Conservative Diary

Cameron interviews

6 Jul 2011 17:59:54

Cameron tells The Spectator that the €urozone crisis presents "opportunities" for Britain to renegotiate our relationship with Europe

By Tim Montgomerie
Follow Tim on Twitter.

Cameron PM green

James Forsyth and Fraser Nelson have interviewed the Prime Minister for the latest edition of The Spectator.

The interview contains two fascinating quotes about the EU.

Quote one concerns Cameron's belief that the EU establishment (now also in charge of the IMF) will do "anything" to preserve the €uro:

"‘No one in Britain, however sceptical they are about the euro — and they don’t come much more sceptical than me — should have any doubt about the immense commitment there will be from other European countries to make the euro work,’ he says. ‘We would be kidding ourselves if we thought somehow they’re sitting around thinking, gosh it’s not going very well, how are we going to get out of this one? That’s not what they’re doing. To them the euro is absolutely central to their vision of their membership of Europe — and they will, I think, do pretty much anything to make that work.’"

Mr Cameron then opens up the possibility that as the €urozone gets closer there will be "opportunities" for Britain's relationship with the EU to change:

"The eurozone, he adds, will have to move ‘towards much more single economic government’. And in that, crucially, he sees a great chance to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Or, as puts it in a slow and deliberate way, ‘There will be opportunities for Britain to maximise what we want in terms of our engagement with Europe.’"

There is certainly a mood change in the Conservative Party on Europe. Reports of Steve Hilton and Oliver Letwin becoming very sceptical to the point of wanting to leave are credible. I would agree with Iain Martin's important assessment that half of Tory MPs are 'outers'. George Eustice MP's new initiative seeking "to break the power" of European institutions is a reflection of the shift in thinking in the parliamentary party. I'm not so convinced of Cameron's Euroscepticism but in this interview he is certainly acknowledging the changing mood amongst his colleagues.

9 Jun 2011 14:29:30

David Cameron emphasises the moral justice of the Coalition's policies in his response to the Archbishop of Canterbury

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

Several senior Conservatives have weighed in on the Archbishop of Canterbury's comments today - including Lord Tebbit (who was supportive of Williams' stance), Roger Gale (who called the Archbishop "plain wrong"), and Iain Duncan Smith (who said he should have been more balanced in his comments). 

Cameron earnestDavid Cameron has now responded to the Archbishop. During a visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Cameron said:

"I don’t think it’s good or right for people in our country if we give up on paying down our debts and just pass that down to our children."

"I don’t think see anything good or even moral in that approach. I don’t think it’s good or right for us to pay people to stay on welfare, trapped in poverty, when we should be trying to get them a job. I don’t think that is good or right for people, or for our country. And also when it comes to education there’s nothing good or right allowing people to stay trapped in schools that often aren’t giving them a good education whereas the academy programme that we’re driving forward is raising standards and giving people hope for a better future."

Mr Cameron also said the Archbishop was perfectly entitled to his views: "I’ve never been one to say that the Church has to fight shy of making political interventions", but emphasised his willingness to defend his position and policies, saying "So, by all means, let’s have a robust debate but I can tell you, it will always be a two-sided debate".

Continue reading "David Cameron emphasises the moral justice of the Coalition's policies in his response to the Archbishop of Canterbury" »

9 May 2011 15:40:31

Preview of tonight's Channel 4 documentary on the Coalition's first year

By Tim Montgomerie

Tonight on Channel 4, 8pm, Andrew Rawnsley presents an hour long documentary on the Coalition's first year. The PM and Deputy PM both contribute as do a host of senior Cabinet ministers and observers. A few extracts to whet your appetite:



Andrew Rawnsley: Have you played tennis together?

Nick Clegg: Once.

Rawnsley: Who won?

Nick Clegg: State secret.

David Cameron: I did. It was a very even match. I can't remember the exact score but it was it was up there. It was an eight six or a nine seven or something like that. And I think actually technically he is probably a better player than me. I was just a bit more wily.


Andrew Rawnsley: David Cameron and George Osborne, are they decent blokes?

Continue reading "Preview of tonight's Channel 4 documentary on the Coalition's first year" »

3 May 2011 08:53:32

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.

23 Apr 2011 15:27:49

The Camerons go for The Killing

Tim Montgomerie

Over at The Spectator David Blackburn has done a good job of summarising the main points of David Cameron's Telegraph interview. David is right to emphasise that Cameron is in get-out-the-vote mode; offering reassuring messages to naturally-inclined Conservatives.

Continue reading "The Camerons go for The Killing" »

19 Apr 2011 08:51:00

Cameron says we don't need a "washed up", debt-denying politician like Gordon Brown running the IMF

Tim Montgomerie

IMFNO Interviewed on the Today programme David Cameron appeared to rule out Gordon Brown becoming the head of the IMF. The Prime Minister said that his predecessor was probably not the most appropriate candidate given the way he had denied Britain's own debt problem. Without ruling Mr Brown out - he said he hadn't given the matter much thought - he did give the strongest of hints when he said that the IMF's top job should not go to a "washed up politician".

