As part of his new style of governing, David Cameron addressed Cabinet today with cameras recording the first bit. The idea was clearly to set out his mission for the Parliament, to set an idea in people’s minds of what it is that he stands for – just in case anyone had any doubts. Here is his full statement:
‘Before we start, I want everyone around this table to be absolutely clear: what we are here to do and who we are here to do it for. I think it is absolutely vital that in every decision that we take, every policy we pursue, every programme that we start, it is about giving everyone in our country the best chance of living a fulfilling and good life and making the most of their talents. That’s what this government is going to be about.
‘Now some pundits might call it blue collar Conservatism or being on the side of hardworking taxpayers. I would call it being the real party of working people: giving more and more people the dignity of work, the dignity of having a pay cheque, being able to keep more of their money to spend as they choose, a home of their own, the peace of mind and security that comes from being able to raise a family and have a decent and secure retirement.
‘Those are the down to earth, bread and butter issues that we were elected to deliver on and that is what we’ve got to do in this Parliament.
‘Of course, we must also support those who can’t work, as I said on the steps of Downing Street five years ago, those who can, should, and those who can’t we always help. That is the principle we always pursue.
‘I want our reforms in education and welfare to be about true social justice and genuine compassion, helping people to get on and make the most of their lives and supporting those who can’t and the agenda of bringing our country together, whether that’s making sure the economy works for everybody and every part of our country, or the agenda of bringing the United Kingdom together, that is going to be absolutely key to the success of this government.
‘I also want you to remember what we were elected on: this document. In here is the programme we have a mandate to deliver on. All of it. This will be a different government, it’s not a coalition government so we can have accountability, no trading away of things that are in here, the ability to deliver this. That is one of the most important things we can do to restore trust and faith in politics that when you vote for something, you get it, and that is what we are going to do.’
So the Prime Minister wants to be clear that this is a Tory majority government where he will not be able to blame anyone for not implementing certain bits of manifesto policy. The Lib Dems were annoying at times, but they were also a convenient excuse for Cameron to use when his party wanted him to do something that he didn’t think was a very good idea. Now he is brandishing the manifesto, saying the party will get on with implementing every word of it. Given it has such a small majority, this is not a throwaway line.
His desire to frame the government’s actions as compassionate will be something that does need continual work on. The Tories are not currently viewed by voters as being a compassionate party, and winning an election doesn’t change that, however marvellous the result. They will need, for instance, to ensure that they do not appear gleeful about the £12 billion of welfare cuts they have promised.
Cameron’s central theme is clearly that he wants to be the Prime Minister responsible for ‘bringing our country together’, someone who is not remembered as being ‘divisive’, like some of his predecessors. The intentions are good, but the challenge for this administration has always been following them up in practice.