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Cameron insists AV will be costly to taxpayers and says UK can't afford Pakistan to be taken over by extremists

By Tim Montgomerie

Politicians all across the country of every colour probably enjoyed the Prime Minister's interview on Today. So many have been monstered by John Humphrys over the years and it was good to hear a politician hitting back. Asked about AV Mr Humphrys didn't seem to understand how and when voters' second preferences were counted. He also seemed to imply that elections in the USA weren't conducted under First Past The Post. Mr Cameron enjoyed pointing out both of his interviewer's errors.

In the interview the Prime Minister trod a careful line - distinguishing between his own No2AV campaign - run 100% by Tory HQ - and the independent, cross-party No campaign. Mr Cameron said that he wasn't responsible for the output of the operation overseen by Matthew Elliott (which has drawn such bitter criticism from Liberal Democrats) but he also declined to disown the No campaign's claims about the cost of a change to the voting system. He said that counting machines probably were likely and defended the poster campaigns that have suggested AV might cost up to £250 million.

He repeated his arguments in favour of FPTP. It was a simple, fair and decisive system where the candidates with the most votes win.

The other big theme of the interview was Pakistan. The Prime Minister insisted that it was in Britain's interests to continue to back the democratic forces inside the country who were fighting terrorism. He argued that Pakistan had suffered more at the hands of terrorism than almost any other country on earth. Yes, there were questions to be asked about how bin Laden's base was not known to Pakistan's security services but Britain would not turn its back on the country. If we give up, he said, we'll leave a nuclear power that could be taken over by instability and extremism.

Asked about his "calm down dear" remark at last week's PMQs he said that people needed to get a sense of humour.

Clegg DPM Earlier on the programme Nick Clegg had been interviewed. He admitted that the Coalition was moving into a new phase. He said it was important in the first year of Coalition that the two governing parties showed real unity but that the parties were seperate and would remain separate and there would be more distinctive positioning in the future.

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