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Cameron begins new year with defence of child benefit changes and promise of quicker deportation of likes of Abu Qatada

By Tim Montgomerie
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Cameron appeared on BBC1 wearing a light blue shirt. It's the second time in 2013 he's abandoned his normal white shirt policy. Perhaps Mrs Cameron bought him a new wardrobe for Christmas?

We have two interviews with the PM to report this morning.

In one, in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Cameron tells Matthew d'Ancona that he wants to go on to 2020 as Prime Minister. He recommits himself to some of the policies that annoy core Tory voters - including gay marriage, climate change targets and the expansion of the aid budget but he also insists that his tough approach to immigration and human rights laws are mainstream. On Abu Qatada he suggests a tabloid-pleasing shift of policy is on its way: “I am fed up with seeing suspected terrorists play the system with numerous appeals." He continues: "That’s why I’m keen to move to a policy where we deport first, and suspects can appeal later.”

During Mr Cameron's interview with Andrew Marr he was pressed constantly on the fact that under the Government's child benefit changes single high-earner couples could be penalised relative to double high-earner couples. This appears unfair to voters and the Centre for Social Justice has attacked it as "another blow to marriage". The PM had no real answer to the single earner problem but argued that “people see it as fundamentally fair that if there is someone in the household earning £60k, you don’t get child benefit.” Polling backs him - very strongly - on that narrow measure.

DCMARROther themes from the Marr interview:
  • Suggesting he is worried that Britain may lose its triple A status he argued that the interest rate at which Britain borrows is a better guide to international investor confidence in Britain than the judgment of ratings agencies.
  • Confirming that his Europe speech will be in "the middle of January" the PM argued that 50% of our trade is with Europe and if we left the EU altogether we'd lose our place at the table and no longer be able to shape the single market's rules. He agreed, however, that there’s a lot of "scaremongering" about the consequences of leaving.
  • He says he's succeeded in getting Britain out of the bailout mechanism and refutes the idea that further loosening of Britain's relationship with the EU is impossible. He agrees that "the Working Time Directive should never have been introduced in the first place."
  • Britain, he said, still has one of the top five defence budgets in the world with the capacity to defend the Falkland Islands.
  • He refused to retract his 2006 attack on UKIP members as "closet racists" and "fruitcakes". He said that the party does contain very odd people. It would have been much more prime ministerial if he said he respected all people who give time to politics.

Mr Cameron ended his interview by promising a packed agenda for the second half of the parliament. He will appear with Nick Clegg tomorrow (their first joint appearance for more than six months) to announce the Coalition's mid-term review. As well as reviewing what their partnership has achieved so far (something ConHome has done today with Harry Phibbs' list of 100 Con/Lib achievements) they will set out next steps. The Sunday papers give clues to what that review will contain...


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