David Cameron could probably have done without holding a conference at all this year.

There are two options open to this government – to continue with a policy of reducing Britain’s deficit or to carry on spending, whether by pumping money into public services or by cutting taxes.

Labour would argue there is a third option, which is to cut spending but to do so more slowly than the Conservatives.

This does seem, to misquote London mayor Boris Johnson, a little like being pro having your cake and pro eating it at the same time.

The idea of cutting spending while avoiding public sector job losses or cuts in frontline services does sound attractive, but rather implausible.

Certainly, if the Tories believed such an option was possible then they would be pursuing it. Critics will claim they have an ideological hatred of the public sector but even if this were true, it would no doubt be trumped by their ideological love of winning elections.

The fact is that no party can offer a panacea to get Britain painlessly through the current economic crisis.

Even if the Government got everything right, it would find the UK was affected by events in Greece, Italy, the USA and other parts of the world.

Mr Cameron summoned all his eloquence and charisma as he spoke to the Conservative Party conference.

But he had very little to say, except “trust me – it will get better”.

We must all hope that he is right. But, as he admitted, it seems to be taking a long time.

Gordon Brown boasted that he had abolished boom and bust, a claim which seems risible today.

But he did, in fact, give Britain more than a decade of uninterrupted economic growth, and kept the economy strong until a crisis which, as Mr Brown rightly said, began in America.

That’s not to say that there were never any setbacks or periods when the official figures for growth or employment looked disappointing.

But if things looked like they were going wrong, they soon bounced back. Economists and commentators predicted that Mr Brown, the iron chancellor, would come unstuck – but he never did, at least not until the end.

And we all rather got used to the idea that the good times would last forever. Even the banking crisis, and the sight of people queuing up outside branches of Northern Rock, didn’t quite dent that confidence.

As Mr Cameron said in his conference speech, people are now asking why the current downturn has lasted so long – and starting to wonder whether the prosperity we have grown used to ever will return.

This is why he is right to urge Britain not to lose hope and to remain confident.

There was a time when the United Kingdom believed decline was inevitable. Among the political and media classes, the idea that we might still have a future as one of the world’s leading nations – whether as an economic powerhouse, as a cultural force or as a leader in world affairs – was seen as ridiculous, and almost as an offensive suggestion.

But this pessimistic view became a self-fulfilling prophecy, and it took a remarkable and divisive Prime Minister to shake the nation out of its lethargy.

Mr Cameron is right to try to prevent a new pessimism taking hold. But he will need to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor and display remarkable leadership of his own if he is to succeed in that goal.