By Tim Montgomerie
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I recently argued that this autumn would give us a very good sense of whether David Cameron was a radical or a managerial Prime Minister. In an article for the Mail on Sunday (at the bottom of this link) the Prime Minister admits that his government has been too slow on measures to boost growth and intervene in the lives of Britain's most broken families.
On the economy he writes:
"We’re cutting corporation tax to the lowest rate in the G7, creating new Enterprise Zones across the country, making the planning system more supportive of the need to grow and increasing the number of apprenticeships to record levels. But frankly, we haven’t gone far enough. My order to Whitehall this autumn is to think even more boldly about what we can do to put the turbo-boosters on Britain’s economy – and nothing should be taboo. If that means taking on all the lobby groups that are defending every last bit of the regulation that crushes businesses – then we will do it. And yes, if it means putting even more pressure on the banks so they lend more to small businesses – then we’ll do that too."
He then says "families are the most crucial ingredient of a strong society" and concedes that he hasn't moved fast enough to meet the challenges posed by 120,000 highly dysfunctional families:
"For too long, government has not intervened properly for fear of causing offence or because turning them around is hard, painstaking work. This Government is determined to be different. Last year we developed a plan to get 120,000 of these families back on track. But if we’re honest, this hasn’t been moving fast enough – which is why I’ve made it clear this programme should be accelerated. These problem families have been ducked for too long and we won’t be ducking them now."
The Mail on Sunday says that Cameron is considering whether parents of persistent truants should lose some of their benefits. Welfare claimants may also have to sign on twice as often as part of what the Prime Minister is calling "tough love". Such measures will meet stiff resistance from Liberal Democrats who, as I argue in today's Sunday Telegraph, are in increasingly an assertive mood. Today's ConHome frontpage lists the battles that are raging between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats on banking reform, abortion counselling, the NHS and free schools.
Close aides to Michael Gove are dismissive of reports in The Observer that Clegg has won control of the free schools policy and are blaming over-enthusiastic briefing by the Deputy PM's aides, notably Polly Mackenzie and Richard Reeves. The ban on these schools making a profit was conceded by David Cameron in opposition and confirmed nearly a year ago. The Clegg claim that free schools will only be allowed in poor areas is, I'm told, "ridiculous". Policy will continue as before.