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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 02:07 GMT 03:07 UK
'Governator's' screen presence
Brian Wheeler
BBC News, at the Conservative Party conference

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Conservative party conference video link
Sunday in the Winter Gardens felt a little like Oscars night
"I hope to be there in person next year."

It wasn't quite as snappy - or spine-chilling - as "I'll be back", but for David Cameron, eager to sprinkle a bit of Hollywood stardust over the first day of his party's annual conference, it was the best he was going to get.

Action hero-turned-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had been due to appear in Blackpool in the flesh.

He was apparently a regular here during the 1970s, in his bodybuilding days.

But we had to make do with a straight-to-video link Arnold on Sunday, after political commitments confined him to base.

'People's issues'

Some press reports suggested Mr Schwarzenegger changed his mind about a trip to Lancashire's Golden Mile when he was shown Mr Cameron's recent opinion poll ratings. The suggestion being that he only wanted to be seen in the company of guaranteed winners.

The "Governator" - introduced by Mr Cameron as "someone who knows a thing or two about fighting back" - set out to dispel such notions from the start.

I have hurt feelings that I could so easily be replaceable
Arnold Schwarzenegger

He had to remain in California for a special session of the state legislature, he explained, dealing with "two of the biggest issues facing California" - health care reform and the state's long-term water supply.

"So I had to cancel all travel except a long-term promise to attend the Special Olympics World Summer Games in China in a few days" - and that was an organisation founded by his mother, he added somewhat unnecessarily, so he could hardly cancel that engagement.

Mr Schwarzenegger paid tribute to Mr Cameron as "a new, dynamic leader" and an "optimist" and hailed his leadership on green issues - a subject close to the Governator's heart.

Reeling off a list of topics, including health care, economic development, public safety and global warming, he continued: "These are not conservative issues. These are not liberal issues.

"These are issues everyone cares about. These are people's issues."

He added: "By being a strong and forceful voice on climate change, David Cameron has revived the Conservative Party's green heritage and helped strengthen Britain's resolve on this issue and you have been a great example to the rest of the world.

"That is the kind of leadership that people want. That is the kind of leadership that people are hungry for.

"They want action and results, not ideology and stalemate."

'Just kidding'

The sight of the former Terminator on a giant video screen explaining how he would love to have been there in person made Sunday afternoon in the Winter Gardens feel a little like Oscars night.

Mr Schwarzenegger even indulged in a little Hollywood-style kidding around at the expense of the man drafted in to fill his shoes as guest speaker, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Mr Schwarzenegger is an important role model for David Cameron

"I have hurt feelings," intoned Mr Schwarzenegger in that familiar Austro/Beverley Hills accent, "that I could so easily be replaceable.

"That hurt my ego. I'm just kidding."

He ended by quoting Churchill - something that, as Mr Bloomberg pointed out in his speech - visiting US politicians are contractually obliged to do.

"'The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity,' Winston Churchill once said. 'The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.' I agree 100%. I know David Cameron and Michael Bloomberg do too."

As a centre-right politician who has proved he can win elections on the green agenda, Mr Schwarzenegger is an important role model for David Cameron - and that, presumably, is why the Tories were determined to have him at their conference, video link or not.

Arnold Schwarzenegger praises David Cameron


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