Conservatives have mountain to climb, says Cameron

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David Cameron admits the Conservatives still have "a huge mountain to climb" but says the party can win the next general election.

In an interview yesterday to mark his first year as party leader, Mr Cameron defended his decision to shift the Conservatives into the centre ground of politics and insisted that victory was within his grasp.

He told ITV: "I think we can do it. I'm not one of those politicians who sort of stands up rallying and says, 'We will win', I say we can win, we can do this.

"Of course it's a big mountain to climb, but Labour's majority was made in one election, it's much smaller than it was, it can be unmade. We can do it, we've got a huge mountain to climb."

He declared: "I was determined, on being leader of the Conservative Party, to get our party back into the centre ground, to get us into the mainstream of debate in Britain. I ran for election of the Conservative Party on that ticket and I've done that ever since."

Yesterday an ICM poll in the News of the World found that Mr Cameron lagged behind Gordon Brown when people were asked who would make the best prime minister, with Mr Brown backed by 29 per cent of those polled, compared with 25 per cent for the Tory leader. But the poll gave the Conservatives a clear lead over Labour with the party's support put at 39 per cent compared with 30 per cent for Labour.

Mr Cameron used his interview to defend his controversial "hug a hoodie" stance on crime. He said: "If people attack me when I say that, when I say that some of these young people have had no relationships in their life, they've had no love in their life, they've had no one caring for them, no one teaching them the difference between right and wrong, if people criticise me for that I say, look I'll go on saying that because everybody knows it's true."

He added: "You've got to take some risks sometimes to explain to people that yes we need to punish young thugs, yes we need police on the streets and prisons and a court system and all the rest of it, but that's not enough.

"We've got to look at the breakdown of society, we've got to look at the causes of crime. People know that.

"I have a privileged background and I live in a nice house, but I don't live in some rarefied existence. I had a drive-by shooting in the street next to mine in the last couple of years; I've been burgled two times at least in the last couple of years."

A survey of party members conducted by the Conservativehome.com website found that 32 per cent of the party's rank and file were dissatisfied with Mr Cameron's leadership, up from 16 per cent in January.

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