David Cameron in Romsey
David Cameron came to Romsey this evening to host the 62nd, no less, in his series of CameronDirect public meetings. It was fascinating to see the man who could shortly be the next Prime Minister answering questions at close quarters.
After being introduced by the President of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, Ruth Gower-Smith, he strode on stage and, rather than giving a short speech as I had expected, he invited the first question, about education. After listening intently, he gave a considered reply, touching on his own daughter’s imminent start at primary school and emphasising the need for discipline and autonomy for head teachers.
Next up was a lady from Fathers4Justice, whom he seemed to know from previous such meetings, asking her not to monopolise him afterwards! He responded to her courteously, making the point that it is more cost-effective to intervene before marriages break up rather than afterwards; broken marriages and its consequences, he said, cost the country of the order of £26 billion, whereas the annual budget of Relate is £20 million.
Other questions and answers included:
- law and order – it was time to return the power from the CPS to the police to prosecute minor offences;
- Europe – we would stay in the EU but put a ‘lock’ on any further powers being ceded to Brussels;
- housing – regional housing targets should go, giving local communities should have a greater say over planning decisions;
- allotments – ‘you won’t find a politician more pro-allotments than me!’
- preventing British companies from being taken over – Britain is a trading nation and magnet for Indian investors, for example, so protectionism isn’t the answer.
- and finally, engaging youg people in politics – they’re interested in the issues – global warming and graduate jo prospects, for example – rather than the institutions, but lowering the minimum voting age wasn’t the answer.
David Cameron spoke confidently without notes and came across as sincere in his beliefs and forceful in his ideas of what to do should his party win the election. Having held so many meetings like this, he and his team obviously believe that seeking to connect with floating voters in this way is a good use of his time.
I suspect that they are at least partly relying on the network effect: if you’re impressed, you’ll tell your friends. At any rate, the contrast between his easy manner – charisma? – and Gordon Brown’s generally dour public demeanour is clear. It will be interesting to see whether it does indeed take him across the threshold of 10 Downing Street in just a few weeks’ time.