Cameron pushes message of aspiration

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Media captionNick Robinson reviews David Cameron speech

Who are you really? What is your government for? Why are you doing what you're doing?

It is curious that almost seven years after he became his party's leader and more than two years after he became Prime Minister, David Cameron felt that those were the questions he had to answer today.

In part that's because the circumstances he now faces are not just a long long way from the sunny optimistic rhetoric which preceded the economic crisis, but also a long long way from the economic recovery he once believed would be well under way by now.

So, Mr Cameron used his speech to admit that the job of tackling the deficit had proved tougher and was taking longer than he'd expected. He drew on his experience travelling the globe, witnessing the rise not just of China and India but Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia too, to warn that Britain faced a "sink or swim, do or decline" choice about the future.

He insisted that was not simply about cutting the deficit but also about reforming the welfare and education system.

Above all, though, the man who's heard himself branded as posh and out of touch and his party as that of the rich and the privileged fought back. The Tories were, he said, not the party of the better off but the party of the "want to be better off". He was a man who didn't defend privilege but wanted to spread it.

Mr Cameron knew he could not stand on a stage and claim that the economy had been repaired. So, instead, he sought to convince that it still could be. He knew he could not pretend to have a hard luck story, so he presented himself as the lucky beneficiary of a hard work story.

He knew Ed Miliband had moved to steal his party's claim to be the party of One Nation, so he responded with a claim to be the party of aspiration.

Every speech of every leader is described by every spin doctor as personal. The tearful tribute to his son Ivan and to his father ensured that. However, it was the ideas that were spelt out today, and the way that they were, which sounded authentically like David Cameron.