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From firmness on internet standards to wobbliness on Crosby – Cameron’s Marr interview

By Peter Hoskin
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David Cameron was chin-juttingly firm about many subjects in his interview with Andrew Marr. On child pornography, the main subject of the piece, he warned of “stronger laws” if the internet firms don’t act stronger themselves. On the idea that Samantha Cameron is influencing Government policy toward Syria, he claimed it’s “a total urban myth”. And on Europe, he raised the prospect of Brexit if we don’t get the renegotiation we want.

But it was two wobblier moments that stood out. The first was on Lynton Crosby, when Cameron twice or thrice declined to directly answer the question of whether he had ever spoken with his adviser about plain packaging for cigarettes. Instead, he tried a one-size-fits-all response – “He’s not advising us on policy or issues and he doesn’t intervene on those” – and laughed “that’s the answer you’re getting” when Marr pressed him to be more specific.

Of course, apply all the usual caveats to this story: the public doesn’t much care, it’s not clear that any minds were changed during the making of the Government’s tobacco policy, etc. But Cameron sounded suspiciously evasive on the matter this morning, creating an impression that – what he didn’t want to admit – he had talked with Crosby about cigarette packaging. All the more reason for the Tories to reach a solution such as that recommended by Paul Goodman, just to avoid further discomfort in future.

And the other wobbly moment came on tax. Remember George Osborne’s certainty that “tax increases are not required” to achieve further fiscal consolidation, in the event of a Tory government? Yeah, Cameron rather undermined that. Although he talked himself up as a “low-tax Conservative,” his line was that “no Government can give a blanket assurance”. He wouldn’t promise nuttin’.

Come to think of it, perhaps that wasn’t a wobble, after all – but something quite deliberate. Maybe Cameron wanted to downplay Osborne’s remarks because they’re not settled Tory policy, and therefore need downplaying. But, in any case, his words might have deflated some of those Tory MPs who are bouncing into the summer recess.


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