Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Is Cameron about to Lose Guru in Policy Clash with Osborne?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Is Cameron about to Lose Guru in Policy Clash with Osborne?

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy

DAVID CAMERON is in danger of losing one of his closest and most senior allies at No 10 amid Tory jitters that the Coalition is retreating from truly radical policies.

Downing Street insiders believe that Steve Hilton, the Prime Minister's brilliant but controversial policy chief, is losing heart because too many bold ideas are being blocked by Chancellor George Osborne.

The disclosure comes on a day that the decision to water down NHS reforms came under searing fire from former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn and it was claimed that Francis Maude's plans to let voluntary groups and the private sector take over a swathe of public services are being delayed and may be diluted. A Downing Street source denied a Times report that Mr Maude's White Paper had been postponed until the autumn, saying: "I would expect it to be published before the summer."

A Conservative source said: "I doubt if Steve Hilton will stay at Downing Street all the way to the general election."

A Whitehall insider added: "People close to him think he could leave." Losing Mr Hilton would be a grievous personal blow to Mr Cameron as well as a political loss because the two men and their wives are close friends. Mr Hilton and wife Rachel Whetstone, a senior executive at Google, were chosen as godparents to David and Samantha's first-born child, Ivan.

Although distrusted by some Tory MPs as a former marketing man who persuaded Mr Cameron to "hug huskies" to change his image and invented the "Big Society" agenda, Mr Hilton is a diehard Right-winger who is motivated by ambitious policy reform. Appointed as No 10 policy chaser across Whitehall this year, he told colleagues that "everything must have changed by 2015", the date of the next general election. He has driven a radical cut in state regulation and has told bemused MPs: "Our policies should be like a fairground. …

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