Cameron interview marks start of conservative conference politics live blog
Rolling coverage of the opening of the Conservative party conference in Birmingham,including David Cameron’s interview on the Andrew Marr show.They are still talking about the economy.Q: When will the economy recover?The economy is healing, Osborne says.Q: Why don’t you spend more on infrastructure?Osborne says he is spending money on infrastructure.He has “hired” Paul Deighton, who was in charge of the Olympics, to push forward infrastructureprojects.Q: What do you think of the proposed merger betweeen EADS and BAE Systems?Osborne says the government wants to protect national security and protect jobs and investment inthe UK. Those tests will be used to decide the government’s approach to the takeover.Q: Why don’t you name people engaged in aggressive tax avoidance?Osborne says he is prepared to consider this. But there is taxpayer confidentiality in this country. He isclosing aggressive tax avoidance schemes down, he says.The government is now collecting more money from the rich than under Labour, he says.Q: Are you going to speak out in favour of gay marriage?Osborne says he supports gay marriage. He thinks Conservatives should support institutions whichpromote commitment. It will be a free vote in the Commons. He will be voting in favour.That’s it. The Osborne interview is over.I’ll post summaries soon of the Cameron interview and the Osborne interview.10:49 BSTMurnaghan turns to growth.Q: You don’t have a strategy for growth.Osborne says Murnaghan was implying that he was not cutting far enough. Now is is implying that heis cutting too far.Q: How will you signal that we are all in this together. People think you are “posh boys out of touchwith the public”.Osborne says that is the Labour characterisation. But the government inherited a system from Labourwhere some people in the City were paying less in tax than their cleaners.The government has addressed this.But it has also addressed welfare, he says.He says you cannot be “serious” if you do not address this.Q: But the rich are getting a 5p tax cut next year.Osborne says the 50p rate raised no money. The people paying the price for it were the poor lookingfor work. The rich did not pay it.He says Labour never had a 50p rate, until right near the end. Now he has a 45p top rate, he says.Q: And what are you going to do about Nick Clegg’s call for a mansion tax or a wealth tax?
Osborne says he does not think either of those ideas are good.A mansion tax would affect people who did not think they were living in a mansion.And he does not favour a wealth tax. He does not want to drive wealthy people abroad.But the rich are going to have to make “another contribution”, he says.10:43 BSTGeorge Osborne’s interview on SkyGeorge Osborne is being interviewed on Sky now by Dermot Murnaghan.Q: Are you going to have to abandon your debt reduction target?Osborne says the government has to find a further £16bn’s worth of savings.The country has lived beyond its means, he says.Q: But do you still think you will be able to get public debt going down by 2015-16?Osborne says the Office for Budget Responsibility monitors these figures. It will provide anassessment in December.But he can be clear that he is committed to dealing with debt.Q: But you are not dealing with the debt. The IMF say you will miss that debt reduction target.Osborne says the deficit has come down by a quarter.Q: But debt is going up.Osborne says that’s because there is still a deficit. The government is cutting the deficit.10:38 BSTJust before David Cameron gave his interview, the Liberal Democrats sent me a response to theGeorge Osborne comments about the mansion tax. They said he does not have the final say over thegovernment’s tax and spending plans. Here’s the comment from a party spokesman.Decisions about possible new spending and tax plans haven’t been made yet and require the agreementof both sides. The government’s top priority is [tax] cuts for people on low and middle incomes. As wemade clear at conference we will continue to push for fairer taxes – including wealth taxes – because theburden of any further austerity must be shared equally, and that means by the richest too.10:23 BSTI’ll post a full summary of the main points from the Andrew Marr interview shortly. In brief, DavidCameron said that the wealthy would be expected to pay more in tax before 2015 (see 10.07am);appeared to rule out an in/out referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU; insisted that he wouldkeep his promise not to cut winter fuel payments for pensioners; threatened to veto the next EUbudget; said that he would like Boris Johnson to take another job in politics after being mayor ofLondon; and defended Jeremy Hunt over his remarks about abortion in an interview yesterday.10:11 BSTI’m afraid my laptop crashed half an hour. It’s obviously a Labour laptop, and did not take kindly toDavid Cameron.But I have retrieved another slab of the Marr transcript. Here it is.Q: Do you think there are signs of growth?Cameron says these are tough times for the economy. The deficit has been cut by a quarter. He is nota forecaster, but he thinks the economy is rebalancing. A million net new jobs have been created inthe private sector. Britain is exporting more things.Last year more businesses were set up than in any recent year in our history.A global race is underway. Some countries will make it and some won’t, he says.Q: But debt is going up. When will you get on top of that?Cameron says he inherited a deficit of around 11%. It is now around 8%. But the situation is stillchallenging. “These are very difficult times,” he says.Labour had nothing to say about debt and the defict, he says.Q: Nick Clegg said there would be more austerity after 2015. Was he right?Yes, says Cameron. The cuts will have to be decided before the election. The government will have tolook at things like welfare.Q: So the squeeze in welfare will start before the election.
