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Page last updated at 10:21 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

To work for power, to earn power

On Sunday 22 November Andrew Marr interviewed David Cameron MP, leader of the Conservatives.

Please note 'The Andrew Marr Show' must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

David Cameron

ANDREW MARR:

Well the other day even the Guardian called him 'The Prime Minister in waiting'. A poll this morning reminds us, however, that David Cameron hasn't yet beaten Gordon Brown's Labour Party and the Tories have a job to do. The political struggle is getting sharper all the time from the battle of the Armistice Day photo opportunities outside Westminster Abbey to, rather more seriously, a major bust-up over the Queen's Speech. Well I'm joined now by the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron. Welcome and thank you for coming in.

DAVID CAMERON:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Good morning. Can we deal, first of all, with the Armistice Day apologies?

DAVID CAMERON:

Yes.

ANDREW MARR:

On both sides, it was a mistake, was it not, to get involved in those photo ops?

DAVID CAMERON:

Yes, it was. I mean I spend a lot of time being followed round by photographers, including our own photographer at Conservative Central Office, but this was something that shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't have happened and I regret that, and want to make that clear.

ANDREW MARR:

Good, thank you. Well let's move on then to the Queen's Speech and your response to the Queen's Speech because it was fundamentally that this was going to be more big government, as you said, and more money being thrown at the problem rather than dealing with the great financial problems that the country faces. I've been going through a sort of list of the things that you've talked about so far in terms of spending, cuts and what needs to be done; and the numbers, while they look impressive at one level, come nowhere near what needs to be done overall to fill this hole. And I'm just wondering, first of all, when we might hear a little bit more.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well, first of all, I would say that the opposition has been behaving like a responsible government, setting out in advance some of the tough and difficult decisions necessary to deal with the deficit; whereas the government has been behaving like an irresponsible opposition, even now making vast promises about new, whole new areas of spending like £20 billion on a National Care Service. You know the background to the next election is that next year, we're going to be borrowing something like 14% of our national product, of our GDP. The last time we nearly went bust in the 1970s, we were borrowing 7%. So half as much. So this is the major problem facing our country.

ANDREW MARR:

Let's …

DAVID CAMERON:

It's clear and present danger to the economy.

ANDREW MARR:

I understand that, but …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Now you're not satisfied.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) I'd like to hear what you're going to do.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well we've said … I mean normally politicians, they sit in a chair like this and they say we're going to cut out waste and cut out bureaucracy. And we have done those things and we will do those things. Things like the ID cards and the regional assemblies and all that nonsense, that's all got to go. But we've gone beyond …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Which, as we both know, is quite small.

DAVID CAMERON:

Absolutely. And that's why we've gone beyond that and said we're going to have to do some difficult things, some potentially unpopular things - like, for instance, freezing public sector pay for all but the lowest paid workers for a year from 2011, like we've said …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) That gets you 3 billion or thereabouts in a year, and we're talking of sums of 175 billion and so on being the problem.

DAVID CAMERON:

Absolutely. But the 3 billion a year, that is then … You lock that in for every year of a parliament. And we've talked about …

ANDREW MARR:

Sure, sure.

DAVID CAMERON:

Again, but this is … What have we heard from the government? Absolutely nothing in terms of saving costs. We've also said - another difficult decision - that we're going to ask people from 2016 to retire a year later. That does save another substantial amount of money.

ANDREW MARR:

But a long way ahead, of course.

DAVID CAMERON:

For sure, but one of the things we need to do is reassure people that we have a plan to get this deficit down. And I think the fundamental difference, if I might say, between the parties is Labour seem to be saying that getting the economy growing and dealing with the deficit are alternatives; whereas actually we say no …

ANDREW MARR:

You have to do that.

DAVID CAMERON:

… getting the deficit under control is part of bringing back the confidence that this economy needs.

