By Ray Fleming

IS David Cameron cracking-up? I ask because of part of the speech he made to the Confederation of British Industry on Monday. In this space yesterday I commented critically of proposals in that speech to limit access to the judicial review system and to cut other “bureaucratic rubbish”.

I had not seen then the following passage from Mr Cameron's speech: “When this country was at war in the 1940s Whitehall underwent a revolution. Normal rules were circumvented. Convention was thrown out. As one historian put it, everything was thrown at the overriding purpose of beating Hitler. Well, this country is in the economic equivalent of a war today -- and we need the same spirit.” I could imagine that passage being heard in a school debate but Mr Cameron was addressing the captains of British industry who must have been appalled by its inappropriateness, irrelevance and naivety.

What exactly does the prime minister intend to do to put Whitehall on a war footing? Does he have it in mind to invite Ed Miliband and Ed Balls to join a war cabinet?

Tomorrow Mr Cameron goes to Brussels to begin negotiations on the EU's future budget; a substantial number of his backbenchers think his call for a freeze is insufficient and want cuts. He is in a weak position and threatening a UK veto on budget increases will make it worse.