Chancellor George Osborne's pre-Budget cry of "no gimmicks" seemed calculated to head off the inevitable sense that this year's red box speech was more campaign salvo than Government missive.
And indeed, waving his custom yellow box aloft the following day, Chief Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander's body language couldn't have been clearer: the Coalition romance - barring some resurrecting quirk of first-past-the-postism - was through.
Freshly unfettered, the Conservatives presented a determinedly right-wing vision, with a decidedly nationalistic bent. The much-vaunted "global race" appeared to have become something darker and more threatening - a reason to stick with what the nation knew.
Security was the watchword of the day, and the industries and entities receiving support formed a decidedly traditional complement. Environmental niceties were notably absent, replaced with a shoring-up fix for the ailing oil industry. Elsewhere, the few citizen tax breaks doled out from the Dispatch Box were designed to tend to the elderly or further populist reliefs on petrol and alcohol.
The strictures of austerity were perhaps less severe than some feared, but the Chancellor’s underpinning plea was evergreen: don’t risk the recovery.
The Labour response was similarly heavy with threat. But by its account, the risks came from within, borne by a malevolent cabal of Conservative ideologues, bent, in the Opposition’s view, upon driving through a devastating catalogue of cuts.
Pressing his advantage with a party principle primed to appeal to the public, Ed Miliband emphasised his aim of protecting the NHS against perceived Tory savagery. But there was little overall by way of bedside comfort, as, once more, it was not a question of whether to cut, but how hard and how fast.
A choice once again, then, between two medicinal ministrations: a man with a plan, or his implacable critics.
As Senior Political Analyst at DeHavilland, Anna Haswell leads on financial services policy, as well as covering media issues. In her capacity as Content Marketer, she is also responsible for DeHavilland's briefings and analysis output, working across teams to ensure relevant messages reach current and prospective clients alike. She is a graduate of the University of Oxford and Goldsmiths, University of London.