David Cameron: You Ask The Questions

The leader of the Conservative Party answers your questions, such as 'Should we pull out of Iraq?', 'How can you claim to be green?' and 'Do you like Gordon Brown?'
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In your first speech as party leader you called for "a massive road-building programme". How is that compatible with your claim to be green? OLIVER BROWER, Bristol

I don't think that having congested roads with cars stuck in traffic jams is good for the environment and I therefore don't believe that building new roads where they are needed is at all incompatible with a green agenda. We also need to do more to increase the capacity on our railways and other forms of public transport and these are areas our policy review will be looking at carefully.

After the well-publicised incident with the chauffeured gas-guzzler containing your shoes following you around on the bicycle, why should we believe a single word you say about the environment? PAUL ASHBY, by email

I now have panniers on my bike so I am able to carry work with me. It's easy to be cynical, but I think the Conservative Party has been in strong voice in raising awareness of environmental issues and we have not shied from difficult commitments, like our announcement that we would be willing to increase taxes on aviation. Oh, and, for the record, the official car that I chose is a hybrid.

In simple and straightforward words, would you tell me three policies that might swing my vote to you on green issues? STEVE BURTON, Clapham

We believe in binding annual targets on carbon emissions with an independent Carbon Audit Office to ensure they are met. We want to increase taxes on those things that cause pollution, like aviation but reduce taxes on those things that help society, like families. And we would replace the Climate Change Levy with a new carbon levy that would be targeted towards carbon emissions rather than just energy use so you would encourage low-carbon energy generation.

Why should I vote for the new green Tories when you have John Redwood in a senior post, despite him saying global warming is a good thing? V AHMAD, Hackney

As John Redwood explained at the time, the point he was making was that as well as trying to reduce global warming, he thinks we should also plan for its impact, especially in those developing countries which could be hardest-hit.

Should I buy green beans flown in from an impoverished part of Africa? MIKE BUDDEN, Cambridge

Food miles can be misleading because what matters more is the carbon footprint. I think there is a growing awareness about the environmental impact of flying food thousands of miles, and people are right to try to source their food locally where possible. But, of course, this is not always possible.

Your policy on grammar schools is that new ones shouldn't be built, except when they should. Is that right? DAVID WILLIAMS, Hull

Our policy is that there will be no re-introduction of the 11+ and that we want to focus on improving standards in the 3,000 secondary schools across the country. But we would not scrap existing grammar schools.

Do you despair of your party members' determination to live in the past? PHIL GODWIN, Kentish Town

I don't accept that they are. It is the Conservative Party that voted for change 18 months ago. Local constituency associations that are selecting women candidates up and down the country. And Conservative councils taking the lead when it comes to local recycling projects.

You stated that you would have gone to war in Iraq even with the knowledge of hindsight. So do you genuinely believe that 650,000 Iraqis dead and 6.5 million displaced Iraqis has been necessary for the security of the UK? WARWICK VARLEY, Worthing, Sussex

I still think it was right to remove Saddam Hussein. But clearly mistakes were made after he was removed. That is why we have argued for an independent inquiry, as they had in the US, so we can learn the lessons from those mistakes.

Do you think we should pull out of Iraq now as Sir Christopher Meyer recommended? SHEILA THOMPSON, Whitstable, Kent

No, but we should focus on rapidly building up the Iraqi army and passing more responsibilities to Iraqi government. That will make it easier to bring our troops home sooner.

Are you the 'heir to Blair'? ROGER KILLEN, Leicester

No. I don't think Tony Blair had a clear enough idea about what he wanted to do when he won the 1997 election and, as a result, there has been wasted time and money. But people want politicians to be constructive and where Tony Blair has made a start along the right path - such as building on the idea of city technology colleges with city academies - a future Conservative government would build further on such reforms. But where he has got things wrong, like ID cards, we would scrap them.

How can you claim to be modernising the Conservative party but still remain in a europhobic agenda set by many of the same "bastards" who plagued and ultimately ruined John Major? J W WRIGHT CALNE, Wiltshire

The world is changing and Europe needs to change too. I want the EU to focus its energies on the issues that really matter: the environment, tackling global poverty and delivering a dynamic economy. That is not Europhobic. It is because I want to see a future for the EU that I want it to confront its failings.

How can you have as your director of communications a man who resigned for tapping into the Royal Family's telephones? Is this the sort of new image you want for the Conservative Party? COLIN LEWIS, Muswell Hill

I am satisfied that Andy Coulson was not aware that a journalist at the News of the World was engaged in this practice. But he did the right thing, took responsibility and resigned.

Are you ashamed to have written the 2005 manifesto, which pledged to pull Britain out of the UN Convention on Refugees? And which former Tory policy most appalls you? WILLIAM LEE, Bootle

In elections, you fight as a team and you win or lose as a team. When you lose, as we did in 2005, then you learn as a team.

Have your experiences as parent of a disabled son changed you in any way? FELICITY WRIGHT, by email

It made me appreciate even more the importance of family and friends and helped me to understand the importance of social services and the extraordinary work of our NHS.

Do you see any future for proportional representation in electing MPs to Westminster? ALAN WILLIAMS, by email

No. I think that the constituency link with an MP is important and that the first-past-the-post system is best placed to deliver a government with a clear agenda that is closest to what the country has voted for.

Do you believe that inheritance of public office is indefensible in a modern democracy? GRAHAM SMITH, Brighton

I support our constitutional monarchy.

I have proudly acquired a new government label, "High-risk drinker". You have been given many labels; what's your favourite? D. ASHTON, Stockport

Richard Littlejohn's modern version of Ernie (the fastest milkman in the West) was, I think, one of the funniest so far.

Did you find it difficult teaching for two days and, if so, what will you do to improve educational standards? ALEX MAKINSON, Twickenham

The thing that struck me most while working as a teaching assistant was the importance of discipline in class; a very small number of disruptive pupils can ruin the educational chances for everyone else in their school. That is why trusting head teachers to make decisions on exclusions in their school is so important.

In your position as special adviser to Norman Lamont during Black Wednesday what "advice" did you provide and do you think your reputation is tarnished because of your involvement in this unprecedented economic failure? BRENDAN CLEGG, Halesowen

The ERM taught me that we should never join the euro.

I can live with you being a toff, but how can you justify having so many other Old Etonians in your office and Shadow Cabinet? That makes me suspicious. TOBY BARNES, Berwick-upon-Tweed

I think there are actually only two other former Etonians in my Shadow Cabinet, but it's not something I count. What matters is where you are going and what you have to offer your country in the future, rather than your past or what school you went to.

Do you like Gordon Brown? PETER GORDON, Perth

I hope it will be possible to have a constructive relationship with him and work together in the national interest where we agree.

Who are your heroes? PENNY O'DONOGHUE, Belfast

Winston Churchill and Garibaldi.

What's on your iPod at present? SAMIRA IQBAL, by email

The last album I bought was by Modest Mouse.

Tell me something about you that I don't know? CATHY O'BRIEN, Birmingham

Yesterday, I cooked chicken for lunch.

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