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Page last updated at 11:41 GMT, Sunday, 1 May 2011 12:41 UK

Transcript of David Cameron interview

PLEASE NOTE "THE ANDREW MARR SHOW" MUST BE CREDITED IF ANY PART OF THIS TRANSCRIPT IS USED

On Sunday 1st May Andrew Marr interviewed Prime Minister David Cameron MP

ANDREW MARR:

Now on Friday evening the Royal wedding celebrations centred on Westminster Abbey, and then they were continued on the other side of Parliament Square as the Prime Minister hosted a street party on the tarmac right outside 10 Downing Street. Like a thousand other street parties, it was all bunting bedecked good cheer. But this week, as we're hearing, things are getting a little more serious. Parliament's back on Tuesday and on Thursday those crucial votes take place around the country. Well the Prime Minister minus his tailcoat is here. Good morning and welcome.

DAVID CAMERON:

Good morning.

ANDREW MARR:

Can we start, since we've been discussing it, by talking about the AV referendum. It looks as if the No campaign are well ahead in the polls. Of course we can't tell at this stage, but nonetheless that's what seems to be happening. Your side has thrown a fair amount of abuse at the Liberal Democrats and we've heard a lot coming back the other way. Can you really sit down together as if nothing had happened afterwards?

DAVID CAMERON:

Yes, we're doing that already. I mean we had a very successful cabinet meeting on Tuesday. We'll be having another cabinet meeting this Tuesday and the business of government goes on - dealing with the deficit, reforming welfare, making sure there's quality schools for all our children. I mean these things are going on even as the referendum and the local election campaign takes place.

ANDREW MARR:

But your colleagues have accused you of telling lies and Nazi propaganda and that kind of … I mean perhaps Douglas Alexander's right and the outrage, if not the disagreement, is synthetic?

DAVID CAMERON:

I think what we should do in the last week before polling day is concentrate on the merits and demerits of each system. I'm very clear that a No vote is the right answer for this country because our current system is simple, it's well understood, it's fair because every vote counts the same, and it's effective: you can get rid of governments you don't like. And I think that's an absolutely vital thing in a democracy and why swap that for a system only used by Australia, Fiji and Papua New Guinea? It would be a huge mistake for the country, so I hope there'll be a strong No vote and I'll be campaigning for that until Thursday.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) And just to clear one thing up.

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) But, Andrew, we always knew this would be a moment of difficulty for the coalition because we always knew that Conservatives and Liberal Democrats would be on opposing sides in this campaign, and they are. But I think it's perfectly possible, indeed we will demonstrate that it is possible to continue a strong and effective coalition government in the national interest for five years, as the Deputy Prime Minister said when he was on your programme earlier.

ANDREW MARR:

Can we clear up one matter of disagreement or doubt? Did you break an agreement with him not to campaign yourself particularly vociferously in this campaign?

DAVID CAMERON:

No, I always said that I would campaign. I think what has happened though, I think we were both expecting both campaigns to be slightly less political than they have been. I was certainly envisaging that both campaigns would have more non-party figures involved in them. That isn't how it's turned out.

ANDREW MARR:

So you had to come in to sort of fill up the vacuum a bit?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I think actually it's important to get the arguments across. And if you look at the speeches I've made and the Conservative No campaign leaflets, the campaign I am responsible for, that has been putting across a positive case for retaining our current system, which, as I say, gives the power to the people to get rid of a dying government and that's vitally important in a good and successful and robust democracy.

ANDREW MARR:

Assuming your side wins this AV referendum, your coalition partners are going to be pretty shattered, demoralised and squabbling amongst themselves. What are you prepared to do to kind of cheer them up and bind them back in again to the coalition?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I don't believe that a successful coalition is based around trying to endlessly sort of trade off each other's policies.

ANDREW MARR:

So there won't be … you're not going to throw them anything?

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) I think the best … Look, I would argue that the Conservative Party has gained a huge amount from this coalition. You can see Conservative policies passed into action. I would also argue the Liberal Democrats have brought a huge amount to the coalition, very successfully, and you see that in things like lifting people out of income tax - a successful Lib-Dem policy. But really speaking, the truth about this coalition is that what it ought to focus on and what it will focus on is sorting out the economy, sorting out welfare, improving our schools, doing those things. And if we succeed as a coalition, we will both succeed as individual parties. And I meant the Deputy Prime Minister and I discuss this and I think that this is the right way to think about it.

