David Cameron speech: Reaction

Follow all the reaction to David Cameron’s speech in Birmingham on politics.co.uk.

Conservative party members give their take on David Cameron’s first speech to conference as prime minister.

Serena Croad, West Worcestershire

“I thought it was a very inspiring speech. Lots of positives, not dwelling too much on the past and the negativity of the Labour party.

“I thought it was a good prime minister’s speech. I was on the edge of my seat all the time, waiting to stand.

On the deficit:

“If you can show people how much money is being wasted and how much is going in to the interest payments and what difference it could make, it’s got to make everybody stop and think ‘yes, we’ve got to change this’.”

Bob Moodie, Wythenshawe and Sale East

“I thought Cameron’s speech was absolutely magnificent. We’ve got a hell of a job to do and he’s the man to do the job for us.

On the speech’s mood:

“He was allowing the audience just a little bit of rest between the previous high point to think about what the next point was. Because he had to emphasise what the next point was. Every single point he was coming across with was serious, businesslike, to the point.”

Theodora Clarke, Cotswolds

“This is the first party conference I’ve ever been to and it’s the first time I’ve seen David Cameron speak live. It was absolutely one of the best days of my life. I felt like I was part of history. It was the buzz of the room, I just think he’s going to make a wonderful prime minister.

On the party’s future:

“They sound pretty busy. They’ve been there five months and they’ve achieved so much already. So I’m going to be really excited to see how much the new coalition government is going to achieve in the next year.”

Ervine Okuboh, Billericay

“I think it hit just the right note. There’s nothing to be triumphant about. But at the same time it wasn’t going to be one of those speeches where he had to be too despondent neither. So he had to just hit the right note in terms of as the leader of the country giving us encouragement but not trying to be triumphalist simply because Conservatives are back in power.

On child benefit:

“I think the issue of child benefit is obviously a thorny issue that isn’t going to go away. And my gut feeling is there’s going to be a lot of discussion around it because it’s an issue that goes right to the heart of the country in terms of people who need to look after children.”

On the party’s future:

“Hopefully the future that the con party will continue to consolidate and be strong. There’s obviously the issue in terms of the fact that the Conservatives didn’t win the election outright. The lessons need to be learnt from that, not just from the point of the election result but also in terms of the continuing strengthening of the party, given Conservatives were out of power for effectively 13 years.”

Kate Denham, Hammersmith

“I thought it was really good. I was quite interested in some of the policies he brought to the floor for the first time.”

On the deficit:

“He dealt with it well. I’m here because I’m a Conservative and I believe in austerity and small government. But I think that even if you weren’t a Conservative listening to that that you can’t just throw money at problems.”

On the speech’s mood:

“Obviously he has to play to the members of the party that didn’t want to be a coalition. But at the end of the day we didn’t win a majority, we fought very hard and we didn’t win.”

John Shedwick, Lancashire

“We obviously all wait now for the spending round on 20th October. But what David said was it’s just a pity he was saying that five years ago and we wouldn’t have had five years of Gordon Brown and the Labour government.”

The ‘big society’

“The British people, they will rally to that. I really think he’s inspired everybody. I hope they’ll all do that and they’ll see that’s the only future we have.”

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And here’s more reactions from the wider political world:

Dave Prentis general secretary of Unison:

“David Cameron is attempting to rewrite history. His party bitterly opposed the recovery package devised by Labour and followed by governments throughout the world.

“He is turning his firepower onto public services to pay for that crisis, and jeopardizing the recovery in the process.

“There has been no more flesh on the bones of the Big Society idea, it is still the big cop out.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT):

“The talk of the Big Society is meaningless, there is just no substitute for public services and, despite the denials, it is a cover for cuts. Volunteers and charities make a valuable contribution to society but they cannot run it. The prime minister knows this as I think does the country.

“David Cameron talks about the ‘vested interest’ of workers in the public sector and the unions, yet in a breathtaking act of hypocrisy, then talks of the businesses waiting in the wings to take over the running of our public services. What are they if not vested interests and who will hold them to account in this vision of a society cut free from government constraints?

