George Eustice: Labour always peaks too early

The leader's speech is the make or break element of any party conference, and David Cameron is good at big events.

George Eustice: Labour always peaks too early
George Eustice: Labour always peaks too early

He has the ability to meet ultimate pressure with ultimate composure. At the time of writing, I can only guess what he will try to achieve this year, but by the time you read this, we will know if he succeeded. Cameron's overarching message should be that he has taken difficult decisions and is sticking by them.

I also expect him to go out of his way to show that he understands the tough times people are going through.

As predicted, debate about growth has been the most prominent question posed by the media this year. Europe has featured more than the party planned, but the tone was constructive and supportive, proving that the Conservatives have put past divisions behind them. Meanwhile, attempts by journalists to get Tory MPs to reciprocate the abuse dished out by the Liberal Democrats two weeks ago never materialised.

The Labour Party has traditionally taken the view that the leader's speech should be early, on the Tuesday, to avoid rogue stories gaining momentum. The downside is that as it's all over by Tuesday night, journalists go home and coverage is curtailed. It also creates a post-peak vacuum just waiting to be filled with stories about how the big speech backfired. The Labour conference was a car crash this year. They struggled over half-hearted apologies that should have been made properly a year ago, and allowed themselves to be bounced into announcing half-baked policies that will have to be abandoned before the next election.

The Conservative leader's speech is at the very end, which is far better. It means you can play some strong stories into the Sunday papers, do the Andrew Marr interview on Sunday, interviews for the TV bulletins on Monday evening followed by a morning round of interviews and the Today programme on the Tuesday. Then you finish with the speech on Wednesday as the highlight, which carries two days' news, and the journalists go home. I have never understood why Labour sticks with its current formula.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron.

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