Highlights from David Cameron’s monthly press conference, held earlier today:

We’re not knights in shining armour: The Sunday newspapers produced even more questions about the ethics of Tory parliamentarians and the Tory leader faced a number of questions from journalists.  He said that Lord Ashcroft’s tax status was a matter for him, that new rules regarding the conduct of Tory MEPs would be published within weeks and he promised decisive but fair judgment against anyone found guilty of ethical lapses.  He said there were three main areas of controversy:

  • Party funding where the party had proposed a £50,000 cap on donations and had made much progress in evening out its funding base.  He said that more than 130 individuals were now giving £50,000 – reducing the party’s dependence on a few big donors.  This was, he said later, in stark contrast to the indebted Labour Party which received more than 90% of its income from trade unions and inevitably discouraged it from taking the necessary hardline against public sector strikers.
  • The conduct of MPs: In this area, said David Cameron, codes of transparency had been introduced and transparency was the long-term solution.
  • The conduct of MEPs: This was a complicated matter but it was now clear that the "claiming culture" must end.

Mr Cameron said that the Conservatives weren’t knights in shining armour – there would be no attempt to repeat Tony Blair’s "rubbish" that Conservatives are the new "whiter than white".  We, he said, had been part of the problem but would be part of the solution.

NHS reform: Tomorrow he would be talking about the NHS.  The Conservatives would not engineer another institutional upheaval but would give GPs and patients more choice and would ensure a focus on outcomes, not processes.

Zimbabwe: He said this is the most important issue in the world today and he restated the five point action plan announced by William Hague yesterday.

James McGrath: In response to a question from ConservativeHome’s Samuel Coates ("Boris has released a statement saying that James McGrath isn’t a racist and that he was taken out of context.  Do you agree with that, and if so do you therefore regret the fact that yet another good man has had to fall on his sword because somebody – in this case a Labour activist – used the ‘R’ word"?), David Cameron said that he knew James McGrath well, that he was not a racist but that he had made a regrettable lapse of judgment and shouldn’t have used the words he did.  Boris acted "rightly" and "quickly" and you have to face the consequences if you make a "terrible misjudgment" in politics.  The BBC has made a video of this exchange, including a a question from the complete opposite perspective by the Guardian’s Nick Watt.

Gordon Brown on Margaret Thatcher: The Tory leader said it was "ridiculous" for Labour to blame Margaret Thatcher for social immobility and what a u-turn it was from his greeting of Lady Thatcher on the steps of Downing Street one year ago.  The Government had been in power for ten years and couldn’t go on blaming others for its failures.  It hadn’t reformed welfare, secondary education and the voluntary sector.  It was to blame for social immobility.

David Davis: Mr Cameron said that while
he disagreed with David Davis’ decision to resign from the shadow
cabinet that there was no substantial policy difference with him and
that he would be campaigning for him within the next two weeks.  He
declined to answer a question about whether he might return to the
Conservative frontbench.

Grammar schools: In response to a
question from the Evening Standard David Cameron said that the policy
on grammar school was unchanged because the party didn’t want to divide
children into "sheep and goats".  The party did, however, respect
grammar schools for their use of whole class teaching, setting and
school uniforms.

GM crops: There was no case for
proceeding until all scientific doubts had been dealt with.  In any
case, he said, consumers wouldn’t  buy GM foods if properly labelled.

Cameron the labrador: Yesterday’s Mail on Sunday
compared David Cameron to a labrador.  Asked why he might be like a
labrador David Cameron joked that if his advisers knew this was
question would come up they would have told him not to answer it,
before adding that he hoped it would be to do with his loyalty.

Indiana Jones or James Bond?  David
Cameron chose the British hero and
admitted to having watched most Bond movies at least three times and
had caught Russia with Love yesterday on "ITV7" or whatever it’s
called!  We’re Bourne fans in the CH office in case anyone is