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Last Updated: Tuesday, 31 July 2007, 17:46 GMT 18:46 UK
Cameron dismisses party criticism
David Cameron
David Cameron said he is addressing issues voters care about
Tory leader David Cameron has rejected criticism from within his own party and told the BBC he is addressing the "big issues" which matter to voters.

Mr Cameron said Ali Miraj, who helped launch his leadership bid, asked for a peerage hours before accusing him of replacing "substance" with "PR".

Mr Miraj - one of a number to recently criticise Mr Cameron - said the peerage comment was an attempt to "smear him".

But he has now been suspended from the list of candidates to be a Tory MP.

Mr Cameron also dismissed criticism of his policies by former chairman Lord Saatchi and ex-treasurer Lord Kalms.

Mr Cameron was defending his leadership, after the Tories came third in two by-elections and his decision to visit Rwanda, while parts of England were badly flooded.

'Broken society'

He said Labour - under the new Prime Minister Gordon Brown - could not make the changes necessary to mend Britain's "broken society" and was too "wedded to state control".

In a speech on school discipline earlier he pledged to scrap local authority appeals panels which can overrule schools which exclude badly-behaved pupils, saying it undermined the authority of head teachers.

What I'm asking for is some substance and some credibility and not box-ticking and gimmickry
Ali Miraj

But asked about discipline within his own party, Mr Cameron said that the direction he had taken - including a refusal to promise tax cuts and to adopt "opt outs" from the NHS - had "inevitably" lead to criticism.

But he said he was determined to keep "going on the course I have set".

He said: "If you are leading a political party, if you are setting a clear direction, if you are taking your party and saying: 'Look, we have lost three elections, changes needed to be made, this is the agenda we are going to follow' - of course you face criticism.

"But what matters is actually delivering for the British people a really compelling alternative that actually meets the things they care about."

'Rethink' call

The Tory leader has been criticised by various figures from within the party over the past weeks - most recently by Mr Miraj, who told the BBC on Monday evening: "What I'm asking for is some substance and some credibility and not box-ticking and gimmickry."

Former Tory treasurer Lord Kalms has also called for "some rethinking" of Mr Cameron's policies and former Tory frontbencher Graham Brady, who stepped down over the recent row about grammar schools, said Mr Cameron was failing to reach out to voters in the north and Midlands.

New prime ministers always get a honeymoon and a bounce in the polls
David Cameron

Mr Cameron said Mr Miraj - who has since been suspended from the list of candidates to be a Tory MP - had, only hours before making his comments, been to see him to ask him to make him a peer.

He also told the BBC earlier that Lord Kalms - who backed David Davis for the Tory leadership in 2005 - had never agreed with his policies, while Mr Brady was wrong as the Tories had made gains in the local elections.

'Nicey-nicey politics'

And he responded to Lord Saatchi's comments that he should focus more on the economy, saying he was addressing the "big issue" facing Britain - "the breakdown of our society".

The former Tory chairman had warned Mr Cameron that "nicey-nicey" politics would not win him the next general election.

Mr Miraj later accused the Tory leader of trying to "smear" him, saying that Mr Cameron had initiated their meeting on Monday after seeing the critical article Mr Miraj was planning to publish.

He said: "A peerage is neither here nor there, I wanted to help David Cameron work and promote the party so that we win the next general election."

The latest opinion polls seem to suggest the "Brown bounce", following Gordon Brown's succession as prime minister in June, is continuing.

A survey for the Times put the Labour party six points clear of the Conservatives with 39% of the vote compared to 33%. Populus questioned 1,511 adults by telephone between July 27 and 29.

'Fundamentals unchanged'

A further poll for the Independent put Labour on 37% - up five points on a similar poll last month - and the Conservatives on 34%, down three. CommunicateResearch questioned 1,006 adults by phone between July 27 and 29.

Asked whether he thought Labour's recent poll showings were temporary, Mr Cameron said: "Yes, I believe they are."

But he added: "New prime ministers always get a honeymoon and a bounce in the polls, I fully predicted and expected that, but I don't believe the fundamentals have changed."

He was given backing by ex-leader and current shadow foreign secretary William Hague, who told BBC Radio 4's World at One the "armchair generals" should not be listened to and that Mr Cameron's approach was "absolutely the one we have to stick to".




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
David Cameron defends his leadership amid criticism



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