John Smith tried it in 1992 - and was rewarded with the blame for losing the election for Labour. So it took a bit of nerve for George Osborne to start the process of telling us what to expect from a Conservative Chancellor if we form the next Government. Pay freeze for millions, job cuts for many who work in the Civil Service and the regional quangos, an end to some tax credits, a delay in reaching pensionable age, etc.. Truth is that he did not have any real choice. To be elected next May without voters understanding the scale of the mess we are in, or the scale of pain needed to put it right would have been disastrous for the Conservative Party in the long run. Another uncomfortable truth is that what was announced today, will not be enough.
There was an air of seriousness amongst the audience. No triumphalist applause. A sense of general shock throughout the country as people begin to realise what's happening. If an opposition party, deeply committed to trying to win an election, feels it has no choice but say these things, the situation must be desperate. And it is. It strains belief that Alistair Darling, the Chancellor rushed out an announcement of a freeze in Civil service pay, simply in order to beat the Conservatives to it - breaking every convention about making major announcements during the Conference season. It's pathetic that he didn't have the b*** to make the announcement at his own Conference last week. Darling has suddenly realised that he and his Government are in danger of being swept away by a hurricane of truth.
Some of the commentators I've seen are awful. On BBC at lunchtime, we had Will Hutton spouting utter drivel. Andrew Neil couldn't seem to grasp the perfectly clear exposition of pension age policy by the ever outstanding Phillip Hammond. And then there was Jon Snow tonight with his puerile little jokes about a boy in a man's job. At least they didn't have the preposterous Kevin Maquire on. Perhaps he's being saved up for Newsnight. The gap between the leading media outlets and the general public grows ever wider. Personally, I expect the more thoughtful considered commentary of tomorrow will be rather more complimentary. Sure no-one likes the message, but its a whole lot better than the totally unbelievable stuff we heard from Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling last week.
Today we heard the speech of a man who knows that the people must be told the truth. For me, George Osborne judged it right - for both his country and his party. Just watch his star rise from now on.