More on Osborne's plans
A bit more on how George Osborne's package compares with the government's plans - and some of the potential savings that the shadow chancellor took off the table.
On the question of scale - Robert Chote of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and I have come up with a clearer way to think about the big picture. Though it's not for the faint-hearted.
You'll remember that the government has said it will cut borrowing by £45bn a year, in today's money, by 2014 (or 3.2% of GDP). To do that, they've said they will raise taxes by about £9bn.
The Tories today said they would accept those increases, at least for now.
As an aside, it's true that Osborne's speech leaves a question mark over the new 50p rate for the highest earners, because he would only say he would keep it in place until the end of the public sector pay freeze in 2012. But there's no firm commitment to get rid of it in the next Parliament, either. Of course, if the IFS is right that it won't raise very much money, keeping it becomes rather a moot point.
So, roughly speaking, both the government and the Tories have signed up to £9bn in tax rises between now and 2014. But even on the government's own plans, that still leaves a roughly £36bn cut in public spending between now and 2014 relative to what you might have forecast before the crunch.
Today Osborne set out his stall. But even if all of George Osborne's plans were adopted tomorrow - and achieved that £7bn a year cost saving by 2014 - you'd only be one fifth of the way to the total squeeze in spending that the government has pencilled in for the next parliament.
And - just to really do your head in - even if the next government meets that target, the Chancellor's Budget forecasts suggest that the deficit in 2014 would still be nearly £100bn. The Conservatives have said many times that they would want to move faster.
As Labour has been quick to stress, this analysis leaves out various Conservative spending pledges which do not appear to have been costed. For example, the Treasury claims that reversing what Osborne called Gordon Brown's "raid on pensions" would cost the exchequer £3-5bn a year. He committed the party to do that in today's speech. And the new allowance for married couples doesn't seem to have been factored into the shadow chancellor's numbers either.
It all goes to underline the point I made earlier - that you ain't seen nothing yet. The Conservatives have a lot further to go if they're going to match their plans to their tough rhetoric. (And, of course, so does the government. The pressure will now be on the chancellor to show how he plans to fill that £36bn hole next month, in his Pre-Budget Report.)
All in good time, the Tories might say. And there was a great deal that the shadow chancellor didn't announce in his speech. Whisper it softly, but if they're committed to tightening more than the government in the first year - it's tax rises, rather than spending increases, that can raise money fastest. For example, each additional 1p on the basic rate of VAT would raise about £4.5bn a year.
There are also still plenty of "middle class" benefits which Osborne left untouched today - presumably because he didn't want to scare every non-public-sector worker as well.
As I mentioned on Monday, getting rid of child benefit and child tax credits for families earning more than £31,000 a year would save a whopping £6bn a year. By limiting himself to just the child tax credit piece of that - and abolishing it only for families on incomes over £50,000 - Osborne will save a mere £400m a year. Whoever wins the next election, I'd be surprised if the next government leaves the other "middle class benefits" intact.