Trust. They're restoring trust in politics, that's the job in hand. So how's it going in the Department of Cohesion, Communities, Diversity and Looking After People in the Regions, run by that nice John Denham?
Can you feel the trust flowing from us to them and back again?
Try this. "Every pound spent by a Regional Development Agency generates a further £4.50." If a minister of the Crown says that, do you believe it? Neither do I. What about if they say PricewaterhouseCoopers has produced the figure? It must have been taken out of context. What about if the Chief Financial Officer of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers came to the bar of the House to swear it was true? I confess my reaction would be, "Blimey, they must have a lot of government business."
How can it be true? It's a rate of return you only hear about when you're being missold a pension. It's a perpetual money machine. If you put £250bn in, you'd pay off the deficit with the stuff coming out the other end. They are saying that government "investment" is actually investment. No doubt there are ways of explaining this. But none would be believed in a public bar. How about: "Anti-social behaviour is at its lowest since records began"? Or, "Conservative councils have a deliberate strategy to keep basic services as basic as possible and only provide a decent service to those who pay twice"?
And will there actually be cuts, real cuts, actual cuts of 23 per cent over four years? And if there are, will that actually improve services?
Depending which side you're on, you'll incline to believe or disbelieve these propositions. But my suspicion is that even fellow travellers take every single little thing sceptically. Nothing like this is trusted by anyone any more. And the non-aligned? They can't summon the energy of interest to believe or disbelieve.
Andrew Mackinlay (Con, Thurrock) speaks and people do rather believe. He said all three parties were to blame for the impenetrable systems of local government – the absurd titles, the endless layers of management caused by constant reorganisations. That was believable, trustworthy, probably true. It's why he hasn't done better in politics. He will be missed.
How far from an election are we? A few weeks. Single figures. The Tories are giving no indication of... anything, really. If they were a bit more alert they'd look indifferent. This particular question time is the special subject of their big idea about society. Big citizens, small state. I'm pretty sure that's the thing. It wasn't referred to. Not a peep. Are they really in shape to ask us to vote for them?