British Conservative leader David Cameron on Thursday endorsed new U.S. proposals to make banks repay some of the public bailout that saved the financial system last year, and said that as prime minister he would go toe-to-toe with British bankers to bring them in line.
Cameron told The Associated Press in an interview that he would back President Barack Obama's proposals to limit risky behavior by banks and collect money from the banking industry to repay some taxpayer sacrifice.
Cameron, leading in opinion polls to become prime minister after 13 years of Labour government, said he sees the proposed steps as part of a "moral problem."
His endorsement stood in contrast to the position of many of the bankers and financial managers attending the annual World Economic Forum here, who have been raising concerns about what is seen as a new populist mood toward regulating banks.
"Banks know that taxpayers will always support them, and yet they are able to take part in some extremely risky activities," Cameron said.
"So I think that, saying that, there are some activities like large-scale proprietary trading, taking big bets, that shouldn't be done by banks that have retail deposits _ your money and my money _ in their retail deposits."
"The second thing President Obama said that we strongly support is this idea of some form of bank levy so that we can make sure we pay back the money that has been lent by the taxpayers, but also that we prepare for any future crisis," he said.
"We mustn't let this happen again with such a big banking collapse with taxpayers, people of modest incomes, having to pay so much money into the banking system," he added. "But we need to get international agreement for this."
Because Obama "has opened the door means I think that the others can follow through," he said.
Cameron, 43, said he would work to persuade British bankers to accept the proposals.
"It would involve some difficult conversations, no doubt about it, but the argument should go like this: The taxpayer has put the money into the banks. The banks know that the taxpayers will stand behind them when they get into difficulty. We've proved that," he said.
He said "the taxpayer is right to ask in return that there are some things that banks shouldn't do."
Cameron added: "This is not about the politics of envy, this is not some revenge attack. ... This is about good honest common sense, prudence, (and) how we have strong and stable financial systems in our countries."
Despite being a Tory while Democrats hold power in Washington, Cameron was relaxed about predicting a strong relationship should his party win elections that must be held before June 5 but could come in May.
"I feel it in my bones. ... It is never a problem for a Conservative to work with a Democrat," he said, referring to the long, shared history of both nations.
"It goes much deeper than politics. It is our shared interest in spreading freedom and democracy. ... It is the fact that we are on the same side of so many big arguments, whether it is stabilizing Afghanistan, whether tackling Islamic extremism in the Yemen, whether it is making sure that we make our world safer and try to stop the spread of nuclear weapons."
Cameron said Conservatives would be able to fix a "broken Britain" _ a buzz phrase used to describe a country troubled by a plethora of social woes including high teen pregnancy rates, binge drinking, and a rising gang culture.