I knew it would be good - I just didn't think it would be that good. The Prime Minister had a fairly easy task today - the first Conservative leader to win a majority in 23 years, with a result that was actually an unprecedented achievement for a Prime Minister, he was always guaranteed a pretty warm reaction from the party in the hall. And with a Labour opposition having fled to the fringes of British politics, even a moderately good speech would have been lauded in comparison to that given by Jeremy Corbyn last week.So David Cameron would have been excused some triumphalism today - wallowing in his unexpected victory, whilst throwing some red meat to traditional Conservatives and veering right to win easy applause. He not only resisted the temptation- he did the precise opposite.
'Some say that we should move to the right. I say that will turn us into a fringe party, never able to challenge for government again. I don't want to let that happen to this party. Do you?'
The party did come with him - slowly, and often sceptically, but it did. When he fell short of a majority in 2010, they grumbled, but kept faith. When he introduced equal marriage, protected the NHS budget and international aid, some harumphed, but the fuss soon died down. And as he promised, he didn't turn back. So today he was able to say, with some justification:
'Ten years ago, I stood on a stage just like this one and said if we changed our party we could change our country. We’ve done that – together. I didn’t campaign on the NHS alone – you joined me.
It wasn’t just me who put social justice, equality for gay people, tackling climate change, and helping the world’s poorest at the centre of the Conservative Party’s mission – we all did.'
That was the historical background, and it was gratifying for those of us who consider ourselves Tory modernisers to hear that vindication, and his unapologetic pride in his progressive achievements. But it was only the beginning. The rest of the speech today brought wave after wave of renewed, centrist ambition. He reclaimed the mantle of 'One Nation', declared his determination to deal with deep-rooted social problems, deal with the housing shortage, launch an 'all-out assault on poverty', reform prisons and improve social mobility.
'The point is this: you can’t have true opportunity without real equality. And I want our party to get this right. Yes us, the party of the fair chance; the party of the equal shot. The party that doesn’t care where you come from, but only where you’re going. Us, the Conservatives - I want us to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today.'