Someone will need to remind me, but was it Bill Clinton who had on his desk at the White House a sign that read "It's the economy, stupid?"
You see, if there is one thing that is going to dominate this election it is the economy. To be blunt, Britain is in a real mess in terms of the public finances - everyone, and I mean everyone, knows that there have to be cuts in public spending, and tax rises. Who, however, are the one community that seem not to be able to acknowledge this one simple fact, and say what they intend to do in terms everyone can understand?
You guessed it - politicians.
Take, for example, National Insurance. This is a tax we pay on our wages, nominally to cover things like the National Health Service and pensions. The Labour party want to increase this from next year by 1% across the board - both for workers and the employers, who have to pay this out of their coffers as well.
Labour state this will cover the need for further tax increase, based on an assumption the the national economy will be growing by the time it comes in during 2011 by about 3.5%. Right now, it's barely staying at a level of 0.5%, so we have a fairly big assumtpion right there. They also say they will preserve funding for "front line" services - police, teachers and the NHS - but refuse to say where further cuts will lie. They also just brought in a new income tax level of 50% for earnings over £150,000 per annum.
The Conservatives say they will not impose the increase fro low earners. and freeze it for employers. The money that saves in the NHS, for example, will then be used for cancer drugs, while further savings will be found using "efficiency savings."
I love that term - it means they think cuts can be made in administrative and other areas. It always reminds me of an episode of Yes Minister where Sir Humphrey Appleby says they can make the cuts, but need to take on more staff to make them...
What both parties refuse ot say, at least up to this point ,is (a) where the cuts will land, and (b) what other tax rises may be needed. So, my first challenge to both Labour and Conservatives, as well as the other parties, is this. Tell me, in clear and unambiguous terms, what you will do to try and reduce the deficit and how it will affect me, and I may consider voting for you.
The key words are "clear and unambiguous". It's a challenge - one I hope you can rise to.