David Miliband

Tom Burgis

George Osborne

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the Autumn Statement.

George Osborne has missed his fiscal targets and cut corporation tax.

We’ll bring you all the day’s developments live. By Tom Burgis and Ben Fenton.

15.45: We’re winding up the blog now, but you can follow events as they unfold through constantly updating stories on the front page of FT.com

15.31: A representation of the “flamethrower of uncertainty” can be found in the documentation of the OBR. It is also known as a “fan chart”. I doubt George Osborne is a fan of it, though.

15.24: Chote speaks of the “flamethrower of uncertainty”- a favourite phrase, unsettlingly enough, of the OBR, which is a chart showing forecasts in a wide range that makes the chart lines look like a firebreathing dragon.

15.18: Chote says that the variation in the possible range in the forecast of net debt figures for the UK is a large number, but is “dwarfed by the scale of uncertainties” on the issuance of debt. I think that’s the second time he has said that in his address.

15.12: The Spectator is running a rather scary chart showing the lost output of the current “seven-year slump” in the UK.

15.07: Robert Chote, director of the Office for Budget Responsibility, is live now, going through his department’s figures that underpinned the bad news Mr Osborne has just had to deliver.

15.05: Gavyn Davies has blogged for the FT with his view on the autumn statement while the FT’s Lucy Warwick-Ching has collated some very interesting instant reaction from personal finance experts.

14.49: Hannah Kuchler on the FT’s UK desk has been keeping an eye on business reaction to the autumn statement.

She says:

The CBI, the employer’s organisation, urged the government to stick to its guns on deficit reduction to retain international credibility, saying it was no surprise that austerity would last longer than expected.

John Cridland, director-general, welcomed investment in infrastructure and support for exports, but said the proof was in the delivery. He said:

“Businesses need to see the Chancellor’s words translated into building sites on the ground.”

But the British Chambers of Commerce was less positive, declaring the statement not good enough for a country meant to be in a state of “economic war”.
The government is just “tinkering around the edges”, John Longworth, the BCC’s director general said, adding: “The Budget next March must make truly radical and large-scale choices that support long-term growth and wealth creation. That means reconsidering the ‘sacred cows’ of the political class, including overseas aid and the gargantuan scale of the welfare state. Only a wholesale re-prioritisation of resources, to unlock private sector finance, investment and jobs, will be enough to win the ‘economic war’ we are facing. The danger is that our political class is sleepwalking with its eyes open.”

14.40: Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor, just passed by the live news desk so we asked him what he thought of the autumn statement.

The Chancellor is in a hole, but the good news is that he’s stopped digging. The FT supports the government’s fiscal stance, but is there more to be done on monetary policy to boost growth? That’s the question.

14.26 Who says the British don’t like doing things the French way? Might we surmise from this tweet from the BBC’s Robert Peston’s interview with Danny Alexander, Osborne’s Lib Dem No2, that the UK’s crediworthiness might be going to way of its Gallic cousins’?

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/Peston/statuses/276330461142327296"]

Others are more chipper:

[blackbirdpie url="https://twitter.com/MJJHunter/statuses/276330252601524225"]

 

Helen Warrell

Ed Miliband cannot have enjoyed the revelation last Friday that two out of three Labour voters want to ditch him and install his brother as party leader instead. But a new poll released today is potentially far more damaging.

According to a Times/ Populus survey, a third of Labour’s own voters prefer David Cameron to Ed Miliband as prime minister. It also showed that over the last four months, there has been a 5 percentage point increase in the number of people who are dissatisfied with Cameron but would still prefer him to be in Downing St than the Labour leader.

Speaking at Labour’s conference fringe, Rick Nye, director of Populus, made clear that Mr Miliband has a difficult task – because even if his party is increasing its lead against the Tories, the statistics do not look so good when the leaders are pitched head to head. As a result, the likeliest outcome of next election is a hung parliament, with Labour the largest party but no overall majority, Nye said. 

Jim Pickard

Journalism is the first draft of history, not the last. For a good example it’s worth turning to the first few months of Gordon Brown’s regime, which were described almost universally as a brilliant example of political leadership – as the new PM tackled floods and whatever else. In retrospect this was a rather generous verdict.

