The two reports may seem contradictory but, to my mind, they're testament to the struggle Darling finds himself caught up in. On one side, there's pressure from the Brown 'n' Balls axis to be misleading about the state of the public finances, and to postpone the spending review indefinitely. And on the other, the dictates of sanity recommend a more honest approach. The resolution of this conflict could be a good litmus test for the strength of Darling's position after the last reshuffle.
In the meantime, though, this leaves a massive opportunity for the Tories. The Government's debt crisis demands far-reaching and bold solutions. What's needed isn't so much a "slimmed-down spending review," but an extensive audit of how, where and why money can be saved. In which case, the Mail story about how George Osborne is preparing a "blueprint" for the public finances rather catches the eye. It should be a main priority for the Tories to set out just how horrendous their inheritance is set be, so that the public are more understanding of the measures that will be necessary to fix it. Watch this space.