Lord Ashcroft’s recent polling suggests that Labour will win with a comfortable majority in 7 months. And so Big Dave’s last conference speech as both PM and leader of the Conservative Party was a poignant occasion. It was also a masterclass in PR (or BS as it’s known in the industry) from the former Carlton man. As you might expect from the final concert of a crowd pleaser, it was a catalogue of greatest hits. And the Tory faithful loved it. Tax cuts. Tick. Scrap the Human Rights Act to appease the nutty Euro-sceptics before we haemorrhage any more MPs to UKIP. Check. Have a go at Ed Milipoos. Yup. Attacking benefits scroungers. F*** yeah!
Dave left the best bit for last. The Conservative party as the trades union for hard working people. Did he really just say that? Remember those things. Trades unions; they used to represent ordinary people like you and me. Wait a minute. The Tory Party. Trades unions. In the same sentence. Now I’ve seen everything. I know what you’re thinking. Surely he must be kidding. Well, I’ve played that bit over and over. Nope. Not even a hint of irony; not so much as a glint in his eye. After that, I popped some anti-emetics just to be on the safe side.
To be fair, Dave probably doesn’t even know what trades unions are. Fifth cousin twice removed from the Queen and all that. Explains how he can get away with describing Queenie purring down the phone. He was apparently too busy watching Neighbours at Oxford in the 80s to take notice of the fact that Maggie was dismantling the unions. Before the call from Tory HQ came that is and then Dave started paying a bit more attention to the world of oiks. The Tories will probably try the same trick with the NHS and the welfare state when they too are distant memories and you can turn them into a meaningless sound-bite to throw to the plebs in a conference speech in the year 2030.
It was almost as if the last four years had never happened. Remember that Labour ad. ‘Fire up the Quattro It’s time for change’ with Dave sitting on the bonnet in the Gene Hunt pose. A bit like that. Or like Back to the Future but without the happy ending. It’s as if we had got into a time capsule with Dave and gone back to 2009 when they made all those ludicrous statements about the NHS is safe in our hands, hug a hoodie, sledging with huskies and compassionate conservatism. And some of us, the ones born after the 80s that is, believed them. The problem Dave is that you can’t pull that trick off twice. Looks like Quentin or Spencer up at HQ forgot to pick up on that. Do you remember how the Tory annual fund-raising bash was packed with so many billionaires and oligarchs that you couldn’t put a Black Am-Ex card between them and how the bouncers were chucking out anyone with less than 9 zeros in their bank account? Yes you heard me Simon Callow. Now eff off! ( I’ve always wanted to say that anyway). Well you have to give it to Big Dave. He’s got cahunas to stand up there and try to pull that kind of s*** off about being on the side of hard working people.
And as for the bit about going to bed with Nigel Farage on May 7th and waking up with Ed Miliband in the morning. I’m not sure I can get the image out of my head of a love child that is the offspring of an orgy between Milipoos, Farage and some frightful voter in the Shire. There are children watching for godsakes man. I was in the process of dunking a donut in my coffee at 11:45. Totally ruined it for me! Dave, that kind of unpalatable imagery should not be served up before the watershed.
Pretty much every aspect of the speech could be taken apart. Sky News kept flashing up graphs from Full Fact to try and lend some legitimacy to Dave’s outrageous claims. But this speech was fact-proof. It came from the good ol’ George Bush school of gut politics. I feel it somewhere above my belly button that benefits cheats and immigrants are to blame for everything because that’s what the Daily Mail has been saying for the past 30 years.
Dave started off with the feelgood schtick about the fastest growing economy in the world and all that. The thing is that I remember how the economy was actually growing in 2010 before Georgey boy’s austerity medicine made it nose-dive into a near triple dip recession. So when you’re starting from rock bottom then of course it’s the fastest-growing economy, stupid! It’s like saying that zero to one is an infinite improvement. It’s logic for dummies. He then followed it up with the whole bogus narrative about Labour to blame for everything. For the deficit. For the crash. For ISIS. What about the banks Dave? What about the banks? And which part of GLOBAL financial crisis do the Tories fail to understand? How on earth have they got away with selling this dummy to the public that excessive public spending and not the financial sector is to blame?
After the feelgood stuff, he moved on to the benefit bashing. But that was also feelgood for the Tory faithful. Really tickling their erogenous zones! Oh Dave, yes Dave. Yes, yes, yes. More dave, more! More punishment! Spank me more! (Now we know what the Sam Cam would show) Except who are these Tory party members? Are they all in the 1%? Do they not live in the real world and are squeezed by stagnating wages and the rocketing cost of living? Or perhaps they’re all S&M, 50 Shades of Grey fans. As Sam Beckett once put it; I can’t go on, I’ll go on. A something for nothing culture etcetera etcetera drone drone drone. Where was the full fact stuff when you really need it?!!!! Where Sky News? And then he came back to the real feelgood stuff. About tax cuts and raising personal allowance. Now he was reaching for their collective G-spot. But Georgey boy had just told us on Monday there would be £25 billion more in cuts. Which means that the poorest third of working families with children will be hit hardest. So which is it Dave? Whose side are you on? “Don’t make me LAFF!” as Brad Pitt puts it at the end of Killing Them Softly.
