Mean, lean, but no longer green. Photo: Getty
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What we learned from David Cameron's profile in the Times

5 things we learned from the Prime Minister's sit-down with the Times

If this election doesn't work out, he might just make a living as a dietician.

The pressures of office have left their mark on David Cameron, particularly on his waistline. He's lost 13 pounds since Christmas by giving up biscuits and peanuts, while cutting down on carbs. Nigel Lawson wrote a bestselling diet book after he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer – perhaps Cameron can do the same after he leaves Downing Street.

He hates PMQs as much as Ed Miliband does…

He says that its his worst part of the week and never watches it back, calls it a nightmare, likens it to “Christians and lions” but says he has to stay sharp in order to avoid being “lion food”. 

He’s not alone. Earlier this year, Ed Miliband told a Q&A that Prime Minister’s Questions were “a long time I’m not going to get back in terms of my life. I’m not sure it’s made much difference to the sum of human knowledge.”

If only the two of them were in senior positions and able to do something better with the format, eh? 

A grand coalition of sorts. Photo: Getty

Cameron still channels Blair…but only so far

Ukip are offering “the politics of anger rather than the politics of the answer”, Cameron tells Jenni Russell. Late last year, Tony Blair told the WSJ’s Stephen Fidler something similar:

“I always say to people that there’s always a difference between the politics of anger and the politics of the answer. And we’re [Labour] best to be in the position of giving people the answer. You can understand the anger and you can sympathize with it even, but you will never out-Ukip Ukip.”

That latter part has been ignored, of course, both by David Cameron, who tells Russell that immigration is “too high”, and Miliband, who did the same to Jeremy Paxman on Thursday.

The past is never where you left it. Photo: Getty

Cameron really does love Clarkson

As well as talking about his friendship with the defenestrated Top Gear host, Cameron says he is “a classic, slightly Top Gear man”, and has this to say on the subject of his favourite films:

“I have watched Lawrence of Arabia more times than is healthy. It’s beautiful, it’s heroic, it’s panoramic. I watch films for escapism. I like being transported away. Suddenly there you are, chasing across the desert, taking Aqaba from the wrong side, and there’s the most thrilling sight in the world …Not that I have ever been to Aqaba. I love that film.”

Slightly more troubling is his description of health and safety regulations, freedom of information and judicial review as “the buggeration factor”. Yep: Cameron unchained thinks you shouldn’t be able to find out what the government’s doing, stop it needless endangering you, or be able to take it to court if it fails on either of those counts. Thank goodness for Nick Clegg.  And speaking of Clegg…

Nick Clegg gets an endorsement he’s unlikely to put on his leaflets anytime soon.

Cameron on Clegg: “I think, look, he made the right decision to form a coalition. We’ve worked very well together.”

Cheer up, Nick. Photo: Getty

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics. 

European People's Party via Creative Commons
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Ansbach puts Europe's bravest politician under pressure

Angela Merkel must respond to a series of tragedies and criticisms of her refugee policy. 

Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, is supposed to be on holiday. Two separate attacks have put an end to that. The first, a mass shooting in Munich, was at first widely believed to be a terrorist attack, but later turned out to be the actions of a loner obsessed with US high school shootings. The second, where a man blew himself up in the town of Ansbach, caused less physical damage - three were seriously injured, but none killed. Nevertheless, this event may prove to affect even more people's lives. Because that man had come to Germany claiming to be a Syrian refugee. 

The attack came hours after a Syrian refugee murdered a pregnant Polish woman, a co-woker in a snack bar, in Reutlingen. All eyes will now be on Merkel who, more than any other European politician, is held responsible for Syrian refugees in Europe.

In 2015, when other European states were erecting barriers to keep out the million migrants and refugees marching north, Merkel kept Germany's borders open. The country has resettled 41,899 Syrians since 2013, according to the UNHCR, of which 20,067 came on humanitarian grounds and 21,832 through private sponsorship. That is twice as much as the UK has pledged to resettle by 2020. The actual number of Syrians in Germany is far higher - 90 per cent of the 102,400 Syrians applying for EU asylum in the first quarter of 2016 were registered there. 

Merkel is the bravest of Europe's politicians. Contrary to some assertions on the right, she did not invent the refugee crisis. Five years of brutal war in Syria did that. Merkel was simply the first of the continent's most prominent leaders to stop ignoring it. If Germany had not absorbed so many refugees, they would still be in central Europe and the Balkans, and we would be seeing even more pictures of starved children in informal camps than we do today. 

Equally, the problems facing Merkel now are not hers alone. These are the problems facing all of Europe's major states, whether or not they recognise them. 

Take the failed Syrian asylum seeker of Ansbach (his application was rejected but he could not be deported back to a warzone). In Germany, his application could at least be considered, and rejected. Europe as a whole has not invested in the processing centres required to determine who is a Syrian civilian, who might be a Syrian combatant and who is simply taking advantage of the black market in Syrian passports to masquerade as a refugee. 

Secondly, there is the subject of trauma. The Munich shooter appears to have had no links to Islamic State or Syria, but his act underlines the fact you do not need a grand political narrative to inflict hurt on others. Syrians who have experienced unspeakable violence either in their homeland or en route to Europe are left psychologically damaged. That is not to suggest they will turn to violence. But it is still safer to offer such people therapy than leave them to drift around Europe, unmonitored and unsupported, as other countries seem willing to do. 

Third, there is the question of lawlessness. Syrians have been blamed for everything from the Cologne attacks in January to creeping Islamist radicalisation. But apart from the fact that these reports can turn out to be overblown (two of the 58 men arrested over Cologne were Syrians), it is unclear what the alternative would be. Policies that force Syrians underground have already greatly empowered Europe's network of human traffickers and thugs.

So far, Merkel seems to be standing her ground. Her home affairs spokesman, Stephan Mayer, told the BBC that Germany had room to improve on its asylum policy, but stressed each attack was different. 

He said: "Horrible things take place in Syria. And it is the biggest humanitarian catastrophe, so it is completely wrong to blame Angela Merkel, or her refugee policies, for these incidents." Many will do, all the same.