Welcome to the Westminster blog’s live coverage of chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement. One of the most eagerly anticipated statements since the coalition government took power was expected to offer a gloomy prognosis on the economy. Michael Hunter and Gordon Smith from the FT main newsdesk covered the statement live from 12.30 with additional comment from FT colleagues.

14.10 Thanks for joining us. You can find much more, including the full text of the chancellor’s speech and comprehensive analysis, including video interviews, at www.ft.com/autumn2011

Even Europhile economists must have pricked up their ears at the offer of £250,000 to the person who comes up with the best plan for winding up the euro. Only the Nobel offers a more valuable bounty to the dismal scientists.

But whatever you think of the goal, is the Wolfson Economics Prize – offered by Lord Wolfson, the youthful, Eurosceptic, Conservative chief executive of Next, the UK retailer – the best way to achieve it? These days, bright business ideas often emerge through collaboration, rather than competition.

 

The clash over next year’s EU budget has widely been viewed as a contest between the austere and the profligate. The end result, after a final round of negotiations collapsed in the wee hours of the night, is that the forces of austerity, led by UK prime minister David Cameron and his Dutch and Danish allies, prevailed over a spendthrift European parliament.

But there is another – often overlooked – element to the debate that animated the member states’ unexpectedly stubborn stance: a desire to punish a Parliament that has grown increasingly assertive – some say grasping – since the Lisbon treaty came into force in December. 

By George Parker, political editor

David Cameron did his bit for the age of austerity by flying into Washington last night on a commercial BA flight, dropping the practice of previous prime ministers of crossing the Atlantic in a specially chartered plane.

Onlookers noted Cameron snugly billeted alongside Ed Llewellyn, his owlish chief of staff, as he caught some sleep ahead of the two-day visit to Washington DC and New York.

The decision is supposed to save money, but it also gives Cameron a good excuse not to talk to the travelling press en route to Washington – an informal feature of previous prime ministerial visits.

Cameron is understandably wary of the way the media tends to cover trips to the White House. Gordon Brown’s encounters with the US president invariably ended up being stories about “snubs” – a storyline the new PM is anxious to avoid. 

From the FT’s Money Supply blog

The first £5.75bn of spending cuts has just been announced by George Osborne, Conservative chancellor and David Laws, his Liberal Democrat chief secretary in the Treasury garden. It is something of a spectator sport for large numbers of Treasury officials, who seem either keen to get the knives out, or who have too little work on, and are ripe for the chop.

But these cuts represent just the starter, “the first steps” as Mr Laws admitted. The main course is coming later. This near £6bn is tiny compared with the £40bn to £50bn that is coming from 2011 onward. So it is worth not getting too excited by today’s cuts. 

Stalemate looms in game of political chess – Philip Stephens in The FT
Downing St doubts trouble London shares – The FT
The life and times of Gordon Brown - The FT
Head v hearts – Nick Robinson’s newslog
Lib Dems face an historic choice – The Times
Brown’s tragedy was overreaching himself - The Times
Is Labour serious about a progressive alliance? – Polly Toynbee
A Lib Dem pact risks Labour’s survival – David Blunkett
A Labour-Lib Dem coalition is not what we voted for – Benedict Brogan
MPs in danger of confirming the electorate’s worst suspicions – The Telegraph

From Alex Barker:
Watch the mousetrap:
What an offer from Cameron. But I suspect LIb Dems have been bullied for too long to fall for such blandishments. There’s a growing sense that the Cameron offer is little more than a “mousetrap”. When the Lib Dems sit down to some serious talks on a coalition, Cameron will just accuse them of being difficult in order to strengthen his case for going it alone. The electoral reform concession was described to me by one Lib Dem as “total, unadulterated cynicism”. If Cam is serious, he’ll have a job on his hands winning the trust of these Lib Dems MPs, let alone the beardies in the party.

From Jim Pickard:
Know your history:
Apparently a commission into electoral reform was offered by Heath to the Lib Dems in 1974 and it was turned down; at least that is being reported on Left Foot Forward

Will I be up for Balls? – Gideon Rachman in The FT
The last Brown and Cameron battle could be yet to come – The Guardian
General election 2010 is shaping up to be a good vintage – The Guardian
Labour voters return as doubts grow over Clegg – The Times
New parliament will be least experienced in decades – The Telegraph
The White House dreads a Hung Parliament - The Telegraph
Will the golden rule survive the night? – Mike Smithson on Political Betting

Political scientist Dr Tim Bale of Sussex University says voters aren’t as scared of a hung parliament as the Tories would like, but also warns that Labour’s hopes of a swell in underlying support on election day are likely to be dashed. He goes on to examine poll reliability, the weather’s effect on turnover, and makes his own prediction

Labour’s possible defeat fills European Left’s cup of woe – Tony Barber in The FT
Brown ponders post-defeat exit – The FT
Tories fear tax credit threat - Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph
Election leaflets: The best and worse revealed – The Guardian
Brown’s barnstorming speech: What took him so long? – Jonathan Freedland
The Ulster effect – James Forsyth on Specator Coffee House

They’re not perfect but the Tories fit the bill - FT Leader
Farewell New Labour but does Cam have a plan? – Philip Stephens, FT
Electoral reform is not a precondition – Clegg interview, FT
National Insurance row is an ‘irrelevance’ – FT
Vote Lib Dem if it makes sense in your area – Peter Hain in the Independent
My family will be voting Lib Dem in Norfolk – Ed Balls in New Statesman
Duffy and the shrieking gibbons – Armando Iannucci, The Independent
Tories 12 points behind in Lib Dem marginals – The Telegraph
But a word of warning about the sample size – UK Polling Report
Giving Lib Dems hope of taking Wells - The FT
Tory fundraising begins for second election – The Mail
The money is back on a hung parliament - Political Betting
Is Ed Balls throwing in the towel? – Mary Riddell in The Telegraph
Ministers drop tactical vote hints – The Evening Standard
Labour left clinging to hope – Julian Glover in The Guardian
Impartiality is over: Cameron gets my vote – Michael Grade for the Times
Off with their heads! Soon the cuts will begin – Rachel Sylvester for the Times
Brown delivers best speech of his campaign – Spectator Coffee House

Poll blow for Clegg as voters think twice – The Sunday Telegraph
Brown’s game is up – James Forsyth in The Mail on Sunday
Once in a generation chance for change – The Independent
Cameron’s smooth approach to transition – Robert McCrum in The Observer
No need for hang ups about a hung parliament – Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer
Tories in 4-seat majority (if you include the unionists) – The News of the World
Tories plan bonfire of Labour laws – The Sunday Times