WITH a clever piece of three-ball juggling Chancellor Gordon Brown in his Budget has signalled the economic strategy on which the Government will fight the next election.
The message from the Chancellor seems to be that, yes, you can have an increase in services without it actually hurting much.
Certainly there will be a warm general welcome for the extra £8.5bn for education over the next three years although Michael Howard and his Tory team point to the increased debt, with public borrowing forecasts for this year of £37.5bn.
This, of course, has always been the dividing line between Labour and Tory, with Labour putting the emphasis on the services, the Tories on the tax cuts.
The truth of the matter, of course, is that you get what you pay for.
And the Chancellor does seem to be arguing from a position of strength. He was boasting only the other day of the best period of growth for 200 years and the CBI seems to have signalled broad agreement with his Budget approach.
What has surprised everyone is the decision to signal determination to get real value for money by cutting back 42,000 civil service jobs.
A wizard wheeze to steal the Tories' (and to a lesser extent Liberal Democrats') clothes and make it more difficult for them to make their pre-election pledges of cutting waste and spending seem realistic.
But the price is anger among the civil service unions, whose members are already feeling the hurt. They can already see the fallacy in Mr Brown's argument and they know who is going to pay - in jobs.
ANOTHER day, another atrocity in Iraq. The latest, a 1,000lb car bomb attack on a Baghdad hotel has left 27 dead, with two Britons among the casualties.
It is hard not to share the feelings of US Brigadier General Mark Hertling: "It's just so frustrating. You take three steps forward and something like this happens and you take one step back."
The attack bears all the hallmarks of al Qaida.
In this situation, the opponents of terror need to keep a very clear head. They don't always do so.
The resulting anger, chaos and confusion on Baghdad's streets even saw some believing this was a US missile attack designed to engineer an excuse for the coalition forces to stay.