09:24 - Good morning and welcome to the final big event of the party conference season. Stifle your glee, it's not over yet. But it will be in a few hours. David Cameron is expected on stage just after 11. So far, most of the speech is fairly standard fare. Cameron will warn Britain risks being left behind in the global race and will focus on strong families. It's a decidedly negative tone to take - at least in the pre-speech briefings - but presumably he has something else up his sleeves. The slogan - 'hour of reckoning - is suitably Biblical.
09:32 - Here's the crux of the pre-released extracts: "Unless we act, unless we take difficult, painful decisions, unless we show determination and imagination, Britain may not be in the future what it has been in the past. Because the truth is, we're in a global race today. And that means an hour of reckoning for countries like ours. Sink or swim. Do or decline." During another section, Cameron talks about his disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009, saying the Paralympics have changed the way we look at disability. he also returns to this theme of 'compassionate Conservatism', saying he has been trying to achieve it since he became leader. "The Conservative party is for everyone: north and south, black or white, straight or gay. But above all - Conservative methods are not just the way we grow a strong economy, but the way we build a 'big society'."
09:37 - The strategy is pretty clear. Cameron counters Ed Miliband's wishy-washy 'one nation' hugs with some harsh talk about the reality of our situation. This plays to his prime ministerial qualities and cements a 'maturity of government' narrative. It's actually pretty close to what Gordon Brown wanted to try at the election - would you really trust this guy with the economy? - that sort of thing. The compassionate Conservatism section is a direct riposte to Miliband's 'one nation' message, as Cameron tries to make sure he is still occupying the centre ground. In line with that, I presume there'll be a long section on gay marriage.
09:46 - The other problem is the speech sounds so negative. Without sunny upland, it's hard to see it offering voters an attractive alternative. One of the first rules in politics is to offer something positive. Cameron has long relied on the 'big society' to fill this hole and he mentions it again today. If any phrase has been shown to lack resonance it's that one. It's problematic that he's still using it. So: Early signs do not look good. But bear in mind that I was still scoffing at reports of Miliband's speech an hour or two before it started, so I am no guide.
09:56 - But Cameron's got his own problems to deal with. The International Monetary Fund downgraded its growth forecasts for the UK yesterday. Boris is still being feted as some sort of earthbound deity. And the rumours around Andrew Mitchell refuse to die down. Yesterday's parties at the conference were a hotbed of assassination whispers. Several Cabinet ministers are now openly talking about how to get rid of him. It's hard to see how he survives. the chief whip must have authority to get MPs to behave. It's like the headmaster coming in, spanking the maths teacher in public, and then expecting the pupils to respect his authority. My hunch is that when MPs get back to Westminster next week, his days are numbered.
10:15 - Still, Cameron was able to put everything to one side yesterday when he celebrated his birthday with the missus in a local curry house. ITN have a video. Witness the extreme awkwardness of the modern photo opportunity. Poor Sam Cameron doesn't particularly look happy in that part of town and Dave looks like he's dreading the cheapest meal of his life.
10:20 - Over on Andrew Sparrow's blog (go there, then come back, don't cheat on me, I'm very jealous), the Guardian journalist notes a few things we've learned this week. The most interesting is the negative vibe. The 'strivers' term is shorthand for populist Toryism. The individual policies which come from it - benefit cuts, new rules on home intruders etc - poll well individually, but taken together they present an extremely negative agenda. Boris Johnson's speech, on the other hand, was relentlessly positive, and you could feel the difference. I think Sparrow's onto something. Running on such a negative platform is extremely dangerous.
10:28 - Lord Ashcroft's conference diary at ConservativeHome has a sort of icy echo to it. He ends it with this line: "I think there was once a view that ConHome existed to cause trouble, but nothing could be further from the truth. We just want to ensure that winning a majority stays at the top of the agenda. Let’s see what David Cameron has to say later today that will take us closer to the victory we all want to achieve." Mmm. You can see that hanging in the air.
10:40 - There's very little else of interest in the national press. The build up to Cameron's effort is much more subdued than Miliband's. There is a fabulous piece by Max Hastings in the Mail on why he's not staying in Britain if Boris become prime minister. "If the mayor of London is the answer, there is something desperately wrong with the question," he said. "If the day ever comes that Boris Johnson becomes tenant of Downing Street, I shall be among those packing my bags for a new life in Buenos Aires or suchlike, because it means that Britain has abandoned its last pretensions to be a serious country." And then, to top it off: "I would not trust him with my wife nor — from painful experience — with my wallet. It is unnecessary to take any moral view about his almost crazed infidelities, but it is hard to believe that any man so conspicuously incapable of controlling his own libido is fit to be trusted with controlling the country."
