Cameron in optimistic mood as Tory conference opens

By staff

David Cameron was in an optimistic mood today, as the Tories prepared for their first party conference as a government since 1996.

The prime minister seemed intent on playing down criticism that the government’s dour comments on the state of the deficit were driving down confidence in the British economy.

“Let’s put these cuts into perspective. Many businesses have had to make far greater reductions than us in one year,” he told the News of the World.

Mr Cameron was also keen to promote news that Britain would adopt a universal benefit to replace the myriad entitlements under the current system.

The idea -the cornerstone of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reform agenda – is thought by many analysts to be a prime money-saving device, but it would require additional expenditure in the short-run.

Media reports over the weekend suggested Ed Miliband’s team may be prepared to back the proposal, which also has Liberal Democrat support.

Speaking to the Andrew Marr Show this morning, Mr Cameron said: “On the one hand we’ve got to ask are there some elements of universal benefits that are no longer affordable?

“But on the other hand, let’s look at the issues of dependency, where we’ve trapped people in poverty through the extent of welfare that they have.

“And because it’s always worth people going into work, you will actually reduce benefits,” he concluded.

The Tory conference begins today in Birmingham and concludes on Wednesday, when Mr Cameron delivers his keynote speech.