David Cameron at Zeitgeist '07

Uploaded by Google on 16.10.2007


INTERVIEWER: Now we're about to hear from the leader of the
British Conservative Party and an aspirant to be Prime
Minister of Britain, a potential future Prime
Minister of Britain.
Indeed, he's able to be here and join us today only because
a general election that was expected to be called right now
by the sitting Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, was not
called last moment.
And it was not called, in part, in wake of some recent
political victories by Mr. Cameron's Conservative Party.
I should also note that two days ago, Mr. Cameron
turned 41 years old.
So you can have birthday wishes for him in mind.
We're going to see a brief clip of Mr. Cameron in action from
the Prime Minister's question period in Parliament.
This was filmed yesterday in London.
Mr. Cameron got on a plane immediately after that, or
straightaway, as they would say in England, and
came directly here.
So after this clip, we're going to hear his thoughts on themes
directly related what we've been discussing the last
day and a half here.
We're going to hear about responsibility, leadership,
and the global citizen.
So watch these video.
When it's over, please join me in applauding David Cameron
and we'll hear from him.
So first,
the video.
--the Conservative Party ever did about [? main streets. ?]
DAVID CAMERON: What we won't forget, and what the British
people won't forget is that he made a promise and
he's broken that promise.
So we have got a Prime Minister who won't talk straight about
the election, who won't own up on inheritance tax, and won't
keep his promises on an EU referendum.
Never have the British people been treated
with such cynicism.
CROWD: Hear hear.
DAVID CAMERON: Mr. Speaker, for 10 years he has plotted and
schemed to have this job.
And for what?
No conviction, just calculation.
No vision, just a vacuum.
Last week he lost his political authority.
This week he's losing his moral authority.
How long are we going to have to wait before the past
makes way for the future?
CROWD: Hear hear.
INTERVIEWER: Please welcome David Cameron.

DAVID CAMERON: And you thought we British were all so polite.
Thank you.
Last year, I had the great pleasure of speaking to the
Google Zeitgeist conference in Europe, and amazingly
you've asked me back again.
Now, I should start by clearing a couple of
things out of the way.
And the first is that there is a bit of a difference between,
today, being a conservative in Britain and a
conservative in America.
There are lots of things we share, some similarities-- a
suspicion of big government, a belief in individual liberty.
But if I take two of those issues beginning with G--
perhaps you'll know what I mean-- on gun control, it was
actually a Conservative government in Britain that
actually outlawed most handguns.
And on the issue of gay marriage, it's been a
Conservative party in Britain that has actually backed
civil partnerships.
So there is a difference.
I'd like to think of the Conservative Party in Britain
being socially progressive but fiscally conservative.
Put another way, I like to think that if Mike Bloomberg
lived in Britain, he would be a member of
the Conservative Party.
This would certainly ease my funding problems,
if nothing else.
Another issue where there are some differences
is the environment.
Where in Britain it's actually the Conservative Party under my
leadership that has made a lot of the arguments about the need
to deal with global warming and climate change.
Campaigning for tough limits on carbon emissions, for green
taxes, for carbon trading.
And so when my wife said to me, how are you going to explain to
an American audience what sort of conservative you are?
I said, well darling, I would just say, look at me, and think
of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
She said, I love you very much, but I'm just not
sure that's going to work.
But what I really want to do-- one other thing to clear out of
the way-- is I'm no new media expert.
But I do understand the power of the internet.
I gave a speech at a school the other day, and a young boy
rushed up to me and said, Mr. Cameron, can I have
your autograph?
And I said, yeah, of course.
Do you collect them?
And he said, no, as soon as you've gone, I'm going
to sell it on eBay.
But I should really start by saying what a tremendous
honor it is to be here with you today.
Because between you, you are responsible for a large
portion of the wonders of our modern world.
From the technology we use to the products and services we
rely on to the innovations that improve the quality of
billions of people's lives.
You create jobs, wealth, and opportunity for our world.
And you should be proud of the amazing things that
you achieve every day.
Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of all this is
not something specific to any of the individual organizations
represented here.
But something that is the collective result of
all of your endeavors.
And that is the new world of freedom that we live in today.
