By Tim Montgomerie
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There is a near consensus in the Sunday newspapers that Steve Hilton's departure is a big moment in the life of the Coalition. The Sunday Times (£), Telegraph, Observer and Mail on Sunday all interpret Mr Hilton's departure as a sign that he had become too frustrated with both EU red tape and Whitehall obstruction. The reason he might return to Britain and stand as a directly-elected mayor is that he wants to become his own boss. Although there is no big fall out between the PM and his guru the guru now wants to be his own man. In recent times the Prime Minister has increasingly taken the side of Jeremy Heywood and Ed Llewellyn – the two people inside Number 10 who most bridle at Hilton's ambition to "change everything".
I have two thoughts this morning…
The next phase of this Coalition must be implementation, implementation, implementation
This seems to be Matthew d'Ancona's view. "All the policies are in place," he writes, "now it’s time for delivery". That's certainly the PM's view. In in his under-reported speech of yesterday he made the claim that his government had avoided the easy path and had taken big and bold decisions in multiple areas. He listed deficit reduction, public sector pensions reform, big reductions in welfare spending, changes to the planning system, Michael Gove's schools policies and, of course, Andrew Lansley's NHS Bill. Whether Mr Cameron is correct in his description of these changes as radical will now depend upon whether they are properly implemented. There are big questions about the IT project needed to deliver IDS' universal credit. Only a small fraction of George Osborne's spending cuts have been made. Policy Exchange think tank is worried about the pressure to dilute the planning bill.
Cameron needs to appoint some proven implementers to government to help ensure the most important reforms are delivered. Hilton has been frustrated that too much power has been given to civil servants. Cameron should take a leaf out of Boris Johnson's book and appoint some of the best Tories in local government to Number 10. The late Sir Simon Milton of Westminster Council and Eddie Lister of Wandsworth have ensured the Mayor of London has been able to get his reforms implemented despite the resistance of City Hall. If Cameron is looking for a similar figure top of the list should be the outgoing leader of Hammersmith and Fulham, Stephen Greenhalgh. Stephen is probably the most effective leader in local government at this moment. He's cut taxes, streamlined the bureaucracy, overhauled the council's property portfolio and maintained essential services. His country needs him.
The one area of missing radicalism is the one that counts most… growth
Although I'm largely of the view that there has been a breakneck feel to the Coalition there is one area where more radicalism is needed and that's economic reform. Planning reform, simplification and restructuring of the tax system, changing Britain's treatment of EU regulation, modernisation of transport infrastructure, ending national pay bargaining, introducing a strategic industrial policy… all of these things are happening too slowly. But this is a big subject that I'll touch on properly (again) on another day.