ANDREW MARR:

Well I don't know if you've discussed this, but would you accept that on your side of the argument lies have been told about the hundreds of millions of pounds it would cost to change the voting system? That's what particularly annoys the other side.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well clearly there would be a cost if you moved to a new system.

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Not a huge cost.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well if you move to a system with voting machines - as I think would probably be the case - that would be expensive. But, as I say …

ANDREW MARR:

Hundreds of millions? That seems a bit …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Those are estimates made by the No campaign based on both moving to voting machines and also they were adding in the cost of holding the referendum. That's a No campaign argument. I'm responsible for the Conservative No campaign and the leaflets we've put out and the arguments that we make. And the No campaign, which is a cross-party campaign including Labour MPs and Conservative MPs and many others besides, they can make their own case.

ANDREW MARR:

Were you a little uneasy sitting alongside some of the sort of Labour figures? You know you're characterised as dinosaur parties coming together to preserve the old ways.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I don't accept that. I mean I was happy to appear on a platform with John Reid, who I think was an effective minister in the last government. He was something of a moderniser - far from being a dinosaur. And he and I both happen to share the same view, which is the first past the post system is clear, simple, effective. It works. You can get rid of a government you don't like. And so don't trade that in. And it was good to appear on that platform and make the argument, which demonstrates that it's not just the Conservatives on one side. More than half the Labour Party agree with me that we should have a No vote, so it's a genuine cross-party campaign and I think it's good to demonstrate that point.

ANDREW MARR:

Have you been …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) But anyway the main thing is …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Sorry, just before …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Yes, sorry.

ANDREW MARR:

Have you been disappointed by some of the language that's been used on both sides?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I think, as I say, I don't want to have a sort of running commentary on the campaign. We've got a week left where I think we ought to focus …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) It hasn't been a pretty sight from the outside.

DAVID CAMERON:

Now I think is the moment to focus on the real issues and arguments. And I think there's a clear argument on simplicity. Don't trade in a simple system that everybody understands. I think there's a fairness argument. Under our system, you vote once. Every vote is counted. Under alternative vote, some votes are counted more than once and I think that's wrong. And there's this effectiveness. I mean it may be an odd thing for a Prime Minister to say, but don't give up a system that allows you to chuck out an unpopular government. It was effective in 79. It was effective in 2010. It's a treasure we have to, as they say in America, throw the rascals out. And that may be odd for a Prime Minister to say, but I would strongly recommend a No vote.

ANDREW MARR:

And if the No vote wins, do you think that's it on electoral reform for a generation? That's the decision taken and we move on?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well no parliament can bind its successor. But I think you know the arguments will have been had out in public, and I hope that if the No campaign wins then that would be a decisive one I hope for.

ANDREW MARR:

Can I ask about something that clearly hasn't gone according to plan, which is health reforms. Why do you think it was necessary to push the brakes and slow things down and have a rethink? What sort of in terms of the process of getting there had gone wrong?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well first of all there was an opportunity because the legislation has almost finished in the Commons and it hasn't yet started in the House of Lords. And I am a passionate believer in our National Health Service. The fact that it's free at the point of use, it's related to your need, not your ability to pay, this is an incredibly precious thing about being British. Now we do need to upgrade and improve our health service, but I was concerned and Andrew Lansley and Nick Clegg as well were concerned that we weren't taking enough of the health professionals and enough of the country frankly with us on this very, very …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) That's not a surprise perhaps because you know nobody had come across. It wasn't in your manifesto as such. It wasn't in the coalition agreement and so it came as a shock to people.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I don't quite agree with that because I think if you look at both manifestos you can see that these evolutionary changes about giving GPs more power over how to get the best healthcare for you, about making hospitals more independent so they're in charge of their own destiny, and also concentrating on public health as well as just the National Health Service - these were all laid out in our manifesto. Now it may be odd for a government to say hold on a second, we're not taking enough people with us. We need to listen more carefully, see what improvements we can make. It may be odd and different for a government to do that rather than just charge ahead regardless, but nonetheless I think it's the right thing to do. And I've been running some of these events myself - just going to hospitals quite quietly, no fanfare - sitting in a room with doctors and nurses and midwives and others, and managers, and asking them what they think. And some very clear messages are coming back. They like the basics of the reform, but they've got some clear pointers about hospital doctors having greater involvement in these things and I hope we'll be able to satisfy those demands and bring together …

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, alright.

DAVID CAMERON:

I want to reform the health service in a way where health professionals actually see this as a sensible evolution from what they've had before.

