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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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. Read more
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
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
The FT’s expert election panel will occasionally be giving their thoughts on the big themes of the campaign. Today, they each write a memo to their leader giving advice for Thursday night’s debate and the remainder of the run-up to the polls.
Charles Lewington, former press secretary to John Major:
David, you have three tasks in the final days – rebutting Labour’s attack on your economic policies, continuing with the tedious but important process of warning about the dangers of hanging the parliament and taking the gloss off the freshly minted Liberal Democrat brand without attacking Clegg personally. Read more
The FT’s expert election panel will occasionally be giving their thoughts on running themes of the campaign. Today, we asked each to describe their fantasy cabinet in a Government of National Unity.
Miranda Green, former press secretary to Paddy Ashdown:
My fantasy is a Government of National Unity to reform the finances and the political system. We can include talent from all parties – Brown out, and Cameron and George Osborne out, I’m afraid, as punishment for wasting their big electoral opportunity. A bit of Labour continuity and a lot of Lib Dem and Tory appointments, including:
Nick Clegg for prime minister and Alan Johnson for deputy prime minister working closely to keep it together (possibly rotating?). Alistair Darling stays as Chancellor, in the interests of stability, with Vince Cable is Business Secretary on a brief to tackle the banks. David Miliband at Home Office with Chris Huhne as Justice Secretary to protect civil liberties. Lord Adonis and Michael Gove forced to be joint at education and push through sensible reforms. Read more
UK economy grows 0.2% in Q1 – Chris Giles in The FT
What planet is Gordon on? - Chris Giles for FT Money Supply
GDP figures not much help to Brown – Ian King in The Times
The Tories still don’t know what’s going on - Benedict Brogan in The Telegraph
It’s now the Cameron v Clegg show – Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian
The “get Clegg” campaign could backfire – Alexander Chancellor in The Guardian
The next must reads post will be on Sunday. For all the election news and analysis over the weekend see the FT’s election indepth.