Autumn Statement: After George Osborne said he was dropping the fuel duty rise, the man taking the credit set his sights on Gordon Brown's 10p tax

Our diarist speaks to Robert Halfon MP, and says Santa Claus had a bad day


As George Osborne announced that he was permanently abandoning the proposed 3p a litre increase in the price of fuel, the camera cut away to the Tory MP, Robert Halfon, sitting in the back row, looking thoroughly pleased with himself. It was the culmination of his long, obsessive campaign to bring down the price of petrol.

For his next trick, Halfon tells me, he is going to start lobbying for the reinstatement of the 10p tax rate which Gordon Brown introduced early in his tenure as Chancellor but inexplicably abolished in his final budget. Halfon wants it to apply to incomes up to £15,000 a year. “It would show that we’re not just interested in tax cuts for the rich,” he says.

From Tory clown to Santa Claus

Ed Balls had a full day. His morning was spent working out what to say in reply to Mr Osborne’s Autumn Statement. His speech, at lunchtime, did not go well, because right at the start he made a slip of the tongue, putting the word “not” in the wrong place, which had the Chancellor and David Cameron falling about laughing, while Mr Balls struggled to recover. Later, he attended Labour’s briefing with the press corps, but had to break off early because of an urgent appointment in a dining room downstairs, where MPs’ children were having a Christmas Party. Nadine Dorries was due to appear in her jungle outfit and, for the eighth year running, Balls was booked to appear as Santa Claus.

Dave toasts a good Balls-up with claret

But on a “we’re all in it together” sort of note, after Mr Cameron had listened to Mr Balls with such visible enjoyment, he was seen making his way into the MPs’ dining room for a plate of roast beef and a glass of claret.

Announcing the Office for Unconventional Gas

If you fancy a job in a new Government agency, and your ideas on gas are not completely bound by convention, you may be interested in this announcement from Chapter 2 of the updated National Infrastructure Plan, published yesterday: “To maximise economic production from UK natural gas resources, the Government will also establish an Office for Unconventional Gas…”

Councillor Ken revs up his speed campaign

Ken Lupton, former leader of Stockton Borough Council, on Teesside, had been distributing a newsletter to residents defending his campaign to have speed cameras installed on the Darlington Road when he got a message about his father that worried him. Leaping into his BMW with personalised number plates, he set off down the said Darlington Road and was booked for speeding. “I am disappointed,” he told the Northern Echo, after magistrates handed down a six-month disqualification.

Westwood outrages with words, not outfit

All political leaders are psychopaths, the veteran fashion designer Dame Vivienne Westwood claimed at a dinner on Tuesday night in aid of Human Rights Watch, organised by the Fortune Forum. While others laughed, Frederick Willem de Klerk, the former President of South Africa who presided over the dismantling of apartheid, seemed to take it to heart. When it was his turn to speak, he opened by saying: “I am surprised you did not introduce me as a retired psychopath.”

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