Drawing the battle lines for the general election, Cameron rooted his party firmly on the side of business – a week after Ed Miliband did quite the opposite with his promise to hike up corporation tax. Well-played, Cam.
Borrowing quite heavily from the (slightly tarnished?) American dream, Cameron promised to make the UK, ‘a land of opportunity’.
‘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,’ he said.
Interwoven into the chest-thumping patriotism was the reminder that the UK still needs to address the deficit. It tied in with George Osborne’s quiet revelation that the Tories could start making real-term cuts to health spending in the next parliament.
The chancellor said yesterday that ‘ring-fenced’ budgets would be under review in the run-up to the election – putting the departments for health, international development and education in the firing line for budget cuts.
‘We will get to the issue of which budgets we want to prioritise as we approach the next election,’ said Osborne.
‘This country still has a very high deficit. We will go on getting the deficit down and that’s going to mean a couple of years of very difficult decisions and cuts.
‘What’s the alternative; run a deficit forever, not fix the roof when the sun is shining, use the good years to prepare for the difficult ones?’ he added defensively.
Cameron did not respond directly to Ed Miliband’s pledge to freeze energy prices but acknowledged that bills are too high and said increasing competition, not state intervention, is the way to bring down the UK’s lofty energy bills.
A hard sell on the day energy giant E.on announced it would scrap its StayWarm scheme, which offered fix-priced tariffs for the over 60s – blaming new Ofgem rules which limit the number of tariffs energy companies can offer.
Not letting the Conservatives off the hook, Ken Clarke piped up to remind them of the rising costs of living, saying the ‘ordinary member of the public isn’t feeling much benefit’ from the government’s current strategies.
‘Everyone’s being driven up the wall,’ he added.
In a direct threat to his coalition partners, Cameron promised to campaign ‘heart and soul’ for outright victory, come the 2015 elections.
‘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...’
Adding some mirth to the proceedings, he laid down a challenge to Ed Miliband - referencing Miliband's jibes last week that he would never be photographed with his shirt off (like Cameron was in Cornwall this summer).
‘You keep your shirt on and I’ll keep the lights on,’ he said. Whether that means ‘lights on, shirts off’ for the PM is anyone’s guess.