David Cameron: Underdog or Overdog?

David Cameron’s keynote tomorrow marks the end of Conference season. To celebrate, we’ve taken a look at some of his past speeches.

A political party is a brand. But the party’s leader is a personal brand. So a leader has to juggle their own personal verbal identity and the party’s. This can be a balancing act. Especially when the party is in two minds about what it wants to be.

The common theme of Cameron’s conference speeches as PM is an inability to decide what role he (and his party) plays in the national narrative.

Cameron is clearly a confident and accomplished speaker – when he’s comfortable with what he’s saying. He often isn’t.

He carries himself formally, and seems to prefer to speak formally. So when he lapses into business-speak or slang, it’s rather jarring. He sounds like a schoolboy playing at 18th Century statesmanship.

And that doesn’t do much for his image – or his party’s. Everything he’s saying could be true. But if you’re half expecting the housemaster to shut him up at any moment, taking him seriously is difficult.

Cameron is quick to belittle and dismiss opponents. But his Churchillian style relies on a monolithic enemy to resist. And he doesn’t seem sure there is one.

Is the Labour party a sclerotized bureaucracy? Or is it a Stalinist dictatorship?

Is Dave the underdog or the overdog?

We can explain Cameron’s uncertainty via the uncertain narrative the government has adopted.

The Conservatives tend to work best under strong rulers. But a general public mistrust for authority creates a danger of appearing arrogant.

He can’t be the type of leader he wants to be, because people have decided he isn’t that type of leader. And since people decided he wasn’t the type of person to go by “Dave”, he was ridiculed for “Call me Dave”.

If you don’t quickly establish a narrative for people to follow, they’ll fill in the gaps themselves. So it’s best to pick one narrative and stick to it.

If you’re an 18th Century statesman with some advice you’d like us to pass on to Mr. Cameron, or you’d like some one-on-one mentoring to spruce up your own language style, please email Chris.