Tories 'hit the ground running'
David Cameron's Government is attempting to push through reform more vigorously and more swiftly than the Thatcher or Blair regimes when they first came to power, a senior Conservative moderniser has said.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude told The Guardian that the Tories thought more than previous governments about how they would use power if they won the general election and were ready to "hit the ground running".
And he brushed off suggestions that the coalition with Liberal Democrats diluted the reform agenda, insisting that there was "a huge overlap" between what the two parties wanted to achieve.
Tory backbencher David Davis's "Brokeback coalition" jibe about Mr Cameron and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was "a bit of a compliment" because it reflected that they enjoyed a strong personal relationship which helped the Government, he said.
Mr Maude told The Guardian: "If you look at the last transitions of governments coming in, I would say one of the things that Lady Thatcher regretted was not pushing ahead vigorously enough, and quickly enough, in terms of reform.
"The big reforming Thatcher governments were not until the 1983 and 1987 governments. Similarly, the Blair government did not just waste its first 100 days, it wasted its first five years.
"By contrast, we have prepared very carefully. This was work that I was leading in opposition. Obviously, it had to be adapted for the purposes of the coalition, but nonetheless we came in with a huge overlap between what the Lib Dems wanted and what we wanted to do. Clearly, we had thought a lot more about how we would do it, so we were well equipped to hit the ground running."
Mr Maude made a merit of the need to forge a coalition with the Lib Dems. "For a government facing a national crisis, to be a broad-based government is a huge advantage," he said.
Mr Maude acknowledged that the coalition administration's austerity agenda would result in "pain", and said the Government would have to work to persuade voters that it would deliver results.
"People absolutely get it that it has to be done, but there is a difference between agreeing to spending cuts in principle and accepting ones in particular," he said. "We have got to persuade people that if we go through this pain, we will be in a better place in two or three or four years' time."