Conservative Diary

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It's possible that a more mature debate about spending might emerge after today

Andrew Lansley might have inadvertently succeeded in starting the grown up debate on spending that Fraser Nelson had tried to start but, until now, without much success.

The BBC1 Six'o'clock News didn't focus - as Brown had hoped - on "Tory spending cuts of 10%" but on the true reality - the next government is going to have to cut spending whether it is red or blue.  If we can get to a debate about the nature of that restraint that's an advance.

What we now need from the Conservatives is a simple 100 word statement of Tory policy on spending.  Every shadow cabinet minister can then learn that statement and repeat it ad nauseam in interviews.  There is currently confusion about protected departments, the timing of restraint and the scale of restraint.

The Tory leader's office is "furious" with Andrew Lansley for a second episode of what they described as "loose talk".  The afternoon's operation - putting things right - has been impressive but Andrew Lansley was, to put it politely, casual in his way of describing the current Tory spending strategy.  His first 'gaffe' was a year ago to The Times.  David Cameron has promised that Mr Lansley will be his Public Health Secretary and has been called "unsackable" as a result.  The Tory leader has a very high opinion of Andrew Lansley's understanding of health issues and the respect he has won from NHS employees.  My leader's office source did tell me, however, "no one is unsackable".  "He will not be forgiven another gaffe."

Tim Montgomerie


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