Sat as I do on a Sunday with a cup of freshly brewed coffee and a slice of toast, tuned into BBC News 24, I was treated to the best recent example of how easy it is to prefer David Cameron to Gordon Brown.
Brown was teed up to speak to first time voters in Westminster Academy, West London. The hall, for all it was, looked like a bunker, with stark concrete walls, admittedly adorned with colourful artwork. A bunker nonetheless. On the windows, the set dressing team from Labour HQ had attached ‘A future fair for all’ stickers, and the backdrop was unchanged from the manifesto release. We were all prepared for the transition from a Prime Minister, as Michael Gove had memorably put it ‘moved from safe house to safe house under armed guard’ to one ‘upping the tempo’, providing context and vigour to his speech. It’s not impossible for him to do this, we all thought, and then he started to speak. his control freakery got the better of him, and Ed Miliband, who was due to speak on environmental issues to the first time voters (a good idea) was bumped so the Prime Minister could give a 25 minute diatribe on Tractor Production Statistics.
‘A prime minister moved from safe house to safe house under armed guard’
It was the old Brown, in a bunker, shouting at people as per bloody usual. There was passion and there was the old tribal, visceral hatred of the Tories. A few nods from the first time voters, certainly, and a well cued ‘standard ovation’, but the same old, same old.
Then, after the sport report, on to Michael Gove, in a field, with electricity pylons in the background with a crazily enthusiastic crowd of children and adults who want to open their own school before their current school is closed, to prevent their children beign required to attend enormous ‘Titan Schools’ far from their locality.
Gove told them ‘Don’t stop believing’ which was their campaign’s motto and the crowd went wild. He introduced David Cameron, who spoke to them about their own project and campaign and linked their aspiration to six or seven policies in the Conservative Manifesto. He led them to chant ‘yes’ to their new school, and ‘no’ to Whitehall and ‘no’ to Ed Balls, who got a good spontaneous boo. He spoke to them, not at them. he was genuinely engaged, properly enthused, and was clear to point out to them how inspired he was by their efforts. Six minutes in, it was over. He invited, with the consent of the crowd, the BBC’s Carole Walker to ask a question. The question was about a hung parliament, to which, she said, all the polls were pointing.
Cameron’s answer was awesomely well judged. He responded that the people he was visiting on this campaign visit were a perfect example of exactly why hung parliaments don’t work. he pointed out that the local authority which was blocking the proposal for the parent-led school was a Liberal-Labour Coalition, and that their coalition was evidence that ‘nothing gets done’ under coalitions. He called for a conclusive result to give a party a mandate to govern, and pretty much left it at that, eliciting another applause from the crowd.
The differences as I saw them were these:
- Brown came with a teleprompted speech which occasionally ran on too fast and caused him to stumble and lose phase in easy sentences. This was not slick. By contrast, Cameron spoke off the cuff again, looking directly at the people he was talking to
- Brown spoke about values, which is his theme, but didn’t once address issues for first time voters, despite this being the audience he was addressing. Cameron spoke about the theme the people wanted him to address; it was a visiting politician coming to speak about their issue, not coming to speak to them
- There was energy and vibrancy in the setting, outdoors, in West Yorkshire, with an electricity pylon in the distance. Cameron was int eh wilds, with real people, who were all on their feet, noisy, enthusiastic, concerned. Brown’s speech in a poorly lit bunker was like a briefing to No. 13 Tractor Production Facility, Baikal. Polite enthusiasm only
- Cameron asked for their vote. Brown didn’t attempt to seal the deal
I think if this binary encounter is shown on the main news this evening, it will do damage to Brown and do good to Cameron. It was good to see and gladdened my tory heart.
UPDATE: Never using my iPhone to blog again. Magical world of the typo.