18 September 2009

Suddenly, cuts are the order of the day

The Treasury leak has clearly got under Brown’s skin.  David Cameron was spot on yesterday when he told Radio Oxford that the prime minister had been "completely caught out in telling people the opposite of what he was actually planning to do".  Indeed he has.  Here is Our Dear Leader, on the defensive, saying there has been no cover-up:

Under no circumstances have we done anything other than publish the documentation that was essential at the budget.  We are prepared to discuss and debate the figures that have arisen from that.

Like Mandy, he doesn't deny the accuracy of the leak.

Now, swinging into action during the dead of night comes Nick Robinson, Brown’s spokesman for all important matters, blogging and broadcasting that talks about cuts are indeed under way:

This week the chancellor, Alastair Darling, began meetings with senior cabinet colleagues to ask them to establish their spending priorities and to identify possible savings in their departments. Sources say that the Treasury has not yet set ministers a percentage target for cuts although this might follow.

Consideration is being given to the idea that the cabinet as a whole should agree where the spending axe should fall so that, as a previous chancellor once graphically put it, all get to dip their hands in the blood.

Then, Nick kindly exposes Brown’s newly found strategy that will give Cameron plenty of time to prepare his response:

Some of the savings identified are to be revealed in the chancellor's pre-Budget report due this Autumn which is now likely to give much more detail about future spending plans than previously planned. Alastair Darling is said to believe that it is only when Labour has set out its spending priorities that the Conservatives will come under real pressure to spell out theirs.

There we have it.  A not-so carefully-timed announcement on the back of the Treasury leak and Brown’s U-turn at the TUC, although he, with Robinson following behind, will probably tell us this bombshell of a statement was always going to be made before our alarm clocks went off.

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