Clegg and Cameron’s joint letter to Cabinet

The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have issued a reminder of the Coalition government’s priorities in the form of a joint letter to their Cabinet colleagues.

The letter, aimed at the public just as much as ministers, includes a summary of the “central purpose that will guide all our decisions as a government.” The letter says that deficit reduction and economic recovery will be achieved by redistributing power from government to communities and people, and by governing for the long term.

It’s a message, amid criticism of the cuts that the government has announced over its first twelve weeks, that the Coalition is looking at the long haul.

Here’s the text of the letter in full:

Dear colleague,

In the weeks ahead you will be engaging in vital negotiations with the Treasury about the Spending Review, with important decisions to be made to deal with the legacy of the previous government and restore health to the public finances and confidence to our economy. In that context we thought it would be helpful to remind you of the discussions held at our cabinet meeting at Chequers just over a week ago – and the conclusions we reached about the central purpose that will guide all our decisions as a government.

Deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain. We agreed that, as we deliver this, our government’s purpose is to make two major shifts in our political and national life:

The first is a radical redistribution of power from government to communities and people, to reverse decades of over-centralisation. Almost all our plans involve giving individuals, families and communities more control over their lives – whether that’s through opening new schools, giving locally elected councillors a say over local NHS services or holding local police to account. The importance of this approach cannot be overstated. It underpins our attitude to public service reform. It animates our plans for genuine localism. It explains our focus on government transparency. If we are true to this purpose then the people of this country will feel a new sense of power and responsibility in their daily lives.

The second fundamental change is that this government, unlike previous governments, will govern for the long term. That’s why we are prepared to take the difficult decisions necessary to equip Britain for long-term success. This approach not only underpins our commitment to safeguarding our environment for future generations and to restoring transparency and accountability to our politics, it must also underpin everything we do in the spending review. That means welfare reform that will get people off benefits and into work; effective support for children in the crucial early years to provide them with a fair chance in life; tackling the blight of youth unemployment and long-term investment in our infrastructure to build a competitive and sustainable economy for the future. These should be our priorities, not the short term gimmicks, top down dictats and wasteful subsidies of the past.

So this is the purpose of our government, in one sentence: putting power in the hands of communities and individuals and equipping Britain for long-term success. Over the course of the Spending Review we need you to ensure that this purpose is felt across your departments. Whatever the options on the table, whatever the decision to be made, the same questions must be asked: will it put more power in people’s hands? And will it equip Britain for long-term success?

Finally we want to thank you for your hard work and commitment to this coalition. It’s been an intense and at times tough twelve weeks – we hope you get a good summer break.

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  • I get a strange sense of operating in a parallel universe when reading this letter. There are many statements that, on the face of it, can be agreed with wholeheartedly – tackling the blight of youth unemployment or investing in infrastructure (in a sustainable way), for example. Yet these statements apparently have very little relationship to the policies that are actually being pursued. So perhaps it’s not me – Cameron/Clegg perhaps take a more Orwellian approach to political communication than usual – not so much “slavery” as “absence of a job” (or an income) is freedom.

    Similarly, it is hard to square the idea that the government is in it for the long haul with an approach to policy-making which seems to entail rushing through badly thought out, half-baked or plain wrong headed initiatives as fast as possible. The long haul would seem to suggest a more measured approach. If you were to focus on the actions rather than the words (of the letter) one might be more inclined to think that they were trying to push as many pet Tory projects through as fast as possible because they expect the whole thing to implode in the not too distant future (when the AV vote heads south?).

    The commitment to localism is, of course, commendable. But handing as many complex or wicked issues down to local communities and saying “we’re not going to do anything, you sort it out” isn’t an all-purpose approach to delivering fairness and social justice. Is it heretical to suggest that there are some problems that require a strategic approach (and funding) that can only be delivered at a more aggregate scale? Presumably once the large multinational corporations move in to take over chunks of the erstwhile public sector then the countervailing power of communities to make them locally accountable will be limited anyway.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 3rd Aug '10 - 3:07pm

    “… Cameron/Clegg perhaps take a more Orwellian approach to political communication than usual …”

    More like Lewis Carroll than George Orwell, I reckon.

  • Michael Gove – Slithy Tove

    Should have seen it – the clues were there all along!

  • Translation: We’re going to decimate the welfare state and then try to deflect the blame on to local organisations.

  • “should be our priorities, not the short term gimmicks”

    Just how many cost saving ideas did the coalition government departments take on board from the 9500 responses they got from their online consultation? That’s right: none. Costly gimmicks abound.

    Have any lib dems given any thought to the dilemma that might arise when you find that if you dismantle the state’s support mechanisms for public services and leave them to volunteers and local communities, that those communities with the most wealth and the most articulate voices (who need the least from the state) will have plenty of resource, and those with the least wealth and voice will have much less? I understand the desire for liberalism and localism, but you also talk about fairness. When and how will that kick in?

