George Osborne has told colleagues he will rapidly become Britain's most unpopular person if the Tories win the next election.
The man who hopes to become Chancellor is only half-joking. His commitment to slash the national deficit means a series of decisions on spending cuts and tax rises which would cause agony and anger in equal measure.
The Conservatives insisted yesterday that plans to use cash from the international development budget towards a proposed new military "stabilisation" unit echoed current practice in Whitehall.
But the furious reaction of charities involved in the developing world, who suspect the Tories' real agenda was saving money, was a foretaste of rows to come.
Mr Osborne is bound to try to ease the pain in the emergency budget which would follow a Tory victory with some accounting sleights of hand.
Some charities fear he would switch money from international development into spending on climate change. Parts of the Foreign Office budget could also be redesignated. But such wheezes would barely make an impact on the daunting figures.
Labour claimed to have uncovered a £34bn "black hole" in Tory spending plans. The figure was dismissed as "complete junk" by David Cameron, but he knows as well as anyone that a government he heads would have to make swingeing cuts.
How does he achieve the inevitable huge cuts in military spending without provoking mutiny among Tories who view defence as their top priority?
Tax rises look inevitable under a Tory administration. For the party with a belief in low taxes, it would be an unpalatable medicine to swallow.Reuse content