The Guardian recently analyzed David Cameron’s speech to the British Conservative Party Conference for the popularity of his applause lines. I’ve extracted in popularity order all the lines that got more than 15 seconds of applause, while excluding the introduction. The interesting thing to me is that all the most popular lines are based specifically on conservative principles.
David Cameron’s conference speech, 2009
And when we look back we will say not that the government made it happen… …not that the minister made it happen… …but the businesswoman made it happen… …the police officer made it happen… …the father made it happen… …the teacher made it happen. You made it happen.
Let everyone in this hall show their appreciation to the men and women who fight for us
Thirty years ago this party won an election fighting against 98 per cent tax rates on the richest. Today I want us to show even more anger about 96 per cent tax rates on the poorest.
Excuse me? Who made the poorest poorer? Who left youth unemployment higher? Who made inequality greater? No, not the wicked Tories… you, Labour: you’re the ones that did this to our society. So don’t you dare lecture us about poverty. You have failed and it falls to us, the modern Conservative Party to fight for the poorest who you have let down.
And if we win the election, we will have as the strongest voice for our country’s interests, the man who is leading our campaign for a referendum, the man who will be our new British Foreign Secretary: William Hague.
Next year, Gordon Brown will spend more money on the interest on our debt than on schools. More than on law and order, more than on child poverty. So I say to the Labour Party and the trades unions just tell me what is compassionate, what is progressive about spending more on debt interest than on helping the poorest children in our country?
So when I see Ed Balls blow hundreds of millions on so-called “curriculum development” on consultancies, on quangos like the QCDA and BECTA like every other parent with a child at a state school I want to say: This is my child, it’s my money, give it to my headteacher instead of wasting it in Whitehall.
We’ve got to stop treating children like adults and adults like children.
Pensioners don’t want pity. They just want to know that if they’ve lived responsibly, they’ll be looked after in their old age.
Today let us honour their memory and send our thoughts and best wishes to all those, including Margaret Tebbit, who still bear the scars of that terrible night.
That’s why ID cards, 42 days and Labour’s surveillance state are so utterly unacceptable and why we will sweep the whole rotten edifice away.
I know what sustains me the most. She is sitting right there and I’m incredibly proud to call her my wife.
we will give back to the Bank of England its power to regulate the City powers that should never have been taken away.
In Britain today, there are entrepreneurs everywhere – they just don’t know it yet. Success stories everywhere – they just haven’t been written yet. We must be the people who release that potential.
The police aren’t on the streets because they’re busy complying with ten different inspection regimes. The police say the CPS isn’t charging people…because they have to hit targets to reduce the number of unsuccessful trials. And the prisons aren’t rehabilitating offenders…because they’re focused on meeting thirty-three different performance indicators. This all needs to change.
I’m not going to worry about the exact duration of the applause lines. For instance, the most popular line measured by applause duration was the very last line in the speech. The audience wasn’t necessarily applauding for that line, but for the whole speech. On the other hand, no politician would conclude a speech to his own convention with a line that was not guaranteed to resonate with the listeners.
Paraphrased, here are what the popular applause lines in the speech were all about.
- The government will not fix things; the people will fix things. Individual freedom.
- We appreciate our military who fight for us. National self-defense.
- Taxes don’t just hurt rich people; they hurt poor people too. Taxes are too high.
- The failures of the bureaucracy must be blamed on the people who controlled the bureaucracy when they failed. That has always been the Left. Personal responsibility.
- Our country’s freedom is endangered by the EU; our best leader in opposition to creeping EU dominance will be my foreign minister. Rule of law and a representative government.
- A crippling national debt created to benefit unions destroys our country’s safety nets for the poorest among us. Prudence.
- Too much so-called education money is spent on consultants and politically connected NGOs. Prudence.
- We need to stop treating children like adults and adults like children. Individual freedom, rights and responsibilities.
- Retired workers don’t want pity and government handouts, just to get the pensions they have earned. Rule of law.
- Let us honor those who have suffered. Kindness.
- Government surveillance and regulation has gone too far and we will sweep it out. Individual freedom. Rule of law.
- My wife sustains me. Marriage and family.
- Banks have been prevented by City government from making prudent financial decisions and we will stop this. Free market. Rule of law.
- We will unleash the entrepreneurs and new businesses that have been kept down by the left. Free market. Individual freedom.
- Police aren’t on the streets because they are complying with politically correct paperwork that prevents them from keeping the streets safe. This needs to change. Prudence.
And finally, the top line that wasn’t quite 15 seconds was, “This big government has reached the end of the road.” This is classic red meat, though not so much a statement of principle.
In my opinion, these lines express ideas that are popular in the US as well, not just among US conservatives but among independents and even Democrats. Conservatives in the US need to take these popular lines and use them, or lines like them.
In related news, a word cloud for Cameron’s speech can be found here.
Update 3: David Cameron’s responses to Telegraph readers’ questions.