ANDREW MARR:

Well let me put it to you that given the scale of the problem, there are only a few big things that any government could do. You could sharply raise taxes. And even Nigel Lawson has been discussing the question of whether it should be VAT or income tax, but you're a Conservative; you don't much want to raise taxes. Or you can look at the spending side in a rather more radical way than we've heard so far. Now you've had people over looking at the Canadian experience where they simply took 20% out of every single budget and they got things back on track pretty quickly, and I put it to you that something like that is where you're going to have to end up.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well we will have to make difficult decisions and, as I said, we've already started to make them from opposition in advance of the election, which the government hasn't done. And if you look at the …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But the Canadian parallel is a reasonable one, is it?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well actually there's a lot of differences between Canada and the United Kingdom, not least because Canada has got a smaller central government. The individual states in Canada are responsible for spending a lot more money. But as well as … Let me just go back to this point. As well as cutting the deficit by cutting spending, we've also got to get this economy growing. And what I can say today is that we would consider you know within fifty days of taking office, if we won the election, we would have an emergency budget - an emergency budget that, yes, would be about getting the deficit under control and having a credible plan, a credible plan that the CBI last Friday praised - but it should also be a budget that goes for growth, that gets this economy moving again. We have made promises like cutting the rate of corporation tax down to 25p by abolishing some of the allowances. That needs to happen. We've said let's get new businesses going by saying to new companies set up here, get going, don't pay national insurance on your first ten employees. Let's get that moving. We've got to get this economy moving. We've got to get confidence and credit flowing again. Dealing with the deficit, getting the economy growing - they're not compliments, they're not substitutes. We need to do both of them. And we need a government that has the power and actually the sort of long-term vision to get on with it. Right now, they can't make decisions about anything.

ANDREW MARR:

So this proposed emergency budget - which if you won the election, we would see well before the summer, therefore - would have two components. It would have various cuts and incentives for business, on the one hand …

DAVID CAMERON:

Well it would have two things: a proper plan to get the deficit down, with the spending changes that we've spoken about; and then a proper plan for getting the economy moving, to get business investing, to get the recovery going. Because my worry is that if we don't deal with the deficit, if we have another Labour government with this arrogance of just let's do it all in the future, you'll find interest rates going up and you'll find the country tipped back into another Labour recession. That's what we've got to avoid.

ANDREW MARR:

Can I ask again about the spending cut side because the 20% figure, whether or not our experience is exactly like the Canadians, seems to be something that a lot of economists talk about if you're going to make a radical change. And you've spoken also about the need to cut back the big state sort of philosophically. And I just wonder if you can spell out for us the kind of Britain that you think we would eventually get to. Would it be the sort of country where parents were raising extra money for schools, running schools as well; where people in the local area were raising money for their local hospital as well as running their local hospital? Is it that big a change to a different kind of politics?

DAVID CAMERON:

I believe that we want to have a sort of society where the state provides the funding for a really great education, for the schools that we send our children to, and a really great National Health Service for when we get ill. But do I have a vision also of a sort of bigger society where we try to do more for ourselves and together in our communities? Yes, I do. I mean today already parents do incredible things, raising money for their schools. You know you look at the whole hospice movement.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But you know, we have been a sort of state-ist country in some respect.

DAVID CAMERON:

We have, but also I think there are lots of things we do at the moment where we hold back that sort of community effort. And if you look at the moment, the rules and regulations the government's bringing in, so that it's almost now … it's going to be impossible to take other people's children to a sports day without having a Criminal Records Bureau check - we've got to stop this nonsense. The Labour big state is actually becoming such a Big Brother state now, we're holding back the bigger society, the more active country we want to see.

ANDREW MARR:

But is there going to be a big bang to reduce the big state right at the beginning? Are you going to be making those big decisions early on?

DAVID CAMERON:

It's not so much a big bang as a big plan. What you need is a plan to get the deficit down. You've got to demonstrate to people you're serious by taking some steps in your first budget, and you've set out …

ANDREW MARR:

Sorry, can I just …

DAVID CAMERON:

… those steps, rather than just … You know talk is cheap for politicians. Just talking about what you're going to do is not good enough. You've actually got to show people in those early moves that this is serious.