A world where people have more power and control
over their lives.
A world where people's horizons are broader.
And where their ambitions are so much greater.
And a world where people expect to make more and
more decisions themselves.
And right at the heart of this new world of freedom
is freedom of information.
And I mean that in the broadest sense of the term.
In recent years, technological advance, supported by a liberal
regulatory regime, has transformed the amount of
information available, the number of people who can
actually get hold of it, and the ease with which
they can do so.
As you've been debating at this conference, sharing information
opens up tremendous possibilities for individuals
and for business.
We can see it in the astonishing explosion of
bottom-up content creation.
Whether it's the YouTube videos uploaded every day, the 120,000
new blogs written every day, bebo-- had to mention the
British somewhere there-- all of these things reveal the vast
pent-up desire that people have to express themselves
and take control.
We can see it in the way that leading corporations, including
many of you here, are totally changing the business models in
order to allow the personalization of products and
services and the harnessing of talent and ideas through both
formal and informal networks that extend way beyond the
walls of the firm.
Now I didn't pretend to be an expert in these matters.
But it seems to me plain and clear that many of the things
doing so well are those that allow people, frankly,
to do stuff.
To run their lives, to arrange their music, to check
their healthcare.
And what I want to do today is to give you my perspective on
what these changes could mean for politics and
for government.
For our sense of citizenship, both local and global.
And for the responsibilities of politicians.
But most of all, I want to explain what I believe these
changes can do for the thing the I care about most, and
that is the politics of responsibility.
Because I believe that today, we're on the brink of an
entirely new era in public policy-- what I call the
post-bureaucratic era.
And to understand the scale and the nature of the change we
need, I'm going to take you back for a minute or two to
what we might describe as the pre-bureaucratic era.
A time when almost all politics was local,
because it had to be.
When it took days or weeks to get from one city to the next.
When news travelled around the world not in
seconds, but in months.
In those days, over a century ago, the idea of a central
government bureaucracy devising and implementing policy that
would affect people's daily lives simply wouldn't work.
The only things that the state could do were the things that
the state could actually physically do.
Like war and peace, treaties, the money supply,
weights and measures.
Everything else was local.
But all that changed with the bureaucratic era which we've
been living with for the past 100 years or more.
The intellectual father of the bureaucratic era was the German
political theorist Max Weber, writing at the
turn of the 20th century.
Weber described the shift from the traditional culture, in
which authority was vested in family and neighborhood-- to a
modern culture, in which authority is invested in the
bureaucracy of the state.
This was enabled by better communications and the
possibility of information being collected and held
by public officials.
The bureaucratic era was about faith in centralized
This was often motivated by noble impulses-- the ironing
out of inequalities and differences.
Promoting fairness and progress.
Achieving value for money.
And as a result, these central planners asserted a strong role
for the top-down central state.
Of course, this took its most extreme and virulent form in
the Soviet Union, with its crazed five year plans for
everything under the sun.
But western democracies like ours were not exempt.
In Britain, as in the United States, people were appalled by
the mass poverty of the 1930s.
And they saw, in the way that the government had organized
the war effort so brilliantly, they saw the scale of what the
state could achieve in peacetime.
They felt that welfare and healthcare and education could
successfully be arranged in the same way as the
production of munitions.
This trend was brilliantly exposed-- going right against
the culture of the time-- by Friedrich Hayek in his seminal
book, The Road to Serfdom.
In that book, he argued the logical consequence of the rise
of the central planner-- however well intentioned-- was
the loss of individual freedom.
And in many important ways, that is what happened.
As the focus of power in this bureaucratic era shifted away
from the personal and the local to the distant official.
The distant official who kept hold of the information and the
knowledge and more often than not, just denied it to the
rest of the population.
In the United States, this trend towards the
centralization of power was always limited by
your Constitution.
And your commitment to local governance it's something I
greatly admire and want us in Britain to emulate.
But britain today is one of the most centralized countries
in the democratic world.
I don't think many of you would believe the degree to which a
minister in our national government has incredible
top-down control of what happens-- whether it's in
schools or in hospitals, roads or public spaces.
And what's wrong with that, you might ask?
