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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Families and responsibility were the keystone concepts of David Cameron's first speech as prime minister of the United Kingdom. It was delivered outside No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's residence in London.

Cameras flashed and crowds cheered as Cameron stepped from a barely-stationary Daimler. He opened the passenger-side door for his pregnant wife, who followed him to the mic placed in the street and then stood, demure, behind and to his right-hand side as he prepared to speak to the gathered media.

Electoral reform got a brief mention near the top of the delivery but the focus on personal responsibility meant that Cameron consciously echoed John F Kennedy's famous "Ask not what the country can do for you" inaugural address of January 1961.

Cameron's focus is also consonant with the Conservative manifesto, or 'Invitation to Join the Government of Britain'.

In the speech, the new prime minister said "that those who can should, and those who can't we will always help. I want to make sure that my government always looks after the elderly, the frail, the poorest in our country. We must take everyone through us [sic] on some of the difficult decisions that we have ahead."

The Tories have not been in this position for 13 years, during which time they have had many leaders. Cameron is young - he is 43 years old, as is Nick Clegg of the coalition's Liberal Democrats - and his party's manifesto is designed to place some distance between the new administration and that of the last Tory regime - that of the despised Thatcher and ineffectual Major.

The announcement today from London was, I must admit, a surprise.

There had been no announcement of how and when a referendum on proportional representation would be held. The issue cannot fail to be high on the agenda of the Liberal Democrats. Yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation due, we were told by the media, to a desire to facilitate a LibDem-Labour alliance. Then today we have Cameron standing outside 10 Downing Street with a gaggle of New Tory catchphrases tumbling out of his mouth like a string of coloured handkerchiefs from a magician's upturned hat.

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