David Cameron reiterates Tory opposition to Tony Blair becoming EU President
Tim has already blogged on what Mr Cameron had to say about All Women Shortlists in response to my question about candidate selection.
Blair for EU President?
On the potential for Tony Blair to become EU President, he reiterated that he didn't believe that the EU should have a President and that he didn't support Blair in that role even if there is a President. If such a role had to exist, he would rather it were a "chairmanic" role rather than the "all-singing, all-dancing, all-acting" Tony Blair. He later said that William Hague had made the party's position on the issue of Blair clear and that he had himself always made his position clear whenever asked by visiting European politicians . The Mail's Quentin Letts asked what he thought a former leader like Blair should be doing. "I've got so many things to worry about, that what Tony Blair does with well-funded retirement is just too far down the list... I thought he was solving the Middle East? He could carry on with that for a bit."
On Lisbon, he repeated his previous commitment that if Lisbon comes into force, then new circumstances will exist and he would set out the position as to what to do about it then.Looking at the disincentives to work
On the back of what he said at conference about marginal tax rates for the poorest in society, he said that some families' marginal tax is in fact over 100%, meaning that they would be better off on benefits than in work. He said that he was instructing George Osborne, Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith to consider the disincentives to work created by the present benefit withdrawal rates and develop a "lasting and affordable policy solution".
Priorities for Government
On the basis that he wants people to be confident that change can happen under a Conservative government, he said he wants ministers to have "a clear idea of what they want to achieve and how to go about it". He has therefore asked every member of the shad cab to set out their reform priorities - "not a dream wish list or vague aspirations or vacuous pledge card promises" - but rather three, four or five key priorities for which he, as Prime Minister and the people could hold them accountable. With transparency being one of the most important things, he said that these priorities would start being published next week.
Having led the way on dealing with the MPs' expenses issue, he announced that Lord Strathclyde has today written to all Conservative peers who claim expenses to clarify which is their main home.
Other issues which came up
- He said he would not debate against Nick Griffin in an election leaders' debate - the debates should just be between the three main party leaders;
- He said that the party will shortly be announcing two more all-postal primaries, as used in Totnes to select Sarah Wollaston;
- He accused those attacking the new European Conservatives and Reformists group in Brussels as waging "a totally politically-driven campaign" based only on the premise that they don't like the fact that the Conservatives are now part of a group that doesn't go along with everything Europe does. He dismissed the attacks on our sister parties and their leaders as "complete nonsense".