Peter Mandelson's speech this afternoon represents a defining moment. He is clearly trying to reposition his party in the ongoing debate on public spending. His mantra of "wise spending not big spending" is New Labour to its core. It is of course a mantra that anyone could utter, Conservative or Labour. Although he is trying to lead his party to a new position, his interview on Today showed him unwilling to confront the word 'cuts', and cuts there will have to be. Until he and his party face up to that, they won't get anywhere. So he can try to reposition all he wants, but it won't work until he and his colleagues can face the inevitable.
Yesterday's Sunday Times poll showed the public have an adult attitude to this whole issue. 60% believe that spending needs to be cut in preference to tax rises. They recognise that borrowing and levels of public debt are out of control. They take the view that if they are having to cut their own budgets, there is no reason for the government to except itself from this process.
Labour also needs to sing from the same hymn sheet. Gordon Brown will tell the TUC Conference tomorrow that we are coming out of recession, yet Peter Mandelson keeps saying we may have a 'double dip'. Well, which is it? Mandelson talks about the need for spending restraint and budget reconfigurations, yet Ed Miliband said on Andrew Marr yesterday that reducing spending would be the wrong thing to do. Well, which is it?
UPDATE: Andrew Sparrow demonstrates that Mr Mandelson speaketh with forked tongue...