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Cameron promises Tories will fight next election as independent party and opens door to ending of 50p tax rate

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2011-01-09 at 09.34.26

Asked, on Andrew Marr's programme, about a continuing alliance between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems Mr Cameron said the Conservative Party was fighting Oldham East and Saddleworth as an independent party and would fight the next election as an independent party. This is Mr Cameron's strongest assertion yet that there would be no formal alliance with the Liberal Democrats. Up until now he has used the formulation that he "expects" Tories to fight as an independent party (a formulation also employed by George Osborne). There are clearly some close to the Tory leader and in the parliamentary party who advocate continuing co-operation and will continue to do so. I was on Radio Wales this morning debating with Tory MP Glyn Davies who is one of four Tory MPs openly recommending possibility of joint candidates. An Angus Reid poll - I blogged about on Friday night - suggested that one-fifth of Tory voters wouldn't support joint candidates and half of Lib Dem voters.

In another encouraging move Mr Cameron was asked about the future of the 50p tax band. He said it was more important that the rich paid the most money - in cash terms and as a percentage of tax revenues - and in the 1980s cuts in the top rates of tax actually boosted the wealthy's contribution on both of those measures.

Highlights, not verbatim, from David Cameron's interview with Andrew Marr.

  • Cameron confirmed that he had asked the Treasury to take a new look at the Fair Fuel Stabiliser and he didn't rule out using March's Budget to bring some relief to motorists. [I analysed new calls to enact the FFS earlier].
  • Asked about the VAT rise Mr Cameron said that it would, sadly, have an impact on jobs but without it and other deficit-cutting measures Britain might be in a Irish crisis situation facing higher interest rates.
  • Asked about taxing bank bonuses Mr Cameron said his primary interest was that banks repaid the nation's investment in them and to achieve that the banks needed to be successful. Politicians micro-regulating banks would be unlikely to deliver successful banks, he continued, and government interventions needed to be judicious.
  • Harry Phibbs has already reported on The Sunday Times' story that councils are hiking various charges to cope with cuts in grant funding. Mr Cameron urged councils to exhaust possibilities for cuts in spending before piling new costs on local people.
  • The Prime Minister declined to intervene on inflation policy, saying it was a matter for the Bank of England. [Fraser Nelson in today's News of the World (£) urged George Osborne to warn Bank Governor Mervyn King that prices were in danger of running out of control]. Mr Cameron said that the Bank had the difficult job of discerning the difference between one off spikes in prices and real underlying inflationary pressures.
  • Mr Cameron said the Coalition had no plans to modernise trade union laws. He said they were largely satisfactory although some ideas for enhancement had been put to him.
  • 2010 was about putting in place action to trim the deficit. 2011 was about "growth, growth, growth".
  • Asked about EU policy, David Cameron referred to Martin Howe QC's recent ConHome article which argued that "The Government's European Union Bill is to be welcomed for stopping us on the escalator of integration".
  • He defended NHS reforms by saying that without reform the NHS would eat all of the real terms increases in spending and wouldn't deliver the kind of patient care people expect.
  • Control orders would be "significantly changed", he insisted, but people would be kept safe.

Mr Cameron - oddly - wasn't asked about votes for prisoners. Tory whips fear they may be defeated if they don't compromise with rebels who oppose the idea of prisoners with sentences of four years or less getting the vote. Without a u-turn many Conservative backbenchers will back a Labour amendment that promises to limit voting rights to prisoners sentenced to one year or less.


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