Cameron says when the Tories came in some families were getting £40,000 or more in housingbenefit. The government has stopped this.Q: Clegg says he will not allow more welfare cuts unless the rich pay more.Cameron says the government has always been fair. The top 10% have paid 10 times more toreducing the deficit than the bottom 10%.Q: Clegg said he would persuade you to accept a new form of wealth tax.Cameron says he will make sure that the rich pay their fair share.He cut the top rate of tax, he says. But he raised four times as much from the rich by means likeraising stamp duty.He will take further action to make sure the rich pay a fair share.Q: What will you do?Cameron says you cannot be expected to announce George Osborne’s budget. But he will notintroduce a mansion tax.Q: So the wealthy will pay more in tax before the election?Yes, says Cameron, and it is happening already.He also says the rich are now paying a higher proportion of tax revenue than they did under Labour.Q: Will the top rate of tax go down to 40p?Cameron says he will not announce the budget, but they have done waht they have done, he says(implying it won’t go down to 40p.)10:07 BSTQ: Do you have any thoughts about the Jimmy Savile story?Cameron says it is “truly shocking”. The BBC needs to look into this.09:32 BSTAndrew Marr is interviewing Cameron now.Q: If the Leveson recommendations are not “bonkers”, will you implement them.Yes, says Cameron. But he says he needs to wait until Leveson reports.Q: And if he suggests something that requires law, that will happen?Cameron says he needs to wait until he sees the recommendation.Marr presses him again.“We need to wait,” says Cameron.It is clear people have been abused, he says.The status quo is not an option.All parties want a “sensible, regulatory system”, he says.09:31 BSTAnd here are the best columns about the Conservative conference from the Sunday papers.• James Forsyth in the Mail on Sunday says David Cameron and his team are upbeat about theirprospects at the next election.First, they think the Nineties phenomenon of ‘shy Tories’ – people not being prepared to say they arevoting for the party – has returned. They calculate that the party’s true level of support could be fivepoints or more above what headline figures suggest.Second, they are confident that incumbency gives them an advantage. Their analysis of the last Electionresult shows sitting MPs tended to be insulated against the national swing.Third, they think they can be more targeted. In 2010, the Tories were trying to take 160 seats. Thistime, they are looking at just 40. I’m told the list will include more than ten Lib Dem seats.• John Rentoul in the Independent on Sunday says he can imagine Cameron winning the nextelection.It is possible to see how the Prime Minister might still win through, however. It does not really depend onwhat happens at conference this week, provided it avoids disaster. The winning scenario was paintedjointly for me by a minister and a shadow minister, in separate conversations.The Conservative minister asked: “What if, in a year to 18 months’ time, the economy is growing… butthe cuts really start to bite?” That is quite possible, and perhaps the parallel to which this Cameronianmoderniser was pointing was Margaret Thatcher in 1983, when unemployment was still high but
disposable income rising for the majority. It may seem harsh, but elections can be won even if a minorityis suffering.The Shadow Cabinet member then said what the Tory message would be in 2015: “Labour drove the carinto the ditch; do you really want to let them back behind the wheel?” The higher growth is, the moreeffective this message is likely to be.• Matthew d’Ancona in the Sunday Telegraph, who interviewed David Cameron this week, saysCameron could be overshadowed at the conference by Boris Johnson.Throughout our interview, Cameron was visibly focused, poised on the edge of his seat – except whenpressed on what Quentin Tarantino would call the “Boris Situation”, at which point he squirmed andgurned, seeking to end the line of questioning with the usual lines – “Boris really is Boris”, “there’s nopoint trying to contain Boris”, and so on – and an affable shrug.Sorry, Prime Minister: there’s no point presenting yourself as the Man with the Plan if a hugely popularcontender for your job is mysteriously permitted to say that the plan contains the seeds of catastrophe.Jovial appeasement is merely encouraging the Mayor. There is a clear and present danger that he willsteal the show from the PM in Birmingham, and that Cameron will start to be seen as yesterday’stomorrow man, an obstruction to the Blond One’s ascent to power. It should anger the Cameroons muchmore than it does that all this is so. They need to act, for once, as if they’re mad as hell and they’re notgoing to take it any more. If No 10 has a Boris Strategy, I can’t see it.• And Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer also says that Johnson will cause problems for Cameron atthe conference.