A Passion for Putting Britain Back Together; David Cameron Hoped to Lift Our Spirits at the Conservative Conference in Manchester, Says Political Editor Jonathan Walker
Byline: Jonathan Walker
he only thing we have to fear is fear itself!
That was the message of David Cameron's speech to the party faithful and the nation as Conservatives gathered in Manchester.
Britain was engulfed by "pessimism about our economic future, our social problems, our political system," he said.
And many of us believed "our best days are behind us".
But to get through the "economic mess", the United Kingdom needed to "show the world some fight".
"Let's pull together," said Mr Cameron. "Work together. And together lead Britain to better days."
And he warned: "The truth is, right now we need to be energised, not paralysed by gloom and fear".
The sentiment echoed the inaugural address of US President Franklin D Roosevelt, who also took power during a period of economic chaos and set out to try to instil confidence in the American public.
In his first address in 1933, Roosevelt said: "let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
Both men were concerned that the insecurity and fear caused by their nations' economic problems would make those same problems worse.
But President Roosevelt is remembered by history not only for his stirring words but for his "New Deal", designed to relieve poverty and get the economy moving again.
This was an idea nicked by Labour leader Ed Miliband in his speech to his own party conference, where he promised a "new bargain" for Britain.
The difficulty for Mr Cameron is that he believes his government is already taking the action needed to get the economy in shape, and although the medicine is unpleasant we all need to keep on taking it until it works.
However, he did promise to "lead Britain to better days", partly by reducing Britain's debts, but partly by creating new jobs - with a particular focus on technology and skilled manufacturing.
"Here's our growth plan: doing everything we can to help businesses start, grow, thrive, succeed.
"Where that means backing off, cutting regulation - back off, cut regulation. Where that means intervention, investment - intervene, invest."
Highlighting internet businesses, car manufacturers and Staffordshire firm JCB, he said: "This is the new economy we're building: leading in advanced manufacturing, technology, life sciences, green engineering. Inventing, creating, exporting."
The Prime Minister insisted the Government was laying the foundations for recovery, but admitted voters would simply have to trust that he knew what he was doing - because they aren't feeling the benefits yet.
He said: "Our plan is right and our plan will work. I know you can't see it or feel it yet."
Ultimately, whether you believe him or not comes down to whether you trust David Cameron and the Tories.
And this is why - without ever mentioning Mr Miliband by name - he was at pains to present himself as a strong and trustworthy leader, in contrast, it was implied, to Labour's alternative.
Mr Cameron said: "It is leadership we need. To get our economy moving. To get our society working, and in a year - the Olympics year - when the world will be watching us, to show everyone what Great Britain really means."
The right leadership, of course, means an experienced Prime Minister, not that earnest young man from the Labour Party.
Although the number of new announcements at the conference was limited, the Conservatives were able to set out a few measures to promote economic growth.
In his speech to activists, George Osborne, the Chancellor, rejected Labour's proposal for a VAT cut, and gave no indication that he was planning to axe the 50p top rate of tax for people earning pounds 150,000 or more. …