Speaking to the Tory Spring Forum in Cheltenham the Tory leader said tax increases were the right thing to do when Britain last faced a (less serious) debt crisis in the early 1990s. Echoing George Osborne's remarks to Sky News earlier he promised that, in due course, he would tell voters about Tory spending plans BEFORE the election. Tory strategists believe that voters are not yet clamouring for details from the Tories and that they don't expect them until nearer the election time when the scale of the budgetary challenge facing the incoming government is clearer. In the meantime the Tories intend to show they are working hard on plans to deliver better value for taxpayers' money and that ministers will be promoted (or sacked) in proportion to their success at cutting their budgets and using decentralisation and technology to deliver better services. "More for less," is David Cameron's promise.
Highlights from David Cameron's Spring Forum address:
We've created a balanced and true Conservatism: "Yes we’re the party of strong borders, law and order and low taxes – and we always will be. But today we’re also the party of the NHS, the environment and of social justice too."
Britain needs massive change: "Unless we deal with this debt crisis, we risk becoming once again the sick man of Europe. Our recovery will be held back, and our children will be weighed down, by a millstone of debt. So this is no time for business as usual. This is no time for more of the same. There is only one way out of this mess, and that is through massive change. I’m frustrated it’s not happening. I’m impatient to get on with it. And today I want to explain what the change needs to be."
We will tell people how we'll balance the books BEFORE the General Election: "In the weeks and months ahead, the Shadow Cabinet will redouble its efforts to identify wasteful and unnecessary public spending. Make no mistake: I am very clear about how much more work there is still to be done in order to identify significant future savings. We will carry out this work. We will do so responsibly. And in time, we will set out the hard choices that lie ahead."
Ministers will be promoted if they deliver more on smaller budgets: "With a Conservative government, if ministers want to impress the boss, they’ll have to make their budgets smaller, not bigger. On my watch it will be simple: if you do more for less you get promoted if you do less for more, you get sacked. If we’d had this approach over the last twelve years, I don’t suppose there’d be a single Labour Minister left. But this culture of thrift must apply to the civil service too. So we’ll impose a new fiduciary responsibility on senior civil servants – a contractual obligation to save the taxpayer money. And every government department needs a proper finance director. Some of them today aren’t proper accountants – flint-faced or not. With such huge sums of public money at stake a Conservative government will make sure we have the professional financial controls the taxpayer has a right to expect."
It was right to raise taxes when Britain last faced a debt crisis: "For me, this is very personal. Fifteen years ago, I was in the Treasury as we had to deal with public finances that had got out of control; debt that had got too high. We had to put up taxes, and I hated it. But it was the right thing to do and that lesson has stayed with me. That’s why I’m a fiscal conservative."
Closing flourish: "Labour’s leaders say only they stand for fairness. Fairness? These Labour ministers, saddling future generations with debt? These Labour ministers, making our children pay the price of their incompetence? Their “fairness” is utterly phoney. So let’s turn our anger into passion ad our passion into action to give Britain the leadership she needs. Yes if we win the election, we may not see the full fruits of our labours in the lifetime of our government. But if we stick together and tackle this crisis our children and grandchildren will thank us for what we did for them and for our country."