  • The sooner local people have control over their local hospitals the better. Under Labour our local hospital has been stripped of it’s maternity and special care baby unit. A unit that local residents had raised substantial amounts of money for and then watched helpless as Labour politicians took it away. A & E also gone under Labour. So I for one am willing to give the coalition a chance to sort out Labours mess.

  • ” I for one am willing to give the coalition a chance to sort out Labour’s mess”. For all their faults Labour put an awful lot of money into the NHS, in reality “giving the coalition a chance” means letting the Tory iIdeologues lose to chop the NHS, an organisation that they have hated since its inception, and which they would dearly love to see wither. As LibDems you are as guilty as them for helping. Don’ t imagine for one moment that LibDems’ influence exists in this “coalition”, Clegg and Co. are doing exactly as they are told by Cameron, Osborne et al. (just how much humiliation can Cable take?). I voted LibDem, my goodness if I could only turn the clock back! They disgust me, and they think people like me will be grateful in a couple of year’s and vote for them. Never, and I do mean Never.

  • Ian mitchell 3rd Aug '10 - 11:16pm

    “engaging in vital negotiations with the Treasury ”
    negotiations with the treasury are always vital for the old, sick, needy, infirm and less fortunate .

    This is just PR flannel , paving the way for the wholesale desmantling of the welfare state.

    The liberals waiting such a long time to make a difference and get back into power and look what you’re going to be remembered for.
    What a legacy.
    Its a disgrace

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Aug '10 - 11:41pm

    I agree with Alix M. When I first heard of this letter I supposed perhaps there had been an outbreak of common sense, and it was saying “stopped all this rushed through restructuring, and let’s stick to basic cost-cutting”. But no, they appear to be blind to the fact that even worthwhile restructuring is expensive to implement, and I am far from convinced that all the restructuring being proposed is at all worthwhile.

    For instance, “opening new schools, giving locally elected councillors a say over local NHS services or holding local police to account” is all going to cost more. The second and third of these mean at the least more bureaucracy in order to enable this giving a say and holding to account. The first quite obviously involves spending more money. It is plain ridiculous to say that the priority is deficit reduction and then follow up immediately with things that cost more money.

    I would also say that “radical redistribution of power from government to communities and people” ignores the central issue of today that government does NOT have big power – big business has taken over a lot of what government used to be able to control, so anyone who really wanted a radical distribution of power to communities and people would be tackling centralisation into the hands of the big companies and city financiers. Sorry, but this letter is written by people who are either clueless, or issuing sinister propaganda they know is rubbish.

    Anyone who says they are all about “putting power in the hands of communities and individuals” but who says NOTHING about how the power of big money dominates our society and leaves communities and individuals powerless and helplessly pushed around is just, well everyting I went into politics to oppose. How am I supposed to be a member of a party led by an author of this which is at best ignorant crap, at worst lying propaganda?

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Aug '10 - 11:45pm


    The sooner local people have control over their local hospitals the better. Under Labour our local hospital has been stripped of it’s maternity and special care baby unit.

    Er, yes, probably because it’s cheaper to have one big maternity and special care baby unit miles from you, rather than many scattered around so that more people have one close by. Unless it is proposed to give local people a lot more money so they can open small and epensive local units and say “yah boo” to the efficiency of large scale centralisation, all this claim of “people power” is rubbish. The only power they will have is to decide what to cut first.

  • Matthew Huntbach 3rd Aug '10 - 11:57pm


    I voted LibDem, my goodness if I could only turn the clock back! They disgust me, and they think people like me will be grateful in a couple of year’s and vote for them. Never, and I do mean Never.

    Never? What if the LibDems got rid of Clegg?

    As a member of the Liberal Democrats I’ve been trying hard to accept that the people of this country (foolishly) elected enough Conservative MPs to make a Conservative-led government the only viable option, and we in the Liberal Democrats have to accept this as what democracy gave us, we have to accept also that the need for a stable government means some sort of no-opposition agreement with them. I’d sort of thought “give them a couple of years to see what they can do”, but Clegg is making it VERY hard to stick to that.

    DaveN – there are many more party members who think like me. Please don’t write off our party on account of its leader as if the rest of us are forced to obey him or accept what he says. We are a democratic liberal party, not a Leninist or a fascist one. Ultimtaely, if enough of us in the oarty say “we are not prepared to accept what our leader is doing – we have no confidence in him”, he has to go.

