How I was fired as David Cameron’s Speechwriter

For three and a half hours I was employed as a speechwriter for the Prime Minister. I consider this portion of my working life to be highly rewarding and I learnt an awful lot. Primarily, I learnt that I’m not cut out to be the Prime Minister’s speechwriter. Working from a brief provided by the PM’s policy unit (two stuffed paragraphs), I’d composed a very fine address, heavily pregnant with memorable one-liners and stage directions to accentuate impact. 35 minutes after it had been e-mailed to Andy Coulson, the PM’s director of communications, I received a polite reply informing me that I could “crawl into Alan Johnson’s arse.” The full text is reproduced below. Did Coulson and company get it wrong? Judge for yourself.

NB: Text in bold denotes author annotations. Italics are stage directions for the Prime Minister.

Key: PFA = Pause for Applause, PFL = Pause for laughter, LLAG = Look lovingly at George, IW = Incite Whoops

The Text:

Conference! (PFA)

We’re back and the stabilisers are off! (PFA) Government looks a little something like THIS… Perform “robot dance” from stationary position, just to the right of the lectern, as this is the most favourable angle for the BBC’s front-on stage cam.

This early theatre ratchets up the excitement in the hall and wets delegate’s appetites for the meat of the speech.

(IW) We’re alright! Allow hall to respond. We’re alright! Again.

(Serious Face) Now listen to me. As the first Conservative Prime Minister to stand before you as part of a coalition government let me also paraphrase John Cleese and be the first politician to say “fuck” at a party conference. (PFL)

Don’t let the naysayers spray your face with flecks of cynical drool, we smashed it – we took the opposition apart and gave them a bloody electoral lesson. Now it’s true we didn’t win an overall majority but we surely would have done were it not for the votes cast for other parties and our absolute failure to regain support in the previous two general elections, due in no small part to right wing mania which we’ve not yet fully purged and, let’s face it, may now even be in the ascendant. Let’s not forget any of that, we have good reason to be proud here today. (PFA)

Some of you have suggested to me that our failure to turn the most unpopular government in 20 years into a rump was due to not going hard enough on our core messages – abolishing immigration, strangling taxes, putting a policeman in every living room, to which I say “no you mad bastards, no! Step out of Mrs Thatcher’s imaginarium and join me in the real world.”

(PFL and force a chortle yourself, wiping an imaginary tear from your eye – only BBC HD viewers will be able to spot there are no tears but they’re very small in number.)

The truth is that we failed to gain a majority because too many people imagined we’d win outright and so left it to their friends and family to vote for a foregone conclusion. Yes, maybe greater numbers of our supporters, that’s most of the British people, should have talked to each other a little more but we’re not here to blame the electorate even if, let’s face it, they’re to blame.

We’re now part of a dynamic, fresh, lemon scented coalition, an idea so bold that it could only have occurred with a Conservative government. The Liberal Democrats, once thought to be ridiculous opportunists with no ideological core, have proven their detractors wrong and shown that when the sun sets and the fog descends on no man’s land, they’re as happy as any of us to advance toward the Labour trench, getting cut down by machine gun fire as we drag on a fine Montecristo back at the Châteaux. There may be few of them left by the time we next go to the country but their sacrifice will live long in the memory and their small but necessary role in the achievements of this government will be their enduring legacy, their gift to the nation. (PFA)

War metaphors play well with the home crowd and with each end of the political spectrum – the very rich (the As) and the very poor (Ds and Es), where notions of Britishness are inextricably (and erroneously) linked with our war record.

But let us not forget the defeated. The country has been liberated from a lazy, obnoxious and morbidly obsese Labour government, a serial fantasist with serious drug and alcohol problems.

Anthropomorphising Labour in this way is an effective device because it will allow most women watching to make a mental connection with their long term or ex-partners, a highly negative association;  the female vote being vital to maintaining our electoral advantage.

