David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party's Spring Conference, Cardiff
But there was one phrase towards the end of the speech which caused His Grace some puzzlement. In fact, until he received the entire text from CCHQ, he thought the Prime Minister had misread his words. Mr Cameron said:
So let me tell you: while there are contracts to be won, jobs to be created, markets to be defended – I will be there.The 'best in the world' must be judged objectively, and established empirically. But in this curious phrase, following directly after Rolls Royce and an allusion to Sir Norman Foster, the Prime Minister appears to say that these are not examples of the best in the world. Indeed, he says quite categorically that the UK can 'out-compete, out-perform and out-hustle the best in the world'.
If it’s making sure Rolls Royce engines are in the world’s planes, I’ll be there.
If it’s making sure skyscrapers in the Gulf are designed by British architects, I’ll be there.
I’ll be there not just because it’s my job, not just because it’s my duty, - because I but because I passionately believe – no, I know that this country can out-compete, out-perform, out-hustle the best in the world…
…and I’m going to make sure I use every last drop of my energy to make sure that happens for our country.
His Grace does not mean to be obtuse but, while it may be possible to 'out-compete' the best in the world (by selling the second-best cheaper), it is not possible to 'out-perform' the best in the world, or else the product cannot be the best. And to 'out-hustle' the best in the world is not remotely an admirable or moral pursuit: to hustle is to coerce; to deal with hurriedly; to push or bustle; to swindle or engage in prostitution (OED). Is it not preferable to let the best in the world achieve market dominance rather than 'hustling' buyers to purchase second best?
This phrase is an almighty speech-writing gaffe. It is utterly incomprehensible that it got past so many of the Prime Minister's team of writers and advisers, and astonishing that it apparently escaped the attention of the Prime Minister himself. Britain competes best in the world when she promotes those products and services which are the best in the world, and they are legion. Leave the second and third rate to try to 'out-hustle' us: world trade is not souk.