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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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.