The beginning of a long, long election
Christmas is finally over. We are all back to work. The nation is in the grip of a big freeze.
What better to warm our hearts, then, than the publication of an election manifesto, or at least a bit of one, along with the start of a massive billboard campaign and a dossier pointing out the black holes in the opposition's policies?
Yes, folks: it's the beginning of a long, long election, and the two biggest parties have begun setting out their stores. But before you sigh with weary cynicism, remember that underneath all this, some important choices are struggling to get through. How much should government spend, and when, and on what priorities?
The Tories prioritise deficit reduction; Labour what it calls investment for growth. The Tories prioritise spending on the NHS; Labour on education.
You could perhaps, if you ignore the events of the past 12 months, want to turn to economists for guidance about who's getting it right. Turn to the Financial Times this morning, and a survey will give you your answer. Half think Labour is; half think the Conservatives are.
Labour HQ, 1004: The chancellor has just unveiled what he claims is a £34bn "credibility gap" in Tory plans.
With not the faintest hint of irony, he claimed he was being "generous" to the Conservatives in his interpretation of their plans.
The estimated cost is based on Tory aspirations to cut some taxes and on hints and nudges that they will increase some spending.
This is a copy from the Tories' 1992 war book, when Shaun Woodward - yes, the man who is now a Labour cabinet minister - helped to run the devastating "Labour's Tax Bombshell" campaign that ended with a surprise victory for John Major against Neil Kinnock.
At this stage, Labour, like the Tories back then, hopes that this analysis will help journalists to ask difficult questions of Tory front-benchers and that they will fall apart under scrutiny.
Later, they will no doubt use this to justify a poster campaign warning of "Tory cuts".
Anticipating all this, David Cameron this morning will unveil a poster of himself to go on billboards right around the country. Its slogan: "We can't go on like this. I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS."