By Tim Montgomerie
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David Cameron was interviewed on Radio 4's Today programme this morning and was questioned under two broad topics: the Libyan campaign and also the riots. I summarise his remarks below.
THE LIBYA CAMPAIGN
- Anxious not to appear triumphalist Cameron warned of difficult days ahead and said that this was the triumph of the Libyan people and not of western powers.
- He was, however, careful to argue that Britain had made a major contribution including 20% of all attack sorties, being instrumental in rallying the UN to action and also in encouraging patience when the campaign appeared, to some, to be dragging on.
- The PM said there would be lessons to learn from the campaign and we'll take our time to learn them. Success in Libya, he said, meant that the Arab Spring was now more likely to continue and flourish. In addition Gaddafi was a "monster" who had supported terrorism against Britain and the world was better off without him.
- He noted little backing from the Arab League or UN for action against Syria and said UK, which wanted tougher action, was having trouble even getting a travel ban agreed.
- He said that choices in the defence review had been vindicated by the Libya campaign. We hadn't missed an aircraft carrier, he said, and the Tornado was more capable than Harrier jets for the precision raids that successfully minimised risks to the civilian population. He rejected reports coming out of America that UK forces were running out of ammunition.
- In broader remarks on defence spending Mr Cameron said that at the end of the defence cuts Britain would still be spending 2% of national income on defence – which is what NATO recommends. In cash terms defence spending is hardly falling and by "only" 8% in real terms. We'll still be the fourth largest defence power in the world, he continued, and listed retention of Britain's nuclear deterrent, a world class new aircraft carrier, a new fleet of destroyers and the new Typhoon fighter as evidence that Britain will remain a "full spectrum defence player."
[On Comment today Bernard Jenkin MP makes the case for maintaining Britain's defence budget].
THE AUGUST RIOTS
- Mr Cameron said he had been "incredibly depressed" by August riots but was clear that they weren't race riots or riots against the police or political protests. They were looting, thieving and copycat criminality.
- At the root of the problem was a lack of moral boundaries in too many lives and he promised schools that teach discipline; a welfare state that supports work; and a criminal justice system that punishes people properly.
- We can't just say we have a criminal underclass and leave it at that, he continued, and promised to deliver on his vow to intervene in the lives of the 120,000 most broken families. He described himself as an optimist who believed that Britain's "slow motion moral collapse" could be reversed.
- The PM didn't seem happy when asked by Today's Evan Davis if there was a connection between his membership of the Bullingdon Club when at Oxford and what happened on London's streets. He talked over Davis for a couple of minutes and said we all do stupid things when we are young but denied committing illegal acts.
- Asked if after the riots he was moving to become an old-style Conservative rather than a modern, compassionate Conservative Mr Cameron described himself as a "common sense Conservative" who wanted to bring "tough love" to troubled communities.
9.15am: Listen in full to the interview.