“The prime minster spoke of parents going out and getting the new school they want in their area, yet by axing the Building Schools for the Future programme, denied exactly that opportunity to hundreds of parents and pupils.

“Yet again we are being told that there is no alternative to reducing the deficit other than through huge cuts. Well there are alternatives, put forward by the TUC and a range of economists. There is a choice. The government needs to choose investment for growth for the sake of our schools and public services.”

Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth:

“With not a mention of climate change, this was not the speech we would have expected from the prime minister of the self-declared ‘greenest government ever’.

“David Cameron won a real reputation in opposition for championing green issues – it would be a huge mistake to sideline them now he is in power.

“If the UK is to reap the huge financial benefits of developing a low-carbon economy, bold policies to achieve this must be at the forefront of government thinking, not consigned to the margins.”

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group:

“David Cameron’s conference speech last year promised much on poverty: this year’s speech threatens more pain for the poorest families. Being fair to taxpayers is about recognising that the price of child poverty can be measured in the billions in government spending dealing with social failure and the harm done to the childhoods and life chances of children living in poverty.

“The prime minister is right to focus on life chances but all the evidence shows that the 3.9 million children living in poverty have fewer life chances than other children. These children cannot afford to wait for help later or continue to bear the brunt of cuts. The prime minister and his government promised to end child poverty by 2020 — they need to act on that promise now.

“The child benefit cut is a tax on children. Families are right to ask why it is just parents taking this hit rather than all taxpayers. It is the destruction of a one nation system that unites all parents under a shared national belief in childhood and the support and recognition it deserves from our government. For decades it has meant families who suddenly lose their financial security, have a life raft to carry them through the weeks before means-tested support arrives.

“Words mean little without action. So we will only know the prime minister is sorry when this appalling assault on family security is taken off the table. The principle of the wealthiest paying more is sound. But, most wealthy households are immune from this measure.

“It is the same as a basic tax rise of almost 5p for the typical family just above the higher earnings threshold. A 1p tax increase on high earnings for all wealthy people would save the same amount without the unfairness.”

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP

“There is an easier and better way, a way that will avoid hurting a lot of innocent bystanders through savage cuts.

“If we increase taxes on the highest incomes, scrap expensive and irrelevant projects like Trident, transfer money from roadbuilding to public transport and get tough on tax avoidance and evasion, we could afford a major public investment programme that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs while transforming the economy to help tackle climate change.

“David Cameron accused Labour of being in denial about the debt they caused, but his Conservatives are in denial about so many things.

“He talked about how irresponsible it would be to leave our children to pay our debts – but that’s exactly what inaction on climate change is doing. In fact, listening to Cameron, you wouldn’t think there was a climate crisis at all.

“He described the NHS as ‘protected’ but in fact it’s still under threat of privatisation.

“He said those on higher incomes must contribute more, but his changes to child benefit do so in a way that is patently unfair.

“He talked about university and apprenticeship places, but in fact we can expect tuition costs to soar and education to become more about the haves versus the have-nots.

“He said he will give people power, such as to choose what school their kids will go to. But the issue isn’t choice, it’s making sure every child has a place at a good local school.

“He said some promising things about reforming the penal system, for instance that we spend £41,000 a year on every offender in jail yet half of them re-offend within a year – but the Conservatives would need to change their attitudes dramatically if they are genuinely to put rehabilitation before retribution.

“For instance, he made a point of attacking the idea of treating heroin addiction on the NHS – but in fact we could cut crime significantly if we stop treating heroin addiction as a criminal problem and start treating it properly as a medical problem.

“Meanwhile he wants us to have ‘elected police commissioners you can elect and kick out’ – which basically means making the UK more like the USA. But given America’s appalling record of criminality and imprisonment, why on earth would we want to follow the US example?

“A dream of a ‘Big Society’ utopia hiding a nightmare of socially devastating cuts.”