What's wrong with well-meaning public officials keeping hold
of information so they can make wise decisions on
behalf of the people?
To me, and frankly to you, probably the answer is simple.
It is all about responsibility.
I believe passionately that social progress depends upon
social responsibility.
Parents bringing up their kids with the right values.
Neighbors looking out for each other.
Citizens treating each other-- and their surroundings--
with respect.
Corporations treating their employees, their communities,
and their environment with respect.
And governments recognizing vitally, what is-- and what is
not-- their responsibility.
And I don't think responsibility is something
you can impose on people.
I think it's within us all.
It's one of the things that makes us human.
And the more you try to do things for people, the less
responsible they become.
Indeed, if you think about it, you can only behave responsibly
if you have responsibility for something.
And that means having the power to make a choice
about how you behave.
So as this bureaucratic era marched ever-onward, with all
these well-meaning public officials making top-down
decisions for people, with all that information and knowledge
they kept to themselves, they ended up taking power away from
people and making them less responsible.
In the days before the information revolution, you
could just about argue that you had to trust the state because
it wasn't practical to share that information, for people to
make choices and take control.
But thanks to all of you, that simply isn't true anymore.
In commerce, in our culture, you're helping to make the
top-down model history.
You've shown us the future and it's bottom-up.
That is a wonderful thing for someone like me who comes
from the center-right tradition in politics.
Because we've always been motivated by a strong and
instinctive skepticism about the capacity of bureaucratic
systems to deliver progress.
Instead, we've always preferred to place our trust in the
ingenuity of human beings.
Collaborating in often messy and quite unplanned ways to
deliver the best outcomes we want to see.
You might call it, the wisdom of crowds.
Or, as Edmund Burke put it more than 200 years ago, the
reciprocal struggle of discordant powers will draw out
the harmony of the universe.
And that is the great opportunity that
lies before us.
Because if we get things right, we can I believe, now move
confidently into a new post-bureaucratic era.
Where true freedom of information makes possible a
new world of responsibility, of citizenship, choice,
and local control.
You are leading the changes in business and in society.
And we need a new generation of political leadership to make
the same kind of changes in government and in
public service.

Let me give you two examples, the transparency of information
and the availability of information.
In the United Kingdom, my party is committed to transparency
in government spending.
The next Conservative government will detail every
item of government spending over 25,000 pounds-- that's
$50,000 at the current exchange, I'm pleased to
say-- on a public website.
Now I know that over here, you will soon be able to Google
your tax dollars thanks to the federal funding transparency
and accountability act.
And by the way, I know that I can expect a letter from the
Google lawyers saying I'm not allowed to use
Google as a verb.
But I know Eric is much too kind to do that to me.
But I don't just want transparency to be about
greater accountability so citizens can just become sort
of auditors of their government, pressing for
efficiency and value for money.
Accountability should just be the first step.
I also want transparency about government spending to promote
greater responsibility so citizens can take on a more
active role, deciding how their money is actually spent.
In the bureaucratic era, government simply tells you
what you need, spends your money, and if you don't like
it, then you can vote for a new government once
every few years.
In the post-bureaucratic era, you shouldn't just be telling
government what you want.
You should be choosing what you want and acting to get what you
want so your money is spent on your priorities
all of the time.
We've drafted legislation in the form of something called
the Sustainable Communities Bill that enables just
such a transfer of power.
Not just giving people locally the information about what
central government spends in their area, but giving them the
power to challenge that spending.
And change it to match their priorities and putting
it to a local vote.
And this doesn't just apply at home.
We should use information imaginatively to promote
greater accountability and responsibility in how
we spend money overseas on international aid.
There are some who oppose spending on aid to poor
countries in Africa and elsewhere saying it's just
swallowed up in corruption and it doesn't reach
those who really need it.
But in my view, corruption shouldn't be used as an
excuse to stop this aid.
Instead, we've got to use the aid to stop the corruption.
And let me tell you how.
In the post-bureaucratic era, we should tell the public-- the
people in those countries that receive our aid-- exactly how,
when, and where the money is spent so they can then hold
their local politicians to account.
