Is George Osborne right to look confident after 'mini-Budget'?


"I can tell the House that we are no closer to balancing the books than when we first promised to do it. We are not on course to meet our debt target. We now need to put up taxes and cut spending until at least 2018. We're making progress. We're sticking to our Plan."

Cue Tory MPs shouting "hear, hear" as the chancellor sits down to be congratulated by the prime minister.

Those weren't, of course, his exact words in his Autumn Statement, but they do sum up his grim message.

The politics of today's mini-Budget are very curious. At a time when his critics - and Ed Balls in particular - are able to say "I told you so", George Osborne looked and sounded confident whilst the shadow chancellor looked the reverse.

Here's why the chancellor thinks he got the politics right - and why he may be wrong :

  • The chancellor hailed the fact today that the deficit is still falling and so too borrowing, contrary to most economists (and my) expectations. I'm told that Treasury officials only saw this data a little over a week ago and couldn't believe their luck. It allowed George Osborne to claim that the government is still making progress.
  • He believes that so long as the public perceive the problem with the British economy to be borrowing they will see the government's budget hawks as the solution and Labour as the problem.
  • The government believes its chosen targets for cuts are popular. Beware when they talk of squeezing bureaucrats, benefits and the better off.
  • Alongside that pain he's offered voters some gains - the cancellation of the next planned fuel duty rise and another small income tax cut by an increase in the personal tax allowance.
  • The Treasury's latest attempt to stimulate growth is to cut business taxes and to switch £5 billion from day to day "current" spending to investment or "capital" spending. This has already been welcomed by business.

One of the oldest political clichés of them all is that you shouldn't judge a budget on the day. The reason sayings become cliches is because they are usually true.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Sorry that should have read "outrage of frequent posting" at the end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    When things are going badly for the Tories there's always a heap of abuse piled onto Labour. Most of it is totally untrue and simply regurgitated rubbish from the right-wing press. You can't blame Labour for the ineptitude of the Tories. Grow up!

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    "81.Keith Burtons
    @76 - how come you're still able to post every 5 minutes ?
    What do the mods have to say about that ?"

    Why not write a stern letter to the DG of the BBC if it worries you that much.

    Deficit? Debt? Unemployment? third world poverty? Oh, no, trivial compared to the outrage of frequent psoting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    @96 emmitc

    The Tories may bring us Black Comedy but Labour brought us depression!

    Clearing up someone mess is never pleasant as they are usually in denial they caused it and they ceratinly won't thank you!

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    Ed Balls talks mindless political point scoring rubbish. Bring back Darling or put the other Miliband in the opposition job. Balls just does not have the intelligence to make a meaningful contribution.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    It's only Money!
    Let the Rich have it all with their false friends and their false love of their family's if their happy with money let them have it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Well boys and girls I think they should bring back spitting image, it would cheer us all up.
    loads of material for them.
    granny tax
    pastie tax
    caravan tax
    this government is a script writers dream just as it was when Cruella was in power. For those that remember that is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    The financial crisis is GLOBAL; even the more resilient economies have been hurting of late and we all have to hope fervently that their struggles are short-lived and they can lead the world out of its financial woes. Meanwhile, the "UK-isolationists" who blame the current government for the state of the UK economy and its painfully slow recovery should just not be taken seriously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Naturally because the UK economy is doing so well right now

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    0.70% of GDP (+ share of EU's foreign aid budget) = Compulsory 'charity' contribution from every person.

    Personally I prefer to choose what charities I support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    makes me dread to think where we would be under Labour

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    Jason@85. Most countries Aid programs are based on the principle that the target country selects goods or services from the donor country, with the suppliers establishing a local presence. This work for all concerned. Alas, we have the Foreign and Commonwealth office, staffed by over paid, over pensioned clueless muppets who know zip about business and simply throw our tax revenue over the wall!

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Before calling for cuts to the Overseas Aid budget bear in mind the UK's contingent liabilities to its 14 Overseas Territories. They also get first call on being given aid and many are of vital strategic military importance to the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    The Coalition's position on the borrowing levels will not hold together once the detail is thoroughly examined. One of the weirdest links is the idea of fiddling with the threshold of tax relief on super pensions of the rich justifies dehydrating the poor (they cant be soaked) who have CTB and UC next year and thereafter. Lib Dems really are Tory poodles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    On what basis does Balls feel that he, of all people, has any right to claim that anyone (even Osbourne) has lost economic credibility? Balls, the principle architect of the car crash that was the last government's economic policy, is brazenly unrepentant. Any apology from him for the wreckage he left will only be worthwhile if he exits stage left, never to darken politics in this country again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    With the economical situation for the country being somewhat dire, how can we afford to continue in the provision of aid at a level that makes the UK the top of the league in respect of this matter?
    About time the politicians listened to the voters (and even some MP's) who express concerns over the Foreign Aid budget when our own citizens are being financially streched.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    George is trying to clear up the shambles left by your mate Ed Ballsup and your constant negative reporting of anything Tory is not helping Nick. You seem like an intelligent man yet you promote the Labour lie that the mess they left can be solved by getting us more into debt. You live in Cloud Cuckoo land...

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    The UK is so stupid that even if we threw 10s of billions at infrastructure we'd give the contracts to non-UK companies, truck in an immigrant workforce for the job and buy non-UK equipment to make it all work.

    Why also is the governments so intent on giving away 0.7% of GDP in aid when that money could massively boost investment here at home & help British families?

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Lets face it Nick, even if Osborne (or any other Tory come to that) could clear the entire labour budget deficit (I'm comfortable calling it that, how about you Nick?) tomorrow, but you would still insist he was wrong. I am still waiting for you to admit Labour made this mess Nick, or was it a nasty bogeyman?

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Crisby. Further to previous post. Do buy Darling's autobiography. An excellent read. I'm not a Lab voter but found Darling's candour and honesty very refreshing. He admits he should have stood up to Brown about the parlous state of the economy but was cowed by Brown's bullying and his own inate party loyalty. A decent man just a shame we are now suffering for his political cowardice


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