Also in the interview:

  • In the last 24 hours Vince Cable (here) and Chris Huhne (here) have been in very excited form. The Conservative leader said that it was acceptable for Liberal Democrats to express themselves in their own way. What mattered was policy unity and he believed that the Coalition was proving to be a success because it wasn't a "lowest common denominator" government but had agreed strong positions on issues like the deficit, welfare and immigration.
  • He refused to criticise Nick Clegg for saying reducing immigration to the tens of thousands was not government policy. It clearly is. He said simply, and diplomatically, that he hoped the policies being put in place would achieve the goal. In the 1980s when net immigration was at the tens of thousands immigration wasn't a hot political issue, David Cameron said, and he hoped that that could become true again.
  • Mr Cameron said that sticking with the status quo in the NHS was not sensible because of Britain's ageing population and the rising cost of treatments. The pause in the NHS reforms would be used to improve the reforms and win more support from staff. Cameron did not give any impression that changes to the Lansley plan would be fundamental.
  • He agreed, in principle that the Royal succession rules should be changed but that it would take time because it was important all Commonwealth nations were consulted. Jonathan Isaby argued for the change on Saturday.

Ridiculously, Evan Davies was not permitted by the BBC high ups to ask the Prime Minister about AV. Guidelines on balance apparently prevented it. I was also surprised that there were no questions on Libya.

> Listen to the interview.

8 Mar 2011 19:41:31

David Cameron enjoys his audience with the 4.5 million viewers of BBC1's One Show

Tim Montgomerie

Craig Oliver may not have done a good job with the newspaper briefing on Prince Andrew but he can allow himself a celebratory pint after Cameron's performance on BBC1's One Show.  If you want to know how well it went you only have to read the jealous tweets from Alastair Campbell (here) and Kevin Maguire (here). Truth be told, the interview was as syrupy as whatever was on the pancakes that the PM told viewers he cooked for his children this morning. There were no follow up questions. Cameron was able to talk about freezing council tax, raising the income tax threshold and imposing a £2 billion supertax on banks. He gave another unmissable hint that petrol duty will be cut. He talked about the relative merits of using an owl or cat to kill the Downing Street rat. When asked about rodents in his house he joked that the presenter shouldn't talk about the Cabinet like that. It was Cameron at his relaxed best but there is probably a happier medium between this format and Jeremy Paxman.

Screen shot 2011-03-08 at 19.11.56 Screen shot 2011-03-08 at 19.21.07 Screen shot 2011-03-08 at 19.26.26
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6 Feb 2011 08:58:58

Cameron pours cold water on any idea of early tax cuts

By Tim Montgomerie

The Prime Minister has been interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph, on what is its 50th birthday weekend.

Screen shot 2011-02-06 at 07.51.14 Mr Cameron uses the interview to rule out tax cuts any time soon:

"I would love to see tax reductions. I'm a tax cutting Tory and I believe in tax cuts, but when you're borrowing 11% of your GDP, it's not possible to make significant net tax cuts. It just isn't. It's no good saying we're going to deal with the deficit by cutting spending, but then we're going to make things worse again by cutting taxes. I'm afraid it doesn't add up."

He did, however, say that his long-term ambition was to cut taxes:

"Do I want to see, at the end of this hard road, relief and lower taxes for hard working people? Yes I do."

Both I and Paul Goodman have called for the Coalition to take more tangible steps towards setting out a long-term tax cutting agenda. Neither of us argued for unfinanced cuts now.

The Sunday Times (£), meanwhile, reports that George Osborne is considering a new tax on non-doms. Perhaps revisiting his 2007 trick of funding the abolition of inheritance tax with a non-dom levy, Mr Osborne might be considering funding a cut in, say, petrol duty with his new tax. Gordon Brown's £30,000 charge on non-doms who have been in Britain for seven or more years has only raised a quarter of what was expected (£160m).

Within his interview Mr Cameron also appears to signal an end to the political war on banks:

"I don’t believe actually in the long run, you can deliver the enterprise-growth agenda while having a running war with the British banking industry at the same time. In the end, what I’m interested in is not headlines satisfying people today and tomorrow that I’ve given the banks a good kick in the pants. What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy and I want those banks to lend to businesses large and small. That’s what I am determined to get. That’s a much better outcome than just having some PR war with the banks.”

Vince Cable won't like that!

The PM also defends forestry privatisation and Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms, and insists the Coalition is delivering for Tory activists and voters:

“I would argue [the coalition is] working well for the Conservative Party in that Conservatives are getting delivered the things that they care about – radical reform of welfare, a cap on immigration, a guarantee there’s a referendum on Europe if more powers are passed from Westminster to Brussels, free schools and a much more choice-driven education system with real emphasis on string traditional values in teaching and excellence in teaching. These are all things that Conservatives traipsed the streets and banged on doors and made pleas for and we are able to deliver them.”

Read the full interview.

> Cameron's favourite things from the last fifty years.

17 Jan 2011 08:55:48

Cameron promises full steam ahead on NHS reforms

Tim Montgomerie


David Cameron was on the Today programme this morning and the lion's share of his interview with John Humphrys was taken up with a defence of Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms. In a letter to this morning's Times (£) the chiefs of six health unions, including the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing, express “extreme concerns” about the “potentially disastrous” Health and Social Care Bill.

Mr Cameron said that doing nothing was not an option. The Prime Minister told Radio 4 listeners that Britain now spends £103 billion on the NHS. Although we spend close to the EU average we are well below EU averages on cancer and heart attack survival rates. He also said that health inequalities in Britain were greater than in Victorian times.

Unless the NHS was reformed and took responsibility for improving public health the consequences for patients were serious. He pointed to the pressures of new technologies and the ageing population. we have to get better value for taxpayers' money.

Continue reading "Cameron promises full steam ahead on NHS reforms" »

9 Jan 2011 10:11:29

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.