Literally, this means publishing, for example, the
amount that ought to go to each school in an African country,
every year, so local people can attack their government if that
money isn't delivered.
That is the power of transparency leading
to accountability.
In that way, the people can start to take responsibility
for their own future.
But I believe there's an even more powerful way in which
we can use the freedom of information to move decisively
into the post-bureaucratic era.
And that is by opening up the data held by government in the
public sector so it can be used to create new services for
public benefit and to create real choice
and real competition.
Crime mapping is a great example.
At one and the same time, these crime maps that Google and
others produce, they enable you to hold your police force to
account, they enable you to get the government to spend money
in the right places, and they also help you to
choose where to live.
In Britain, there is a vast amount of information currently
held-- or sold-- by the public sector that if made freely
available would unleash social and commercial innovation.
Neighborhoods getting together to commission local services.
Social entrepreneurs setting up in competition to existing
public service providers.
And citizens being able to make really informed choices about
the options that are available to them.
We have, in my view, barely begun to see the possibilities
of a truly bottom-up approach to public policy.
And that's because the political world has been
reluctant to grasp the scale of the change that is happening.
If we want to make a reality of this post-bureaucratic era, an
era only made possible by the information revolution, it is
clear to me that political leaders will have to learn,
frankly, to let go.
To let go of the information that we've guarded
so jealously.
To let go of the power we like to exert.
And above all, to let go of the idea that somehow we know best.
That people can't be trusted to run their own lives or
run their won communities.
They can.
But if there are lessons for political leaders,
there a lesson too for business leaders.
And it's about responsibility, about corporate responsibility.
The argument for corporate responsibility is often
made in terms of its benefits to business.
That a corporation will have a better reputation, a more
motivated workforce, and more loyal customers if it
does the right thing.
And I'm sure that's true, but it's not really my
job to make that case.
My job, I believe, is to make a slightly different argument.
And it's this.
If we all share the vision of a post-bureaucratic world, a
world in which business has the freedom and the ability to
succeed in a low tax, low regulation economy, we
politicians need your help.
If we want sustainably lower taxes, sustainably lower
regulation, we need your help in reducing the demand for
government spending and the demand for regulation.
Where does that demand come from?
It comes from the costs of social and
environmental failure.
So we need your help to cut those costs so we can make
that tax reduction and that regulatory reduction
We cannot do it on our own.
We need your commitment, creativity, and innovation
to tackle the challenges that confront humanity.
Whether it's crime or climate change, poverty or pollution,
family breakdown or forest depletion.
We are all in this together.
And if we work together, understand what our
responsibilities really are, and embrace the opportunities
of the modern world, there is quite simply no limit to
what we can achieve.
Let me finish by putting it in a slightly different way.
More than 40 years ago, John F.
Kennedy said, ask not what your country can do for you.
Ask what you can do for your country.
It was an incredibly noble call right then and right now.
But when he said it, people didn't really have the
information to make choices-- the knowledge of what they
could choose, the power to take control of their lives.
Today, because of the information revolution, people
do have that knowledge.
They do have that information.
They do have that control over their lives.
So we can actually make that dream a reality.
But I believe it needs a generation of politicians who
understand this information revolution to make sure that
dream can become the reality we all want to see.
Thank you.
DAVID CAMERON: Now, we've got a bit of time for questions
and points so, who wants to kick off?
Sir, in the stripey shirt.
That will certainly go on the internet, it's-- if you go to
webcameron.org.uk, quick advert there, you can--
it will be up there.
We'll also maybe put it up on YouTube as well,
just to be fair.
But I try to do quite a lot of blogging myself.
Larry and Sergey very kindly let me do a little blog from
inside the Google-plex.
Which I think will be very interesting for British people
to see the scale of revolution that's happening in
companies like this.
Sir, by the microphone.
AUDIENCE: That was very interesting and I
enjoyed your talk.
I was curious what you thought of the risks of giving people
responsibility particular when you look at our country and the
appalling low participation we have in voting, even for
presidential elections.
And how much of a-- what you might do to address that-- and
how much of a risk you saw to the policies you were
espousing this morning.
DAVID CAMERON: I think the problem with low turnout, which
we have in Britain as well, our turnout has gone
down to about 60%.
