I think it must be the porridge oats. Last year David Cameron visited a Quaker Oats factory in Fife and enjoyed a bowl of porridge. He lapped it up.
I’m sure his Scots father must have given him plenty as a kid but now it’s a regular staple in the Cameron household and on Wednesday he gave a much improved performance, delivering one of his better speeches of recent years. It’s as if the porridge put hair on his chest, or gave him the cojones to come out fighting.
If it’s not the porridge then somebody’s putting something stronger in his café latte, and I don’t mean an extra shot of espresso.
The speech had humour (especially about Ed Balls), patriotism and pathos (our armed forces) and countered the tired old stereotype of Tory elitism that Labour likes to peddle.
Sure David Cameron went to Eton, but so what? It was Tony Blair that made wooing the rich an art form and Gordon Brown that had the prawn cocktail offensive to win the hearts and minds of the city bankers – and then got into bed with them dishing out knighthoods that were surrendered later.
The point is that Cameron understands aspiration, he gets it that most people have to work to get what they have – and understands that no matter your wealth life will throw personal challenges and tragedies at you.
It was because his Scots great-great grandfather made his fortune selling grain in Chicago before returning to Scotland that his family could send its children to a top school. The Camerons – from Huntly in Aberdeenshire (don’t tell me you didn’t guess from the name) – built what they now have.
The Camerons are typical Scots of the Victorian age, taking advantage of the opportunities that our Union with England presented by building a business in London, at that time the imperial capital. Like so many Scots before him, and still now, Cameron’s father became a successful London stockbroker, overcoming his own physical disabilities.
It is those life experiences that came through in the Prime Minister’s speech and the theme of the Tory conference – which was all about rewarding hard work and challenging the something-for-nothing society.
Although the focus was mainly on economics, he injected a humanity to Tory speeches that is always latent but rarely revealed. I had to pick my jaw up off the floor after he called for applause and support for the “noble calling” of Britain’s social workers.
He beat the drum for the becalmed north, bemoaned the London-centric nature of the economy, but most of all promised opportunity for everyone – irrespective of background, gender, race, religion, sexuality or suggested limitation, perceived or real – if people are willing to work for it.
And he talked of how jobs are created by businesses making a profit supplying what people want and how jobs are killed by high taxes driving them away to other countries. With 1.4 million new private sector jobs under his belt he can speak with some authority.
At last we got a sense of the man behind the PR, the real Cameron rather than the actor, a conviction politician rather than a Blair clone.
There is no doubting he was drawing up the battle lines for the general election – only 20 months away – for only two men have a chance to be the next prime minister; either Cameron again or the wrong Miliband.
Of course there was an elephant in the room, for the presence of Nigel Farage was almost tangible, but to beat the Ukip leader Cameron must raise the spectre of “Red Ed” to pull Tory defectors back into his camp. The fact that last week Miliband took his party back into the past of 1970s socialism, Slade and strikes actually helps Cameron.
He also took a gamble and it is one that I hope for the sake of British democracy he pulls off. Instead of responding to the SNP bribe of an earlier retirement age (that has not been priced and will be paid for by our grandchildren’s taxes), or the Labour bribe of an energy price freeze (that will deliver a blackout Britain) he offered no quick fixes, no free goodies or electoral sweeties.
Instead, Cameron said the “casino economy” left behind by Labour was so bad that the job of sorting out their mess remains and he appealed to be given the chance to do “finish the job” – in other words saying the next parliamentary term will be tough for everyone, too.
This is realistic but risky. Cameron’s gamble is that the British people will reason he is being honest with them and that Labour has not yet come off the addiction to high spending and high borrowing that helped create Britain’s recession.
His Chancellor had earlier in the week gone further, correctly pointing out that turning the deficit into a surplus must be our aim – for only that way can we pay off the national debt.
Cameron has discovered his mojo. Keep taking your porridge, Prime Minister – with no sugar if you’re a true Scotsman.