    We CAN change things and bring down this coalition, or at least force it to pay more attention to mainstream Liberal Democrat opinion if we can show there are large numbers of people out there who WILL support the Liberal Democrats if the party gets rid of Clegg. If, however, the line is “I’ll never vote LibDem again”, we have no bargaining power, because Cameron can just turn round to us and say “Go ahead, make my day, if you don’t give in to me, I’ll call a general election and you LibDems will all be out”.

  • I’ve read the letter, there is very lttle about about the need to cut and an awful lot about why we want to. Who wouldn’t be in favour of restoring our civil liberties and empowerment but it seems the economic argument has changed: cuts aren’t really about reducing the deficit – they are about the Conservative’s social agenda that it seems our party leadership believed in all along and are now actively campaigning for. Pity the leadership didn’t make that clear to all the voters before the election. Our own fault, we should have read the Orange Book and not the election leaflets (‘only the LDs can defeat the Tories here’ I seem to recall it said in my daughter’s constituency) or what we thought we heard on the hustings about the manifesto . The eight members of my family scattered in five different constituencies might still have split their vote 6LD and 2 to Labour but at least we would all have known what we were voting for or against. Just for the record, I’ve done my own family poll to ask if the coalition and what has happened since has altered the way we would vote. The voting next time will be 2 LD, one Conservative (the youngest voter), two Labour (the oldest) and one Green and one SNP and one who says there is now no left of centre party to vote for but she’ll vote tactically if there’s a chance to get rid of Trident. No one seems particularly enthusiastic about the education and NHS reforms, especially those old enough to remember how shabby the local hospital was and how long the waiting lists under the last Conservative Gov. Hardly You Gov. but real LD voters who will think long and very hard about whether the LD party is still the one they want next time.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Aug '10 - 10:00am

    There’s just so little logic to this process that it’s pointless trying to discuss it rationally. Especially when you wouldn’t trust either of the protagonists further than you could throw them.

  • Annie wrote:

    “Our own fault, we should have read the Orange Book and not the election leaflets”

    No, you should have voted for Chris Huhne, rather than the North American owned media endorsed candidate, who won by the skin of his teeth (“Calamity Clegg”).

  • Sorry I spoke. The Clegg loyalists are going to fight to defend their man, even if it means splitting the party. Why didn’t I realise that and keep my mouth shut?

    A few facts/observations:

    (1) The Liberal Democrats are not in government. It is a Conservative government, run by Conservatives, which is pursuing a right-wing Thatcherite agenda (much of it dehors the Coalition Agreement). The Liberal Democrats are propping this government up under the threat of a second general election that the Conservatives might win outright and the promise of a referendum on a tweak to the electoral system that no-one wants.

    (2) The purpose of Cameron’s proposed boundary “review” (no right of appeal, and a blatant attempt to oust the jurisdiction of the courts, please note) is to stitch up the electoral system in the Conservative Party’s favour. If Cameron gets away with this, we will get 20 MPs for 23% of the vote. We will be a rump of irrelevant curiosities confined to the “Celtic fringe”.

    (3) Clegg won the Lib Dem Leadership for two reasons. (i) He was hyped shamelessly by the North American owned media, and (ii) we were told he had Blair-like charisma that would be unleashed on the electorate once installed as leader. Clegg very nearly didn’t win because (i) members thought he was too right-wing, and (ii) Chris Huhne out-performed Clegg on the hustings.

    (4) Clegg is not a Tory. Yes, he is a devoted free-marketeer, but he is liberal on social issues, is pro-European and is in favour of the international rule of law (no, he is not a neocon). Cameron is good at greasing him up, but how does he rub along with Hague and Duncan Smith?

    (5) At present, the Liberal Democrats are barely functioning as a party at national level. Our Parliamentarians are spending their time defending a right-wing Tory government instead of campaigning for Liberal Democrat policies and values.

    (6) Our North American owned media have conspicuously failed thus far to hype David Miliband in the way they hyped Blair, Cameron and Clegg. That suggests to me that the elites who pull the strings in this country have no intention of allowing Labour to form a government any time soon. Cameron is here for the long-term, and won’t be needing Lib Dem support once the boundary “review” is complete. Unless we get real and plot our exit strategy fast.

    What is to be done? That is the question anyone who cares about our party should be asking.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 4th Aug '10 - 12:58pm

    “What is to be done?”

    Not much, as far as I can see, apart from trying to improve the presentation. But I don’t think it’s the presentation that’s unpopular.

  • libdems in my neck of the woods have to go out after dark.
    what has the leadership gone and done? Grassroots are jumping ship, very worried about next May. Scared of doorstep reactions. How can libdems be promoted now? Cant be trusted on anything, haven’t softened tories- Laws cuts deeper than tories and he’s still working for coalition, has to go in back way now, mind.
    Falling daily in the polls, how will Conference be greeted and reported -just a laughing stock. Seriously considering whether being tories figleaf is worth it.

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