David Cameron is out doing the media rounds today. He wants to, in his
words, get back to the ‘big picture’, the argument over deficit reduction. Indeed, Danny Alexander’s speech today saying that departments have to indentify additional saving seems
to have been timed to tee up this argument.
Cameron’s Today Programme interview, though, was dominated by Abu Qatada, tax avoidance, Lords reforms and whether or not — in John Humphrys’ words — the PM is ‘a bit
lazy.’ On Qatada, Cameron was insistent that the Home Office had ‘checked repeatedly’ with the European Court of Human Rights on the deadline. I expect that the Home Office will
have to release details of these contacts today.
Humphrys, who was in particularly loquacious form this morning, then pressed Cameron on whether he thought Sir Philip Green, who has advised the coalition on procurement, was an aggressive tax
avoider and thus, by George Osborne’s definition, morally repugnant. Cameron insisted that he couldn’t go into ‘someone’s tax affairs on the air’. But he did say that
he wouldn’t have dealings with those who aggressively avoid tax which will lead to even more scrutiny of the tax affairs of Tory donors and Cameron confidants.
But perhaps the most politically significant part of the interview was on Lords reform. Cameron kept stressing that it would ‘only ever happen if all the parties work together on it’.
To my ears, this sounded like Cameron saying that if Labour won’t play ball then he won’t try and push it through. He also sounded far more open to a referendum than Clegg did on the
Sunday Politics, saying that the coalition ‘shouldn’t rule a referendum out of hand.’
Humphrys ended the interview by pressing Cameron on his work ethic. I think these criticisms are unfair and miss the point. Cameron — who as he pointed out is up and working by 5.45am every
day — doesn’t need to work more hours. But there is an argument that he should work differently, that he should empower more political appointees to push things through the political