James Forsyth

Prime Minister Cameron’s first TV interview

Prime Minister Cameron's first TV interview
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David Cameron’s first broadcast interview from Downing Street contained two significant pieces of news. First, George Osborne will commission an independent audit of the public finances and state spending on Monday. I suspect that this audit will reveal that things are even worse than the official figures suggest. The political purpose of this audit will be to provide cover for the necessary cuts, to show that they are necessary because of Labour’s economic mismanagement. I also expect that the new Office of Budgetary Responsibility will provide a new, more cautious set of economic forecasts.

The other piece of news was Cameron confirming that the vote on the 55 percent clause will be whipped. This sets up an interesting clash between the coalition and some of its senior backbenchers. Several I have spoken to in the past few days regard it as a matter of principle, telling me that on constitutional grounds they simply couldn’t vote for it. Others regard it as a way of firing a shot across the leadership’s bow, of showing that the Commons cannot be taken for granted.

One aspect of the interview that will particularly please the Tories is how comfortable Cameron is when talking about cooperation and the practicalities of coalition government. Journalists, including myself, are understandably obsessed by process questions: can Cameron fire a Lib Dem without Clegg’s agreement, will there be political Cabinets etc. But the public are not. When answering these questions, Cameron does a good job of talking over the Westminster Village to the nation, using common sense language to describe how things will work.