Peter Hoskin

The slog starts today

The slog starts today
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Welcome to Stage Two of the government's life. The first stage was the Budget, which established the size of the fiscal mountain looming over the coalition. The third stage will be the difficult, four-year slog up to the top. But today – the Spending Review – is all about determining the route for that ascent. In just a few hours we will know when, where and why the pain will come. Don't forget to pack sandwiches.

Of course, with this roadmap being drawn out in Westminster, we already know some of the details. This morning's papers major on the fact – snapped from Danny Alexander's hands yesterday – that almost 500,000 public sector jobs will be lost over the next four to five years. And then there are the actual departmental settlements. Defence will face cuts of 8 percent, as set out yesterday. Schools will come out of the process with even smaller cuts, perhaps around the 5 percent mark. The Home Office and Justice department will face much larger ones. Still, though, question marks persist over what will, I think, be the bloodiest political battleground of this Parliament: welfare.

It is always worth reminding ourselves, and the government, that the spending review will be easy compared to what is to come. Yes, the numbers don't look all that significant on a graph. But, as Fraser pointed out yesterday, there are lives behind the statistics. Recent polls suggest that the public are firmly behind Cameron and Osborne when it comes to the public finances – which is to say, they agree with the coalition in theory. From today, we will discover whether they agree in practice too.