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"]

 Read more

Jim Pickard

Phil Woolas has just lost an historic court case in which he was accused of making false claims before the general election. There will now be a re-election for his seat, which he won in May with a majority of just 103 votes.

The case was the first of its kind for a century.

As the FT reported last month:

Phil Woolas was re-elected by a slim majority in Oldham east and Saddleworth, beating the Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins. Mr Watkins claims Mr Woolas made false statements about him in an attempt to influence the result.

The court heard that Mr Woolas’s campaign team aimed to “galvanise the white Sun vote” against Mr Watkins, claiming Mr Watkins had tried to “woo” and “pander” to Muslim fanatics and militants, the court was told.

Now the Labour MP has lost the case it will set a curious precedent for British elections, where mud-slinging is widespread and many candidates are thrifty with the actualité.

Without wanting to trivialise a no doubt serious case, where does Woolas’s defeat leave Britain’s political parties in future elections? Will their leaders have to muzzle all candidates for fear of twisting the truth?

Take this general election, where the Lib Dems made a fervent promise to protect tuition fees and prevent them from rising higher. It was a promise worth its weight in hot air. Should some of their MPs face fresh elections? Read more

Nicholas Timmins

One important question for the new coalition – and anyone interested in policy – is just how far is either party now held to what was in their manifesto or their previous political commitments. Or is it now ground zero for everything?

Both parties have already given appreciable ground on previously cherished policies to form the coalition.

But in the run up to the election campaign David Cameron told pensioners “you have my word” that winter fuel payments, free bus passes and TV licences, along with the pension credit, would be protected. 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

Kiran Stacey

5.55pm: After only an hour, I’m signing off this live blog now to let Jim and Alex take over with their own separate posts. Thanks for joining us for a pretty dramatic hour though!

5.55pm: So who will be the next Labour leader, and potentially, prime minister? An FT survey of 50 Labour constituency chairmen suggested the grassroots would like to see Alan Johnson, but according to this piece by Rachel Sylvester in The Times, Johnson will stand aside to support David Miliband. Miliband is likely to be challenged by Ed Balls and possibly Harriet Harman, but intriguingly, reports over the weekend suggested he might also be challenged by his brother Ed. As Jim pointed out earlier today, his brother’s candidacy might not be such bad news for Miliband Senior. Read more

Our expert election panel of Miranda Green, Charles Lewington and Matthew Taylor convened for the last time on Friday afternoon to unpack the campaign and provide insight into the hung parliament. Special commendation to Miranda Green, whose election prediction throughout the course of the campaign have been closest to the result.

 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

Bad news for Nick Griffin’s far right British National Party as it was trounced in its strongholds of Barking, Stoke and Burnley. This was despite the troubling news that the openly anti-Islam party has lifted its number of votes to more than 500,000 nationally, or about 2 per cent of the vote – up from just 192,000 in 2005.

The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that the BNP seems to be picking up most of its support in areas where it is not campaigning heavily and where its leaders do not put in an appearance. There are clearly big concerns about immigration in white working class neigbourhoods, which explains the jump in the national vote. However, as soon as Mr Griffin and his chums show up on the doorstep, support plummets. James Bethell of Nothing British about the BNP, which campaigns against the group, says this is because voters are distinctly unimpressed when they get to grill Mr Griffin and the others directly about their policies on the economy or other non-immigration issues. Read more

Helen Warrell

With Jim and Alex still on frontline duties, Helen Warrell and Johanna Kassel, who have helped steer the FT’s online election coverage, will keep you up-to-date with the most recent results.

And on that note, we’ve heard from all three leaders and more pundits than we can shake a stick at. So 18 hours and thousands of words later, we are going to sign off from the live blogging. We will continue to update the blog as the final results come in and if there is any breaking news. But thanks for joining us and make sure to watch the Westminster blog and FT.com for all the latest news and developments over the weekend.

