Did I blink, or did George Osborne promise greater central control of local councils? That, at least, is what his eye-catching promise to freeze council tax bills for two years appears to suggest. It is a little difficult for Osborne, under pressure as he is to demonstrate a real difference between the Tories and Labour on the economy. A year ago, he managed to reverse Tory fortunes - and send Labour into a spin - with his promise to cut inheritance tax. Now, desperate for more headline grabbing initiatives, he has come up with the council tax freeze. The Tories are clear that they want to be seen as the party of the tax-cut. It is much less clear how they do that without cutting public services - after all, there are only so many consultants you can dismiss, or red-tape you can get rid of.
The Tory Conference in Birmingham should look like a breeze this week, with Cameron enjoying good opinion poll ratings, but as several punters are pointing out, his ratings are not nearly as positive as they should be, the Tory lead was halved to just 12 points at the weekend, and people still await some concrete Tory ideas. Osborne's was one of them - what else is coming out from the party that would be next in government we wonder?