Peter Hoskin

Twilight Zone Tuesday: Brown to announce spending cuts

Twilight Zone Tuesday: Brown to announce spending cuts
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Now this is a turn up.  According to the Independent, Gordon Brown is going to "issue a list of specific [spending] cuts" as part of his Autumn "fightback".  Here's how the strategy goes:

"Initially, Mr Brown will seek to establish in voters' minds the key differences between Labour and the Tories – on policy, government intervention to limit the impact of the recession and preserving frontline services. Then he will acknowledge that the Government needs to go beyond the £35bn of efficiency savings it has already promised. The aim will be to show Labour is serious about reducing the deficit, which is set to rocket to £175bn in the current financial year and to £173bn next year.

Cabinet ministers will announce that some projects will be abandoned, shelved or delayed to save money. One admitted yesterday: 'Efficiency savings are useful but not a substitute for real savings. There will be things that need to be put off, done more slowly or abandoned altogether.'

No specific decisions have yet been taken, but the move will fuel speculation that the Government may delay the £25bn renewal programme for the Trident nuclear weapons system. Aides insist that Mr Brown remains committed to retaining Britain's deterrent."

Against hiding cuts away in the smallprint of the Budget, this approach certainly makes more strategic sense.  But would it make a real difference to anything?  In terms of the opinion polls, I imagine not: Brown's unpopularity runs deeper than concerns about the public finances, and you suspect he fatally undermined his credibility on this issue with all that "Labour investment vs Tory cuts" bombast of a few weeks ago.  But, in terms of the daily flow of British politics, it could well shake a few things up.  In his interview with the Economist last week, David Cameron said that the Tories would set out the "fine print" of their own cuts programme before the next election.  Now, they may be thinking about moving that process forward.