And according to the journalistic narrative, Ed Miliband has had a catastrophic start to 2012. Just awful. The Labour leader is up to his armpits and flailing, such is his predicament. Such is the verdict from many of our most learned commentators of late. 

Kiran Stacey

Word reaches us that David Miliband is getting ready to dip his toe back into domestic politics with an appearance on Newsnight next week. Although dates have not yet been finalised, David is keen to go on the programme to talk about his work on the youth unemployment task force, which was set up by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, and which he chairs.

Since the Labour leadership election, Miliband Senior has kept his public interventions in politics mainly to large-scale foreign policy questions. This is in part because of his previous job as foreign secretary, but also it has helped his younger brother find his feet on the bread-and-butter issues of British politics without interference. 

Jim Pickard

My colleague Sue Cameron reveals that David Miliband was at a recent event where he said that many Labour types are optimistic that the current government will only last for a single parliament: “It’s what makes some of us seek to lead the party,” he said. The tense is rather revealing, as Sue points out in her must-read weekly column.

Miliband then asked Lord Healey if he thought there were parallels with Heath’s brief parliament in the 1970s: “No,” was the unwelcome response.

Jim Pickard

Not sure if this has had any pick-up but in Francis Maude’s speech he promised to set up his own army of community organisers:

So we’re creating a Big Society Bank, training a whole new generation of community organisers, involving more voluntary and social enterprises in public service provision. Social action; community engagement.

Could this possibly have been borrowed from David Miliband’s “Movement for Change”, modelled on Barack Obama’s similar campaign? 

Jim Pickard

You can watch an interview with Miliband here on Sky. Meanwhile here is his formal resignation statement:

Dear Alan,

For nine years South Shields and the South Shields Labour Party have given me great support. I look forward to that continuing for many years to come. The extraordinary efforts of party members – from Shields and across the country – during my leadership campaign made me feel very proud indeed of our shared values and shared vision. 

Jim Pickard

David Miliband’s advisers are confirming that he is leaving Manchester and is heading back to London. That is surely not the behaviour of a politician who is about to say he will run for the shadow cabinet and unite behind his brother. I could still be wrong – but it seems increasingly likely that he will quit frontline politics.

A key moment today, picked up by Channel 4, was when Ed Miliband criticised the Iraq invasion. David, stony-faced, refused to clap. He turned to Harriet Harman, politely applauding next to him, and whispered: 

Jim yesterday spotted the extraordinary number of spoiled ballots among the trade unions and affiliated organisations. More than 36,000 ballots were wasted — about 14.6 per cent of the votes cast in this section of the electoral college. The reason is that the voters simply failed to tick a box saying they supported Labour.

An absurd rule, I know. But did it make a difference? There was talk last night among some of the Ed Miliband camp suggesting this was an important factor. One aide claimed the campaign had managed to reduce the spoiled ballot rate in the unions backing their man. The ground campaign apparently handed out thousands of “how to vote” cards making clear that they vote wouldn’t count unless they ticked the box at the end. One Ed aide claimed the effort won them up to 6,000 extra votes. If true, it made a big difference to the result. Was it another Florida hanging-chad moment? 

Jim Pickard

Crucial to the Ed Miliband camp’s narrative was the idea that the YouGov poll in early September – which for the first time put him ahead of David, albeit by only 51:49 – gave him the psychological edge. The theory was that ambitious MPs in the elder brother’s camp would jump ship in order to win promotion, as we reported at the time.

This was wrong. Ultimately only one MP quit the David Miliband camp in the last week or two: Chris Evans, MP for Islwyn. And even then it was not to join the Mili-E bandwaggon: he decided to back Ed Balls, whose political reputation – if not his campaign – had been picking up. 

Jim Pickard

Sorry for the delay – have been writing for the main ft.com site, where we have written about the victory of Ed Miliband over David Miliband by the thinnest of margins.

The headline victory is astonishingly close, 50.65 per cent to 49.35 per cent. 

Jim Pickard

I first revealed a few weeks ago that Unite had got around the Ray Collins (Labour general secretary) ban on putting pro-Ed Miliband literature in the same envelope as the ballot papers sent to its members. It had just put the envelope inside a separate envelope; simples.

As I wrote at the time: