George Osborne invoked a famous 1983 Conservative election slogan as he opened today’s Autumn Statement: “Britain’s on the right track”.
I wonder if his speechwriter had the re-election of that first Thatcher government in mind when he crafted the message.
The economic challenges faced in the early 1980s were very different but the central political attack is so similar to now, namely; "abandon the plan – it is not working".
Much of 2012 has delivered dreadful headlines for George Osborne. Since he was booed at the Olympics, the Government has projected both the Prime Minister and his Deputy much more often on the economic agenda.
In political terms today was about a relaunch of George. So how did he do? It's clever stuff. But is it too clever?
Economists are already saying the economic forecasts are complex and difficult to unpack. Arguing about whether or not the Chancellor has missed or met his targets is the stuff of the commentariat – not the conversations around the average dining table tonight.
So the Chancellor may have dodged a bullet here from the chatterati today and tomorrow BUT he will have to hope that voters don’t think he is trying to hoodwink them.
The measures on petrol and infrastructure will chime well.
And that cap on working age benefits will work well. With employment holding up and more voters transferring from public to private sector employment keeping lid on the welfare bill I predict will play very well. Longditudinal polling clearly shows voters want to see a social safety net that provides support for those who need most help. And that narrative the Chancellor nailed today.
Ed Balls got it so right and so wrong in the Commons. His central narrative to attack the very credibility of the Chancellor’s economic competence remains a powerful political weapon. Especially in the light of the debt target as a share of GDP being clearly missed for all to see. But today he did not land the political blows he has been so sharp at delivering for most of 2012.
Credibility remains the key. Today the Chancellor showed a much firmer grip around the economics.
Back in 1983 – the election slogan was “Britain’s on the Right track. Don’t turn back.” It is just this message that the Chancellor wants middle Britain to have ringing in their ears for the next two and a half years.