PJ O’Rourke once famously recommended the circumcision approach to public spending: you can cut 10 per cent off the top of anything and not affect its essential function.
It was a good point, but with looming cuts to all bar two government departments set to average 25 per cent, or even 33 per cent if defence and schools are partially shielded, it looks less like a little snip and more like heading into Lorena Bobbitt territory.
For a bloated state like Britain, such a level of spending cuts is highly desirable in economic terms, but if cuts of this size in a short time frame are not politically feasible, then the exercise could turn out badly.
The political opposition is going to be ferocious when the gory details of the Spending Review emerge, and the most difficult to manage criticisms for the government are likely to come from its own backbenches, from both parties.
In the face of the looming storms, some in government might be tempted to slacken the deficit reduction schedule to ease the pain, but the pounding to the Government’s economic credibility from such a move would be just as damaging, if not worse.