Cameron delivered thoughtful speech
Cameron delivered thoughtful speech (Reuters)

Probably the best thing that will be said about David Cameron's speech to the Tory faithful is that it was deliberate. Deliberately low-key, sober and policy-free.

What the Tory leader did was to carefully and pretty comprehensively set out exactly what he stands for and what he believes the "real" one-nation party stands for, in the broadest terms.

In other words there was plenty of talk about creating a land of opportunity, saving for the rainy days, uniting the nation, encouraging work not welfare and always being on the side of hardworking people.

In what he wants to be seen as a grown-up speech for serious times, he offered just a glimpse of the old "Sunshine Dave" of the past, claiming: "The land of despair was Labour, but the land of hope is Tory". Within seconds, Twitter was alive with "Land of Hope and Tory" jokes.

The core economic message was quite simple: "We are sorting out the mess so for heaven's sake don't let Red Ed ruin it." And it was delivered straight to the nation with Cameron, rather awkwardly, looking directly down the camera lens.

But it was Ed Miliband who hovered over the speech, just as he has over the entire proceedings. Not just because Cameron was in danger of being overshadowed by the ongoing row between Miliband and the Daily Mail, but because the Labour leader's extraordinary speech at his own conference has changed the terms of the debate.

Indeed, Paul Waugh, editor of PoliticsHome, tweeted that senior Labour sources were claiming: "David Cameron has clearly given up attacking Ed Miliband as weak. Labour is now the party setting the agenda"

The centre is no longer where it was and Cameron was undoubtedly forced to rewrite his speech to deal with that shift and address the Miliband threat. Similarly, he was eager to take on the other threat, posed by the Eurosceptic Ukip whose leader Nigel Farage has also attempted to hijack the conference.

What did he mean by that?

This is a decoding of some of what he said.

He said: We know that profit, wealth creation, tax cuts, enterprise these are not dirty, elitist words - they're not the problem, they really are the solution because it's not government that creates jobs, it's businesses. It's businesses that get wages in people's pockets, food on their tables, hope for their families and success for our country.

He meant: Ed Miliband is a rampant socialist who would destroy businesses, nationalise the commanding heights of the economy and massively grow public services where many of his union pals work.

He said: This country's debt crisis, created by Labour, is not over. After three years of cuts, we still have one of the biggest deficits in the world. We are still spending more than we earn. We still need to earn more and yes, our government still needs to spend less.

He meant: I know I told you we would have done it by now and we've failed. We've still been borrowing and spending like there's no tomorrow. But vote for us and we will stop all that and build up a nice little nest egg - next time.

He said: I see that Labour have stopped talking about the debt crisis and now they talk about the cost of living crisis.

He meant: I'm not going to talk about the cost of living crisis (oops, shouldn't have said it was a crisis) but will talk a lot about the debt crisis.

He said: Our economy, our society, welfare, schools all reformed, all rebuilt - with one aim, one mission in mind: To make this country, at long last and for the first time ever, a land of opportunity for all. For all.

So it makes no difference whether you live in the North or in the South, whether you're black or you're white, a man or a woman, the school you went to, the background you have, who your parents were what matters is the effort you put in, and if you put the effort in you'll have the chance to make it.

He meant: How dare Labour steal our One Nation label and get away with it. And forget all this stuff about me only standing up for my toff pals or the fact I went to Eton and am a millionaire. We're standing up for everyone.

He said: "Some people say a lot of things on Europe. You'll never be able to veto an EU treaty. You'll never cut the Budget. And if you did these things -you'd have no allies in Europe.

"Well we've proved them wrong. I vetoed that treaty I got Britain out of the EU bail-out scheme and yes - I cut that budget. And in doing all this, we haven't lost respect - we've won allies to get powers back from Europe.

"That is what we will do and at the end of it - yes - we will give the British people their say in a referendum. That is our pledge. It will be your choice: in or out."

He meant: Please, please, please don't fall for the Ukip guff. Farage's party really is full of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists (see Godfrey Bloom). We will give you the chance to pull out of Europe too, even though I want to stay in. And voting Ukip will only let in Red Ed.

He said: We've got a year and a half 'til that election, a year and a half until Britain makes a choice: move forward to something better or go back to something worse but I believe that if this party fights with all we have, then this country will make the right choice.

He meant: But I'm not quite as sure as I should be and neither are you.

He said: "When the election comes, we won't be campaigning for a coalition, we will be fighting heart and soul for a majority Conservative government - because that is what our country needs.

He meant: So don't believe all that stuff about me preferring to govern with Clegg and Cable rather than Boneand Hollobone. Although who wouldn't, really?