Back to the future
In the week when Gene Hunt has been deployed by both Labour and the Tories, when it's emerged that Saatchis admen are working on all three main parties' campaigns and when the Lib Dems unveiled a re-working of the Tories' old tax bombshell ad this election is rapidly taking on a "Back to the Future" quality.
It's not, however, simply the ads or the admen who seem trapped in the past. So, too the debate. So far we appear to be locked into the tediously familiar pattern of political leaders promising that they could deliver gain for little or no pain whilst costing their opponents' promises and declaring that their "sums don't add up".
Yet all parties agree that we are in a new world in which thanks to a vast budget deficit whoever forms the next government will need to make cuts bigger than those made in any recent decade and to increase taxes as well.
It's worth pondering on when you hear:
• the Tories say they can head off one tax rise (national insurance) whilst cutting other taxes (inheritance tax, council tax and some, as yet unspecified, marriage tax breaks) whilst also cutting the deficit faster than Labour and protecting spending on health and international development.
• Labour say they can give voters service guarantees in schools, hospitals and from the police whilst holding some taxes - income tax and capital gains - and cutting others - stamp duty on house sales whilst cutting the deficit in half.
• and the Lib Dems say they can cut the deficit more, but not quicker, than Labour and cut most workers' tax by £700 a year at a cost of £16bn by closing tax loopholes.. oh, and taxing mansions... and flights... and pensions and, of course, capital gains. Ask them who will actually feel the pain and how much they'll be and you are told "it's very complicated and depends on your behaviour".
I don't doubt that all the parties could deliver what they promise. Indeed, the civil service are, as we speak, working up the ideas for whoever forms the next government. The mandarins will, however, include the the downsides as well as the up.
It will be interesting to see who's willing to tell the truth over the next few weeks that our deficit could mean cuts in public sector jobs, cuts in pay, cuts in pensions, cuts in services, cuts in benefits... oh, yes, and higher taxes too. As my colleague Stephanie Flanders has reported, they are happening now in Ireland.
We could see a return to some of the things that Gene Hunt saw when he was firing up his Quattro but, I fear, we may not be in for a burst of his refreshing candour.