Putting aside the question of whether it really is the most ambitious deficit plan in the G7 (other countries want to cut more, quicker), it's striking just how closely this cleaves to Peter Mandelson's strategy for presenting cuts – i.e. 'fess up to them, but pledge to protect frontline services at the same time. We've heard the second half of that argument plenty of times recently, but Brown has been much quieter about the first – especially since his speech to the TUC Congress last year. So it's something of a surprise to hear him talk about "cuts in some departments" quite so bluntly.“
"[Our deficit-reduction plan] is probably the most ambitious of any of the G7 countries. It contains, obviously, public-spending economies, cuts in some departments, efficiency savings in others, but protection of the front-line services in health and education and policing. It contains tax rises ... I wish we hadn't had to do that but ... it is necessary to show that you have got a sensible and credible plan over a number of years..."
And, then, what about the tax hikes? From boasting about the 50p tax rate, and hurriedly sweeping the national insurance hike under the carpet, Brown is now wishing that he "hadn't had to" raise taxes. Yes, it's only one interview – but maybe, just maybe, it's all turning a bit more New Labour as the election approaches.