Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Cameron tells Mail how Lib Dems are holding him back

On the eve of the Queen’s Speech, Cameron has used an 'exclusive interview with the Daily Mail' to insist he is determined to lead a Conservative-only government after the next election

Complaining of a "growing list of things that I want to do but can’t" because of the Liberal Democrats, he admitted more candidly than ever before where his coalition partners are holding him back. Cameron singled out human rights law, reform of workplace rights and support for marriage as areas where Tory principles are being held in check but urged senior MPs growing tired of coalition not to waste the next three years. He also suggested a referendum should be considered on  Clegg’s plans for a mainly elected House of Lords, particularly if it could help avoid the Government’s legislative agenda becoming ‘bogged down’ in the issue.

Speaking on the day he made a joint appearance with Clegg at a tractor factory in Basildon, Essex, to focus on the economy, he said: ‘Look, as Prime Minister of a coalition government at a time of national difficulty, I must focus on what can be done, what must be done now. We have the programme to deal with deficit, to get the banks lending, get young people employed, boost apprenticeships, get businesses investing and growing. Whether it’s capping welfare, limiting immigration, we have a programme that needs to be delivered. Of course there are frustrations, and there is a list of things that I am looking forward to doing if I can win an election and run a Conservative-only government.’

Directly addressing senior Conservative MPs who unveiled an alternative Queen’s Speech featuring traditional Tory policies at the weekend, Cameron declared: ‘I completely understand your frustrations, but let’s be clear: We’ve taken on some areas like reforming student finance, reforming public sector pensions, freezing public sector pay. These are things that previous Conservative governments weren’t able to do. Hell, I even vetoed an EU treaty. So I would say to Conservatives, I know it’s frustrating. I share your frustration. I want a Conservative-only government. But don’t let’s waste the chance we have now to help get this country out of the mess it was left in. We have got the mandate and the policies and the team to do it.’

Cameron singled out tax breaks to support marriage as one area where he would have made faster progress without the Lib Dems in government. "Clearly on things like recognising marriage in the tax system, I got a specific carve-out in the Coalition agreement that we could propose something which the Lib Dems don’t have to vote for, but I still think we’d get through," he said. That’s something that will be done this Parliament. But obviously in a majority Conservative government, these things would be more straightforward."

On reform of the European Court of Human Rights, Cameron said he had been arguing since before he became Tory leader in 2005 for the need to replace Labour’s Human Rights Act – another area of fierce disagreement with the Lib Dems. "Whether it’s a British Bill of Rights or whatever, what matters really is the outcome - that Britain must be able to control its borders and keep its country safe, to expel from Britain people who threaten to do us harm. I have been totally consistent about this," he said. "That’s one area where we would be able to do more [as a Tory-only government]."

Cameron said the Government had a ‘very active’ programme of removing red tape on business, but indicated he favoured the idea of introducing ‘no fault dismissal’ to encourage firms to take staff on, which has been frustrated by the Lib Dems. On the slide in the Government’s popularity following a turbulent period, he admitted there were ‘deep challenges’ in the presentation of Osborne’s Budget - saying he was frustrated that its core measure, a record income tax break for working people, had been overshadowed.

"The core of the Budget was the idea that we wanted to deliver a tax reduction for hard working people: 24million people seeing their taxes reduced, but also we did need to deal - I know it’s not particularly popular - but you couldn’t really argue for an enterprise culture if your top tax rate is uncompetitive with Italy, France and Germany. Yes, of course we had some deep challenges in terms of communication.

"People want to know that out of the difficult years will not come another boom with an overblown financial sector, unbalanced growth across the country and a sense of financial instability. People want to know that out of this are going to come decent well-paid jobs for their children, proper apprenticeships and university places that will get them on to a better future, the chance to own my home in a way that’s secure. People want to know that it’s worthwhile – that’s the word I keep coming back to. They want to know at the end of this are we going to have a more worthwhile country, more worthwhile economy."

Cameron said that what many people called ‘austerity’, he preferred to call ‘efficiency’, and was vital for the country’s prospects. He confirmed that reform of the House of Lords, replacing it with a mainly elected Senate, would be in today’s Queen’s Speech, but opened the door to a referendum on the issue. Last night there were signs that the Lib Dems might shelve the proposals if the Tories agreed to push through party funding reforms or abandon proposed changes to Commons constituency boundaries.

James Chapman interviewed David Cameron for the Daily Mail