Q & A with David Cameron: Why Britain Needs a 'Compassionate Conservative'

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TIME: Scotland is becoming a problem for the Labour government and possibly one you may inherit if the Scottish nationalists do as well as predicted in the next election.

David Cameron: Yes. If you look at the opinion polls there is concern that the Scots might be moving to a position where they want independence. I hope that doesn't happen, I believe in the Union and when you really ask people in Scotland what it is they want, they want a successful Scotland within the United Kingdom. I don't think they do want to break away. But the Conservative Party has quite a big part to play in making sure Scotland does stay in the Union…

[The interview is interrupted again. A final, truncated portion is conducted on a brief car journey to the shadow cabinet meeting in Edinburgh.]

TIME: In America, people may have difficulty understanding why your relatively privileged background could be seen as a problem here. In America, bit might be seen as an advantage...

David Cameron: Britain is a much less class-ridden society than it used to be, and these things matter less and less and we're becoming a more meritocratic society and that's a thoroughly good thing. The sad thing, though, is that mobility has declined and we have to do something about that, people from less well off homes should be able to go the very top and there's less of that happening at the moment, which is a worry. But people are less worried about class and background and where you went to school, and that's a good thing.

What about the idea that you might not be able to empathize with the common man?

David Cameron: I don't think that's true. You've been following me around all day so you have to make your own mind up. I don't think that should be a barrier in getting on with people. I don't find it a barrier.

TIME: You're certainly facing a prejudice in the press here — one columnist from the [pro-Labour tabloid Daily] Mirror often refers to you as "The Toff" [a British pejorative term for the elite social class]

David Cameron: Even if I were a cross between Einstein, Wittgenstein and Mother Theresa, they'd probably still have a go at me.

TIME: And although you'd say the Tories have seized the initiative on the environment…

David Cameron:I think we have…

TIME: The papers gleefully reported that when you were photographed riding your bicycle, you were being followed by your official car.

David Cameron: But that happened, like, twice. Because I have a huge amount of work to do there were a couple of occasions when a car had to drop off some work at my home. That now has never happened again.

TIME: Your environmentalism is real and heartfelt?

David Cameron: Absolutely. Don't look at just my own views. Look at what the party is doing. The party is now committed to annual limits on carbon emissions, which is a huge step forward. And also it is our campaigning on the environment which has encouraged the government to bring forward a climate change bill and to take this issue more seriously. So, I think we can really say we've achieved something here.

TIME: And it's something that will have resonance with the core Conservative voters?

David Cameron: It has resonance will all sorts of people. Everyone recognizes the challenge of climate change and the growing importance of a range of environmental issues. When I launched our campaign for the local elections on the slogan of Vote Blue, Go Green, I'm sure some people thought this was completely mad, but the fact is that the environment does matter to people and they do recognize its importance and they respond to the arguments we're putting out about it.

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