Which is still higher than yours but really low compared
with-- we used to have turnout of 70%, 80% regularly.
I think the reason it's happening is people just don't
really believe that voting makes much difference.
They don't actually believe that politicians are
going to get things done.
The British socialist Tony Benn once said, if voting changed
anything, then abolish it.
I don't often quote socialists but I think maybe he's
on to something there.
I think that there is a real opportunity if we can
understand what's happening in the world of information,
what's happening in the world of the internet.
Where people are getting more power and control
over their lives.
If we can convince people about real empowerment through
politics, then actually you can have greater choice over
schooling and healthcare, a greater ability to hold your
police force to account, a greater ability to make a
difference on all sorts of issues from the ones I
mentioned-- like climate change and poverty in Africa, then
people will think, yes, this can make a difference.
I will bother to vote.
Sadly, I've been starved of the chance of an election because
as the introduction said, we were-- I would be two days into
an election campaign, but mysteriously, it
was called off.
INTERVIEWER: I follow American politics quite closely.
In recent weeks, Rudy Giuliani's been
over in the U.K.
and I've-- I met him, it was a great honor.
Fred Thompson has been over and I met with him.
Last year at our party conference, we had John McCain
who gave an excellent speech.
This year Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a speech by video line.
We also had Mike Bloomberg.
It wouldn't be right for me to offer advice.
I think it's going to be a fascinating contest.
I think that-- what it's difficult, I think, for the
Brits to understand is just the length of the contest.
We're still some way away and already, you know, this is--
I just don't know how these people have the
stamina to carry on.
When I won the leadership of the the British Conservative
Party, the whole contest lasted for about, was
it, four to five months.
And the thing that American politicians just literally
their jaws drop when I explain, that we were limited to
spending 100,000 pounds-- $200,000-- that was the limit
on what you could spend to win the leadership of the
Conservative Party.
And you look at the numbers involved in American politics,
it blows our minds.
When I say, 100,000 pounds, they'd probably spend that on
a lunch in Orange County.
So it's an extraordinary difference.
So I'm sorry, I'm dodging the question.
I'm not really offering any advice.
I think you've got some extremely talented politicians.
It's going to be great to watch them fight it out.
I think the internet-- I was very interested by the
conversation between Eric and the CEO of TimeWarner about
how the internet is going to affect elections.
But it's very dangerous diplomatic territory to start
giving too much advice.
DAVID CAMERON: Hold on, the microphone.
AUDIENCE: European conservativism has been beset
by nationalist movements in a lot of countries.
And I'm wondering your view of the rise of anti-immigration
parties, nationalist parties, in Europe.
And whether this is compatible with economic freedom.
DAVID CAMERON: It's a very good question.
First on the center-right parties in Europe.
If you look at the Christian Democrats in Germany, or the
British Conservatives, or the Partido Popular in Spain.
All of them have things in common-- we're all parties of
free enterprise, of limited government, of personal
But we're also parties of the nation.
We also believe that is means something to be British,
that we share values and institutions and a history.
And the great thing about conservatism-- I meant to say
this in my introduction but forgot, so I can say
it now instead.
The great thing about conservatism is it is different
in every country in the world.
Because conservatism, unlike socialism, is not one
unifying ideology.
A socialist party in Spain is pretty much the same as the
socialist party in Sweden.
They believe the same core creed.
Conservative parties everywhere are a little bit different.
I don't think that there isn't a necessary conflict between
reasonable immigration control and a free market economy.
I think that actually, it's sensible to have some sorts
of limits and a reasonably controlled approach
on immigration.
Because otherwise, some of the other things that conservatives
believe can be put under pressure.
Because conservative parties are not just parties of free
markets and enterprise.
They're also parties of social cohesion.
And strong society.
And I think it's very important to recognize-- particularly in
a country like Britain-- that we've benefited hugely
from immigration.
But immigration does put pressure on public
services, education and health, and housing.
And actually, unlimited immigration, you know, can
cause problems in those areas.
So I think it's a balance of, yes, we're the party of free
enterprise and markets.
But actually, some control on immigration is important to
make sure we have a strong and cohesive society
at the same time.

