Best laid plans


When Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister, he was asked what worried him most. Famously, he replied, "Events, dear boy, events".

And that's probably how the Tories feel right now. Their party conference, no doubt planned down to the smallest detail to show them as a government-in-waiting, has been overshadowed by the financial crisis.

So far though, they've made a good fist of it. Shadow Chancellor George Osborne's speech on Monday was, I thought, very well judged. His proposals for an independent Office of Budgetary Responsibility, which would impose a "straightjacket" on government spending and ensure progress towards a balanced budget, are very welcome, and his overall message – that government must tighten its belt like the rest of us – spot on.

My only criticism is that he did not go far enough. Cutting consultancy budgets and government advertising is a good start and an easy target. But I suspect the UK's finances will be so bad by 2010 that a more radical approach to public spending will be required.

There are a few good suggestions on ConservativeHome's Platform here. My own approach would include freezing real-terms public spending, freezing civil service recruitment, and then abolishing the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, the Wales Office, the Scotland Office, and all the regional QUANGOs. I doubt anyone would miss them.