Osborne's Budget met the Machiavelli test pretty well: he's started on the nasty stuff at the earliest opportunity - though it would have been better still if the even-more-painful Spending Review could have been expedited.
It's less clear whether he has measured up to the Moltke test. On the one hand he took the opportunity (rightly or wrongly) to change his positioning vis-a-vis VAT; on the other, there is no sign he is modifying to any material extent the less-than-ideal ring-fence around the NHS. Will October be too late to execute this much-needed maneouvre ? Probably not, even if there are some face-saving presentational niceties to be observed. For example, some local authority services could be transferred into the NHS budget to effect the desired result.
Small-scale tactics aside, the strategic benefit of being brutally up-front with the machiavellian medicine is immediately apparent. Grown-up expectations are pretty universally aligned with reality just now: so Teresa May can can tell ACPO that 'big, tough cuts' are coming down the pike for the police, and they take it on the chin - constructively, even. The BBC can announce 'dramatic' pension and salary reductions without everyone downing tools. Estimates of 000,000's of job losses, freely discussed, serve to reinforce realism in the public consciousness.
Of course, Bob Crow is limbering into action, issuing his 'call to arms'. There will be no stopping the Trots and assorted ne'er-do-wells from chanting and marching and smashing high-street windows. Bring it on, comrades, the sooner to get your spartacist spasms out of the way.
If the Spending Review is destined to take months, let it spend the time wisely to ensure the hits land on the right things. Perhaps Daily Mail anecdotes aren't reliable to the standards required in a courtroom: but there is no doubt whatever that the public purse is routinely and monstrously abused - see Harriet's 'Peace Pods' as slated at PMQs yesterday. Every politician, national and local, should be putting acute, personalised pressure on senior public-sector management to offer up the right cuts, not the dumb-insolent, bleeding-heart headline-grabbers that are Sir Humphrey's traditional tactical resort.
No summer hols for Alexander. Price of fame, Danny, price of fame.