DEBATING THE ISSUES: Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Voice news editor Elizabeth Pears
In an exclusive interview with The Voice, the Prime Minister says the black community's concerns will be best tackled under a Tory government.
AFTER THE Conservative Party unveiled ambitious plans to increase employment opportunities, police recruits and student take-up at universities “for people from black and minority ethnic communities”, The Voice news editor Elizabeth Pears sits down with Prime Minister David Cameron to find out just how achievable his party’s ‘20/20 vision’ is for black Britain.
ELIZABETH PEARS (EP): You were criticised on social media for speaking at the Festival of Life - a move that won you some support among black Christian voters - but the following day appearing at a Sikh temple. How would do you respond to those who feel a little bit cheated on?
DAVID CAMERON (DC): I saw that and I thought that it was a bit unfair. I was asked to go to both events so I went to both events. It wasn’t my fault the Festival of Life was on Friday and the Vaisakhi Parade was on Saturday. I wasn’t trying to tick boxes. I wanted to join in two wonderful festivals in Britain.
EP: Let's talk about your 20/20 vision. Who came up with the name?
DC: (The PM stutters for a bit before gathering his thoughts) The policies are what matter, never mind the title. The policy was a serious effort to think, 'right - let's be ambitious but not hopelessly unrealistic. It's election time, people don’t want to hear wayward promises you can't fulfil'. A lot of these things come down to 20 per cent targets by 2020. It might be a cliché but at least you remembered it.
EP: Who helped to inform your 20/20 vision?
DC: We set up groups in the Conservative Party. All the MPs and candidates were able to get involved. I have a lot of experts in my office. Joe Johnson, Boris Johnson's brother has been key. Ideas come from everywhere including from me.
EP: Some of the targets are commendable but are not very detailed in terms of delivery.
DC: I think it’s a good agenda. I think there are some areas the Conservatives are doing well such as selecting [diverse] parliamentary candidates. We're making good progress particularly on retirement seats. The army and judiciary are areas where we need to push harder. It's not a complete list. I just laid out the areas where we can make progress and say these are my ambitions.
EP: Was it important for you to unveil this in Croydon Central where the Conservative candidate Gavin Barwell is facing a struggle in an ultra marginal seat?
DC: Croydon was a good place to do it because Gavin is passionate about these issues as am I. Croydon is one of the most multiracial seats in our country and if I'm going to make the pitch about Britain being the world's most successful multiracial democracy where better to go?
EP: Although black voters have traditionally aligned themselves with Labour, we're getting feedback that many of our readers would like to vote Conservative but can't bring themselves to do it. What would you say to those undecided voters?
DC: I would say, I know why you have been holding back. I think lots of black Britons look at the values of the Conservative Party and think we agree with you about family and community. We are passionate about enterprise. We want opportunities. We like the fact the free schools and academies programme are putting the discipline and standards in school that we want to see for our community. The holdback has been people asking themselves if they can get up and get on with the Conservative Party and you can see now that you can. You can see that with the talent we have got on the backbenches. Black and minority ethnic Britons are not only joining the Conservative Party, they have a seat at the cabinet table. And it's not just the Conservative Party in parliament; you see it in local government. You see it in Conservative Future [a youth political organisation in the UK] and you see it in different parts of the country. So I say, hold off the hold back.
EP: There are some members of your party that have the support of black voters such as [home secretary] Theresa May but others such as [former education minister] Michael Gove who they don't like so much...
DC: (jumps in) That’s sad about Michael Gove. I always think, you know, a lot of black Britons are very passionate about quality in education standards. People who came here from the Caribbean or from West Africa remembered the British education system for its high standards and quality and were a bit disappointed by what they found. Michael Gove was about restoring that.
EP: The sticking point was about the history curriculum. Gove wanted to make it more traditional while our readers wanted to see something more diverse.
DC: We continue to support black history very strongly. But, look, if you look at what's happened with the attainment gap. The gap is closing between black and white pupils. We have closed half of the attainment gap and now ready to close the rest. Look at what's happening with unemployment and start-up loans. There are good stories to tell.
EP: What I was trying to ask is that what will happen on Election Day if...
DC: ...I'm going to be in charge. Look at my star players! Look at the people at the top. There will be Theresa May whose work on stop and search is legendary. Look at what George Osborne has done to help empower young people by creating an economy of jobs. Boris Johnson has been an excellent mayor of London for all Londoners of all creeds and colours and races. Look at the record that I've got of caring about [race equality] issues. I say look at the top, that’s what matters. Then look at the talent that's coming through...
EP: What I've been trying to ask – for our reader’s who are thinking of voting Conservative – if they vote for you will there be a deal with UKIP come election day?
DC: You can reassure them that I don’t think UKIP will get any MPs or they might get one, so no one is going to have to deal with them. We are going to win outright. We have 23 seats to win and not only have we got people at the top who have a track record, you also have Sam Gyimah, you have Kwasi Kwarteng and good candidates coming through like James Cleverly.
EP: Do you accept there is still institutional racism in places like the criminal justice system that holds people back?
DC: I think there are still areas of our national life where there is more work that needs to be done. This is work that has to continue but we have come a long way not just in London but also in different parts of the country.