UK Politics

Landale online: Cameron sets out conference stall

If there is a message that David Cameron wishes to get across this week, it came in the last words of his interview with Andrew Marr: "We have got to explain to people here there is something better at the end of this".

That now is the benchmark by which the Conservative conference will be judged.

The prime minister said he understood people were feeling the impact of rising energy prices, the cost of the family shop, the wage freezes in the public sector.

But he made clear that the government is not about to deviate from its deficit reduction plans.

He said those calling for a few extra billion to be pumped into the economy via tax cuts would "put at risk the interest rates that are vital to our economic survival".

Instead, he said that the government must do more to explain how it was going to 'build an economy that is worthwhile".


He said he would set out plans this week to make it easier for businesses to start, the expand, to invest.

On Europe, there was little comfort for Conservative eurosceptics.

The prime minister made clear that the priority should be fixing the eurozone, creating growth in Europe's economies, and completing the single market, not further constitution change.

Yes, he supported repatriating some powers from Brussels but that was for the "long term".

And made clear he would not support a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU.

"It is the wrong answer for Britain. Most people don't want to leave the EU, they want to reform it."

He added that Britain had been able to use its membership of the EU to build "very strong alliances" which had allowed the government to freeze the EU budget and get the UK out of the eurozone bailout mechanism.

"I am no pessimist about Europe," the prime minister said. The Tory faithful won't like that.

'Cuddly Lib Dems'

On the coalition, the prime minister equally refused to reflect the concerns of many of his members that too much has been conceded to the Liberal Democrats.

Yes, there were "tensions and pressures but we are grown up enough to deal with that".

But Mr Cameron was determined to try - again - to kill the idea that the Lib Dems were compassionate and the Conservatives were not.

"The government is not held back by cuddly Lib Dems", he said, pointing out that it was the Conservatives and not the Lib Dems who decided to protect NHS spending.

On the planning laws, Mr Cameron pushed back hard against his critics, saying he would no more put the countryside at risk than he would his family.

The changes would not allow advertising hoardings to be put up everywhere.

But the rule book needed to be simplified and the changes would give communities a greater say on the extra housing they need to keep their shops, pubs and post offices alive.

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