Conservative Diary

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The unions sense that Brown is weak, warns Cameron

3.30pm: The programme is now available to watch again, on BBC iPlayer.

VERDICT, 12.40pm: "Excellent performance from Cameron. Engaging. Reasonable. Attentive to his questioners. Direct when he disagreed with the audience (like the anti-school choice academic that the BBC had planted in the audience (real voter? I don't think so!). Hopefully by the time of the debates he'll be able to give more specific answers to questions on tax and spending. All-in-all very encouraging from the Tory leader. [And what a big contrast with Clegg]."

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At the time of posting David Cameron is on BBC1 meeting floating voters, assembled by the Politics Show. Pasted below are pre-released highlights of his remarks.

CameronOnPS The unions sense that Brown is weak: "I think that we have seen from the prime minister a certain weakness in response to these industrial disputes.  I mean I asked him in the House of Commons four times in a row, did he support people who worked at British Airways who were going to try and go to work to keep that great British business going?  And he wouldn’t answer the question. I think that is wrong.  I think that it’s, I think a leader should say of course, if people want to go to work, they should go to work and I back them going to work, and I think the unions have scented weakness in the government and that’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing quite so many strikes."

We must deal with debts quickly: "If you don’t deal with your debts – it’s a bit like our credit cards – we all know the longer you leave it, the worse it gets and I think it’s important you grip the problem and at least make a start in 2010, and a lot of businesses, people like Richard Branson and others, Stuart Rose from Marks & Spencers, are saying if you deal with this early you’ll actually help get confidence back."

CameronOnPS3 Lower immigration: "If you look at net immigration, i.e. the difference between people coming here and British people going and living abroad, it’s been something like two hundred thousand a year so two million across ten years.  That I think is too high and as you say sir, I think we should be looking at net immigration in the tens of thousands not in the hundreds of thousands."

No more powers for the EU with the voters' consent: "My view is we should be in the European Union, we’re a trading nation, we need those markets open, we should be cooperating with our partners about the things that matter to us. But I don’t want to live in a country called Europe and I don’t think we should pass any more powers from Westminster to Brussels.  In fact I think there are some powers that ought to come back from Brussels to Westminster...  The best thing we can do now is pass this law that says that any government that tries to pass a power from Westminster to Brussels has got to ask the British people first.  That would make a difference but where I don’t agree with UKIP Is I think we should stay in the European Union."

CameronOnPS2 Grammar schools: "I mean we have 165 grammar schools I think left in the UK.  They are very good schools and they have absolutely nothing to worry about from a Conservative government.  We will support them, we will allow them to expand, we would hope they go on succeeding.  They’re very good schools.  The problem is not the 165 grammar schools.  It’s actually the twenty-four thousand other schools, where there are some excellent schools but there aren’t enough of them and I think in politics you face a choice. How do we get the transformation that the grammar schools allowed for some children in the past, how do we get that for more children in the future?  Now I don’t think re- fighting the battle of grammar schools versus secondary moderns in parts of the country where the grammar schools have gone would be a good use of time.  It’s an argument that’s had its day, it’s an argument that’s passed and it’s now time to look at the new way to provide really great schools for children who want to have their life chances transformed and we believe opening up the state sector and saying let’s have new academies open up, let’s have charities opening new schools, let’s have private schools coming into the state sector and offering great state schools free to kids, let’s have those things as a new way of giving people the advantage that grammar schools gave in the past."

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