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Wednesday 6th October 2010 | 19:42
David Cameron's speech to the Conservative party conference has been hailed as "patriotic" by senior members of the Conservative party, after the prime minister focused on the big society, working in the nation's interest and tackling the budget deficit. However, Labour's Andy Burnham accused Mr Cameron of "putting a gloss on what has been a shambolic week for the Conservatives" over the issue of cutting child benefit for some families. See below for more reaction.
Baroness Warsi: What he presented today as prime minister was a vision of what he wanted to see and where he wanted to see society and the vision that goes beyond the difficult decisions and difficult cuts we have to make. I don’t agree people are prepared to sit back and saying “there are problems in my community and I’m not going to get involved”.
Michael Gove: People don’t like the idea that their relationship with the country is a transaction, the idea we should be passive recipients of welfare and orders robs us of our dignity. During the election campaign in West Yorkshire, hundreds of mums greeted David Cameron wishing to set up free schools... they understood the Big Society. I’ve been blown away by the extent for the wish for change in education. That theme of “we’re all in this together is a stark contrast from the robotic leadership we had before.
Andy Burnham: What he’s trying to do today is put the best gloss on what has been a pretty shambolic week for the Conservatives. This is meant to be the party of government, it’s been far from that this week. Our argument is that by cutting this quickly and so severely the government is going to change our public serves forever, we can’t deal with 25% cuts in our council services and this will also damage consumer confidence, we need to bring the deficit down, but the speed and the scale of the cuts is where we take issue. There is no strategy for growth, there was no real mention of that in the prime minister’s speech.
Michael Fallon: The tone was set here, it wasn't celebration or triumphalism. It's nice to have a Conservative prime minister...it's two parties working in the national interest.
Jeremy Hunt: He could have chosen this moment to have made a big triumphant speech, but instead he choose to explain his philosophy. It showed he has real confidence that he is prepared to tell people as it is. This was a speech that was commentative, there were a few jokes, but fundamentally he was straight. He described dealing with the deficit as something you have to do, not necessarily something you want to do. He did mention immigration, that was on the list of things we achieved in the first 5 months, but the central challenge is about tackling the deficit, but also went in detail about why this government is going about more than just cuts.
Grant Shapps: When you start talking about the big society in the election perhaps there wasn’t enough time to make sure the message went through, what’s different now is we have another five years. This government isn’t just about cutting the deficit, it’s also about encouraging to help create the big society.
Lord Heseltine: He spelt it out clearly for people interested in the philosophy, if you take the enhanced powers and freedoms from local government, then find a whole range of things happening nationally, people will begin to understand the vision David Cameron had for the full society. I think it’s just possible that things are not quite as gloomy as the focus on the cuts is indicating
Michael Gove: I thought it was absolutely fantastic, it was brilliant. Clear passionate, patriotic vision. You could tell from the audience in the hall that they saw this is someone who's got a real sense of direction. I think that honesty is a stark contrast to what's come before. If we do stick together then we can achieve something much better for this country. He's thinking about the future and the world that our children inherit - will it be safer, and will it be fairer? A prime minister is at last in charge who recognises the debt that we owe to the next generation. The current approach of the Labour party is that we, our generation, can carry on spending and it will be our children who will bear the burden of the debts we run up. I think David is quite right, we should remind people that they were responsible for this country being steered onto the rocks.
David Willetts: What David was doing today in his speech was saying across all of these key areas in the public sector, we want stronger health care, we went better schools...there is a reform agenda as well.
Baroness Warsi: He laid out an economic vision, laid out a vision for society and it was a call to arms... he laid out a very clear vision for how we are going to get this country back on its feet.
Michael Fallon: You talked about patriotism, I think it was also a very passionate speech. What he wanted to do today was to show that this isn't just about cuts and balancing the books, that this leads somewhere, it leads to an economy that's growing, that's open for business, that creates new jobs and that it leads to a stronger society in which we've all got a part to play. One of the things that's surprised me is that activists have not started complaining about Nick Clegg or Vince Cable, they understand that these are not Conservatives.The message was pretty clear - they really did leave us with the most appalling mess, which is the reason we're going through all this at the moment.
