may not be as simple, as Britain’s Home Office, border agents, and opponents of the European Court of Human Rights well know.
And while looking earnestly towards the back of the hall, Cameron promised tax cuts for people who strive and contribute, but forgot basic right wing economics in claiming that the country’s deficit needed to be cut first, before taxes could be. Any Laffer Curve loving conservative could have told you that cutting taxes could actually help pay down the deficit.
He came back to this: “Tax cuts need to be paid for,” he said, on his segment about the deficit. As wrong as he was on this point, at least he didn’t forget it like Ed Miliband.
And then came the big new policy propositions, designed to win back right wing voters:
— No income tax for people earning the minimum wage, a line ripped straight out of the UKIP manifesto;
— A raising of the threshold upon which you pay the top rate of tax to £50,000;
— Raising the personal tax threshold to £12,500.
One of Cameron’s big moments was his home ownership message, where he re-announced the policy that the government would be building 100,000 new homes, but which wouldn’t be sold to anyone but a certain demographic of people.
This, essentially, is a government-funded bribe by the Tories. It should be, in 2014, incomprehensible for government to be building houses in the first place. The private sector long overtook government’s ability to provide for housing, but over the past few years Cameron’s government has been unable to provide the incentives for the private sector to develop on land it already owns. His solution therefore, is protectionism. Taxpayer funded homes, in exchange for votes, is nothing less than Soviet-era redistribution of wealth.
And then he turned to the National Health Service, Britain’s socialised, government-run healthcare system. He claimed that the Conservative Party was the party of the NHS, and that Labour were continuing to scaremonger over the Tory handling of it.
And then came the second UKIP portion of his speech: migration from the European Union.
Cameron claimed that immigration “has to change” and that it will be a major part of his renegotiation strategy with the European Union. “Anyone who thinks I can’t or won’t deliver this… judge me by my words”.
“It is only with the Conservatives that you will get [a referendum]” he said, echoing his “cast iron” promise for the same thing from 2007. He claimed at the time that he would, if prime minister, have a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. When he became prime minister however, no such thing occured on his watch.
Next May, he joked, you could get into bed with Nigel Farage and wake up with Ed Miliband — pleading with voters not to switch to UKIP. The PM’s speech was sturdy, right wing in some places, but all in all showed a fundamental misunderstanding of the British public. How do we know? Because his best ideas were pulled, almost word for word, from UKIP’s manifesto.