Iain Dale has released the advance text of an extended interview with David Cameron. It will be published in full on Wednesday in the March issue of Total Politics magazine.
Some highlights are pasted below:
Any extra state funding for political parties is off the agenda in these "straightened" times: "There is no enthusiasm for state funding. I would like to have the cap at £50,000 and I have always argued that if you can deliver that, then there might be some legitimisation of some limited state funding, but at a time of straightened public finances it’s about the last thing you want to spend any money on. So I absolutely recognise we will need to do better on small donations. Could that be accompanied by some sort of tax relief on donations to encourage giving? Maybe that’s one answer. What we want is parties that have, as a matter of course, to engage massively with people in order to win support and win donations at the same time. Any reform has got to be focused on that. Yes, we do still take some very big donations because we have to compete with the Labour Party who can literally pick up the phone to three unions and get the money, but we have massively broadened the number of people giving £50,000."
Lords reform is also a low priority: "In terms of reform, having a more elected chamber, which is what I favour, to be frank is not an urgent priority. The urgent priority is to sort out the economy and introduce social reform programmes."
Asked if he is a focus grouped politician: "Bullshit! There are lots of misconceptions in politics and you shouldn’t worry too much about them, but I would argue that this Conservative Party which I am leading is one of the least focus group, opinion poll-led parties for a long time. Did I ask a focus group before saying I am a marriage nut? Did I ask a focus group about gay marriage? Of course not! I just don’t! I have never pre-tested a speech, which I know other politicians do. I think our Prime Minister does. Of course, we hold focus groups to try to find out what the mood of the nation is and understand it. Of course, we have regular reports and opinion polls. It would be crazy not to. But I really don’t think this party, this leader, my team are obsessed by focus groups, and it’s a great misconception that we are. It’s frustrating."
Asked about David Davis’ decision to fight a by-election on civil liberties: "Because I am quite a logical person, I couldn’t get the logical connection between the loss of a vote in the Commons and a decision on something the whole Conservative Party was united about and the decision to resign and fight a byelection. I am very fond of David. We worked extremely well together – perhaps better than many people predicted. He is an extremely talented politician. It did demonstrate, and perhaps surprised some people, that the Conservative Party cared so much about civil liberties, but we do. I tried to persuade him out of it because I didn’t think it was the right thing to do, so I didn’t think it was something the Conservative Party could say, well that’s our policy – when we disagree with something we’ll all fight byelections. You can’t do that, so that’s why I had to say quite rapidly that I was going to have to get a new Shadow Home Secretary."
Iain Dale will be posting more on his own blog.