Posts Tagged ‘autumn statement’

The questions facing George Osborne in the Autumn statement

02/12/2013, 07:00:20 AM

by Jonathan Todd

We all live in a George Osborne submarine. Or so he wishes. Doing his work beneath the surface, emerging periodically to bestride events, such as this week’s distinctly wintry Autumn statement.

Osborne saw Gordon Brown use these set piece occasions to determine the terms of political trade. He’s equally keen to exploit his bully pulpit. He faces, though, a number of challenges to doing so:

1.) Has the relationship between economic and Tory recovery broken?

The Autumn Statement is wintry in the sense that it’s being delivered in December. The economy, however, is more mid-March. The darkest days feel behind us and something better nearly upon us.

Given this, Benedict Brogan asked a pertinent question recently: Why are the Tories not doing better in the polls?

The Todd thesis – as Lewis Baston called it – appeared to break down as soon as it was expounded. This thesis was based on a regression analysis of economic sentiment and Labour’s lead over the Tories. It was expounded at the end of October and held that for every 1% increase in the proportion of the electorate reporting the economy as doing well, the Tories would close on Labour by 0.6%. Since then, there has been a 3% increase in the proportion of the electorate reporting the economy as doing well. But, while there is some fluctuation, Labour’s lead has held firm enough to prompt Brogan’s question.

It may be that the Todd thesis will reassert itself over a longer time horizon. If economic sentiment keeps improving, growth in Tory support will eventually catch up. Less positively for Osborne, it may be that the Todd thesis has collapsed because something has happened to disrupt the causality between improving economic sentiment and growing Tory support.

Ed Miliband’s focus on the cost of living may mean that even though people increasingly feel the economy is doing well, they don’t believe this improvement will benefit them, so it doesn’t translate into Tory support. Alternatively, the better people feel about the economy, the less Labour’s reputation for profligacy may trouble them. In better times, Labour becomes a risk worth taking.


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George Osborne has learned his trade from Gordon Brown

10/12/2012, 09:07:19 AM

by David Talbot

“To bring all these decisions for many benefits over many years together,” Osborne told the House of Commons last Wednesday, “we will introduce into parliament primary legislation – the welfare uprating bill. I hope it commands support from both sides of the House of Commons”.

At that moment a thin smile seemed to escape the chancellor’s lips. Or if it didn’t, it should have done. For it represented the Damascene conversion of George Osborne to the scriptures of a once imperious Gordon Brown. And it was a moment of horribly low cunning that was eerily familiar for the Labour benches.

The announcement managed the near politically impossible. It will raise money, it will be popular and it will trap the opposition. It is vintage Gordon Brown, from the days when he was still known as the iron chancellor rather than the flailing prime minister of more recent memory. Yes, it’s easy to forget, but at one time, Brown was the political master of all he surveyed.

The guttural roar that greeted Osborne’s announcement from the Tory backbenches signified wholehearted approval of their chancellor’s ruse.  Budgets are meant to be about economics. But for the two most political chancellors of the modern era, everything is politics. The statistics, forecasts, tax and public spending changes are immaterial for the political battleground with their hated opposition.


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In yesterday’s debate, George Osborne had a clear script, Ed Balls didn’t

06/12/2012, 10:00:08 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“It was just like a budget”. This was the immediate reaction of the ever perceptive Nigel Lawson when the Daily Politics sought it soon after the Autumn statement. Ming Campbell – the only other participant on a very balanced panel – concurred. That said; they had a point. Not only was the stagecraft familiar. The content was too.

The Conservatives have a script, you see. China is rising but the skivers aren’t, so further welfare reform is needed to prevent China eating all our dinners. The global race will be won by strivers, not drunken layabouts. And reform of our schools will create a nation of strivers. That’s if Johnny Foreigner and his euro don’t do what the last government and our “mess” could not quite do and do for us good and proper.

This script has been obvious since Conservative party conference. It has, in its own parlance, stayed the course. It is no surprise, therefore, that it was served up again yesterday. That’s the thing with political scripts. Politicians disembark on one that feels right, feelings which polling confirms. Then they keep saying it and saying it and saying it some more. Finally, maybe, it hits home with the electorate. By which time, certainly, they have bored themselves and the lobby into a stupor.

It was never really in doubt, consequently, what Osborne’s key messages would be. Any sentient political observer should have long known. We know its villains: the last government and the bed we made; welfare recipients and the beds that they lie in; the rest of Europe and their siesta.

But Osborne’s heroes shun and abhor all such lazy, flabby, debt-sodden indulgence. It is the strivers that have doubled exports to major emerging economies since 2009 and created over a million jobs in the private sector since he became chancellor.

Politics is the ceaseless clash of narratives: many half-baked, most never reaching a real terminus but the endless grafting of perceptions unto realities. So, what story did Ed Balls tell in rebutting this tale of striving heroes and shirking villains?


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The debate on Osborne’s Autumn statement will, once again, ignore what really matters

04/12/2012, 07:00:37 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Is the national scandal David Cameron’s lack of inclination to implement Leveson or his failure to facilitate a similarly forensic investigation and debate on the culture, practices and ethics of the financial sector?

The central reality of Britain in 2012 is that our national wealth remains more than 3 percent below its pre-crisis peak. The Autumn statement should tell us precisely how far George Osborne’s debt and deficit targets are off track. But the core truth is obvious: our anaemic growth makes it ever harder for us to sustain the public services and quality of life we would like.

