For political journalists, this summer has provided no shortage of big stories, of which the unfolding crisis in Syria and Jeremy Corbyn’s unexpected rise to the top of the Labour Party.
The latter in particular has consumed a lot of attention, to the point where the prevailing assumption is that a Tory hegemony is there for the taking.
Yet in all the excitement, it’s important not to forget the challenges facing this Government, with its slender majority, before the next election.
One in particular which ought to be borne in mind is the upcoming spending review. This, due on 25 November, is going to set out the next round of spending reductions, and that isn’t something to be complacent about.
In his foreword to the review document, George Osborne describes the Government’s priorities thus:
“The Spending Review will prioritise our investment in the NHS and in our national security. We will continue to protect spending on schools and honour our commitment to the poorest people in the world. In other areas, we will need to make significant savings.”
Translated, this means that the departments of Health, Defence, and – for better or worse – International Development are effectively ring-fenced. Cuts to other departments are going to be steeper to compensate.
On the site today we find two examples of the sort of battles the spending review is likely to trigger: Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, facing off with the Prime Minister over the fate of Nick Clegg’s free school meals programme in the newslinks; and a warning from David Tomlinson of a one-third cut in the London police budget.
Doubtless there will be more such headlines in the next two months. It will take a deft political touch on the Chancellor’s part to navigate the tensions that will inevitably arise between the Treasury and ministers bearing the brunt of spending reduction.
And not just for the Government’s sake. If Osborne wants to succeed David Cameron as leader of the party, the last thing he needs is a round of bruising confrontations with Cabinet colleagues which might overshadow his devolution plans (another policy emphasised in the review).
In the end, this comes down again to the increasingly common warning to Conservatives not to allow ourselves to become complacent in the face of the Corbyn-McDonnell disaster movie. Margaret Thatcher might have steamrollered Michael Foot – but she had a majority of 44.