13 Jun 2024

‘Sunak got D-day early exit decision wrong but fessed up straight away’ – David Cameron

Senior Political Correspondent

David Cameron: It’s obviously a very emotional day. It’s not so much about being prime minister, it’s more about actually meeting these incredible veterans and hearing their stories. I remember there was a constituent of mine called Mr Churchill who had driven his tank up by the high street. He was talking me through it, and you just never forget these things. They’re incredible people, an incredible generation. It was a privilege to be there.

Paul McNamara: You’re smiling as you say that. How did it feel when you discovered that the current prime minister decided he thought it was appropriate to skip out early from the 80th?

David Cameron: He went to the key Portsmouth event, the British event, the day before, which was full of veterans and magnificently done. Britain always does these things so well. He went to the key event above the British D-Day beaches at our magnificent new commemorative centre that this government has helped to build, and met the veterans there. Then he didn’t go to the international event, which was quite different in many ways.

Paul McNamara: Did you advise him?

David Cameron: I’m not talking about my advice. I’m a part of a team and we act as a team and we defend each other as a team. But to be fair, as soon as he got back to the UK, he said, ‘I regret my decision, I wish I’d stayed longer.’ That’s the sort of person he is. Instead of digging in and trying to defend a difficult position, he just said, ‘Ok, you make lots of decisions as prime minister, you know that, and sometimes you make the wrong one.’ He was very frank about that.

Paul McNamara: What people might say is that this is a prime minister who does not take advice. So did you or your office give him advice?

David Cameron: I’m not getting into any advice I gave. He certainly takes advice.

Paul McNamara: So you did give him advice then?

David Cameron: We’re part of a team, right? We have a team captain. I’m loyal to the team captain. We have discussions in private. Then we act, and then we stand together.

Paul McNamara: People listening to this will take that as you did give him advice.

David Cameron: What I’ll say is, this prime minister does take advice.

Paul McNamara: But just not on this occasion?

David Cameron: Look, prime ministers have to make decisions all the time. How long do I spend here? What do I do? Which minister do I meet? And you get some wrong. He got this one wrong and he ‘fessed up straight away. That’s the sort of person he is. It’s a huge contrast, frankly, with what we saw last night from Keir Starmer saying ‘When I said Jeremy Corbyn would be a great prime minister, I only said that because I thought we were going to lose the election.’ So he wasn’t being straight with us. Rishi, I think, has been very straight about this.

Paul McNamara: And will you be straight with us? Because there are reports that you were, quote, apoplectic.

David Cameron: That’s not true at all. I would beware these newspaper stories that are based on some sort of third person hearsay.

Paul McNamara: Are you satisfied with how this campaign is going?

David Cameron: I’m satisfied. This is a hugely vigorous campaign. Often at the end of 14 years, you find parties that are struggling to come up with new ideas. But in this campaign, it’s a campaign that’s fizzing with new ideas and policy proposals from the Conservatives, all fully costed, and a pretty blank page from Labour.

Paul McNamara: Would you have announced an election in the pouring rain, then gone to a campaign event where the Titanic was built? Would you appear on TV last night talking about deprivation and your childhood as not having Sky TV? You would have someone. You would have fired someone by now. Is Rishi Sunak out of touch?

David Cameron: No, not at all. I’ve fought election campaigns and my first one, the first TV debate I did, was a disaster for me. I spent the entire night, wide awake, worrying I’d let my colleagues down. Campaigns have ups and downs, but the fundamentals of this campaign are: strong prime minister, strong team, clear plan – weak leader of the opposition, no team, no plan.

Paul McNamara: Conservative ads on Facebook right now are warning about a Labour super majority. You are conceding defeat.

David Cameron: Not at all. I just don’t spend any time in the campaign talking about polls or outcomes or possible outcomes.

Paul McNamara: Labour having a super majority isn’t the Conservatives going out to the nation and saying, we could still win this.

David Cameron: My view is very clear. The more people who vote Conservative, the better we’ll do.

Paul McNamara: Okay, so is that campaign ad wrong then?. Have they got that wrong?

David Cameron: I’m not spending my time looking at online adverts. I’ve never even heard of the phrase. What is a super majority anyway? It doesn’t actually exist in the UK.

Paul McNamara: A super majority clearly means that you would be no shape of  opposition.

David Cameron: The only mathematics that really matters in British politics is half of 650, that’s the number of MPs in the House of Commons, 325. That’s the winning post. If you’re ahead of that, you’ve got a majority government and that’s what we’re shooting for.

Paul McNamara: Craig Williams, has he made it any easier for you as a party?

David Cameron: Obviously a foolish decision. He’s being investigated by the Gambling Commission. I don’t think there’s anything more I can add to that.

Paul McNamara: Were you apoplectic when you heard about that one?

David Cameron: It’s not really a word that kind of springs to mind. I was pretty baffled and unhappy about it. But he has to account for himself to the Gambling Commission and, of course, in front of his constituents.

Paul McNamara: It’s not a great look for the party though, is it?

David Cameron: It’s not great. I accept that.

Paul McNamara: The shadow stalking the Conservative Party in 2016 was Nigel Farage and UKIP, the shadow stalking the Conservative Party this time around is Nigel Farage, but this time with Reform. Would you allow Nigel Farage into the Conservative Party?

David Cameron: It’s not my decision. I’m not the leader of the party.

Paul McNamara: You were once. Would you? Would you have then?

David Cameron: He didn’t join the Conservative Party while I was leader.

Paul McNamara: Lastly, you were out of office for seven years. Tomorrow it will be seven months since you returned as foreign secretary. Has it been worth it?

David Cameron: I’ve tried over the last six months, seven months – whatever it is – to make sure that we get aid into Gaza. We’ve made some good progress there. I’ve tried to make sure we really support Ukraine in the struggle. We’ve seen this from Britain – 3 billion every year for as long as it takes. That’s a massive step forward. One day in office is a privilege, and I’ve treated every day as if it is that privilege.

Paul McNamara: Has Rishi Sunak always listened to you?

David Cameron: Yes, I think so.

Paul McNamara: Always?

David Cameron: Yes, he has a very good team. He works very hard to deliver for our country and he listens to his ministers and to their advice. But he’s the leader and we support him.

Paul McNamara: But sometimes he doesn’t listen.

David Cameron: I’m not saying that.