David Cameron has promised to “bust open” the education system to help solve ongoing problems about secondary school places.

Appearing in Watford last night for one of his interactive Cameron Direct sessions, the Conservative leader apologised for Ian Oakley's campaign of hate and said admission problems had been caused by too few “good school places”.

Asked about the local secondary school allocation problems, Mr Cameron said he was aware of the heartbreak more than 400 Watford and 1,000 Hertfordshire parents had faced.

The Tory leader said: “We could argue forever about whether we should have a lottery system, whether it should be first-come-first-serve, whether we should have a sibling rule, but in the end all these means of admission are still not dealing with the basic problem – that there aren't enough good school places.”

He said a Conservative Government would look to the private sector to “bust open the state monopoly” on education “to make sure there are more good schools”.

During the hour-long session, held in The Langley Conference Suites in The Parade, Mr Cameron also took the opportunity to apologise on behalf of his party for Ian Oakley's deluded crimes.

Asked why the Tories have yet to apologise for the former parliamentary candidate's campaign of political harassment and criminal damage, the Conservative leader said he was “glad” someone had posed the question.

He told the room: “I am extremely sorry about what happened.

“Of course I regret what has happened. I think everyone on the Conservative Party regrets what has happened.”

He said he had not influenced the process of selecting Watford's new candidate Richard Harrington but congratulated the local party on choosing an “excellent candidate”.

Mr Cameron arrived in Watford shortly before 5pm yesterday, paying a swift visit to the party's brand new offices in The Parade.

There he was greeted by Richard Harrington before officially opening the new headquarters and chatting to party members.

Then at 6pm, the Conservative leader took to the stage where he faced questions from the 400-plus local people, including many school pupils, who had applied for tickets.

Dressed in a navy suit and purple tie, Mr Cameron talked without notes or prompts for an hour, answering questions ranging from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to devolution in Scotland.

Mr Cameron said he was in Watford because it was a town Conservative Government “would have to win” at the next election.

He told the room: “You are some of the people who will determine who will win the next election and be Prime Minister.

“I think it is only right for you to see the person who wants to be the next Prime Minister and get the chance to ask him some questions.”

Mr Cameron, 42, said he still supported the war in Iraq but said there needed to be more “realistic, hard-headed” aims in Afghanistan.

Asked about regional housing targets he said a Cameron government would offer incentives to local authorities to build new homes, but he will not force them to.

He said he welcomed the Government's move to fast-track professionals into teaching roles but said he would not back a Scottish English political split.

Asked by a one member of the refreshingly youthful audience about teenagers and politics, he said: “Some people say young people aren't interested in politics.

“Young people are interested in political issues they care about what they are going to pay for their university places, they care about what is happening on the other side of the world and they care about global warming but they don't really see a connection between what they care about and what is happening in Westminster.

“I think we have to make that connection.”

The session was broadcast on-line via a webcast and was also being filmed for a Conservative Party political broadcast.