Peter Hoskin

A question of commitment

A question of commitment
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Punchy stuff from Michael Fallon in today's Telegraph.  The Tory deputy chairman of the Treasury Select Committee sets out five ways for his party to "get real" over public spending cuts.  Over at ConservativeHome, Tim Montgomerie dwells on perhaps the most striking of those five: a recommendation that the Tories should think again about national pay bargaining in the public sector.  But, for those interested in interal Tory politics, Fallon's first point also stands out:

"No, if we really want to cut public spending, there are five things we need to do. The first is to convince the shadow cabinet. There's little evidence that it has the faintest idea of the commitment needed. Every month, a spokesman still goes for a headline by castigating a 'postcode lottery' (of which there will be plenty more as spending reduces) or scorns local revenue-raising ideas like Nottingham's congestion charge (whatever happened to localism?). The party has made an uncomfortably long list of pledges, and vested interests such as legal aid or the NHS drugs bill seem to be regarded as outside the spending rules."

This should act as a reminder to Cameron that, should he get into government, one of his chief organisational priorities will be to make sure his Cabinet is on side with the cuts agenda.  Sure, no current shadow cabinet member will deny the necessity for cuts, but - as Fallon points out - there are already enough deviations from the level of commitment that will be necessary to tackle Brown's debt crisis.  Those deviations could easily become more frequent in government, when there are even greater external pressures to keep spending more money.

As Fallon goes onto say, Cameron can help himself by cutting the size of his Cabinet.  There are suggestions today that the Tory leader is planning to do just that.  But he will still need to impress on the remainder that their primary function is to deliver more for far, far less.