[Johnson] will address the conference itself, a glorious opportunity for Borisovian grandstanding and anevent that the prime minister will feel painfully obliged to attend. The compliment will not be returned:the mayor will have left Birmingham before Mr Cameron addresses the party. Cabinet ministers have toclear their conference speeches through Number 10. The prime minister’s people would very much like tosee what Mr Johnson has in store for the conference. One Number 10 aide says: “He’s talked to us aboutwhere his speech is going.” In other words, they don’t really have a clue. If it is comedy Boris, he willmake the rest of the cabinet look even more cardboard and grey. If it is serious Boris, the would-beprime minister in waiting, that will be really alarming for Number 10.• Martin Ivens in the Sunday Times (paywall) says Cameron needs to take Miliband seriously.Like the American president, Cameron’s vice is to sit back and fritter away his political capital whenahead. He switches the gears too quickly to cruise control. Expect him to come storming back in his ownconference speech.Both men are fierce fighters in a tight corner but Obama — usually — does “the vision thing” better thanCameron. On Wednesday in Birmingham the prime minister needs to convince us there is more to hisown plan for one nation than austerity. Like the president, Cameron now knows that he can’t count onhis opponent fouling up for ever.09:23 BSTAndrew Marr has not even started his interview with David Cameron yet, but already Tim Montgomerieis heckling him on Twitter. Tim Montgomerie @TimMontgomerieAaagh. Andrew Marr again saying choice is between being tough and right-wing or being centrist andkind. No, it isn’t: strongandcompassionate.com09:14 BSTHere’s a round-up of the best Conservative conference stories in the Sunday papers.• George Osborne tells the Mail on Sunday in an interview that he will freeze council tax and cap railfare increases.The Chancellor has emphatically ruled out any plans to impose ‘wealth taxes’ on high-earners, andpledged to freeze council tax and cap commuter fares in a package worth £500 million.The move to rule out a wealth tax will delight the Tory Party faithful – but will infuriate their LiberalDemocrat Coalition partners, who have warned that they will not sanction further austerity measureswithout fresh levies on the rich.
In an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, as the Conservatives gather for their party conferencein Birmingham, Mr Osborne described the demands for a wealth tax as ‘the politics of resentment’.And in an attempt to grab back the initiative on tax from Labour, he also announced the boost for hard-pressed homeowners and rail passengers.Council tax is to be frozen for a third year in a row – a move worth £80 a year for the average Band Dcouncil tax payer – and rail fare rises will be limited to four per cent, worth £45 to the average seasonticket holder.• And Osborne tells the Mail on Sunday that he is ruling out a mansion tax, new council tax bands andother forms of wealth tax. The quotes are in the full write-up of the interview.‘We are not going to have a mansion tax, or a new tax that is a percentage value of people’s properties.Before the election they will call it a mansion tax, but people will wake up the day after the election anddiscover suddenly their more modest home has been labelled a mansion,’ he says.‘We don’t think people who have worked hard, saved up to buy a home, should be clobbered with amansion tax.’Adding a new tax band to the council tax for big homes is merely a sinister ploy to let tax snoopers getinto people’s homes, he maintains.‘You would have to send inspectors out [to revalue every home in the UK] and it wouldn’t raise muchmoney,’ he says. ‘I’m not going to let the tax inspectors get their foot in the door.’Osborne warms to his theme: ‘Nor will there be a wealth tax or annual tax on assets, temporary orotherwise. It is completely unenforceable. It would become a tax avoider’s charter.• Cameron suggests in an interview in the Sunday Telegraph that the EU should have two budgets –one for the Eurozone, and one for the countries outside it.The prime minister also vows today to use Britain’s veto, if necessary, to block “outrageous” attempts toincrease the European Union’s overall budget in upcoming negotiations to set total spending for the years2014 to 2020. “If it comes to saying ‘no’ to a deal that isn’t right for Britain, I’ll say ‘no’, he declares.He also puts forward a “bold thinking” plan for the EU to have two separate budgets – one for the 17nations in the eurozone and another for the 10 outside it, including Britain. This could potentially savethe UK money – but would effectively set up a two-tier Europe.• Cameron tells the Sunday Telegraph in an interview that Ed Miliband was “signalling right, butactually turning left” with his one nation speech last week. The quotes are are in the full write-up of theinterview.