Tony Blair is seeking to force Gordon Brown to sign up to a far-reaching agenda of new Labour reforms before he leaves office, according to a leaked letter to the prime minister.
The overhaul, designed to be implemented over the next 10 years, covers all aspects of government, including crime, security, immigration and the running of schools and hospitals.
It calls for a greater role for the private sector — a suggestion that will irritate Brown — and for cutting Whitehall staff by 50%, potentially meaning 350,000 civil servants could be sacked.
The letter, dated January 12 and marked “confidential — personal”, outlines the prime minister’s “emerging ideas” for his last months in office which he hopes will be so far advanced when his successor takes over that Brown will have to follow them.
The memo was written by David Bennett, the head of the No 10 policy directorate, in advance of a policy summit at Chequers last Friday.
It brings together suggestions from policy groups set up by Blair in the wake of last autumn’s botched “coup” attempt by Brownites. Their job was to study ideas for Britain’s long-term future. The suggestions in Bennett’s memo include:
• A “clean-sheet redesign of Whitehall”, resulting in “a radical (50%+) downsizing”.
• Limiting immigration to “where it clearly benefits the UK” and making British citizenship a “greater prize” for immigrants.
• Faith schools being twinned with schools of different religions.
• Ensuring preachers recruited from abroad should have “a proper command of English”.
• Prescribing addictive drugs in a bid to help tackle drug-related crime.
• Sentencing repeat offenders to “a night spent in the cells” plus unpaid work, rather than lengthy and costly periods in prison.
• Higher energy taxes to cover the cost of pollution through so-called carbon pricing and introducing charges by weight for household waste collection.
Following the coup attempt last year, Blair was forced to say he would leave office within 12 months, although last week he confirmed that he wanted to stay until at least the end of June. Blair’s aim was to ensure that the chancellor, who was vulnerable at the time to suggestions that he inspired the plotting, was manoeuvred into continuing his reforms when he takes over.
The prime minister set up review teams in the areas of economic competitiveness; public services, security and crime; the environment and foreign policy.
However, the chancellor’s allies have indicated that Brown will make a decisive break from Blair’s legacy when he enters Downing Street by refusing to keep to the 10-year policy review. Brown is planning a blitz of initiatives during his first 100 days in office, aimed, for example, at restoring the accountability of parliament and distancing his administration from the cash for honours scandal.