Newspaper headlines: Osborne's U-turn and the 'end of austerity'

The Autumn Statement dominates Thursday's front pages, with the papers divided in their views on George Osborne's announcements.

The Daily Telegraph is sceptical about what it calls the "end of austerity". Writing in the paper, Allister Heath says few of Mr Osborne's announcements were "ideologically sound from a Thatcherite or free market perspective".

He says the Conservatives were elected to shrink the state but the chancellor has "dragged the government leftwards".

The Financial Times says public and political appetite for austerity is waning, and the chancellor chose to soften a reputation he once delighted in - that of the "public-spending axeman".

Mr Osborne has abandoned austerity and gone on a "spending spree", the Daily Mail says.

Writing in the paper, Peter Oborne says the chancellor boosted his chances of succeeding David Cameron as prime minister - but "only by placing the nation's finances in jeopardy".

There is a "sting in the tail for Middle England", the Mail adds. It says those "clobbered" by £28bn in tax rises will include motorists, workers and people who want holiday or buy-to-let homes.

The Daily Express criticises a rise in foreign aid spending, saying it is "obvious" the money would be better spent in the UK.

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The Daily Mirror declares "victory" for its campaign against tax credit cuts, saying it forced the chancellor into a U-turn. But it says Mr Osborne is dangerously out of touch and deserves no credit for being "dragged kicking and screaming" into seeing his plans were unfair.

The chancellor was forced to call off his "assault" on the incomes of low-paid workers but the poor remain in his "sights", the Independent says.

It has a similar view on the police cuts U-turn - welcoming the decision but saying that until yesterday Mr Osborne himself was the biggest threat to policing.

The Telegraph's Matt cartoon shows a policeman holding a sign saying: "Police appeal: Please forget everything we said about Mr Osborne before the Autumn Statement."

Mr Osborne is now "riding high", the Times comments, but it says severe cuts must still be made - and indeed the plans announced yesterday will see government departments "shrink almost beyond recognition".

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The chancellor has cultivated an art of "lesser awfulism", the Guardian says. His system, it claims, is to hint at severe cuts before fiscal announcements then do "something slightly less awful" on the day.

It says the press then hail his political savvy, but his latest plans depend on forecasts by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which are - the paper says - "regularly wrong".

'Heroic assumptions'

The Sun says the chancellor was "Borne lucky", but the Telegraph echoes the Guardian's caution - saying Mr Osborne is gambling on the reliability of the OBR's forecasts.

"It's not even as if the chancellor had found £27bn down the back of the sofa. He had found it down the back of a hypothetical, future sofa," the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland writes.

He says Mr Osborne played Santa in the House of Commons yesterday - having played Scrooge in July - offering glad tidings about tax credits and police funding, and stocking fillers for "almost everyone".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Osborne was spotted with Father Christmas - well, Ed Balls dressed as Santa - in 2011

The Times says Mr Osborne has "never looked more confident" - and the papers are in broad agreement that he was helped by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell.

'Great leap backwards'

Responding to Mr Osborne in the House of Commons, Mr McDonnell quoted from - and produced a copy of - Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

This reference to the former Chinese communist leader was, according to Tom Peck in the Independent, a "perfectly executed assassination of the last remnant" of Mr McDonnell's own credibility.

The Tories are "lucky in their enemies", Robert Shrimsley writes in the Financial Times.

He says Mr Osborne's tax credits U-turn was the "most humiliating climbdown of his career" - but he was helped by Mr McDonnell's "great leap backwards".

"Not all politicians are the sharpest pencils in the box," the Sun comments.

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Eye-catching headlines

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The downing of a Russian warplane by Turkey - which dominated Wednesday's headlines - continues to feature on Thursday.

The Independent quotes one of the two Russian airmen from the plane saying there was no radio warning from Turkish forces - something Turkey disputes.

Russia has "bulked up" its defences around Turkey following the incident, the Sun reports.

The Times says the two nations are striving to avoid further escalation. The situation has prompted fears that "miscalculation and brinkmanship could spark a war stretching well beyond the Middle East", it adds.

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