POLITICS: Dave's Big Idea after the Big Bang Theory; It's His First Party Conference as Conservative Leader and Dave Cameron Was All Too Eager to Tell Political Editor Jonathan Walker about His Achievements since Taking Charge of the Tories

Article excerpt

Byline: Jonathan Walker

David Cameron is looking relaxed in his Bournemouth cottage.

He has already made one speech to activists at the Conservative Party conference and will deliver another tomorrow.

But yesterday he was holding court and The Birmingham Post was in attendance.

The Highcliff Mariott hotel, where Mr Cameron is staying, offers more than just a room to its top guests.

They stay in their own two-storey cottage, complete with a plush living room upstairs. It is here that we are summoned to meet the Conservative leader.

Mr Cameron apologises for breaking with tradition and kicking the conference off on Sunday, complete with a speech from the party's special guest, US Senator and potential presidential candidate John McCain.

"I hoped you liked Sunday -sorry for wrecking your weekend. The idea was to get together and have a big speaker on a Sunday to get the whole thing off with a bang."

Then he is off into what he is achieved over the past ten months since becoming party leader, including bringing the Conservative Party back into the centre ground.

Social responsibility

The Tories are focusing on issues such as health, education, the environment and law and order, he said.

"We are getting on to the mainstream topics rather than banging on about Europe or whatever. That is part of confirming that move that has been going on for ten months.

"The second thing is saying that while we are on the centre ground we have a clear mission, and that is all about social responsibility.

"What can we do to give parents more responsibility for bringing up their children? What can we do to give teachers and doctors more professional responsibility to run schools and hospitals?

"What can we do to give local government more civic responsibility to solve problems in their own areas? What can we do to give companies more corporate responsibility to tackle environmental challenges and the work-life balance?

"Real substance isn't a ten-point policy plan or a package of interesting measures. Real substance is an idea that unites your party and gives you a driving mission, and against which you test your future policies."

Thatcher years

Given that the Conservatives are keen to show they have changed, does he now look back with regret on Margaret Thatcher's period in office? The answer is no.

"What I have always said is I think what Margaret Thatcher and the Conservatives did in the 1980s was very important, it was very difficult, but it is vitally important that we arrested the decline of Britain. We stopped the irresponsible misuse of trade union power, we got inflation under control, we reduced those tax rates from 83 per cent or 98 per cent in some cases.

"This was vitally important Removing exchange controls, stopping Britain being an half-Soviet economy.

"There were huge steps, without which Tony Blair wouldn't have had half of his success.

"But yes, there were difficulties, and yes, tough decisions had to be made. And yes, some people did suffer, and some communities did suffer.

"But overall I still think that what Mrs Thatcher did was important and needed to happen."

Civic pride

At the heart of Mr Cameron's political philosophy is a commitment to strengthening local government and ensuring all sorts of decisions are taken at a more local level. …