Lord Mandelson has today made Gordon Brown appear as a mere bystander on the battlefield that is British politics. He was even prepared to tell blatant untruths about what the Prime Minister has said, as he wrought major change in Government policy. He's been telling Nick Robinson that Gordon Brown has never portrayed the next election as "Tory cuts" versus "Labour investment". This is not true. I've heard him say it myself - more than once. Nick even informs us here of two such occasions. Things have reached such a state that when our Prime Minister is being treated with such casual contempt by one of his own Ministers, it doesn't even make it onto the news.
Most significant from the Prime Minister's standpoint (and ours) is that he is being forced to completely change his policy. Lets hope Lord Mandelson bothered to tell him that he was changing it. The new mantra is that Labour policy is now to be 'wise spending' rather than 'big spending'. Must say I rather approve of this. Its what we've been advising the Prime Minister to do for years. All Labour have left to hit the Conservatives with now is what I think of as their 'Crewe and Nantwich' approach - trying to portray the Conservatives as wielding the public spending axe with glee and relish and zeal, while Labour would do the same thing with heavy hearts and pained expressions. Did you see Ben Bradshaw and Frank Dobson on Newsnight. Paxman did well to keep a straight face. Adam Price tried the same sort of approach at the Plaid Cymru Conference last weekend. Boys, its not going to work. The British (including the Welsh) voters are not that daft. This is fodder for your more tribal supporters, not serious policy.
But what's important is that we are getting there - inching towards the honest debate that we need about what awaits us after the election. I still don't believe that voters are yet fully engaged with the scale of the debt problem. I hear various calculations from inside the civil service, and from economists that there may have to be reductions in departmental budgets exceeding 20%. This is on a scale that we have never seen before. Governments (including the Assembly Government) are going to have to take a radically different approach to what they do. It cannot be done by an across the board approach.
But what about the detail. Scrapping ID Cards is obvious. Trident will have to be looked at. Scrapping quangos, including regional government in England is inevitable. I can see other areas of massive public spending where reductions will be inevitable - but as a mere candidate, venturing onto this dangerous territory is above my pay grade. And then there's the impact on our attitude to the European Union, as the costs of membership become increasingly resented. Its going to be an election campaign like we have never seen before. And a landscape of unprecedented challenge after it.