What George Osborne said - and what he meant...
Separate the spin from the substance in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at King's College, London, and at Queen Mary University of London. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Friday 06 December 2013
1. Over the last three years we have stuck to our guns, worked through the plan.
* “Working through” is something you do in therapy. People will get the message, which is an emotional rather than a factual one. It was painful, but we are gaining.
2. Where we can afford to help hardworking families, we will continue to do so. The hard work of the British people is paying off, and we will not squander their efforts.
* Thank you for everything that you do. Thank you for your patience. Give yourself a pat on the back. Vote Tory.
3. Let me turn to the report from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Again, I thank Robert Chote and his team for their rigorous and independent work.
* When I set up the OBR I said it stood for Office for Blame Repositioning. Today I can announce that it will be renamed the Office for Boasting about Recovery.
4. The Office for National Statistics has reassessed the depth of the great recession.
* It was worse than anybody could have imagined. Comparable to the Great War. No wonder it has taken a bit longer than I planned.
5. This is the largest improvement to current year economic forecasts at any Budget or Autumn Statement for 14 years.
* I am delighted to report a huge improvement in forecasts. Productivity in economic predictions has doubled. The rate of increase in the output of futurology is higher than it will ever be.
6. The Prime Minister’s visit to China this week is the latest step in this Government’s determined plan.
* We have a five-year plan. For high productivity in prime ministerial visits to countries where they buy our pink Bentley SUVs.
7. And by 2018-19, on this measure, the OBR do not expect a deficit at all. Instead, they expect Britain to run a small surplus ... Borrowing is down – and down significantly more than forecast. This year we will borrow £111bn – £9bn less than was feared in March. That falls next year to £96bn.
* The civil service draft said that we would eliminate the deficit three years later than originally planned, and still go into the election borrowing nearly £100bn a year. I thought this version was better.
8. If we give up on the plan now, we’d be saddled with a deficit that is still among the highest in Europe.
* Everything is still rubbish but we are just about to turn the corner.
9. An improving economy does not let us off the hook for taking the difficult decisions to make sure government lives within its means.
* An improving economy does not let you off the hook of voting Tory. Don’t think you can relax and afford a Labour government.
10. So this Autumn Statement is fiscally neutral across the period.
* That is, not fiscally neutral at all. It will be fiscally neutral “mañana, mañana, mañana,” as Nick Clegg said when he stood in for David Cameron on Wednesday.
11. Welfare budgets were completely out of control when we came to office.
* Not just partly out of control. Every bit of them was hanging out of the windows in Whitehall.
12. We will bring forward next year an updated Charter for Budget Responsibility and ask Parliament to support it.
* And if Labour vote against it they will be, by definition, irresponsible.
13. As they wind down their operations in Afghanistan, the budget we spend there is also falling fast. So we can this year reduce the military special reserve by a further £900m, while still funding all operational costs.
* I am taking £1bn from the military because they don’t need it any more.
14. Today we set out in detail the largest package of measures to tackle tax avoidance, tax evasion, fraud and error so far this Parliament. Together it will raise over £9bn over the next five years.
* When Ed Miliband makes up numbers I say he is visiting the free money tree. When I do it I say I am tackling tax avoidance.
15. Britain is an open country that welcomes investment from all over the world, including investment in our residential property.
* I am about to clobber foreigners. But not until April 2015, so we can make an election issue of it.
16. The good news is the latest survey data showed residential construction growing at its fastest rate for a decade.
* Just as our forecasts are improving at an unprecedented rate, let us look at the rate of change in house building, rather than the actual numbers of houses.
17. I can announce that next year we will provide 30,000 more student places ... The new loans will be financed by selling the old student loan book.
* This is known as increasing the velocity of circulation of debt.
18. There is one group of businesses that have found the recession especially hard – as it has coincided with a rising challenge from the internet that is only getting stronger. These are our local retailers – the shops, the pubs and the cafes that make up our high streets across Britain.
* It is the Government’s job to try to reverse the tide of progress.
19. This Autumn Statement confirms that from April 2015 we will introduce a new transferable tax allowance for married couples.
* Goodness me, I’ve just checked my diary. There is a general election a month later. What are the chances of that?
20. We inherited the hated fuel duty escalator.
* The one introduced by Norman Lamont in 1993, when David Cameron was his special adviser.
21. This Statement shows the plan is working. It’s a serious plan for a grown-up country. But the job is not done. By doing the right thing, we’re heading in the right direction. Britain’s moving again; let’s keep going.
* A grown-up plan for a serious country. A country working through the plan for ridiculous slogans. The end is in sight.
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