Matthew d’Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph is optimistic in his analysis of Cameron’s Birmingham “sorry” speech. Matthew compares the speech to Keith Joseph’s systematic attack on the post-war economic consensus, the famous speeches which were the intellectual foundation of Thatcherism. That seems to overstate things a lot.
Tactically Matthew reckons the subtext comes straight out of the Guido playbook :
Dave has the integrity to admit that he and his party are not infallible, and the self-confidence to concede error and to draw the correct conclusions. What they really mean is: in contrast to the bonkers Scotsman stomping around Number 10, shouting randomly at people like a man in a tam-o’-shanter carrying a plastic bottle of cider under the Embankment. Politics is a nasty business: the subtext “at least Dave is sane” will underpin most of what the Tories say until polling day.
Good. No amount of talk as to the merits of quantitative easing, credit flows or monetary policy will ignite passion, or hope to “seal the deal”. Talk instead of the Prime Mentalist in Downing Street, who has now almost run out of people to blame, yet won’t himself say sorry. Inflaming that popular anger with Gordon will “seal his repeal”. The Tories should stoke it all the way to the election.
Strategically Matthew thinks Dave has disowned the political consensus, “apologised for his part in it, and urged the voters to brace themselves for tough decisions. By saying sorry, he wiped the slate clean.” Was that really clear to anyone who didn’t get the CCHQ briefing? Certainly wasn’t manifestly clear to Guido. Dave has tried for years to seize the centre-ground and up until very recently was wed to centrist economic approaches which would not pull us out of this credit crisis. The promised return of sound money will require radical policy change, with tough choices that will be unpopular in the short term. Shattering the failed consensus will require more than fine words.