There can be no doubt the government has embarked on a strategy to relaunch itself on an unsuspecting public.

Clearly stung by the desertion of even its most committed supporters because of its lethargic approach to major issues of genuine concern, be it unemployment, the length of time it took to set up Nama, or the clamour for regulation of head shops, last week it went into overdrive with more speeches and media appearances by Brian Cowen and his ministers in a few days than we'd normally get in an entire Dáil session (short as that may be).

What's more, the Taoiseach we were presented with was much nicer, more amenable to questioning, more focused in what he wanted to say, less tetchy and less defensive about his own record.

Of course, he left himself open to perfectly legitimate charges from Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore that his mea culpa did not go far enough and could be read as a pre-emptive strike before the two inquiries into events that led up to the banking crisis.

But this was a start. His big speech last Thursday and follow-up interviews were measured, comprehensible and did provide an insight into the thinking behind his handling of the economy as finance minister during the boom times which was a bit more honest than the standard "we-would-have-been-okay-but-for-Lehman-Brothers" line of defence.

We have come to expect so little in terms of honest analysis of mistakes in the past that even crumbs such as these take on a greater significance. But it was good to hear the Taoiseach admit it was a mistake not to introduce a property tax to cool the market, or to crack down on property tax incentives at a much earlier stage.

The taoiseach's newly appointed cabinet team joined in the blitz. With significant names such as UCD economist Colm McCarthy joining calls for greater clarity about where exactly the €3bn retrenchment in public spending being sought for Budget 2011 will fall, we were suddenly told that all ministers have been given just four weeks to say how it can be done.

Éamon Ó Cuív gave a series of interviews in which the Minister for Social 'Protection' revealed nothing was off the agenda, not even the possibility of the untouchable – a cut in the contributory old age pension.

Meanwhile, Batt O'Keeffe, the new Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, was calling in the banks to give them a kicking over their failure to lend to viable small businesses despite the fact the taxpayer had saved their hides to the tune of €20bn-plus in recapitalisation alone.

Mary Coughlan insisted we could afford 1,000 new teachers – this year anyway. And of course, Dermot Ahern closed down the head shops.

As their best performer, Brian Lenihan is never far from the microphone, but he also joined in with a massive round of interviews after the €750bn euro bailout, as ever airily waving away the slightest concerns over the logic of heavily indebted Ireland having to find the money to guarantee the bonds of other heavily indebted countries such as Spain.

All in all, it was definitely a week in which, despite the euro crisis, this government sniffs the economy is on the turn and has decided to up its game while the going is as good as it has been in over two years.

For the opposition, it will be a game changer. If a recovery does take root and Fianna Fáil and the Greens now feel emboldened to go on the attack, the shadow cabinets will have to improve their performances significantly.

Fine Gael has succeeded in convincing many of the merits of its policies on health and education. Labour's commitment to social justice is the touchstone of its appeal. But both need to communicate what they would do with the economy much more clearly. And if they are to sustain credibility as an alternative government, they'll have to be much more forensic in their questioning of the Taoiseach and ministers in the Dáil.

The tumultuous row that ensued over EU Commission proposals to vet individual member states' budget plans before they go to their national parliaments was a prelude for the sort of battles that are to come.

UCD's Professor Ray Kinsella has called the proposal "a quantum move towards EU integration and de facto political union". The proposal may be the only way to ensure financial stability, but its consequences are seismic. As such it is essential it is debated fully, especially now that there are widespread fears that co-ordinated Europe-wide cutbacks now being implemented could hamper a wider economic recovery.

Yet the way the commission proposal was handled by our most senior politicians once again illustrates the chasm that exists between their world and the public generally, who want to hear reasonable arguments within the robust debate, not the lexicon of insults we were dished up with last week.

A poor question in the Dáil by Enda Kenny left him open to a slapdown. He looked stupid and deserved it. But the venom heaped on Richard Bruton by Brian Lenihan and Micheál Martin for making perfectly legitimate queries about the impact of the proposals on our low corporation tax regime and our ability to set our own budgets was so savage it was reminiscent of that ravening wolfpack that our EU partners have been so critical of.

In his radio interview with Sean O'Rourke on RTE's News At One, Brian Cowen noted that people were sick of the " politics as usual" level of debate coming from the opposition.

He is correct there, but the government's over-reaction on the European question demonstrates just how fine a line there is between confidence and arrogance.

Politics is definitely moving into a new phase, but all sides need to tread very carefully if they are to win back the confidence of an extremely cynical, sceptical and disenchanted public.