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Cameron cross-questioned

26 November 2011

3:33 PM

26 November 2011

3:33 PM

A quick post just to add the Guardian’s interview with David Cameron to your Saturday reading list. It takes the unusual approach of
fielding questions to the PM from a range of ‘public figures’ — and, although many of those questions reduce down to ‘why aren’t you giving more money to X?’, the
results are still generally engaging and occasionally insightful.

And so we learn, after an enquiry by The Spectator’s own Toby Young, that Cameron doesn’t keep a diary. And we also have the PM justifiying his stance on Europe to Nigel Farage; skipping over a
question about what he may or may not have inhaled during his time at Eton; claiming that ‘not everything [Gordon Brown] did was wrong’; and more besides.

One question and answer stand out, at least so far as the current functioning of the coalition is concerned:

Norman Lamont: ‘If there were no coalition and you were governing as a Conservative prime minister alone, what three things would you most like to have done
that you have not been able to do in coalition?’

David Cameron: ‘Further action on welfare reform. Perhaps the control of immigration. But I don’t buy the argument that because it’s a coalition it’s an inactive
government. It’s a pretty rolled-up sleeves reforming government. [Guardian: And the third?] I thought two was enough.’

It’s no surprise that Cameron should identify welfare reform and immigration as two areas where the Conservatives would be more radical on their own — he has said as much before. But what’s slightly more surprising is that he wouldn’t identify a third area, even when pressed. Not Europe, not prisons,
not anything.

I suspect it’s to do with the coalition’s internal rules of engagement, and perhaps with the PM not wanting to admit weaknesses. If, for instance, he said that the Tories would do more to claw
powers back from Europe, then he’d risk sounding resigned to not achieving that now. But you do wonder whether Cameron will seize more ruthlessly on such questions in one or two years time, as the
election nears.

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