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I'm sorry, Cameron tells women MPs

Prime Minister David Cameron has offered an apology to two women MPs for comments he made about them in the House of Commons, as he acknowledged that the Government needs to do more to attract women voters.

Mr Cameron sparked outrage from Labour when he told the party's Treasury spokeswoman Angela Eagle to "calm down, dear" during an exchange at Prime Minister's Questions in the Commons.

And he was criticised for telling the Commons that one of his own MPs, Nadine Dorries, was "extremely frustrated" and then appearing to join in the laughter which his double entendre provoked on the Conservative backbenches. He has now told the Sunday Times that he had "screwed up" in the exchanges.

"If I offended anyone, I am hugely sorry. That is not what I wanted to do," he said.

He added: "It's my fault. I've got to do better, I totally accept. I'm the one who's got to explain who I am and what I'm like and what I think. What I find frustrating is that I'm not a sort of 'All right luv, I'm down at the pub tonight' whatever. That's not me. But obviously I've come across in this way."

Mr Cameron also told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show: "I obviously said some things in the House of Commons that just came out wrong and caused the wrong impression and I deeply regret that.

"This is not an excuse, it's an explanation, but... Prime Minister's Questions is very aggressive, confrontational. That's what Prime Minister's Questions is like and I don't think you can change it actually. As a result sometimes it just sounds terrible. And so I apologise for that. That's not what I'm like, it's not who I am, and I wanted to try and put that right. But I recognise - must do better."

Mr Cameron said that women are often the people who are struggling to balance family finances at a time of economic difficulties. "There's a deeper underlying issue here, which is that Britain faces a very difficult time right now, as countries right across the world do," he said.

"Families in Britain see petrol prices going up, they see food prices going up, electricity increasing, many people who work in the public sector have had a pay freeze and at the heart of many families are women who are worrying desperately about the family budget. I think that's probably had an impact on families and on many women and that causes great concern, and I understand that. We've just got to do better at explaining why this is necessary."

But Labour's deputy leader Harriet Harman said: "It's no good Cameron offering a phoney apology. Cameron's 'calm down dear' showed his old fashioned and patronising attitude to women. Women will not accept this apology unless it comes with a U-turn on cuts to childcare and on threats to maternity leave."

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