Time for David and George to get their House in order
It is a bizarre state of affairs when the maiden speech of an unknown Tory MP called Heidi Allen derails one of the key elements of the government's welfare reform agenda.
Yet this is what has happened. Her naive maiden speech was manna from heaven for both Jeremy Corbyn and Tory critics of the Chancellor. Last night's votes in the House of Lords were the sordid culmination of a rather sad episode.
The PM needs to ensure that going forward he can rely on his Chief Whip guaranteeing that Tory MPs support the government on key votes. If not the government will soon start to resemble the miserable shambles that was the John Major government.
There are some pretty big issues which need to be tackled as a matter of urgency by both the PM and his Chancellor.
The first is party loyalty on key votes. There are now too many perennial rebels who indulge themselves and then turn up to be interviewed on the Today programme. This may be acceptable if the majority was over a hundred but it isn't! The Chief Whip has to get tough.
The second is the Tory Party's view of the relationship between the individual and the state. Gordon Brown used Tax Credits to ensure that far too many people (in and out of work) relied on handouts from the state. Tories cannot accept such a position. Going forward the balance must veer towards greater freedom for the individual and less power for all the many organs of the state. Reform of Tax Credits is an essential part of this journey. Tory MPs need to read Hayek's The Road to Serfdom ...
The third is political common sense. It is quite rightly never easy being radical. There are always too many vested interests who will oppose any change. It is therefore essential that the government moves quickly to introduce and deliver on all the most controversial elements of its policy agenda. As a young councillor in Wandsworth in the 1980's I soon realised that you must be courageous and just do it. Caution and pragmatism are the enemies of radicalism.
The fourth and last issue is communication and control of the Tory narrative. The Number 10 machine was pretty hopeless during the coalition government and there are no signs that things have got any better. The PM needs to clear out those advisers who have clearly failed and bring in the best from the real world. Being in control of the narrative is essential.
Today is a bad day for not only the Chancellor but the Tory Party as a whole. A line now needs to be drawn. Lessons have hopefully been learned. The alternative is John McDonnell succeeding George Osborne as Chancellor. Perhaps Heidi Allen should ponder that.