As far as Downing Street will be concerned, the one overriding outcome from Labour’s Party conference was that the week was punctuated with nearly universally bad headlines – all of which were read with glee at Number 10. Danny Finkelstein reported that focus groups shook their heads and said ‘no’ when shown a picture of Ed Miliband, and when asked about having him as Prime Minister they often laughed. This, believes the PM’s Team, is the scale of the challenge facing Labour’s Leader in the increasingly presidential nature of the General Election.
The high levels of the Tory Party believe that both Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg had to work hard at their conferences to reaffirm their own positions within their respective Parties. In contrast Cameron will undoubtedly be confident he has the backing of the majority of his Party and that he is the right person for the top job. There is no challenge, no possible other Leader. Amongst both his Party and the Country – he has commanding poll ratings.
So did Cameron and his Team achieve what they wanted to at the 2011 Manchester Conservative Party conference? Yes. The Conference mood was not that of 2009 – the economic crisis dominated and the main speeches and conveyed the seriousness of the situation but without wanting to deliver all doom and gloom. Words were picked carefully and the tone judged right to acknowledge uncertainty and yet, via the PM’s speech, conveying a degree of optimism for the future.
Following the contentious talk at the Liberal Democrat conference, the Tories fought by seldom referring to their Coalition Partners. As the senior of the two parties, the Conservatives have less to prove. It is not David Cameron, or his Team’s style to react to deliberate attempts to create rifts within the Coalition, and generally that aspiration held via strong instruction.
So – the main (barring the SNP) Party Conferences of 2011 were mostly low key affairs but of all the Party Leaders, it is Cameron who emerged happiest – despite the distractions of the last week.