ANDREW MARR:

You were talking I think about health in the House of Commons in Prime Minister's Questions. Is "Calm down, dear" a phrase you're going to use again hurriedly?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well, look, it was meant entirely humorously. I may be quoting …

ANDREW MARR:

Were you slightly chastened by the reaction?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well I thought people had a slight sense of humour failure, if I might. Obviously quoting Michael Winner is not going to win me a comedy award, but I mean it was meant as a joke and I thought would be taken as a joke, and I think people should take it that way.

ANDREW MARR:

A fantastic day for the Royal wedding. I mean everything went off pretty much perfectly and looked beautiful.

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) Amazing.

ANDREW MARR:

And of course sent to two billion people, we read, around the world on their television screens. Is it any more though than just a day of sort of personal celebration and a bit of pageantry?

DAVID CAMERON:

I think it is. I mean it was … Sitting there in Westminster Abbey, you felt you were part of some extraordinary fairytale. It was absolutely beautiful, gripping, moving. And singing Jerusalem with the London Symphony Orchestra behind you, it felt like the roof was going to lift off and there was just no better place, no better country to be in at that moment and I think made a lot of people feel very proud to be British. It certainly did with me. Did it mean anymore? Is it more than two young people in love? I think it is. I think the institution of our monarchy, the public service given by the Royal family, the public service given particularly by Her Majesty the Queen is something we all want to celebrate, and this gave us an opportunity. And while we're quite a reserved lot, actually when we go for it, we really go for it. And I thought it was …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) When the sun comes out.

DAVID CAMERON:

And the sun came out and it was a wonderful day.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, let's turn to a rather darker story which is the reports this morning that Colonel Gaddafi's youngest son and his family have been killed by a NATO air strike. Can I ask, first of all, whether this was British bombs and British aircraft involved?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well, first of all, you would not expect me to comment on an unconfirmed report.

ANDREW MARR:

So you don't know at this stage?

DAVID CAMERON:

As I say, I wouldn't comment on an unconfirmed report. What I would say is this - that the targeting policy of NATO is absolutely - and the Alliance - is absolutely clear. It is in line with UN Resolution 1973 and it is about preventing the loss of civilian life by targeting Gaddafi's war making machine. So that is obviously tanks and guns and rocket launchers …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) But also command and control.

DAVID CAMERON:

… but also command and control as well.

ANDREW MARR:

Which is the Gaddafi family. I mean that is the ambiguity here, is that in effect assassinating the Gaddafi family would be the same thing as taking out the command and control system.

DAVID CAMERON:

Well as others have said, it is about targeting command and control rather than particular individuals. And the targeting policy has been very closely followed. These things are very carefully put together. And we have to stand back for a moment I think, Andrew …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) Can I just ask, to be absolutely clear about it. Do you think that Colonel Gaddafi and his family are legitimate targets?

DAVID CAMERON:

Look, the targeting policy - and I've said I'm not going to go … I've said in the House of Commons you know I'm not going to give a running commentary on targeting policy …

ANDREW MARR:

(over) You can't help us as to whether British …

DAVID CAMERON:

Targeting policy is in line with UN Resolution 1973. It's about preventing the loss of civilian life by hitting the Gaddafi war machine that is … And let's remember you know while Gaddafi said he wanted a ceasefire, he was mining the harbour in Misrata in order to blow up (Marr tries to interject) vessels that were bringing humanitarian aid to help the people that he is murdering and killing with his snipers, rockets and artillery.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay. One …

DAVID CAMERON:

(over) And we've got to remember, Andrew - this is very important …

ANDREW MARR:

I know. I must just break in because we're running out of time. There's one other thing I must ask you about, which is Syria, which is turning into an absolute bloodbath, and a lot of people out there are saying what is different about Syria? Why can't we go in and do something?

DAVID CAMERON:

Well, first of all, it is a completely disgraceful and unacceptable situation to see this regime killing so many of its own people. You ask what is different to Libya. Well there are some differences. In Libya, we were asked by the Arab League to go into that country, we were asked by the Libyan people. We were backed by United Nations Resolution. Clearly in Syria, we need to do more to step up the pressure on that regime to show internationally this is not acceptable.

ANDREW MARR:

Okay, alright.

DAVID CAMERON:

Now we've started that process in the European Union, but I think we have further to go and more to do.

ANDREW MARR:

Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed for joining us this morning.

INTERVIEW ENDS




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