Speeches come in many guises. Some are aimed at the watching public, as was Ed Miliband's at the Labour conference. he needed to reassure the public that he was someone who could be a creidible leader of the opposition, lay some ghosts, and dispel some rumours.
David Cameron, like Nick Clegg a coupe of weeks ago, was speaking to the party faithful. They both felt the need to justify the decision they had taken, and Cameron today, spent the first section of his speech, attempting to do just that. But it came across as more of a plea, as though he had to ask for more time, in order to get things right.
There have been a lot of problems over the last few weeks, indeed over the first months of the coalition. It started with BSF, and ended with the rows over defence spending, and child benefit cuts. Yet no mention was made of this whatsoever, although you wouldn't expect him to normally, but with the row over child benefit that has erupted, you'd expect him to at least repeat his apology, stating it wasn't in the manifesto. It was also interesting that he brushed over the marriage tax break, yet another policy that many of the Tory faithful are unhappy with.
Before the election many leading Tories, such as Osborne and Philip Hammond (who lost out as Chief Secretary to whichever Lib Dem wasn't caught cheating on expenses), were saying that things like child benefit, winter fuel payments and free TV licences were safe, because they were so valued by many. Yet today Mr. Cameron said, 'A system that taxes people at high rates only to give it back in child benefit is very difficult to justify at a time like this.' He might have been able to get away with this, if it wasn't for the noises he made about balancing it with extending the marriage tax break to higher earners.
So, just moving the money around, to play to the Tory crowd. As Nick Robinson said on today's Daily Politics, Cameron wobbled. When the pressure was on, instead of standing up for it, he tried to get out of it.
Then there was the 'Big Society,' this idea is little understood because it hasn't been clearly defined, and he needs to persuade the faithful that it is the big thing for this parliament. This is the transforming policy, that will stamp the Tories term in office in the early 21st century
Which is why this speech was for internal consumption, he had to justify to his members going into coalition with the Liberal Democrats, something which many of them are unhappy about in reality. He needs them stomping the streets of Britain next May, trying to get Tory councillors elected. But, if they introduce too much that even Tories can't accept, they might well do so, but not with enthusiasm.
This is why he particularly mentioned the AV referendum. Conservatives are naturally against this, and it plays into their reactionary instincts. It is too progressive for their taste. He used it to raise the nearest he managed to a rallying cry, as he implored them to go out and fight against change (I seem to remember he talked a lot about that in the election), keep things the same, don't risk trusting the electorate to decide who they want to work together.
In order to continue playing to the crowd there was absolutely no mention of the much vaunted green agenda, because although Cameron himself has accepted much of the argument, there are a large number of Conservative members who are sceptics, and he didn't want to have more negative mumblings.
David Cameron did not make the great speech he would have liked, he wasn't able to be triumphant. It was a safety first speech, attack Labour, play to the gallery, lots of empty rhetoric about individuals, and aspiration, without any explanation of how this would come about. Where was the growth? Where was the vision for the future? Where was the carrot, to balance the stick? Matthew Parris said that Ed Miliband had grabbed the optimist agenda, and Cameron has given that up with a whimper.
The man who goes under the title of Prime Minister is already on the defensive. He has nothing to offer accept tears and blood, it is austerity without affirmation, pain without progress and coalition without cause.