Notes on the Election

David Runciman

One of the things Cameron and Obama have in common is that they both owe their rapid political ascent to a single, shortish speech. Obama gave his in 2004 at the Democratic Convention in Boston, where he deftly managed to combine his unusual personal history with a vision of a post-partisan America, and went in one evening from being a promising state senator to a man widely regarded as a future president. Cameron gave his at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool a year later. It wasn’t a patch on Obama’s but it was fluent, plausible, and unapologetic about being a Conservative – and delivered without notes. What made it appear a triumph was the speech given the next day by David Davis, Cameron’s main rival for the Tory Party leadership and the man long considered the favourite to succeed Michael Howard. Davis flopped. He spoke woodenly from behind a lectern without any of Cameron’s natural ease, looking and sounding like someone who would rather have been almost anywhere else. The final peroration fell so flat that Davis had to signal with his hands that he was finished and beckon the near silent audience to its feet.

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