Spending Review: Election starts here?

This is the week when a blank political canvas starts to be filled.

...the week when we get a picture of where the Treasury axe on spending falls next.

...the week when the parties rehearse the arguments and slogans which we'll hear from now until the next election.

One reason the chancellor's about to unveil plans now for further cuts which won't begin for another two years is politics.

George Osborne, who is of course also the Tories' chief strategist, wants voters to force Labour to answer this question: "So, what would you cut?"

Labour saw that trap coming, which is why the party recently announced that they'd match the coalition's day-to-day departmental spending totals (although they would still borrow up to £10bn more to spend on infrastructure).

Tomorrow we will learn which government departments, if not necessarily which programmes, will face cuts amounting to £11.5bn in 2015 - that's an average of 8% per department which hasn't been ring-fenced.*

George Osborne has made clear that, despite a flurry of newspaper stories, the schools budget will be protected, along with the NHS and overseas aid.

In a dry run for tomorrow's announcements in the Commons Ed Balls argued that the need for yet more cuts was the consequence of the failure of the coalition's economic policies. The chancellor replied that trusting Labour with the books would be like trusting Dracula with running a blood bank.

Ah well. Only 97 weeks to go until we all get to go to the polls again to choose our government.

* International development has been protected, as has spending on health and schools in England.