It was a litany of untruths; a catalogue of chicanery and deception. The fibs came so thick and fast that it was embarrassing. I didn’t know which way to look. The political spin was so vertigo-inducing I felt nauseous. It is patently clear that neither David Cameron nor George Osborne believe this stuff. No-one with a decent education or a couple of brain cells could buy this. Apart from the great British public that is. And Iain Duncan Smith of course. And the gutter press, who lap this stuff up and shovel it back down our throats.
This speech could have only been more farcical if Dave had made a bid to imitate the high oratory of Mark Antony in Julius Caesar with the opening gambit of ‘Friends, Brummies and countrymen lend me your ears’. I don’t think we’ve heard so much bollocks since last week. The thing is that modern politicians are basically actors. They’re professional jobbing actors. They’re paid to persuade us that everything they do is for our own good. Even when it seems like the complete opposite, it’s actually our interests that they have at heart. No pain, no gain and all that.
They win elections on the basis of how convincingly they can lie to the public. It’s about selling a persona; an image, schmoozing with the media, making love to the camera. It started over in the US of A with JFK and nobody has been as good at it since. They’ve all been pale imitations. Think of Hugh Grant as PM in Love Actually and multiply it by ten – that’s how good JFK was. A movie star president. A rock star leader. Imagine George Clooney as President but even better. We’re a bit late at catching up with the Yanks on these things so it started with Tony here. Then we had a break with Gordon and now Dave is at it. In Europe, judging by Francois in France and Angela in Germany, they couldn’t give two hoots about this kind of crap. Perhaps Europeans actually care about policies rather than personality.
And who were these grinning faces in the crowd, these gormless folk inanely waving their flags and cheering everything Dave pronounced on. Like so many of our dear, fellow citizens, they clearly could not read between the lines. I’m privatising the NHS but I’ll tell you it’s safe in my hands. Hooray! I’ll dismantle the welfare state because of those feckless benefits’ claimants even though actually most people on benefits are working and half of the benefits bill goes on pensions. Woo hoo!
The surprisingly funny impersonation of William Hague’s Yorkshire accent was about the only highlight in a speech that dribbled on for over an hour like a weak bladder. Dave and his advisors must have worked on that one for weeks. Proper method acting. Voice coaching. Accent training. The works. Looks like it was time well spent. Well done old boy! They’re all at it these days. Andrew Marr’s excellent impersonation of Gordon Brown’s gruff tones the other week. Dave was so chuffed with his impression that he followed it up by saying, ‘I won’t give up the day job.” No please do. Actually don’t worry, we’ll chuck you out on May 7th. And if that was the high point then the low point undoubtedly was Dave using the example of his disabled son Ivan, who passed away in 2009, to persuade us that the NHS is safe. Even though the Health & Social Care Act that his government passed essentially abolishes and privatises the NHS. I mean how low can a man go?
The combined membership of the three main parties is now lower than that of the RSPB. In other words, people are more interested in birds in this country than what affects their everyday life. It’s the kind of statistic which makes you realise how f***ed we really are. Russell Brand is right; that is how disengaged from the political process we have become. Which makes me wonder where did they even find the people to fill the ICC hall from? Were these poor, hapless Brummies grabbed off the streets at gunpoint and frogmarched in by Theresa May and her Tory goons. Were they threatened with having their benefits frozen? Or were they farmed in from the Home Counties. Surely no right-thinking Conservative would travel further north than the Watford gap. All the way to Brum. You must be kidding! Right into the heart of enemy country.
So what will Dave do in early retirement at the age of 48 come June 2015. No doubt he can join Tony on the public speaking circuit and the board of J P Morgan. After all, being PM these days is merely a stepping stone on one’s CV. He could perhaps set up a bespoke advisory service for Central Asian dictators. Actually that niche in the market has already been taken Dave. Rumour has it that his predecessor Gordon Brown was so crushed by his failed prime-ministership that he has retreated from the limelight into a hermetic existence. Maybe this is the fate that awaits Dave. Although it is hard to imagine those apple-faced, puffed-up cheeks looking dour or those plum tones sounding too down in the dumps. Perhaps he could set up a charitable foundation (like the Clintons) to save Gordon and rehabilitate him back into public life. Now that sounds like a worthy cause, Dave.