Cameron press briefing as-it-happened

Morgan Tsvangirai quits the Zimbabwe race
Morgan Tsvangirai quits the Zimbabwe race

David Cameron claimed the progressive agenda in his monthly press conference this morning.

He spoke first on plans to reform the NHS, saying they do not amount to an institutional upheaval and are "not moving round the furniture". He said there had been too much "institutional tinkering" in the last few years.

After announcing plans to travel to Paris to discuss related issues later this week, Mr Cameron laid out three points relating to the public's erosion of trust in politicians.

On party funding, he said he had already made "huge changes" to the Conservative party's funding base. MPs' expenses are undergoing an overhaul partly implemented by himself; and on the European parliament, he called for a "claiming culture" to be replaced with a "transparency culture".

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He also mentioned Zimbabwe, describing it as "the most important issue in the world today". Mr Cameron called for a range of further measures against Robert Mugabe, including withdrawing recognition of the regime, widened EU sanctions against the regime and a debate on Zimbabwe at the UN security council.

The first question from the floor was on Philip Hammond, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury. He had allegedly failed to declare substantial earnings but Mr Cameron insisted his frontbencher had "obeyed the law".

"I do think it is good to have people with. good, solid business experience in the shadow Cabinet," he added, before again repeating his "clash of cultures" mantra and talking about the importance of transparency.

Gordon Brown's first anniversary in office was the next topic up for discussion. Mr Cameron admitted a document had been prepared in Conservative central office about the PM's record.

The Tory leader was then challenged on the resignation of James McGrath, a senior political adviser to London mayor Boris Johnson.

Mr Cameron said Mr McGrath had made a "lapse of judgment".

"In politics, we have to be responsible for the words that come out of our mouths. I think Boris has acted very quickly and rightly. I'm sorry for James because I know he is not a racist and is a good person."

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He then attacked the government for "making excuses" over social mobility, accusing it of not doing enough to make a difference. The government has failed on welfare reforms, improving secondary schools and "hasn't properly focused on the elements of our society that are broken and need mending", he said.

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Mr Cameron was then asked about the haulage industry. He said the Tories would cancel the government's planned vehicle excise duty changes and added petrol taxation needed a wider review, while refusing to confirm what his party would do on that.

He said it was important to "share the pain a bit more", helping ease motorists' perceptions that they are the ones paying the price and they alone.

David Davis' campaign, finally, was mentioned. He said "I don't know how the campaign is going" and reiterated previous statements about it being a "courageous" move. "It's not a step I agreed with. What I said was. I admire your courage, but I have to get on and strengthen my team."

Analysis: The Davis gambit

Mr Cameron said he detected a change in the "intellectual argument between the two parties", claiming the progressive mantle. Issues like social mobility and achieving a greener, cleaner environment need to be achieved through "Conservative means", he said.

"What is coming forward is a modern progressive Conservatism which says if you want these progressive goals we've got the tools to do the job."

Mr Cameron was then challenged on his Eton education in terms of the prime minister's social mobility speech. "I just don't buy this idea that the Conservative party is a narrow clique," he said.


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