When a conjurer says “I have nothing up my sleeve” he wants you to look at his sleeve and not at his pocket. It is the pocket where the real action is going on, it’s called misdirection and it’s the secret of most close up magic tricks that you may see.
When Lord Mandelson starts attacking George Osborne’s “unfunded tax cut” he is engaging in a classic piece of misdirection. He wants the story to be about the Conservatives, but there is no unfunded tax cut being proposed. What has been announced is our opposition to Labour’s tax rise.
The media is only half falling for it. While they are focusing on the Conservatives they are not buying into Mandelson’s narrative, headlines like “Ministers on defensive as tax row intensifies” are not what he had in mind.