SKETCH: Troops in the Trenches, Ammo to the Front mdi-fullscreen

The battle lines are drawn, the pounding begins.

The ragged band of guerillas called HM opposition – demoralised and scarce, fortified no longer by the Speaker – goaded the Tory arsenal to ever-greater firepower.

Five full benches of Tories had the numbers – in the Chamber and in the Book of Stats from which they now draw strength.

Everything they want up is going up, and what they want down is going down.

It’s been two decades coming but suddenly it’s a great time to be a Tory.

Labour’s Shelia Gilmore raised her sixpenny jezail and said that 0.7 growth in the last quarter was lower than the 0.8 in the quarter before . . .

She’s got a big voice but not big enough to rise above the indignation she provoked. She folded her arms, shrugged, stood and took the Tories’ joyful rage.

Eventually, George Osborne moved the decimal point – under Labour, he said, the economy shrank by 7 per cent.

The Labour posture, he went on to say, is “anti-business, anti-recovery, anti-jobs, anti-investment and anti-Britain.”

Ed Balls. The other man who hates Britain.

Here’s what Osborne said was in the Tory offer: Tax-free childcare. Reducing small companies’ tax level, freezing fuel duty, taking the smallest firms out of business rates, introducing an employment allowance of £2,000, abolishing National Insurance for half a million small employers, removing NI for employees under 21.

This is quite a tax-cutting agenda. It’s sincere. It’s authentic. It’s what Tories believe.

Against this, Ed Balls has launched his 50p rate – opposed by business people but supported, polls say, by 61 per cent of voters.

It’s never a good principle to judge an economist’s future by his past but Balls has been catastrophically wrong twice.

Triple dip – wrong. Only a public sector-led recovery would work – wrong.

I’m going to bet he’ll make the hat trick.

For that, the 50p tax rate has to be an electoral disaster.

He needled Osborne, calling on him to say he wouldn’t reduce the top rate to 40p. Osborne declined to do this, so let’s guess it’ll be part of the Tory manifesto.

Labour offering a 50p rate which affects very few, and Tories a 40p rate which affects four or five million voters directly, and threatens however many more, heading towards the top rate, along with their pensionable parents.

And boy, do they vote.

For the public there may be an even more important consideration.

Denying Ed Balls what he wants more than anything else in the world. That is a significant electoral consideration.

NB: Employment statistics question. There’s been a whopping leap in private sector employment. Has this been boosted by the transfer of the Royal Mail’s 150,000 public sector employees into the private sector by virtue of the privatisation?

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