ADDRESSING the country from the steps of Downing Street last night, David Cameron sounded every inch a one nation Conservative. There was none of the promise and hope that characterised Tony Blair’s first utterances as Prime Minister. Instead he offered Britain two things: a warning and a promise.
“This is going to be hard and difficult work,” he said, before describing a heavily indebted Britain that is plagued by social breakdown and a dwindling belief in the political class. There were, however, warm words of reassurance: “I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, the poorest in our country. We must take everyone with us on some of the difficult decisions that we have ahead.” This won’t be easy, he said, but no-one will be left behind.
Cameron, the first Eton-educated Prime Minister since Sir Alec Douglas Home in 1963, was a late convert to social inclusion. After graduating from Cambridge with a First in 1988, he spent his early years as an adviser to senior Conservatives, including Norman Lamont and Michael Howard. In 1994, he became director of communications at Carlton Television, where he developed a reputation for being ruthless and aloof.
The birth of his first child Ivan in 2002, who suffered from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, is credited with softening Cameron’s attitude to politics. Ivan, who died last year, was heavily reliant on the NHS for care, fostering a commitment to the health service that was often at odds with the Tory party. Following their third successive election defeat at the hands of Labour, the Tories picked Cameron as their leader in 2005. He set about modernising the party, changing its stance on issues like gay marriage and climate change, often against the whims of his backbenchers.
He is not a reluctant leader. Those close to him say he wants power, that he believes he can use it for good. The challenges he faces are huge, however. Yesterday was just the start.