David Cameron's press conference -- live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Tory leader's monthly press conference

9:28am: David Cameron is holding his monthly press conference at 9:45am today. Cameron is likely to be questioned about the "broken society" speech he delivered on Friday, which has come under attack in the FT and elsewhere today.

Follow The Staggers for live coverage from 9:45.

9:45am Cameron begins by discussing the "broken society". He says his speech on Friday wasn't an attack on "any one party or government". But he adds that Labour's response shows how "little they have to offer" on this issue. The government should allow the full case report into the Edlington case to be published.

9:47am Now we're on to the economy. Cameron claims "Labour's debt crisis" is the biggest threat to economic recovery.

9:50am Cameron discusses how the Tory party has "changed". He says black and minority candidates now make up almost 10 per cent of Tory candidates and says that he expects to treble the number of female Tory MPs.

9:51am The BBC's James Lansdale asks Cameron to outline the nature of Tory discussions with the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party. Cameron says his aim is to see devolution completed -- "that comes before everything else".

9:54am Nick Robinson asks Cameron to confirm if he will cut public spending and raise taxes by tens of billions of pounds. Cameron says the risks of not cutting the Budget deficit outweigh the risks of cutting it.

He calls on the government to admit that it needs to begin cutting the deficit in 2010. Labour needs to put away its "pathetic dividing lines" and "moral cowardice", he says.

9:56am Cameron is asked to provide details of his party's policy on marriage. He says "the message is more important than the money".

9:58am After Bob Ainsworth unwittingly revealed 6 May as the election date, Cameron is asked if he would end the right of the Prime Minister to call an early election. He says he is attracted by fixed-term parliaments but he fears they would allow a "weak minority government" to remain in power.

10:01am Channel 4's Gary Gibbon asks Cameron if he gives the government any credit for keeping unemployment lower than in previous recessions. Cameron replies by saying that "we have record levels of youth unemployment". The government's strategy has been "staggeringly unsuccessful", he says.

10:05am Adam Boulton of Sky News presses Cameron for a full answer to Robinson's question on spending cuts. Cameron says the key is "early action", not the amount. Is he suggesting that the Tories would cut earlier, but not more, than Labour?

10:08am ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie urges Cameron to reconsider his decision not to join Twitter. He points out that while Downing Street and Sarah Brown have over a million followers, the most popular Conservative, Boris Johnson, has only 60,000. The Tory leader says he'll think again, but argues that politicians talk too much already.

10:16am Peter Hitchens asks Cameron for his opinion on politicians who "ostentatiously support" comprehensive education but send their children to faith schools (as David Miliband has done). Cameron says he rejects the premise of the question, pointing out that faith schools lie within the state sector.

10:19am Cameron is asked for his thoughts on Barack Obama's banking reform plan. He says the plan is a "positive step forward" and says that the US president has raised the important issue of how we deal with the "moral hazard" of banks that now believe they are "too big to fail".

10:22am The final question comes from the FT's Jean Eaglesham. Cameron is asked if he is still considering all-women shortlists for Westminster constituencies. He says they "absoutely remain an option" if more Tory MPs resign before the election. That's likely to anger the right of his party.

 

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Where are the moderate Tories condemning Zac Goldsmith’s campaign?

Conservative MPs are reluctant to criticise the London mayoral candidate’s dogwhistle rhetoric.

Very few Conservative politicians have criticised Zac Goldsmith’s campaign to be elected London mayor. And, amid repeated accusations of racial profiling, Islamophobic undertones, and patronising London’s Indian communities, there has been plenty to criticise.

Ever since describing his rival, Sadiq Khan, as having “radical politics” at the end of last year, Goldsmith’s campaign has come under fire for attempting to sound a dogwhistle to voters for whom racial politics – and divisions – are a priority.

You may feel it’s naïve of me to expect Tory MPs to join in the criticism. Presumably most Tory MPs want their party’s candidate to win the mayoralty. So it is unlikely that they would condemn his methods.

