Peter Hoskin

A postcard from Dave and Nick

A postcard from Dave and Nick
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Here's a slightly curious one: David Cameron and Nick Clegg have written a public letter to their ministers, reminding them that, "deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain," and that, "the purpose of our government … [is] … putting power in the hands of communities and individuals and equipping Britain for long-term success." If you wanted to read into it, then you could say that the emphasis on the "long-term" throughout the letter is a warning to any disgruntled sorts: policies for the long-term require time to implement, so the coalition has to be built to last, etc. etc.

But, of course, this missive is directed at voters as much as anyone else. So the main aim will be to hammer home the coalition's view of itself just as people leave home on their holidays. Hence all the constant references to people power, transparency, communities, reform and the like. This fits into the government's strategy to not only sell its spending cuts over the next few weeks, but to present a more positive front to them. There is, we will be reassured, a promised land of growth and happiness ahead – and pruning the size of the state will help us reach it.

Anyway, that's the message. Here's the full text:

"Dear colleague,

In the weeks ahead you will be engaging in vital negotiations with the Treasury about the Spending Review, with important decisions to be made to deal with the legacy of the previous government and restore health to the public finances and confidence to our economy. In that context we thought it would be helpful to remind you of the discussions held at our cabinet meeting at Chequers just over a week ago – and the conclusions we reached about the central purpose that will guide all our decisions as a government.

Deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain. We agreed that, as we deliver this, our government’s purpose is to make two major shifts in our political and national life:

The first is a radical redistribution of power from government to communities and people, to reverse decades of over-centralisation. Almost all our plans involve giving individuals, families and communities more control over their lives – whether that’s through opening new schools, giving locally elected councillors a say over local NHS services or holding local police to account. The importance of this approach cannot be overstated. It underpins our attitude to public service reform. It animates our plans for genuine localism. It explains our focus on government transparency. If we are true to this purpose then the people of this country will feel a new sense of power and responsibility in their daily lives.

The second fundamental change is that this government, unlike previous governments, will govern for the long term. That’s why we are prepared to take the difficult decisions necessary to equip Britain for long-term success. This approach not only underpins our commitment to safeguarding our environment for future generations and to restoring transparency and accountability to our politics, it must also underpin everything we do in the spending review. That means welfare reform that will get people off benefits and into work; effective support for children in the crucial early years to provide them with a fair chance in life; tackling the blight of youth unemployment and long-term investment in our infrastructure to build a competitive and sustainable economy for the future. These should be our priorities, not the short term gimmicks, top down dictats and wasteful subsidies of the past.

So this is the purpose of our government, in one sentence: putting power in the hands of communities and individuals and equipping Britain for long-term success. Over the course of the Spending Review we need you to ensure that this purpose is felt across your departments. Whatever the options on the table, whatever the decision to be made, the same questions must be asked: will it put more power in people’s hands? And will it equip Britain for long-term success?

Finally we want to thank you for your hard work and commitment to this coalition.  It’s been an intense and at times tough twelve weeks – we hope you get a good summer break."