Cameron defends his crisis management in bid to ease Tory fears

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David Cameron sought to steady the nerves of Tory activists last night as he insisted the Government was "doing what's right for our country in the long-term, however difficult that may be today".

In a message to the party before starting his summer break, he urged it to look beyond phone hacking, the retreat on NHS reform and union protests over public service pensions.

The Prime Minister, who is about to head to Tuscany with his wife and children for a fortnight, flies off amid early signs of public anxiety over the Government's economic strategy.

He argued that Britain's reputation for economic competence had been restored in the past year, adding: "We can be more confident than ever in the action we are taking."

Mr Cameron acknowledged that being in office produced "all sorts of challenges that need a clear response" but urged supporters to take heart from an administration taking tough decisions in the national interest.

He said the storm over phone hacking would have a profound long-term impact, but insisted the Government had "dealt decisively" with the issue.

Mr Cameron pointed to the establishment of a judge-led inquiry into media standards, a proper police investigation into hacking allegations and the withdrawal of News Corp's bid for BSkyB.

He defended last month's multiple U-turns on National Health Service reform in the face of resistance to the plans from doctors and nurses.

"We came back to the table with a package that is changed for the better, but not changed in its fundamental drive to make the health service more dynamic, efficient and effective."

The current pensions system was unsustainable and to "duck this challenge would have been a dereliction of our long-term duty to this country", he said. "However choppy the political waters may be as we pursue these plans, it is vital we stick to the course."

Mr Cameron also pointed to welfare reforms as evidence that the Government was looking to the future.

He hailed the efforts of Tory activists in mobilising opposition to the alternative vote system in May's referendum.

"This victory was a crucial moment for our party and our country," he said. "Our voting system is safe and electoral reform is off the agenda for a long time."

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