10:45 - Interesting tweet from Cameron (he does that now). "I’m levelling with the British people in my speech at 11.30," he writes. "It's sink or swim, do or decline. How we'll ensure Britain wins the Global Race."
11:12 - Seb Coe is giving a speech to the conference. It's quite a depressing sight, frankly. He speaks at length about Britain's sense of humour, to a hall with arguably the worst sense of humour in the country.
11:13 - Coe gets a standing ovation. Outside, the subdued mood continues. Very limited queues for the leader's speech. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg comes on stage.
11:15 - Cameron is a "gold medal prime minister" Bloomberg says. He adds that the Olympics were "one of the best ever and all the world is a beneficiary". He goes on: "Thank you for letting a yank crash the party." He describes his former wife, who grew up in Yorkshire. He says Yorkshire in a way that suggests she did not abuse him for his failures.
11:18 - The atmosphere in the hall is very flat. If it was Coe's job to boost it, he failed. Perhaps he was trying to keep it subdued for Cameron. But then why throw on Bloomberg too? Unfortunately, he is not a particularly inspirational speaker either.
11:27 - Bloomberg finishes. The lights dim. We should be good to go here. I've just uploaded the speech, but it's embargoed until Cameron starts delivering it. As soon as that happens I'll give you a link so you can follow along if you want to.
11:29 - Osborne, apparently, is on the way to Japan.
11:30 - Brown used to have his wife to introduce him. Cameron has William Hague, a bald man from Yorkshire. He says he is respected around the world and plays a video on his manly masculine manliness.
11:33 - Rather cheekily the video highlights taking lower income workers out of the tax system - a Lib Dem policy. The rest asserts the prime ministerial qualities we mentioned earlier - meeting statesmen, flying round the world, dominating at PMQs. Sam Cam looks up at her husband admiringly from the audience.
11:35 - Now there's lots of shots of the Olympics. All three leaders' speeches have made lengthy references to it, presumably to no avail. And Cameron finally comes on.
11:36 - He does, it must be said, look very prime ministerial - well put together, dynamic, presentable. He says he took power at a sombre and dangerous moment - the economy, Afghanistan, the broken society. "I can't tell you that all is well, but I can tell you Britain is on the right track," he says. "As prime minister it has fallen to me to say some harsh things."
11:37 - He says the assumption Britain will always pay its way as a major industrial country is not a safe one. "The truth is this, we are in a global race today and that means an hour of reckoning. To take office at such a moment is a duty and an honour and we will rise to the challenge." he says he wants a serious argument to the country. I've got the feeling there aren't going to be many laughs here.
11:40 - Cameron makes a dreadful joke about the French complaining about their bicycles then says his best moment was putting a gold medal round the neck of Simmons. He says when he pushed his son Ivan around, too many people saw the wheelchair and not the boy, but now that's changed. He almost cried there. His voice cracked.
11:42 - Cameron praises Boris - the "zinger on the zipwire".
11:43 - In an admission of his struggles with the 'big society', Cameron says he's spent three years trying to explain it, while volunteers at the Olympics did it in a few weeks.
11:44 - Cameron demands a standing ovation for our troops. He gets one, obviously. The speech is the opposite of Milibands: a lecture, a script sent minutes in advance, a serious tone. The idea will be for realistic details to compare with the 'idealism' of Miliband's.
11:46 - Now he defends his record on the NHS. "This is the party of the NHS and that's the way it's going to stay," he says, not entirely convincingly. He clears his throat. The entire thing is curiously subdued so far Nothing disastrous, but just a bit... glum. I can't find the thematic link at the moment. He is now on international development. Is it just a list of everything the government is doing?
11:49 - Next he reminds the audience of his veto. Now it's benefits. The hall claps - they're all solid Tory policies. But what is he actually getting at. Now it's Abu Hamza.
11:50 - Cameron says we can't let the Olympics give us "a warm glow or sense of security". He says new powers are on rise - not just India and China but also places n Africa. Old powers are on the slide. We're "fat, overregulated, spending money on unaffordable welfare systems". He says he spends ages in Brussels talking about Greece when China builds an economy as big as Greece's every three months. Ok, that was quite effective.
11:53 - Cameron says the Tories have been led by the daughter of a grocer and a Jew when Jews were persecuted. "We don't preach 'one nation' and practice class war. We just get behind the people who want to get on in life. The doers, the risk-takers. They call us the party of the better off. No, we're the party of the want-to-be-better-off."
