Yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph reported that Oliver Letwin has been asked to draw up a list of public expenditure savings that can be used to fund Tory tax cuts. This is excellent news if those savings are to be appreciable and can pay for tax cuts of real significance. Although Mr Letwin should be able to bring forward some obvious ideas for saving money (taking up, for example, the TaxPayers’ Alliance idea of scrapping the ineffective Regional Development Agencies) he should not be tempted to be too precise about savings. The people best-placed to make wise efficiency savings are those closest to the frontline. Rather than shadow ministers deciding that ‘project x’ or ‘project y’ should be cut the better approach is for the Tories to announce that certain budgets will be frozen in real terms and that local managers and professionals need to find economies. After many years in which the the public sector has been awash with money that should not be impossible. Most households in the nation is facing such choices and they would understand such an approach.
Labour’s strategy for political recovery relies upon Tory disunity. Brown cannot get close to an opinion poll lead without the kind of infighting that would make us unattractive to voters. Slowly but surely the party is edging towards a position where that scenario will be denied Mr Brown. The Tory leadership is maintaining its fiscally conservative position on fully funding tax cuts while at the same time realising that a more urgent strategy for stimulating the real economy and slimming down the bloated state is necessary. That is a recipe for Tory strength and unity.
We can then get on to the front foot – slamming Labour for leaving Britain least well placed to weather the global recession. Campaigning against the debts that Labour is building up for the next generation should be at the heart of Tory campaigning over the coming winter of discontent.