DAVID Cameron has suggested that his government should have accelerated the implementation of its brutal austerity policies.

In an interview with ITV’s Tom Bradby, to be broadcast at 8pm tonight, the former prime minister also revealed that Boris Johnson expected Leave to be “crushed” in the EU referendum.

A UN report published last year on the impact of the UK Government’s austerity measures found the Tories had inflicted “great misery” on people with “punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous” policies.

Asked to defend the cuts, Cameron said: “I think, look, the cuts were very difficult to make and there were lots of very difficult decisions and I’m not sure we got all of them right, but I’ve never wavered in the belief that it was necessary to make difficult decisions… “There is a case for saying that some of the changes we had to make in year two, in year three, in year four – it might have been better if we did a little bit more a bit earlier.

“When you have that sort of window of permission from the public, I felt after the 2010 election, you know, we’d fought an election, rather untraditionally, saying; ‘If you elect us, we’re going to make cuts and people will look back at this period and there’ll be great big arguments about it.’”

The former prime minister also said Boris Johnson told him in a text message sent shortly before he publicly announced that he was campaigning for Leave that he expected Brexit to be “crushed” in the referendum.

Asked what he thought were Johnson’s motives for supporting Leave, Cameron said: “My conclusion is he thought that the Brexit vote would be lost but he didn’t want to give up the chance of being on the romantic, patriotic nationalistic side of Brexit.

“Minutes before he went out to explain why he was going to be on the side of Brexit, he sent me a text saying, ‘Brexit will be crushed like a toad under the harrow.’ But I can only conclude that – he’d never argued for it before. he thought it was going to lose and that’s why he made the choice.”

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He said Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks would turn out to be “counterproductive”. Asked if the decision to suspend was right, Cameron replied: “I don’t. We’ll wait for what the courts say. I don’t think it was illegal. It looked to me, from the outside, like rather sharp practice of trying to restrict the debate and I thought it was actually from his point of view probably counterproductive.

“In the end, we have to work through parliament, and you can’t deny the arithmetic of parliament and the majorities there are in parliament.”

He added that it would be “disastrous” for the Conservatives if the decision to suspend the whip was not reversed.

He said: “I obviously disagree with the idea of taking away the whip from 21 hard-working, loyal Conservatives. I think that was a bad decision, if it isn’t reversed, it will be I think a disastrous decision.

“I hope that Boris will get a deal in Brussels, he will come back, try and bring Parliament together to back that deal – I don’t see why those 21 people shouldn’t be restored to the Conservative whip. If they’re not, I really worry about what could happen.”

Cameron went on to firmly ruled out a return to frontline politics. Asked about the prospect of a comeback, he replied: “No … I love this country. I care passionately about what happens. But I think the idea of going back to frontline politics is not going to happen, nor should it.”