Toughness, or at least the appearance of it, is clearly the theme of the week on Downing
Street. After the vacillations over NHS reform, David Cameron seems to be going out of his way to sound that little bit more hard. There’s the headline on the front of today’s Times, for instance: "Cameron to Europe: not one penny more." And there was the PM’s claim, yesterday, that a Tory majority government would be "tougher" on immigration and welfare. Even the recent hyperactivity of Michael Gove is, I’m sure, all part of the plan, given that schools reform is broadly one of
the areas where the government will (probably) never apologise, never surrender.
But the new hardline isn’t just a straight one, oh no. The government will today announce a u-turn away from Ken Clarke’s original sentencing proposals, and towards a stricter alternative. The plan
to allow crims to serve half their sentence if they plead guilty early will be dropped, among other, toughening measures. The Times carries the noteworthy observation (£) that, "Mr Clegg sided with Mr Clarke at one point in the talks, but backed away as it
became clear that Mr Cameron was in no mood for compromise over the issue of 50 per cent discounts."
There are, however, plenty of factors threatening to chip away at the coalition’s tough, new veneer. It’s still not entirely certain, for instance, that the UK will avoid being wrapped up in a
bailout package for Greece — and it’s probable that we will have to fulfil some of our IMF obligations to help support that stricken nation. There’s a report today which suggests that the government is unlikely to meet the Tory aspiration to reduce immgration to the "tens of thousands" by
2015. And then, of course, there’s Boris and his pen. Will any of this be tough enough
for the Mayor of London?