ANDREW MARR:

Given what you've said and given the scale of the problem, these are going to have to be pretty drastic steps. And what I'm asking you … I mean we've agreed that the cuts that we've heard about so far are pretty small - I mean useful, but pretty small compared to the scale of the problem. What I want to know is whether we're going to hear more about exactly what you're going to do ahead of the election, or whether we're going to have to wait for the emergency budget?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well one of the problems we have is … Well the situation we face is we've still got a pre-budget report to come this autumn, and then possibly another government budget before the election next year. Now I would say for an opposition - certainly in this country's history and actually look around the world - you've already heard a lot more … Find me an example of an opposition going into an election talking about freezing public sector pay, changing pension rules, changing benefit rules. We've already given a huge amount of detail - much more than the government. And, remember, that's in advance of a pre-budget report and potentially a budget before the election. Now I hope the government get off the fence and do something about this clear and present danger facing our country in terms of the budget deficit. I know that's what the Treasury are telling the Prime Minister to do. Now he should have the courage to take those steps. As I said in the Queen's Speech debate, actually Jim Callaghan did that in the 70s. He did the responsible thing - started to clear up the mess of the last Labour government. That's what was done at the end of the 60s -

ANDREW MARR:

Yes.

DAVID CAMERON:

Labour realising they'd overspent, starting to take … Let's hope this lot don't actually have a scorched earth policy of wrecking our country before they finally lose. Let's hope they do the responsible thing. But the evidence so far doesn't look very good.

ANDREW MARR:

Do you look at the poll this morning and think maybe all that tough talk has been extremely unpopular and we are really in a, you know, fight to the edge with the Labour party? We might very well end up with a hung parliament. All those people talking about the Conservatives being a shoe in for a decent majority, all of that's gone?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I've never believed the next election is either a shoe in or a foregone conclusion. You know I think the state of the nation's opinion is that people are disillusioned with Labour, with the government. They're disillusioned also with politics. But they are not going to just hand it over to the Conservatives. We've got to work for it, we've got to earn it. I've got to work for it and earn it. We've got to prove to people that we can make changes, that change would make a difference; that we've got a strong team, we've got the right policies. This has been my life's work for the last four years. I know I've got another six months to really try and prove it to people.

ANDREW MARR:

And Ken Clarke said …

DAVID CAMERON:

And that's what needs to be done.

ANDREW MARR:

Sorry, Ken Clarke said that a hung parliament would be the worst possible outcome, a total disaster for the country. Would you go along with that?

DAVID CAMERON:

(laughing) Not really, no. I mean Ken has his own way of explaining these things. I think, frankly, anything would be better than another five years of this Labour government. But I am working night and day not for a hung parliament, but for a majority government. Because I do think in Britain today we've got to take some tough and difficult decisions and I'd rather have a government that could do that. And then you turn round after four or five years and say look, we did the difficult things.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay.

DAVID CAMERON:

You know do you want to continue with that or do you want to make a change? That is accountability and I think that's what we need.

ANDREW MARR:

Did you watch the elevation of Mr van Rompuy and Baroness Ashton and punch the air and thought well that's the nation state alright then?

DAVID CAMERON:

No, I didn't because I don't want Europe to have a President at all. But I suppose if we're going to have a President, it's better that it's someone …

ANDREW MARR:

Better a Belgian?

DAVID CAMERON:

Better someone who is going to chair the Council of Ministers and who recognises that he is the servant of the nation states of Europe and not the master of the nation states of Europe. And that's why I was pleased it wasn't Tony Blair. It wasn't political animus or anything like that. The fact was I think that if you had a figure like that who wanted to be an all-singing, all-dancing President, I think you'd get the relationship the wrong way round and Europe would become more of a country. I don't want it to be a country. I want it to be an association of member states.

ANDREW MARR:

All of those people who hoped that a Conservative government would be elected so that they could get a chance to vote specifically on Europe are going to be disappointed, aren't they?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I'm disappointed. I mean I wanted us to have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. That's what we …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) You could give us a referend… You could promise a referendum now on the principle of Europe?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well what I can't do is a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty because it's now part of the European law. So if you had one, it would either be a pointless tilting at Europe or it would effectively be an in-out referendum. Now I think we should be in the European Union, fighting for the sort of Europe we want. We want a Europe of trade and cooperation, not a super state. And so I don't want an in or out referendum because I don't think out is in Britain's interests. But what we can do - and I think this is, as I said at the time, doable, deliverable, believable - is we can pass a law in Britain that says any time there's another treaty that passes power from Britain to Brussels, there has to be a referendum. That is something we really can do and it would make a difference.

ANDREW MARR:

Alright, one day. But for now, thank you very much indeed, David Cameron.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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