4.05 HW: Tory reactions on Cameron’s statement are surprisingly slow to emerge by Peter Hoskin on Spectator Coffee House is surprised that Cameron has gone so far in his advances towards the Lib Dems and is impressed by the Tory leader’s “clarity” in setting out the areas where he isn’t willing to compromise with Nick Clegg – namely Europe, cutting the deficit and immgration. Read more

With Jim and Alex still on frontline duties, Helen Warrell and Johanna Kassel, who have helped steer the FT’s online election coverage, will keep you up-to-date with the most recent results.

Jim Pickard says:

Brown has dug his heels in, effectively saying: the ball is in your court. It’s now up to Cameron and Clegg to make a deal – or fail. Labour still believe that the Lib Dems are philosophically closer to them than to David Cameron and therefore the initial talks could fail. I’m not sure that’s right. ‘Orange book’ modernisers such as David Laws and Nick Clegg are free market liberals as opposed to the sandals-lentils types.

Meanwhile Charlie Whelan is already rehearsing the justification for a Lib-Lab pact if Clegg-Cameron discussions founder. The two ‘progressive’ parties won 53 per cent of the vote, he points out.

Snap analysis from Robert Shrimsley:

Oh my God, it’s like Friday the 13th. You think he’s finally been killed off and then up he pops again brandishing – if not a machete, then an even larger and sharper offer to keep himself in power. He’s just recorded a result barely better than Michael Foot’s but he is not giving in.

It has been a morning of increasingly naked offers to the Lib Dems but now with Gordon Brown’s statement in Downing Street and offer of “immediate legislation” on electoral reform the prime minister is making one last desperate pitch to the Lib Dems not to do the deal with David Cameron. This is a direct appeal over Nick Clegg’s head to the other leading Lib Dems, effectively saying “look the deal is here on the table – don’t let this man who’s already cocked up the election for you pass up your best ever chance of laying your hands on the holy grail of voting reform”.

On the other hand – it s a bit grubby. The case for electoral reform may well have been made but it is hardly the first priority for the next government requiring immediate legislation. Mr Brown is still fighting for his life and who knows how many more times he will have to be killed off before he gives up.

Key quotes:

“For my part, I must make clear I would be willing to see any of the party leaders … Clearly if the discussions between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg come to nothing then I would be prepared to meet with Mr Clegg”

“I understand that people do not like the uncertainty, but we live in a parliamentary democracy … and it’s our responsibility now to make it work for the national good” Read more

From Alex and Jim, our eyes and ears in Westminster.

Alex says:

Just emerging from Lib Dem world. There are many interpretations of Clegg’s remarks. But, as Robert has written, it’s safe to say that he’s telling Gordon Brown to pack his bags.

There is some wriggle room in the statement on electoral reform. But Labour should not hold their breath. Most Clegg allies realise that the electoral maths make a deal with Labour — at least within the next six months or so – virtually impossible. Cameron will be given the first crack at governing — it is just a matter of sorting out the details.

How close will co-operation be? Will it be anything more than support on a bill by bill, issue by issue basis? What needs to be done to calm the markets … etc

Clegg’s hand on pushing for electoral reform is significantly weakened by his poor election showing. So while they won’t rule out a deal with Labour, it will mainly be to strengthen their position with the Tories. An AV referendum is probably out of the question. But the Tories could offer up some other concessions: cutting the number of (Labour) MPs, recall elections, and even fixed term parliaments. Read more

From the FT:
Clegg gives Cameron shot at premiership
Cameron ponders a hesitant vote for change – Philip Stephens
UK set to become part of Europe’s coalition landscape
Has anyone heard what the people said? - Matthew Engel
Deficit to dominate new team’s agenda - Chris Giles
Hung parliament casts shadow over markets

FT Videos:
Impact of hung parliament – Chris Giles, economics editor
Cameron as PM likely outcome – Robert Shrimsley, Armchair election writer
UK market turns to US after indecisive poll – David Oakley
Result scares markets – Michael Saunders, senior economist at Citi
Gilts vulnerable - Mark Schofiled, global head of interest rate strategy at Citi Read more

So after a long night which rewarded those like me who stuck with it all the way through by delivering almost exactly the result predicted by the exit polls at 10pm, we now know that Nick Clegg will give David Cameron the first shot at forming a government.