I think you need to go to the microphone.

AUDIENCE: While you were giving your amazing speech yesterday,
there was a comment came up here yesterday about terrorism
from within, specifically with regard to the U.K.
and as it relates to the point you were just
making about immigration.
Are there meaningful differences between how
Conservative and Labor are addressing that?
DAVID CAMERON: Not huge differences, no.
Obviously, we've suffered in the U.K.
just as you've suffered in the U.S. We had the suicide
bombings on the London Underground and buses on the
7th of July just as you-- I mean, it was less loss
of life than 9/11.
And I'd say there's quite a political consensus in Britain
that recognizes that this is terrorism of a different
order-- we've had IRA terrorism for years in Britain, but the
suicide bombs and the extent of the threat from extremist
islamist terrorism, if I can put it that way, is of
a different order.
We both accept that.
We've both accepted changes are necessary in the criminal law.
We've passed terrorist legislation.
I would say we probably give a greater emphasis on the center
right to border controls-- we'd like to see a proper border
police force because we think we could do better in that way.
We also think there are problems at the moment with the
inability in Britain to deport preachers of hate and people
who are stirring up and radicalizing future terrorists.
We think there's a problem with that which the government
hasn't got to grips with.
But generally, pretty good consensus.
When Tony Blair was Prime Minister, I used to have fairly
regular meetings with him about how to make sure we can have
consensus on these really important issues and how
we grapple with the terrorist threat.

Should we have one more and then I'm off to
see the governor?
Sir, in the blue shirt.
Do you want to step up to the mike, if that's OK?

Sorry, I didn't know you were going to have to go
through an assault course.
I apologize for that.
AUDIENCE: Not a problem.
What is your point of view on continuing or terminating Great
Britain's involvement in Iraq.
And is the way you think about your country's involvement
different in any way from how we should think about our
country's involvement.
I supported the decision to go to war in Iraq, to
remove Saddam Hussein.
But I think we all have to recognize that some really
big mistakes were made subsequent to that decision.
The decapitation of the regime.
The fact that the army and police force were disbanded.
The fact that it was really-- you know, we created a
situation of anarchy rather than a situation of order.
In terms of the future, I don't support some sort
of artificial timetable for withdrawing troops.
Some sort of precipitant withdrawal.
I think we have a responsibility, frankly, to try
and maximize the amount of security in that country.
Britain faces a slightly different situation in the
south of the country to what America faces in Baghdad and
those provinces in that we've always had this arrangement of
drawing down troops to Basrah air base, which is
what we've done.
But I think it would be wrong to try and set a timetable for
removing the 2,500 troops that we'll have left in Iraq.
But I think the real challenge that we've all got-- the
British and American and the other allies together-- is to
look, not just at what's happening militarily-- if I can
put it this way, what we need is a political surge.
What is going wrong, I think, in Iraq is that we haven't put
enough pressure on the politicians in Iraq
to come together.
To actually form a really cohesive government to
take over the running of that country.
And it's the surge of political activity and the involvement of
Iraq's neighbors, who all have an interest in that country
having a secure and stable future, where the real
attention now needs to turn.
And just one last point, I think that it will be really
important for the security of our world and for combating
terrorism in the future if we don't take our eyes
off Afghanistan.
Because I've been to Afghanistan twice in
the last two years.
And that, you know, if you think of the cradle of 9/11 and
the terrorism we've suffered, it was actually Afghanistan.
And if we fail in Afghanistan, the Taliban will be
back in Afghanistan.
Al-Quaeda will be back in Afghanistan.
And those training camps where, frighteningly, 4,000 of my
fellow citizens went the Afghanistan.
Were trained in those training camps.
And many of them came back to Europe in order to commit--
or be involved in-- terrorist atrocities.
We have a real duty to make sure we get that right.
And I think Britain and America working together is the only
way that we can make sure Afghanistan has a better future
than what has currently been happening in Iraq.
And we've got to learn the lessons of Iraq and make
sure we don't repeat them in Afghanistan.
Can I thank you, very much indeed for
inviting me here today?
I've really enjoyed it.
Thank you.