The Sketch: Matador Cameron scores another hit on wounded bull

  • @SimonSketch

To continue the animal imagery, we now have the old bull alone in the middle of the arena. He paws at the sawdust and bleeds. His head sways to and fro, left and right, but he can still lift it, he can still make short charges to scatter his tormentors. Bloodied certainly, bowed even, but still dangerous. Meanwhile, Cameron has moved from one kind of bull fighter to another, from banderillero to matador. He used to run alongside and plunge his darts into the great neck. Now they confront each other more directly, eye to eye. The crowd is quiet.

The moment of... truth is the wrong word. The moment approaches.

That's what it looks like from the gallery; it's hard to know what people who aren't particularly interested think. They probably came to the same conclusion months ago.

A little-noted point was made by David Gauke. We learnt that the figures in this year's Budget have been junked. All this "re-allocation" of funds – that's been conjured up since the April Budget two months gone. They're making this up on the hoof now.

Gordon is fighting the election on "wicked Tories' 10 per cent cuts to public services". Cameron is fighting on "Whom do you believe?" It's Cuts vs Character.

Cameron wins – because he can make the Prime Minister tell lies at will. Hearing Gordon say spending will rise, Cameron produced a Treasury document titled "Reduction in medium-term spending".

Gordon shook his head and said: "Spending rises every year." Why did he say that? Because the Tory policy is "cuts" so his must be increases. Increases in spending every year even in 2010 when it will be a "zero per cent increase". It may be zero, but it's a zero per cent INCREASE! "I've said it will rise," he repeats. "Current spending will continue to RISE."

Cameron said this next part quite slowly. He's said it before but the more gently he can put it the more damage it does... If you take out increased spending on debt and increased spending on unemployment, then public spending will be 7 per cent lower, on Labour's figures. If you protect the NHS and schools (as Labour is suggesting) Labour will be spending 13.5 per cent less than they are now. Not 10 per cuts, but like for like, nearly a third deeper than Labour's figures suggest.

That thrust went in a third of the way; when the blade goes in up to the hilt, the poor old bull's head will drop, the legs will go, he'll collapse on his side and a tractor will tow him out of the ring.