“What was interesting about Ed Miliband’s speech is there was just nothing about what needs to be done.You know, lots of attacks on wealth creation, but no ideas about how to create it. Lots of attacks onbusiness, but nothing to stimulate it. Lots of talk about what was wrong in the economy, but not a wordabout the deficit. I thought it was rather an empty vessel, signalling right, but actually turning left.“He is using One Nation as a sort of cloak to…talk about some quite left wing ideas about business, aboutbanking, about wealth creation, about entrepreneurship, about tax and the rest of it. The slogan onlyworks if the policies go with it, and you can’t have the slogan without the policies, or the policies withoutthe slogan. And so, it seems to me, it just doesn’t add up.“It’s one nation – but it sounds more like East Germany than Great Britain.”• Theresa May, the home secretary, tells the Sunday Times in an interview (paywall) that thegovernment is investigating ways of restricting immigration to Britain from the EU.[May] is concerned that EU expansion and unfettered freedom to travel could lead to big levels ofeconomic migration. Work restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria are lifted next year, withexperts forecasting an influx of jobseekers.May’s move will delight Eurosceptics and grassroots Tories but presages potentially bruising battles withBrussels. David Cameron has already signalled the government’s intention to renegotiate the UK’srelationship with the EU …“We are looking at this whole area of the abuse of the freedom of movement. But we will go further onthis, and the issue of free movement will be part of the review,” she said.• The Sunday Times (paywall) says Cameron is going to announce a series of measures for “strivers”who “work hard and want to get on”, regardless of their social background.
The prime minister will use his speech at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham to appeal tomiddle-class families trying to recover from the recession, young people seeking to climb the careerladder and the ambitious working-class voters who once supported Margaret Thatcher.“If you help people who aspire, it creates a virtuous circle. It means they do better, the country doesbetter,” said a source close to Cameron.Presumably he’s been reading Lord Ashcroft’s polling research about “suspicious strivers”.• Cameron tell the Sun on Sunday that he has been more radical than Margaret Thatcher on someissues.Reeling off his list of scrapes, Mr Cameron blasted back: “So have we dithered over educational reform?Mrs Thatcher never reformed public sector pensions. We have done that. Mrs Thatcher never vetoed aEuropean treaty. I have done that.“Capping welfare payments — no government has ever done that.”• Patrick Hennessy in the Sunday Telegraph says 71% of Conservative party constituency chairmenwant Cameron to drop his plans for gay marriage, according to a survey of 100 of them.• Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, tells the Observer in an interview that the economy isprobably doing better than the official growth figures suggest.Echoing an opinion likely to be supported by the chancellor, George Osborne, in a speech on Monday,defence secretary Hammond said: “You won’t find anybody, hardly anybody in the business communityor in the financial community, who thinks that the economy is doing right now what the data tell us it isdoing. There is a mood that the economy is healing.”• Liam Fox tells the Sunday Times (paywall) that Tory rebels should stop plotting against Cameron.Fox, who stood unsuccessfully against Cameron for the Tory leadership in 2005, said he would “neversay never” when it came to his leadership ambitions but insisted: “I don’t have any at the moment.”He was uncompromising, however, when it came to those whispering against Cameron. “Any of mycolleagues who have raised these issues with me gets exactly the same response: we need to get backto a debate about substance and not about personality,” he said.• The Observer says Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith are supporting a bid by theConservativeHome website to turn itself into a political group formed on the principle that the Toryparty modernisation programme has so far been “badly flawed”.• The Independent on Sunday says Cameron is being warned today by his own MPs that he must“refresh and revive” the optimism and “sunshine” that won him the Conservative leadership or risklosing the next election.• Jamie Doward in the Observer says more than 50 victims of phone hacking have written to Cameronexpressing fury at suggestions that the coalition government could reject a call from Lord JusticeLeveson for some form of statutory regulation of the press.