On last night's Newsnight I was amused to see Jeremy Paxman's fake shock at the Guardian front page lead story about the Conservative plans to hold a two day Cabinet session to decide how best to cut public spending. From Paxman's reaction, you would have thought it was akin to King Herod wanting to cull the first born. Philip Hammond dealt with it all rather well, although I'd have preferred him just to say: "Yes, damn right we're going to do this. Isn't that what Cabinet government is all about?" Conservatives must learn not to be defensive about the need to justify every pound of public spending. The public mood is with them on this issue, and people are less likely to be taken in by Labour's increasingly outlandish scare stories.
But the main reason I raise this is that, assuming the Guardian article is essentially true, it demonstrates that Francis Maude's implementation team has really started motoring. The first few months of any new government are crucial. If the requisite level of planning has not been undertaken there is a real risk of drift and ministers being dominated by the civil service machine. I was talking to one Shadow Cabinet Minister yesterday who has already made clear to the Permanent Secretary of the department he is shadowing what will need to be implemented in week one. Maude's challenge is to replicate this level of planning across each and every government department.