Can Boy George do his sums?

The shadow chancellor's £3bn mistake

The Guardian reports a rather embarrassing error in George Osborne's budget plans:

George Osborne's reputation as a would-be Tory chancellor is unravelling after his claim that he would save £13bn by raising the state pension age was challenged by the respected think tank that provided the basis for his figures.

The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) said the shadow chancellor's proposed saving, outlined at the Conservative party conference this week, would take five years longer than estimated and fall £3bn short.

NIESR said Osborne's team had made a mistake in their calculations, misreading a paper written by the think tank earlier this year. Osborne's aides originally based their calculations on an NIESR document in the House of Commons library. After his speech the think tank sought clarification of his assumptions. It has recalculated the figures and will present them at a conference on Monday.

We all knew that Boy George was economically illiterate, but is he innumerate, too?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.