Jeremy Hunt: I thought there was huge substance there, he was rolling his sleeves up and explaining how we’re going to face up to the national challenges we have in the national interest. A great deal has been achieved in five months, but the biggest single challenge is to sort out its deficit. What we fought the election on was a platform of “yes we’ll tackle this deficit, but we’ll do it in a way that’s fair.
Jeremy Hunt: This was vintage David Cameron, this government is going to be about more than cuts. This is about fairness – you can’t just talk about fairness or it becomes a meaningless slogan. You actually have to do something. The way cabinet works is that we all sign up to a general strategy, and the general is very clear. We have to tackle the deficit and it has to be done in a fair way
James Kirkup, Daily Telegraph: David Cameron’s conference speech was a good exposition of the Big Society. It contained the obligatory bit of blame for Labour over the state we’re in. It ticked traditional Tory boxes on Thatcher and Trident. It was a good argument for mass consumption on the case for immediate deficit cutting.
Daniel Hannan, Daily Telegraph: I know a lot of readers want me to criticise David Cameron, and several journalists have spent the week trying to get me to say something disobliging about him. But – other than on the EU, obviously, where we differ – he’s doing all the right things, scrapping quangos, shifting people from dependency into productive work, putting parents in charge of schools, cutting the deficit, devolving power. Which part of this agenda am I supposed to be against, for Heaven’s sake?
Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph: David Cameron has completed the hat trick: three disappointing party leaders’ speeches in a row. This was not the vacuity of Nick Clegg nor the disingenuous chaos of Ed Miliband but it was too long, too repetitive and had virtually nothing to say about the great shambolic event that has dominated the conference.
Samira Shackle, New Statesman: In many ways, this was a good speech, effectively delivered. It was essentially Cameron's attempt to frame the mission of his government -- refiguring the relationship between individual and state, and transferring power to the local level. One may be dismissive of the "big society" idea, but there is no questioning Cameron's dedication to it. Despite the fact that it did not fare well during the election campaign, despite being launched to great aplomb, and many in the party believe that it should be dropped in the face of voter incomprehension, the Prime Minister has doggedly persisted in trying to explain what his vision means. Phrases like "the big society spirit blasting through" will do little to clarify the meaning to the general public, however.
Iain Dale: It was a speech which bore all the hallmarks of the Big Society. A speech which laid out in simple, stark terms, the financial situation facing the country. It was a speech which explained where the blame for that lies and how we can get ourselves out of this mess. Wll it be heard? I wonder how many people were watching, because if it was a large audience it will have had an impact. If not, people will just get the soundbites from the news bulletins later.
Will Straw, Left Foot Forward: By attacking the size of the deficit, Cameron is effectively attacking bailouts for the banks, automatic stabilisers such as unemployment benefits, and claiming that the Government could have prevented the fall off in tax revenues.
Peter Hoskin, Spectator: In the end, it's hard to judge this one - and maybe that doesn't matter. This was an erratic, bold and idiosyncratic number from the Prime Minister. But the words barely matter beside the task of the Spending Review on 20 October.
Michael White, Guardian: What did I like about Cameron? Well, some colleagues thought it bland and even dull. But to me it was full of good humour – not just the jokes, but humour – and he didn't SHOUT. He wasn't even particularly nasty about Labour, only singling out Ed Balls and – a bit – Ed Miliband for abuse.
Mark Bennett, Labour councillor: Cameron's speech seemed something of nothing. Some rat-a-tat lists a new feature. Tory applause at end polite, not enthusiastic.
George Pascoe-Watson, former political editor of the Sun: Certainly Cameron's greatest speech. V skilled crafting, single theme threaded all the way through, one clear message: together we will win.
Paul Waugh: I count 10 mentions of 'Big Society' in the speech. Cam knows the public weren't keen during election, but aint giving up on it.
Greg Hands: Good speech by Cameron, where the highlight for me were the impassioned attacks on Labour's irresponsibility in Govt. Real fire!