But I’d argue that, in this case, we can’t excuse dodged questions and studied silence as good clean tribalism. Granted, Conservatives only want to see their party make electoral gains. And that is understandable. But trickier to explain away is how willing all of the party’s MPs – many of whom are as moderate and “cotton-wool Tory” (in the words of one Labour adviser) as we once assumed Goldsmith was – are to ignore the campaign’s nastier side.

Why aren’t the Cameroons (or neo-Cameroons) who wish to further “detoxify” the party speaking out? There are plenty of them. There is more enthusiasm on the Tory benches for David Cameron than is generally assumed. Many of the 2015 intake are grateful to him; those in marginal seats in particular see him as the reason they won last year. And in spite of the grumbling nature of the 2010-ers, a number of them are keener than appears on Cameron. After all, plenty wouldn’t be in parliament without his A-list and open primaries (a time when the party was supposed to be opening up to candidates of different backgrounds, something Goldsmith’s rhetoric could threaten).

And we know it’s not just Labour whining about Goldsmith’s campaign. It makes Tories uncomfortable too. For example, the Conservative Group Leader at Watford Council Binita Mehta, former Conservative candidate Shazia Awan, and Tory peer and former minister Sayeeda Warsi have spoken out.

And it’s not just non-MPs who are riled by Goldsmith’s rhetoric. Behind the scenes, Conservative MPs have been muttering for weeks about feeling uncomfortable about the campaign.

“There has been a sense that this is a bad dogwhistle, and it’s a bit of a smear,” one Tory MP tells me. “I don’t think Sadiq Khan’s a bad man at all – I think his problem is, which happens to all politicians, is some of the platforms in the past and the people he shared them with, and maybe he didn’t know – I mean, the number of times David Cameron or Gordon Brown or Tony Blair were shown at some fundraising thing, or just visiting somewhere, shaking hands with somebody who turns out to be a crook; that’s the nature of mass politics.”

There is also a mixed view among London’s Tory MPs about the tone of Goldsmith’s campaign generally. Some, who were frustrated in the beginning by his “laidback, slightly disengaged” style, are simply pleased that he finally decided to play dirty with the more energetic Khan. Others saw his initial lighter touch as an asset, and lament that he is trying to emulate Boris Johnson by being outrageous – but, unlike the current London mayor, doesn’t have the personality to get away with it.

One Tory MP describes it as a “cold, Lynton Crosby calculation of the dogwhistle variety”, and reveals that, a couple of weeks ago, there was a sense among some that it was “too much” and had “gone too far and is counterproductive”.

But this sense has apparently dissipated. Since Labour’s antisemitism crisis unfolded last week, moderate Conservative MPs feel more comfortable keeping their mouths shut about Goldsmith’s campaign. This is because racism in Labour has been exposed, even if Khan is not involved. Ironic really, considering they were (rightly) so quick to condemn Ken Livingstone’s comments and call on Jeremy Corbyn and Labour MPs to speak out against such sentiments. It’s worth noting that Labour’s moderates have been significantly less reluctant than their Tory counterparts to call out such problems in their own party.

There is also the EU referendum to consider. Tory MPs see division and infighting ahead, and don’t want to war more than is necessary. One source close to a Tory MP tells me: “[Goldsmith’s campaign] is uncomfortable for all of us – it’s not even considered a Conservative campaign, it’s considered a Zac Goldsmith campaign. But [we can’t complain because] we have to concentrate on Europe.”

So it makes sense politically, in the short term, for Tory moderates to keep quiet. But I expect they know that they have shirked a moral duty to call out such nasty campaign methods. Their calls for Labour’s response to antisemitism, and David Cameron’s outrage about Jeremy Corbyn’s “friends” in Hamas and Hezbollah, are simply hollow attack lines if they can’t hold their own party to higher standards.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.