It may seem early to be floating ideas for a second term that may never arrive, but Mr Cameron has a pressing problem. After a shaky few months, he needs to persuade his party’s supporters that a) he’s still capable of coming up with ideas, and b) he’s a Conservative, rather than a Blair-lite smoothie whose beliefs, if he ever had any, have been watered down by Coalition. And welfare reform, according to polls, tends to go down well with Conservative supporters and voters in general.
Hence today’s heavily publicised rebirth of Cameron the True Blue, wearing a blue tie and speaking in front of a blue backdrop before an audience sitting in blue plastic seats.
He pitched his speech carefully. He meant it to come across not as a snarling harangue against scroungers, but an appeal for fairness. Again and again he gave examples of how a couple who worked could have a lower income, and live in a less nice house, than a couple who didn’t work. (“Can we really say that’s fair?” he kept asking.)
“These,” he concluded, “are big, tough questions.” Implication: “I’m a big, tough Prime Minister.”
He insisted that running the country was “not a popularity contest”, but boosting his popularity was surely one of this speech's goals. It would be a surprise if, at least temporarily, to some small degree, it didn’t succeed.