Is David Cameron a little lost on policy? Or was he just put into a spin by Andrew Marr?
Prime Minister David Cameron was on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday 4th January defending his time in No.10. This interview with the PM was one of many on Sunday featuring all of the leaders, as the main political parties launched their General Election campaigns. I want to bring into focus the Marr interview with Cameron though; Mr Cameron said during this interview that he was "very happy" to be judged on his record since 2010.
He then went on to give some fascinating insight into the other parties manifesto pledges. One of the more interesting claims included that Labour would spend £13.5 billion extra on debt interest, because of slower spending cuts. Marr then was keen to move the conversation to Conservative policy on defence, rather than listening to mud-slinging about other parties policies.
Reluctantly the Prime Minister seemed to engage Marr. On his own policies, Mr Cameron pledged a "commitment" that the regular Armed Forces would not be reduced further in the next parliament, if elected. At the same time he then claimed that the 2% NATO target for national spending on defence would be met "depending what happens with the economy". Indeed it would seem ‘Mr Slippery’ was returning to his usual form.
Marr then skilfully moved the conversation again; turning to the European question, which for me is where Mr Cameron was really surprising. He reaffirmed his promise of a referendum on EU membership by 2017, but seemed to move position to ASAP rather than sticking to his previous course of in or by 2017.
This sounded like a real victory for the Tory backbenchers who want out of Europe. However the Prime Minister arguably really shot himself in the political foot. He suggested during this interview that his own Ministers would not be allowed a free vote on this major issue. Marr seemed as perplexed with the Prime Minister as I am at this point. I came away from this interview with a couple of talking points for Tory supporters and their ever frustrated backbench;
• If you are living in a free and liberal democracy why on earth would the Prime Minister do this?
• Is he worried about a further revolt, and is he attempting to quell this by ruling with an iron fist?
It seems to me that it's Cameron's way in the Conservative party or it's the high-way. I think this may well drive more defections to UKIP. With UKIP popularity heading more regularly towards 20% on opinion polls, the Prime Minister can't be seen to be shutting down debate on Europe, especially as this would effectively mean closing the debate down on immigration as well.
Nigel Farage, whether you like what he says or his policies or not, seems to be quite open to debates in his party.
Indeed it was Farage who tabled the idea of an American style NHS system based on insurance. Not the kind of debate I think you would see in the Conservative party it would seem. A debate where all ideas are discussed, not just the views of a party leader.
Now I want to hold Cameron to account...
Does anyone else remember what Cameron promised in 2010? He promised to bring immigration down to the tens of thousands. At time of writing net migration is well over 200,000 people.
Could this really be the reason that the Prime Minister is shutting down debate in his party? If you’re happy to be held to account Mr Cameron, let your Ministers have their say. No ifs or buts. No excuses.
Did we witness during this interview the true reason that Mark Reckless and Douglas Carswell defected to UKIP? They simply weren't allowed a say inside the Conservative party. It would seem so...
By Sean Mallis