Peter Hoskin

Cameron’s bad news day

Cameron's bad news day
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Yesterday, Nick Robinson set out why the past week may count as David Cameron's worst in office so far. It's not a great news day for the Prime Minister today, either. First up is a new report from the Commons public accounts committee. Its headline finding relates to the last government, but has stark implications for this one: only £15 billion of the £35 billion of savings identified in the 2007 Spending Review have been implemented, and only 38 percent of those have come from "definitely legitimate value-for-money savings". In other words, all those efficiency savings may not be as straightforward as you were led to believe - even if there are efficiencies to be made.

Osborne & Co. will be fully aware of this, not least because some of the efficiencies they planned before government turned out to be of the much-easier-said-than-done variety. And they have now built some leeway into their deficit reduction plans, just in case the cuts don't add up to the numbers in the Budget. But a question mark still hovers over the government's capability to deliver the cuts they want, at the pace they want. And the answer could determine whether Osborne has fiscal space for some pre-election giveaways, or has to embark upon more consolidation.

Alongside that is the more immediate – and, I'd say, potentially more damaging – story about Cameron's personal photographer. The Tories shot out a series of press releases last night detailing New Labour's "image expenditure at the taxpayers' expense," including Gordon Brown's £40,000 on an "image consultant". But while the overall hypocrisy is dispiriting, it hardly nullifies this one for the current occupants of Downing Street. Whether fairly or unfairly, Labour now have a ready-made stick with which to beat the coalition as the cuts sweep in: like the persistent story about the car following behind Cameron's bike, only with more at stake.

At least none of this really makes it through to the front pages. For that, Cameron has Barack Obama to thank; one world leader who's having a far more bitter time of it.