Are Tory bank ownership plans a gimmick?
Tory plans to offer a discount to retail investors who buy shares in the semi-nationalised banks are a gimmick, according to Labour and the Lib Dems.
Is that right?
The next government will have to flog well over £70bn of shares in Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Bank in order to avoid a loss on taxpayers' investments.
That would be the biggest privatisation in British history - and possible the biggest in the history of the world.
It's a lot of shares to sell.
So there's sense in widening and deepening the pool of potential buyers.
Most investment bankers would tell you that generating excitement among individuals for the stock - and not relying exclusively on the appetite of investment institutions - would increase the prospects for a successful sale (yes, investment bankers can be trusted on this, even if you happen to be wary of their views on almost everything else).
This is pretty technocratic stuff. Not really a gimmick, in common parlance.
But nor is it really a programme for a new democratic form of capitalism, even if it is a sensible way to help taxpayers make a return on that unprecedented bank bail-out of 16 months ago.
In fact a number of senior City figures have been surprised at what they see as a lack of ambition in the Tory proposal.
They've been saying to me, over the past few months, that it might be an idea for a new government to simply endow most households with shares in the banks - on the argument that taxpayers own the shares anyway, having injected £70bn into them to save them from collapse.
Also it doesn't seem to make a great deal of sense to charge taxpayers a second time for something they already own.
In the act of transferring ownership from state to individuals, we'd all become share-owning capitalists, for better or worse (see more on this below).
And another thing: if the Tories think they're bribing voters with their plan, it's the most hopeless bribe of all time.
The point is that a Tory government would offer retail investors a 10% discount or so on the eventual selling price of the shares.
But George Osborne, the shadow chancellor, has made it clear that no shares would be sold till the share prices of RBS and Lloyds had risen above the price at which the Treasury bought its whopping stakes in both banks.
So RBS and Lloyds shares would have to rise by more than 30% from where they are now, before privatisation would be on the agenda.
Or to put it another way, the Tories are offering a 10% or so discount on a price that would be around a third higher than the current market price.
The Tories' unmissable offer is to sell them eggs rather more expensively than they can be had for ready money today.
All that said, the Tories are hoping to make that more serious political point, to which I alluded earlier. Which is that there has been a collapse in individual ownership of shares.
Over the past 20 years, the proportion of the stock market held by individuals has halved to not much more than 10%.
And less than one in five households own shares, down from more than one in four when Labour came to power.
I think most would say that the Labour government hasn't gone out of its way to undermine individual share ownership - but the trend of declining ownership is striking.
There is an argument - which I'll explore on another occasion - that the heroic task we face to rebuild the international competitiveness of our economy would be helped if more of us had a direct stake in our productive enterprises.