I have a new job for Philip Hammond MP. Currently he if the Conservatives' spending spokesman, and what he doesn't know about public spending isn't worth knowing. But he needs to become instead the spokesman on public service renewal – and minister for that if the Conservatives win the election.
You will never streamline the public sector by Treasury ministers bullying departments over money. Instead, you need a complete review of what government does, what it has to do, what it can do better, and what can be done better by other people and by the public. All departments need to buy into that, and it needs a reform, not a finance minister in charge if everyone is going to trust the process and be a part of it. After all, the process may find that spending in some areas should be increased, even if other departments are found to be doing a lot of pointless stuff.
The good news is that this reforming approach worked for Canada, which reduced annual borrowing from 9.1% of GDP in 1993 to zero just five years later – and has been running surpluses for most years since. Our black hole this year, at 12.4% of GDP, is deeper, but I reckon Philip Hammond is up to that job. He should resign his Treasury brief and instead demand to become Shadow Secretary for Public Service Renewal.
I dojn't go along with the last bit - but I so agree with Eamonn's exhortation for the government to review everything it does. I hope this will form a key part of Conservative strategy over the first six months. Each and every programme in each an every department needs to justify its existence. And if any of them are found wanting, they should be axed.