By Ray Fleming

DAVID Cameron's speech yesterday had been expected to occupy the territory of banking and market reforms before Ed Miliband and Labour set up too many tents there. Cameron had some nicely-turned phrases: “We must change the way the free market works, not stop the free market from working” was one and “We won't make a better economy by turning our back on the free market; we'll do it by making sure the market is fair as well as free” another. References were made to earlier Tories such as Burke, William Pitt and Disraeli who forged the skill in dealing with commerce and markets that he claims for himself and Mr Osborne today.

Beyond these features, however, the speech relied on familiar Tory truisms: “More enterprise, competition and innovation”; “Empower the shareholders and use the power of transparency”; “The answer does not lie in more regulation but in less, so long as it is better”; “Where they work properly open markets and free enterprise can actually promote morality”.

That last one surely takes the prize. Is it not a fact a “moral market” is an oxymoron? Still, in a nice gesture to his Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Cameron promised new legislation to make co-operative businesses easier to establish.

On one difficult occasion Margaret Thatcher told the House of Commons, “Governments cannot beat the markets.” Can they change them?.

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