Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Don't Get Mad...

Not really a rattle chucker

In the don't get mad get even stakes, Lord Turnbull's whack at Gordo is top-flight. His Lordship says G takes a:

“very cynical view of mankind and his colleagues. He cannot allow them any serious discussion about priorities. His view is that it is just not worth it and ‘they will get what I decide’. And that is a very insulting process...

It has enhanced Treasury control, but at the expense of any government cohesion and any assessment of strategy. You can choose whether you are impressed or depressed by that, but you cannot help admire the sheer Stalinist ruthlessness of it all."

And Turnbull- a Treasury man through and through remember- repeats the mounting concerns about the unhealthy concentration of power there under Gordo (see this blog- it's almost as if Turnbull had spoken to Osborne...).

In particular, he cites the use of "celebrity policy reviews" (Wanless, Leitch et al), in place of getting policy departments to come up with their own ideas; the direct control over so much spending (eg the disastrous tax credit system); and the "denial of information as an instrument of power.”

Now Tyler remembers Turnbull from old-time Treasury days back in the 1700s or thereabouts. And a less likely chucker of rattles you couldn't hope to find. So we need to listen, especially given the fact that he served as HMT Perm Sec for four years under Gordo.

And the key message is that the Treasury has got so big and all-encompassing, it's actually lost its way. The power has not only corrupted, it's made the Treasury much less effective at its traditional and vital role of scrutinising public spending, and gripping the purse strings.

Thankfully, as we blogged here, George does seem "fully seized of the problem" (let's at least get back to authentic Sir Humphrey lingo). But he does need to spell out more detail on how he would actually go about stripping things back to basics. This interesting speech was a start in the right direction, but he needs to nail himself more securely: well before he inherits the kingdom and gets seduced by its baubles.

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