Public spending will be a key issue in the next few months. I expect it to be one of the main battlegrounds of the next election campaign. And it is a fight the Conservatives should not shy away from. We know what the Labour attack will be - Tory cuts. It was an effective weapon in 2001 and 2005, but its potency has withered in the fallout from the recession. People recognise that the good times are over and belts need to be tightened. But they need to be tightened across government, not just in selected departments. So I viewed Andrew Lansley's pronouncements yesterday with some concern. He said that in order for spending on Health, Schools and International Development to continue to grow, spending across other departments would have to be cut by 10%. I'd like to have been a fly on Liam Fox's wall when he heard what Lansley had said.
The promise to keep growing expenditure on those areas was made in different economic times, and it needs to be scrapped, and scrapped quickly. Each and every government department needs to cut its spending -without exception. No department is operating at optimum efficiency. No government department has programmes which cannot be reduced in size or abolished. Every government department has some fat to trim, and those that say they don't need to get in some new management.
ConHome says that Labour's attack on supposed Tory cuts yesterday have failed to hit home in the media. That doesn't mean the attacks will stop. If anything they will intensify. But Osborne and Hammond need to stick to their guns and promote a policy of financial stability, reduced borrowing and restraint on spending. They have a persuasive case and they need to make it volubly - but volubly across all government departments, not just those with a black spot at the moment.