By Tim Montgomerie
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David Cameron may be down in the opinion polls but he showed this morning that he was far from out in a confident interview with Andrew Marr. Most of the interview was given over to the BSkyB controversy before attention switched to Britain's economic challenges. I summarise the interview below.
- Aiming to re-establish some big picture perspective Mr Cameron said the important thing was that there had been no 'grand deal' with the Murdochs whereby some commercial advantages were traded for political support. 'Would I have appointed Vince Cable – a big critic of Rupert Murdoch – to the job of running competition policy?' if there had been such a trade, said the PM. “The idea there was some grand bargain between me and Rupert Murdoch, that was not true,” he repeated.
- He confirmed that he had discussed the BSkyB bid with James Murdoch at Rebekah Brooks's Christmas party and although he admits that he now regrets having done so (because of the subsequent suspicions that have arisen) nothing inappropriate was said during that encounter.
- He also admitted that he and other politicians were guilty of too much short-term media management and too much cosying up to media moguls. It's not just Murdoch I've met, however, he said. I've also spent time with The Guardian and Independent trying to persuade them I don't have a tail and horns, he said. The BBC, he continued, was the most assertive of media empires in resisting threats to the licence fee. He also noted that Blair (seven meetings) and Brown (unlucky thirteen) had met Rupert Murdoch far more times in their first two years in office than him (four meetings).
- "As things stand, I don't believe Jeremy Hunt breached the ministerial code," the PM said but he opened the door to that changing when he added: “If information arises that paints a different picture, I would act.” David Cameron said it wasn't right to sack a minister every time a special adviser gets something wrong and if Lord Leveson doesn't ask all of the appropriate questions of Jeremy Hunt then he would ask Alex Allan to investigate whether the ministerial code had been breached.
On the economy:
- He readily admitted that the growth numbers were "extremely disappointing" but that he and the Government were "straining every sinew" to get the economy growing and people back to work.
- What he wouldn't do, he continued, would be to throw away the Coalition's spending plans and in the process jeopardise Britain's our low interest rates.
- He said that he would "redouble efforts" to get banks lending, support exports and make it easier for employers to hire workers. He got up each and every morning, he said, to get jobs for hardworking people and ensure that those who did the right things were rewarded. I understand, he said, how tough it is for people right now, when you're trying to make the household budget work with fuel prices as they are.
- He said the country needed to steel itself for a long and hard road ahead. Spain, Italy and Holland are all going into recession and, overall, we weren't even halfway through the Eurozone's adjustment period. "I think it’s going to be a very long and painful process,” he said. The Coalition government was "strong", however, and over its five year term it would do the right things to renew Britain's economy, improve schools and reform welfare. It was, he said, his job not to be distracted from these big tasks.
PS Important read from Hamish McRae in today's Independent on Sunday. Government data is so unreliable that it's very, very likely we aren't in a double dip recession. Government economic data won't be fully accurate for three more years, however. The lesson (as City AM's Allister Heath constantly argues) is to stop taking the numbers quite so seriously.
Noon: Watch a clip of Cameron's interview (on the economy).