Let’s take a moment to remember what it was like shall we? The past 13 years have been some of the worst this country has ever known. Even the Third Reich only lasted 12! Do you remember how it was? Children molesting children, pensioners locked up for excess bigotry, people being prematurely buried, mass poverty, the cities of Daphon and Wendomburne falling into disrepair and disuse – who but a dwindling group of nostalgic former residents remember them now? We had jury tampering, internment, baby bouncing, cleavage prohibition, the 9 day week, the destruction of Terry Thomas’ entire back catalogue and ludicrous top down rules such as having to be sick before you could use a hospital. Well we can’t and won’t go back to that and let us say to the British people never again, the adults are back in charge! (PFA)

None of these things are true but they will chime with abstract ideas linked to Labour in the areas of social degeneration and bureaucracy that our friends have successfully promoted and are now widely accepted – useful truisms.

We may have been bequeathed the worst economic legacy on record but thanks to George Osborne we’re set to take it a stage further and that takes guts as well as ineptitude. (LLAG)

Y’know, some people, like Comrade Miliband, say we’re all about cuts and have no plan for growth. Rubbish. We know that our achievements during the Eighties and Nineties were not the beginning of the end, not even the end of the end but the end of the beginning.

This is a quote borrowed, that is to say stolen, from the 1989 movie Millennium but it’s highly unlikely that anyone watching will notice.

In 1986 unemployment stood at three million. Economists tell us that was the high watermark but I say no, four million is achievable and we’re going to go for it! Many superfluous communities were destroyed when we were last in government – batches of uneducated vulgarians trapped in non-entrepreneurial ruts and reliant on heavily subsidised state industries, but there’s plenty more fat to be trimmed – I know, I’ve seen the voting map of Great Britain! Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done or that it shouldn’t be done – we’re going to do it to the nines!

But government can’t solve society’s problems alone. We’re all in this together. During the election I went to people and said, “hey you, it’s about the Big Society” and they’d say “David, what does that mean exactly?” and I’d say “I don’t know” but people understood we were on to something, something big – it’s in the title! The Big Society may sound like an ill-defined and doomed attempt to change the attitudes of a generation toward their civic duty without giving them any incentive to do so, but it’s much more than that.

(Adopt warm expression) Just last week I received a card from a young member of an ethnic minority – a newly minted 6 year old. Her mother is now voting Conservative, which should be a lesson to other black and Asian voters living in metropolitan Labour seats. This little girl, whose name I can’t pronounce, sent me a card with a pound coin selotaped to its interior. Inside, she’d written the following: “Dear Prime Minister, I heard you’d decided to forego stimulus measures, specifically greater borrowing and quantitative easing, in favour of a harsh and potentially devastating cutting regime. I wanted to show my support and help reduce our national debt by giving you this pound. The Tooth Fairy left this for me and in all likelihood I should save it but I’m giving it to the exchequer instead, I hope it helps.” (PFL)

Well thank you my dear but sadly that pound wouldn’t even make a dent in the debt interest, grow up! Still, the gesture is The Big Society at work, individuals pulling together and giving more of their time and money to improve Britain. When I think about what it means, and I’ve thought about it a lot, I see church groups, youth organisations, book clubs, cults, online NEET communities, animal charities and underground criminal networks linking arms and helping out. They’re supporting the needy, the disabled, the mentally deranged and ridiculous, helping them to get on and pour their initiative into the gaping chasm left in the wake of government’s withdrawal from the day-to-day management of the country. We believe in it not because we have no idea how to solve society’s problems, nor because we seek to absent ourselves from any responsibility for the things that go wrong but because we want people to get up and help themselves, even if that means dealing with complicated social and economic forces beyond their control.

So, let us go back to our constituencies and tell our constituents to prepare for government! (PFA)

Tough times are coming but we’re there, taking the tough decisions and balancing the books with one beady eye on fairness. Yes it was a tough decision to withdraw child benefit for upper rate taxpayers, that’s why we didn’t tell the cabinet, but this is also the government that says hold the fuck on, we’re giving you a top up for staying married, however damaged your relationship is. Not only are we telling people how to live, we’re courageously bribing them to do it – that’s a radical government making difficult choices in the national interest! We will not turn our backs when trouble comes knocking. That’s why we’re abolishing the over 75s, axing the Moon Base project and giving Durham back to the Chinese, because when it comes to rolling up our sleeves up and kicking rump, this is the government that’s making the political weather. Get behind us and together we’ll change Britain for the better!

(Pause for standing ovation but don’t hang around, the journos are already picking over the words.)


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