HM Treasury

In a lecture last year, Sir Nicholas Macpherson, HM Treasury permanent secretary and perhaps the most powerful old Etonian in Britain, explained the “Origins of Treasury control”. Sir Nicholas said that Treasury’s power came from three sources: conflict, links to Parliament and being able to outwit the rest of officialdom. All three were in evidence this morning, as George Osborne cited his top official’s advice and told Scots they can have independence or the pound – but not both. 

This morning, the chancellor announced that there would be a further £25bn of spending cuts by 2017-18, and that in order to not increase the pace of current departmental spending cuts, a further £12bn would have to be eliminated from the “welfare” budget.

The Venn diagram from Flip Chart Fairy Tales summarises the choice facing Mr Osborne, and includes an apocalyptic assumption about the collapse of some public services. At the Autumn Statement, by targeting a return to surplus in 2018-19, the chancellor implicitly committed himself to finding about an additional £25bn in savings or revenue.  

If you alight at Hackney Central railway station, there is a good chance you will slope on to the platform amid one of London’s glorious human hodgepodges. There will be first and second-generation migrants, white working-class people, scraggly bearded-hipsters, advance armies of gentrifying families – and dozens of Chinese shoppers. Rather than pay high prices in central zone one, this latter group – middle rather than upper-class Chinese tourists – have come east for the retail outlets of Burberry, Pringle and Aquascutum that are nestled outside of the London Overground station. Following the liberalisation of the UK’s rules for tourist visas, there will probably be more Oyster Card adventurers.