We have not been through a deeper and longer growth contraction than the notoriously grim 1930s because of Rupert Murdoch. Labour rightly insists that if Leveson is implemented then the indignities and injustices of the press will be reduced. But we have little to offer in terms of policies that will provide comparable certainty that the financial crisis of 2008 will either not happen again or not precipitate such a deleterious effect upon the wider economy if it does.

Labour has made much of Cameron’s reluctance to provide a statutory underpinning to press regulation but the call made by Michael Jacobs and Tony Wright for a judicial inquiry into the financial crash on the lines of Leveson went unheeded. Instead we had the Vickers Report, which Osborne managed to get away with partially implementing, in spite of Sir John’s insistence throughout that his recommendations will only work as a complete package.


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George Osborne is all slogan and no strategy

03/12/2012, 07:00:29 AM

by Dan McCurry

Their economic policy is from the 30s,

Their health policy is from the 40s,

Their education policy is from the 50s.

The electorate may be in the present, but the Tories are not.

They’re all old money, and no new blood,

More horse riding, than commuting,

More tractor, than hatchback,

More bone china, than chip wrapper,

The strange thing is that they could have been quite good. The most brilliantly targeted message to have emerged from politics in recent times, was George Osborne’s, “we’re all in this together”

In just five words it encapsulated teamwork, fairness and duty, in order to overcome our problems. But it was a slogan, rather than a strategy. If it were a strategy, then they wouldn’t have increased taxes for the poor and decreased them for the rich. If they had been fair to all, then this government would not be the architects of omnishambles, they would be the builders of Jerusalem.

It’s quite baffling that they came so close to being a successful government; that the strategy was right there in their hands, but somehow they just couldn’t follow it through. The problem is that they only have experience of their own narrow clique. They seem to have little or no experience of the world outside of Westminster and Bullingdon.


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Uncovered: a secret memo to George Osborne

22/11/2012, 07:00:57 AM

by Peter Watt

I can’t tell you how this came into my possession but the following memo was found on a photocopier in Westminster yesterday.  The send field was hidden.*


To: Rt Hon George George Osborne

Date: 20/11/2012


Turning around our current polling situation

George, as you know the Labour party think that they have the next election in the bag.  They think that the public have pretty much decided that the government is a busted flush.  They think that what has undoubtedly been a pretty appalling year for us has sealed our fate.  Privately they accept that Miliband has a way to go before he’s seen as a prime minister but think that our self-inflicted wounds (if we are honest, our incompetence and successive blunders) will mean that he is given an easy ride through to the election.  And that ultimately our unpopularity will overcome his shortcomings in the minds of voters.  But as I have said to you, I actually think that not only are they wrong, their confidence in the face of their substantial poll leads will prove to be their undoing.

In essence I think that that whilst the Labour party undoubtedly has a lead at this stage, its position is exaggerated by the positions of the Lib Dems and UKIP.  It is virtually certain that the Lib Dems will rise in the polls before the election and in all likelihood will poll in the high teens on election day.  Equally, whilst Farage and co might do well through to the Euros they will fall away as we near the election.  If both of these are correct then the true polling position is considerably closer.  In other words the Labour lead can be overcome.  Of course, that does not mean that we do not need to regroup and fast.


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Osborne has dug his hole; Balls shouldn’t dig one too

29/11/2011, 08:00:26 AM

by Jonathan Todd

“What he is now doing is the equivalent of ripping out the foundations of the house just as the hurricane is about to hit”.

Ed Balls said this of the government’s economic strategy in August 2010. It is curious, then, that last week David Cameron told the CBI that controlling Britain’s debt was “proving harder than anyone envisaged”. That’s anyone besides Balls and an increasing number of others convinced by him.

The day after Cameron’s CBI speech The Financial Times reported that it now looks impossible that George Osborne will be able to fulfil the boast made in the March 2011 budget that the structural deficit will be eliminated by 2014/15. Indeed, The Financial Times went on, achieving that goal in 2015/16 also appears unlikely.

To acknowledge that the structural deficit can’t be closed this parliament, John Redwood concedes, “is a defining moment … This, after all, was said to be the (government’s) fundamental point”.


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Whatever happened to the Darling Plan?

25/11/2011, 09:55:28 AM

by Atul Hatwal

Ed Balls is walking into a trap. Unfortunately, it’s one he has set himself.

Next week George Osborne will deliver an autumn financial statement swathed in uncertainty and gloom for the government. So far, the questions from the media have focused on the chancellor’s forecasts and whether he will hit his deficit target, but at some point someone will ask Ed Balls those same questions about Labour’s plans.

Specifically, George Osborne, in the chamber, on Tuesday.

Ed Balls hasn’t mentioned the Darling plan in months, but based on what Labour’s frontbench have been saying and the party’s policy platform, we have a fair view of what Balls will set out.

Labour’s five point plan for growth defines our alternative approach. Out of five pledges, three are straight tax cuts – reversing January’s 2.5% rise in VAT, cutting VAT on home improvements and repairs to 5% and a one year national insurance tax break for small firms hiring new employees.

Given this, at the despatch box, Ed Balls will be promising growth from the tax cuts that will make-up the immediate revenue shortfall and increase economic activity so that unemployment falls, tax receipts go up and the deficit falls.

Quite a complex case with lots of links in the argument, but no numbers on either deficit totals or timelines.


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