Tories have finally come out with a hard and fast economic 'promise' which they will have to keep - and deliver. 'Honest' Osborne is setting out his stall to scrap most of New Labour's planned NI tax hike. But is this a stealth tax break or pre-election bribe?
Spinners slamming Osborne as the 'weakest link' in the Tory team have been caught on the hop, with a big, bold move to seize the election agenda. This is a tax cut that most people would actually welcome as a breath of fresh air.
But the Tories first big tax-cutting 'pledge' in the run-up to the election is a gamble that could backfire and test their economic credibility.
Osborne is embarking on a risky strategy, notes The Times. Leaving Tories, who have long argued for 'austerity', wide open to attack, producing nothing more than a pre-election tax bribe. Much will depend on how the attack lines are drawn with the expected onslaught from both Downing Street and sworn Osborne media enemies.
But there's an election to be fought and won and a Channel 4 News TV 'battle of the wannabe chancellors' to get through. 'Honest' Osborne is set to square up to 'Dull' Darling and 'Not-so-saintly' Vince in an economic showdown. The timing of the move to block NI rises could not have been better if Tories had tried.
Describing New Labour's NI tax hike as "a tax on jobs and the middle classes", Osborne reckons seven out of 10 workers will be better off under Tory plans.
New Labour was caught with its pants down with clear blue water between the main parties. But chief secretary to the treasury, Byrne, got in early with the joke of the day: "They [the Conservatives] have entirely lost sight of cutting the deficit." How we laughed.
All a bit rich coming from Deceitful Darling's treasury, bent on fudging the 'deficit' with fantasy growth and rigged figures, leaving a mountain of 'debt' to fester behind.
Blocking most national insurance stealth tax rises is a welcome move. Business groups have long urged the government to scrap the rise, arguing it could screw up economic recovery, hit jobs and screw the labour market.
But what about the additional £8-10 billion a year in lost revenue?
At the heart are plans to cut the deficit and debt and cancel some pointless IT projects, with a promise to slash waste and cut the cost of procurement. The key is what gets the chop and what does not. And whether these come with the same 'promise' as the NI cut.
Porkie Brown's vague election 'pledges', gloriously spoofed opposite, had a shallow, hollow ring to them. The latest in a long line of lies after 13 long years of disaster and failure.
Tories are offering something solid - a tax cut paid for in part by squashing squandered billions - and something which voters can get their teeth into.
All part of that election battle between the lying Brown devil you know and the Dave you don't.
This is shaping up to be the mother of all elections - fought not on policy nor personality but on trust and honesty. And as always it's the economy, stupid.
Osborne has fired the latest salvo in that battle. Tonight's 'battle of the chancellors' is a chance to show if he can live up to being 'Honest Osborne' or set to regress to 'Boy George'.
Update 12.19pm: Osborne has targeted £12 billion of savings from New Labour's "economics of the madhouse" to help pay for the tax cuts.
Spoof New Labour Pledge Card: Ollie Cromwell.