Tory economic plans: Cutting spending?
Does the fact that the British economy is limping forward rather than bouncing back undermine the argument for cutting spending now?
Too right it does say Labour insisting that it would "pull the rug" from the economy and remove vital support from families and businesses.
Absolutely not reply the Tories. It is vital to restore confidence in the British economy which, in turn, will keep interest rates lower for longer whereas "doing nothing" about the deficit will force them up.
Yesterday I suggested that the Tories were softening their rhetoric on the deficit by talking of "making a start" to reducing it.
Team Osborne reject this insisting that they've always said that they would cut back spending this year whilst acknowledging that there are real practical limits to what can be cut quickly.
My sense was though, and still is, that they are nervous of Labour's repeated claims that they would cut "deeper and faster" - words that the Tories have not, as far as I can discover, used themselves.
Hold on, you may say, didn't David Cameron say as much to Andy Marr in his New Year's interview? This is what he actually said:
Andrew Marr: What I'm not clear about is whether you want to go further; whether you want the actual amount of money taken out of government budgets to be more than the 57/58 billion pounds the government are talking about, or whether you simply want to start the process earlier?
David Cameron: Well it's both and one leads to the other.
The Tory argument is that by starting cutting earlier - this year not next - they would progress further and faster than Labour.
So, why do they resist the description "deeper and faster" - other than for the obvious political reason that it scares some voters rigid?
They argue that the deficit is not like a hole in the road - of fixed size. The argument, therefore, is not simply about when you start filling it or how much you fill or at what speed. It is, also, about how you stop the hole growing.
They argue that starting cutting the deficit earlier would restore confidence so the economy would grow quicker. Therefore, there would potentially be less - not more - cutting to do. Growth would do more of the job.
Labour, of course, argues that government spending promotes growth and therefore reduces the public spending cuts needed in the future.
(My colleague Stephanie Flanders has written more about this here.)