11:56 - This is the heart of Cameron's strategy: Getting non-posh right wingers back inside the tent. This is the anti-Andrew Mitchell strategy. He now expresses why each policy is there to help the common man get on. "We're not the same old Tories who want to help the rich. Our ideas help everyone. Labour will fight each and every one of them every step of the way."
11:57 - The next election is a fight they have to win "for our party, for our country, for our nation's future." He says Labour's plan to borrow more would trigger higher interest rates. "We are here because he spent too much and borrowed too much. How on earth can the answer be more spending and more borrowing?"
12:00 - Cameron insists the economy will improve and jobs are being created.
12:03 - Cameron mocks Miliband's one nation speech a little more. He laughs at Miliband's description of millionaires getting a cheque for their 50p tax cut. It's not the government's money, it's your money. That sort of thing. He promises the rich are paying a greater share of tax in this parliament. Subdued applause.
12:05 - Cameron spends about a third of his time looking at the camera - that tell-tell sign you're speaking to the country, not the hall. "We're selling to the world again," he insists. He says when he came into power he told the Foreign Office to turn their embassies into "showrooms for our cars".
12:08 - Now Cameron is defending taking business people overseas. This relates to his decision to go to Egypt with arms dealers right after the revolution. Again, this defensive rhetoric is uninspiring.
12:09 - "We have got ot beat off this suffocating bureaucracy once and for all," he says. So more slashes to regulation. Next, housing. There are too many Nimbys. Most people who buy homes at 33 now. "We are the party of home ownership and we can't let this go on." The speech is scattergun. He jumps from one topic to the next. The challenges of a global economy is the ostensible through line, but it barely holds together.
12:12 - On benefits, Cameron suggests there is a severe injustice in working people doing worse than those who sign on. People on housing benefit now need a contract which involves a CV and the requirement they seek and take work or lose benefit. He confirms they will scrap automatic access to housing benefit for those under 25. He speaks of the man who "plays computer games all day because a fantasy is better than his real life". Er... Cameron's been spying on my dreams.
12:15 - Now Cameron defends the government's work experience programme, where people did unpaid work in a supermarket. He attacks unions for saying it belonged in the Victorian era. "Work isn't slavery, it's poverty that's slavery and let it be us - the modern, compassionate Conservatives - who lead the fight against Britain today." That was very strong. He delivered it well and the hall roared with applause.
12:18 - He's now on education. This is quite tiring actually. How many more departments does he need to defend? How many are there left?
12:19 - Cameron describes free schools as independent schools in the state sector, which is a good angle. He says the left-wing local authorities stand in the way, preventing improvement.
12:21 - Cameron's delivery is, however, very good. It is a confident performance. "I'm not here to defend privilege, I'm here to spread it," he says. "I don't have a hard luck story. My dad was a stock broker from Berkshire. But it's only when your dad's gone that you realise how much you owe them." He mentions his disability - his loss of legs. He was an only child because disability was such a stigma. "To him the glass was always half full, usually with something quite alcoholic." They went for a walk through the village when he was a boy. He said he was most proud of working hard and providing a good start in life for his family. "Not a hard luck story, but a hard work story - work hard, family comes first, put back into the community. There's nothing complicated about me. And there's nothing complicated about what we need today. This is the still the greatest country on earth."
12:25 - Cameroon reels off Britain's achievements - fighting off every defender for a thousand years etc. He says Britain can attract business and turn the welfare state - something it invented - into something which contributes to the economy rather than pulling it down. "We know what it takes to win, to win for all our people, to win for Britain, so let us get out there and do it."
12:27 - |Sam Cam looks a little aggrieved at having to climb up the stairs to the stage. Their quick kiss is a bit awkward. Cameron goes for it, she ends it quickly.
12:29 - That was short, strong and well-delivered. it was solid. Tories will love it. And Cameron is sensible enough to realise he has a class problem, typified by Mitchell. His appeal to aspiration voters - the want-to-be-rich - is sensible and will resonate with Middle England and its marginal constituencies. His sections on his son and his father, although disconnected, were effective and touching. However, it was an entirely defensive speech, which reveals just how much of a back foot the Tories are on. It's thematic link - the global race - was weak, so it came across as a stroll around the houses of government. it was also very negative and his solution to the problems Britain faces were not particularly convincing. It even felt a little complacent. Finally, it was unmemorable. We will not remember it next week. I'll do up a bigger comment piece in a moment. For now, I'll bring the blog to a close. News, sketch, analysis, comment and political responses will be up in a bit. See you next week for PMQs.