"What I can tell you is any cabinet minister, if I win the election, who comes to me and says: 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again. After 13 years of Labour, there is a lot of wasteful spending, a lot of money that doesn't reach the frontline."
David Cameron on the Andrew Marr show, Sunday May 2nd 2010.
Well, they will be sent back to their departments to "think again" alright, to draw up illustrative plans for 40% cuts, as the Coalition is now briefing the press in an excited flurry of axeman machismo.
Whatever the attractions of the "new politics", the age of spin is certainly not dead.
At the Spectator Coffee House, Peter Hoskin could not be more impressed by the Treasury's clever game of asking departments for blood-curdling 40 per cent cuts, making unprecedented cuts of 25 per cent appear moderation itself, while lining up some deeper cuts for later too.
Could either Coalition partner credibly claim a mandate for their ideological project of eliminating the entire structural deficit within one Parliament?
Quite the opposite, as Steve Richards set out clearly in his column last week.
"There'll be no cuts to frontline services under a Conservative government", trumpeted ConservativeHome, along with the newspapers.
They are all singing a very different tune now.
Perhaps nobody can definitively answer the key question: will this all prove to have been smart, cynical manouvering from sharp political operatives at the top of their game - or do those tactics which make public trust in politics and a consensus on deficit reduction much harder to achieve?