By Harry Phibbs
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David Cameron was interviewed on the Today programme this morning by James Naughtie. He said the coalition would last the course until 2015 and that there were "big, bold reforms" to come. He also said that the date of the in/out EU referendum, in 2017, would not be changed. Nor would there be more than one referendum.
“Let me say, this policy, it doesn’t matter the pressure I come under from outside the Conservative party, or in Europe, or inside the Conservative party, this policy isn’t going to change."
However the important thing about the interview was not what he said but the way he said it. He sounded steady, calm, reasonable. Genuinely relaxed. Indeed Mr Naughtie seized on this – wasn't our Prime Minister "too relaxed." Better to be criticised for that than for sounding rattled.
Mr Cameron avoided being petulent or insulting to supporters of UKIP or opponents of gay marriage. However he also explaining powerfully why he did feel the issue mattered:
“I think we should think about it like this – that there will be young boys in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest Parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anybody else’s love and that we believe in equality.
“I think they will stand that bit taller today and I’m proud of the fact that that has happened.”
Of course he was asked about "swivel-eyed loons." Regardless of what may or may not have been said by whom, wasn't it the real view of his inner circle towards the grassroots activists? He said:
"That is simply not the case. It's not what I think. It's not what the people around me think … I think of the volunteers in my own constituency, they're not just my friends and my supporters, I'm one of them."
For understandable reasons Mr Cameron did not use the phrase "back to basics" but that was the message. Between now and the next election the Conservatives would concentrate on such issues as the economy, welfare reform, and education. Over the EU he said: "The Conservative party managed to have a disagreement over the last couple of weeks over an issue we actually agree about." It was now time to get on with all the other affairs of state.
This was the right tone from the Prime Minister. Firm but polite.