Return to the fray
Four billion pounds (to be precise, £4.1bn). That's the cost of today's Tory pledge to scrap the tax on savings for basic rate taxpayers and to increase tax-free allowances for pensioners. So how will they pay for it? The answer is by spending less starting now.
Before Christmas David Cameron had already reversed his policy of matching Labour's planned spending increases for 2010 onwards. Now he's saying he'd spend even less this year too. He hasn't however specified what programmes he'd spend less on. That is not how government works. He has a point.
When any large organisation - the BBC for example - cuts spending its boss announces target savings and his underlings are tasked to identify how exactly they can be found. That however has not been how politics has worked for the past two decades.
For three elections Labour has simply added up Tory "spending cuts" - in fact pledges to increase spending at a lower rate than the government - and then they've told voters how many doctors, nurses or policeman would go as a result. In response, the Conservatives have specified savings in waste or government programmes that they cancelled. In each case the Tories lost the argument and the election.
BCC (that's Before the Credit Crunch), David Cameron and George Osborne concluded that they could not win this battle and that the next election would be all about "it's society, stupid". Today's announcement confirms that they've been forced to return to the fray. Their hope is that the changed circumstances, falling interest rates, rising debts and Labour's acceptance that spending can't go on as it has ,will make their policy an election winner now as it's not proved to be in the past.