Today in the House of Commons, Gordon Brown made a statement to the House about Building Britain's Future. David Cameron's reply says it all.
"The Prime Minister talks about Building Britain's Future. But isn't it time the British people were asked whether they want him to be part of it? No recognition in that statement that they've been in office for 12 years; No recognition of the catastrophic state of the public finances. The Prime Minister is living in a dream world in which spending is going up, investment is going up, infrastructure is being boosted. When is someone going to tell him that he's run out of money?
He talks for instance about housing. Let me just give him one figure. Housebuilding today is at the lowest level since 1947. People are entitled to ask simply what world he is living in. Mr Speaker, I expect, like me, you will be thinking you have heard a lot of that statement before. And that's not just because the Prime Minister ignored your injunction and leaked most of it in advance. It's because we have heard most of it before. How many times has the country been told to expect the Prime Minister's vision? How many times has it been told to expect a string of policy announcements that was going to be bold reform?
Every single re-launch collapses. And today didn't it happen more quickly than usual? At 7.50am, Peter Mandelson took to the airwaves and promptly sunk the whole thing by cancelling the Government's spending review. So isn't what we have today a package without a price tag? It is just a combination of rehashed initiatives, ideas taken from the Opposition, and some timid and bureaucratic top-down tinkering.
I have to admit there are some good things in here. That's because we thought of them: The future fund; Carbon capture and storage demonstrations. At least they can read and take dictation. Saying for instance if you don't take the job you won't get the benefit. We announced that at our Party Conference two years ago. Every year he says we don't have any policies. And every year he fills his Draft Legislative Programme with them.
Much of the rest of this programme is just rehashed from previous years. The simplification of our immigration rules. That was announced in last year's programme. The Floods Bill. That was recommended in 2007, announced in 2008, and re-announced again this morning in 2009. One-to-one tuition. The NHS check-ups. Both announced last year. The Constitutional Renewal Bill. That is back for the third time in a row. This time apparently it's going to include Lords reform. But the Prime Minister hasn't been reforming the Lords; he's been stuffing it with his cronies. It's the one area of employment in Britain that's rising.
Isn't the real renewal our country needs not just another Bill but a General Election? Where's the Heritage Protection Bill, announced last year? Where are the regulatory budgets that the Prime Minister announced as a way of cutting red tape on business? And what's happening - not a word about the Royal Mail. This was going to be the great virility test of the Prime Minister's reforming zeal. Where is it? Stuck in the post? We were promised Second Reading before the summer recess. Where is it?
Lord Mandelson said in today's FT he was finding himself "jostled" out of the programme. I can't believe Lord Mandelson of Upgrade has ever been jostled out of anything. But let me make the Prime Minister an offer. If he hasn't got time in his packed Parliamentary schedule to get his Royal Mail reforms though, would he like to have our Opposition Day Debate to have the Second Reading next week? Would he welcome that? Just nod.
So much for all the Prime Minister's talk about tough decisions. He has bottled it once again."
"To listen to his statement you would think the Treasury was rolling in money. When is someone going to tell him it has run out? Let me read out what the OECD said just this morning. They say the Government has got to be more 'ambitious' and more 'explicit' about the need for spending cuts. The OECD is joining a growing list - from the IFS to the Governor of the Bank of England and frankly half his Cabinet in private - who admit he has got to be straight with people on spending.
So let me just ask the Prime Minister this very simple question. Will there be a spending review before the General Election? This morning the First Secretary said there wouldn't, and then the Treasury said there might be. Who speaks for the Government? Any household or company faced with this level of debt would start to get it under control. Isn't it essential to start reviewing spending now?
If the first big failure of today's announcement is the lack of honesty on spending, the second failure is surely a lack of real reform of our public services. I suppose we should be grateful for one thing. Year after year this Government and this Prime Minister has promoted and defended its targets culture. Today, they have finally admitted they were wrong all along. But make no mistake: these proposals are about top-down bureaucratic tinkering, not real freedom.
On schools, the Prime Minister talks about putting power in parents' hands. So why is he replacing the raw data of school league tables with manufactured report cards? On the police, why is the Prime Minister just talking about empowering citizens rather than giving them the chance to vote for their elected representatives? On health, why is he restricting the choices people have, rather than letting them and their GPs choose where they get treated?
Then there's the addiction to the initiative. Just take one - Parenting Orders. This is the big new idea apparently on school discipline. It was actually announced in September 2004. And in the past five years, how many pupils have been disciplined in this way? A big fat zero. That is the truth behind the Government's announcement.
The truth about today's statement is it only serves to highlight the decline of this Government. Their money has run out. Their political capital has run out. And now their time is running out too."
"What we've got today is yet another re-launch - a re-launch without a price-tag. And isn't it clear to the whole country that the only way to sort out our finances; to get real reform of our public services; and the only way to build Britain's future is to change this wretched Government?"