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

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TIME: Not everyone recognizes the challenge of climate change — the U.S. has never ratified Kyoto.

David Cameron: There are some signs of change. Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown… I mean, look, I profoundly believe the environment should be an issue the center-right grabs hold of. We believe that you care about what you pass on to your children. What's more important a part of inheritance than the planet? And the center-right recognize that there are lots of market-based solutions to environmental problems that we should be championing, so I think that on every grounds it's sensible for the center-right to be campaigning on these issues.

TIME: Prime Minister Blair recently said that because of the extraordinary growth of China and India, there was a limit to what we could do unilaterally.

David Cameron: Of course we need a climate-change deal that incorporates India and China and America to make real progress, but we shouldn't just wait for that and stop doing anything else and throw our hands up in despair. That is a defeatist argument. We should be setting an example to the rest of the world. We should be providing some leadership on this issue and that will make it more likely that we can encourage the Americans, Indians and Chinese and others to come in and make an agreement about this.

TIME: In the U.K., as elsewhere, there's a debate over how politics should be funded.

David Cameron: We need reform of party funding and I'm the only leader of a major political party that has set out a clear and coherent way that we do it. We should have limits on donations that should apply to individuals, businesses and trade unions. I've suggested £50,000 a year as the limit, and in response to that some modest state funding of political parties which you could offset by cutting the cost of politics, reducing the size of the House of Commons and cutting the amount that's spent during a general election. That is a sensible package and I hope others will take it up.

TIME: One reason it's such a critical issue is there's a lack of engagement in politics. Party membership numbers are declining.

David Cameron: Part of the package I suggested was some modest tax relief on smaller donations. And when we do reform party funding, it's very important we encourage small donations and parties to have strong grassroots and to have a strong and growing membership. But reforming party finance is one of the things we need to do to stop the cynicism about politics. People think that parties are somehow open to be bought by rich individuals or rich businesses or rich trade unions. We've got to get rid of that impression and so party finance reform is part of the necessary change to make politics more clean and wholesome.

TIME: That's a phrase that photos of your family recall. But how are you going to balance your family life — and their privacy — with your work?

David Cameron: It must be possible to be a good leader of a party and a good father, or a good prime minister and a good father. It must be possible and I'm determined to try and do both jobs. The key is trying to keep control of your diary and make sure you have time at home and time with your children and I make sure that happens. Today is going to be a failure. Because of the high winds I don't think I'm going to get home tonight. But last night I was home, and I gave the children a bath, which was great. It's important. You just have to make time.

TIME: So, a new style of politics also involves a new set of priorities?

David Cameron: I don't know whether it's a new style. To me it's just obvious. If you've got three children under 5 and you want to be a good father and be there when they're growing up, you've got to make time. So that means you need strict rules about when politics stops and family starts. I try to do that.

TIME: Where does your public life end and your private life begin?

David Cameron: It's a permanent matter that you have to make a judgement about and be reasonable about. Obviously in politics people want to have a look at you and understand who you are and what makes you tick and what sort of person you are. That's natural and important but you should also be entitled to some privacy. You're trying to set a reasonable set of boundaries that the press can respect and that's something you have to learn as you go along.

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