PM targets 'instinctive Tories'
David Cameron has vowed to win back "instinctively Conservative" voters as he held out the prospect of a new tax break for married couples if the Tories are returned to power after May 7.
After earlier admitting the general election was on a "knife edge" the Prime Minister used an interview with The Sunday Telegraph to set out a series of policies designed to appeal to traditional Tory voters.
He reaffirmed his commitment to cut net migration into Britain to below 100,000 a year - despite having failed to meet his "no if's, no buts" target in the current Parliament.
Mr Cameron highlighted government pension reforms which will see millions of over 55s gain unfettered access to their retirement savings worth a total of £140 billion.
He insisted that he could keep his promise that there would be no more cuts to the size of the regular armed forces, even though he has not committed to maintaining the Nato target of spending 2% of GDP on defence.
And he said that the Government would use "everything at our disposal" to put the Islamic State terrorist known as Jihadi John "out of action".
Mr Cameron acknowledged that he needed to win back traditional Tory voters who had "drifted off" to other parties if he was to return to No 10 in May.
"I accept I have a task in the next 41 days to win back people who are instinctively Conservative, who have strong Conservative values and some of them have drifted off to other parties. I need to win them back," he said.
"It's not easy being in coalition. We have had to take some difficult decisions and inevitably over five years you lose some people's support."
He indicated that he would want to go further on tax breaks for married couples having been restricted to one relatively limited cut due to the opposition of the Liberal Democrats.
"I think it's absolutely right that we recognise marriage in the tax system properly and I would like to see that expanded," he said.
He pointed to new official calculations which showed up to £140 billion in retirement savings will be released when, from April 6, over 55s are allowed to cash in their pension pots rather than being required to purchase an annuity as a result of reforms announced by Chancellor George Osborne in last year's Budget.
"These pension reforms are very profound and fundamental," he said. "They are about trusting people who have worked hard and saved all their lives to spend their own money as they choose and I believe in trusting people profoundly."
Mr Cameron said he still wanted to get net migration down below 100,000 a year, despite being warned by some senior Tories like Kenneth Clarke that the target is impossible to achieve and should be dropped.
"Getting net migration to below 100,000 annually remains the right ambition," he said. "I can absolutely say to people who are concerned about this, I hear you, I hear your concern, I get your message."
Asked if he was downgrading the target to an "ambition", Mr Cameron said: "No, you can call it an ambition, you can call it a target. That is what I want to achieve."
While he would not commit to the Nato target on defence spending, he said he was "absolutely certain" that he could keep his promise that there would be "no further reductions to regular armed service personnel."
The Prime Minister also indicated his frustration that Jihadi John - recently unmasked as former London student Mohammed Emwazi - remained at large, despite being responsible for the beheadings of a series of western hostages.
"I can't give a running commentary, I'm afraid. But the thing I can say is we use everything at our disposal to find, defeat and destroy Britain's enemies and he is very, very high up the list," he said.
Asked whether he minded whether he was killed or captured, the Prime Minister replied: "No. I would like him out of action."