Clegg’s decision to all but offer the keys to Number 10 to David Cameron is very interesting indeed. The Liberal Democrat leader must be bitterly disappointed this morning – in the end it was almost as if the debates that projected him to the electoral stratosphere never happened. He woke up and it was all a dream, which made it far harder for him to swagger around playing kingmaker. However, the decision effectively to cut Gordon Brown off at the knees so early is a surprising tactical move. Read more

Helen Warrell

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Helen Warrell, who has helped steer the FT’s online election coveage, will man this blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of the unfolding result.

12.05: As the clock has struck noon, we are going to take a 10-minute rest. In the meantime, Robert Shrimsley, writer of the armchair election, has written a post, which will appear above very shortly.  We will be back soon…

11.59 HW: An ongoing tussle on electoral reform as both major parties continue to woo the Lib Dems: Charlie Whelan, former press secretary to Gordon Brown, says he is “sure” that Labour will offer the Lib Dems proportional representation as an incentive to form a Lib-Lab coalition. Meanwhile Conservative sources tell the BBC that Cameron “hasn’t ruled out” the possibility of some sort of electoral reform.

11.51: Jim’s headline of the day goes to The Sun: “Right Wing Brings Down Ukip”. Let’s hope Nigel Farrage is enjoying the joke as much as everyone else… Read more

With Jim and Alex on frontline duties, Kiran Stacey, a fellow political hack, and Helen Warrell, who has helped co-ordinate the FT’s online and multimedia election coverage, will man this live blog. Jim, Alex and others will contribute. Follow the news, drama and tension of election night here.

The page should update automatically every few minutes, although it may take longer for those reading on a mobile.

1.58 KS: We’re about to shut this particular post down and open a new one, so sorry to make you navigate away. But stay with us and follow the story in the next post: The view from 2am.

1.57 KS: More bad news for the Lib Dems. They lost ground in Newbury, which the Tories took from them in 2005. Perhaps the message of “Vote Clegg, get Brown” was successful.

1.52 KS: 57 seats done, with an average swing of 3.3% from Labour to the Tories. But this number is warped by much figures from Scotland and Northern Ireland, says the BBC.

1.51 KS: Ed Miliband equivocal to say the least about Gordon Brown’s position. When asked by Paxman “It’s Brown or bust is it?” he replies, “I wouldn’t quite put it that way.” Read more

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

From an email doing the rounds in the City of London on Thursday morning:

Westminster will never be the same again – Philip Stephens
Don’t let Downing Street call the shots, ma’am – Eamonn Butler for the FT
Battles on the path to power – The FT
The Final Projection: Tories 19 seats short of a majority – Politics Home
Could the Conservatives steal this election? – Martin Kettle for the Guardian
Big increase in postal voting could mean delayed result – The Guardian
Treasury starts work on £6 billion Conservative cutbacks – The Times
Unsure how to vote? My contortions may help - David Aaronovitch for the Times
A reminder of the price we pay for political freedom – Benedict Brogan for the Telegraph
As Britain goes to polls, economic clouds hover – New York Times

Follow every twist and turn on our live election special, running through the night and into Friday. The Westminster Blog team will track key marginal results and the latest news from FT correspondents at election counts around the country as the nation heads to the polls.

London: the key seats – The Guardian
EU warns on UK deficit – Politics Home
Lib Dems squezed on both sides – The Times
Nerd wars over the result – Chris Giles for FT Money Supply
He has his faults, but my God you have to admire GB depth and resilience – Alastair Campbell
Gordon’s fighting talk - Jon Craig on Sky
Labour jittery in Scotland - The Guardian
Why isn’t Dave 15 points ahead? - Norman Tebbit in The Telegraph

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