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/autumn2011Read more

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.

 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

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

Vince Cable attacks ‘cop out’ Tory spending plans – The Evening Standard
Darling: Time and again, Labour called it right on the economy – LabourList
‘That was a disaster’ – Nick Robinson’s Newslog
The “Thick of It” election – Hopi Sen
Brown gaffe on campaign trail – Politics Home
A highly damaging moment for Gordon Brown – The Times
Labour’s most dangerous moment of the campaign – The Guardian
Brown “mortified” at bigot comment – Alistair Campbell

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

A plague on all your houses – Chris Giles in The FT
Deficit Buster cuts to the chase – The FT
Tell us the truth about cuts! – Jon Craig on Sky
Labour should forget about Clegg and pull itself together – The Times
Clegg puts party before country – Iain Dale
Tory plans for nurseries are something to shout about – The Guardian

Banal debates exposed deeply unimpressive candidates – The FT
First past post system will be tested to its limits - The FT
Labour comes to terms with an existential crisis – Rachel Sylvester in The Times
Mandelson backs Miliband as Labour civil war brews – The Mail
Clegg “clarifies” that he’ll deal with third place Labour – The Guardian
Clegg will make sure he is leader of the opposition – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
Alternative Vote will be no better – John Curtice in The Independent
Lib Dems storm Islington, home of New Labour – The Times
Watch out for a rogue poll - Political Betting

Gordon Brown’s big opportunity - Nick Robinson’s newslog
The final ten days – Adam Boulton on Sky
Alan Johnson positions himself to lead Labour coalition talks – The Times
The tories won’t stand for PR – Iain Martin in the Wall St Journal
The surge of young voters – Libby Brooks in The Guardian
Warning to Clegg: Don’t overreach yourself – Alistair Campbell

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.

Will approval ratings be the best voting guide? – Mike Smithson
The would-be chancellors – Nick Robinson’s newslog
The fall of St Vince – Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian
Clegg sees Labour as a dead party – Julian Glover in The Guardian
Will warnings of chaos affect the electorate? – James Forsyth
Five key questions for the leaders’ debate – Robert Colville in The Telegraph