• Daniel Boffey in the Observer says that Boris Johnson is under pressure to give evidence to theLeveson inquiry after being forced to publish his diary listing a string of undisclosed conversations withNews International executives, including Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, at the height of thephone-hacking scandal.• Anthony Wells in the Sunday Times says the latest YouGov polls shows that Ed Miliband hasreceived a boost since his speech to the Labour conference.Topline figures are CON 31%, LAB 45%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 8%. The 14 point Labour lead reflects thebigger Labour leads we’ve shown in our polling since Ed Miliband’s speech, and certainly suggests they’vereceived a boost from their party conference.Turning to Ed Miliband specifically, his job approval rating is minus 9, a big jump from minus 29 lastweek and his highest since early in his leadership in 2010 and early 2011. On the various questionsasking people to compare David Cameron and Ed Miliband that we repeated from last week Miliband’sfigures have seen significant boosts on many measures, but he still trails Cameron in the same places hetrailed him a week ago.• And Daniel Boffey in the Observer says Opinium polling for the paper says Labour has increased itslead over the Conservatives to 11 points.The opposition leader’s approval rating shot from 23% of likely voters before the speech to 28%,according to the latest Observer/Opinium poll. David Cameron’s approval rating is slightly higher at 30%,but the narrowing in this key area for the Tory party will be a major worry.
Overall, Labour stretched its poll lead, with 41% signalling an intention to vote for them compared with30% for the Conservatives and 9% for the Liberal Democrats.09:07 BSTIt’s week three of the annual conference season and the caravan has moved on to Birmingham, whereI’m sitting in a still largely empty press at the ICC watching the Conservative conference get going.As usual, there’s a rich splurge of stories in the Sunday papers. The BBC are leading on DavidCameron and George Osborne’s decision to rule out a mansion tax, presumably because it is the storywith the greatest chance of impacting on the future of the coalition. That’s because at the Lib Demconference Nick Clegg signalled that he would block any future welfare cuts if they were notaccompanied by some form of wealth tax. As far as I’m aware, Lib Dem HQ has not yet responded tothe Tory mansion tax announcement.I will post a full round-up of the Conservative conference stories in the Sunday papers shortly. In themeantime, the Sunday Telegraph has got a helpful summary of some of the announcements we aregetting this week.• Another year-long freeze in council tax from next April, the third successive year without increases. Thebill for the average family in a Band D home will be £72 lower in 2013 than it would otherwise havebeen, according to government sources.• A two-year “cap” on “regulated” rail fares (season tickets and peak fares) which will only be able toincrease at one per cent over the inflation rate in 2013 and 2014. The cap, which will also apply totransport in London, is lower than the formula set out in George Osborne’s 2010 spending review.• New legal rights giving householders who confront burglars protection from prosecution. Chris Grayling,the Justice Secretary, is expected to reveal plans to change the law, which currently only giveshouseholders the right to use “reasonable force” after campaigners, including this newspaper, spentyears demanding action.• New powers for councils to stop unauthorised traveller sites as they develop. Local authorities will findit much easier to use “temporary stop notices” against caravans in an initiative by Eric Pickles, theCommunities Secretary, to prevent a repeat of long, drawn-out cases such as the closure of Dale Farm inEssex.• All civil servants to be offered a minimum of 10 days “special” paid leave to train as reservists in a bidto boost membership of the Territorial Army. Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, said the movewould send a “clear message of how much we value our reserves.”Here’s the agenda for the day.9am: David Cameron is interviewed on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.10am: George Osborne is interviewed on Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan show.11am: Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, is interviewed on the BBC’s Sunday Politics.2.30pm: The conference opens, with a speech from Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman.2.50pm: Defence and International Affairs, with speeches from Philip Hammond, the defencesecretary, and William Hague, the foreign secretary.If you want to follow me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.And if you want to follow David Cameron on Twitter, now you can. He only launched his accountyesterday, at @David_Cameron, but he’s already got 66,000 followers.http://www.turkeytribune.com/turkey-tribune/cameron-interview-marks-start-conservative-conference-politics-live-blog.html