Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from today's papers

1. International Coming Out Day: The jokes are widespread, but there is a reality behind it Independent

My ex couldn't manage to come out to her parents while we were together, and it hurt, writes Rosie Wilby.

2. Trade unions and Tories march to the same beat Times (£)

They think they’re opponents but really they need each other, writes Matthew Parris.

3. David Cameron has shown why the Tories are the truly moral party Telegraph

The Prime Minister made a compelling case for his great social reforms at the Conservative Party conference, writes Peter Oborne

4. David Cameron's Conservatives are living a lie and he can't speak up Guardian

Cameron's conference speech held out the promise that Britain can go it alone, without Europe or the US. It's an illusion, says Martin Kettle.

5. Only by coming together can students and trade unions fight the Coalition's failing austerity Independent

Our writer, a student activist, argues that though we are about to see another wave of protests across Britain, it needs to be more co-ordinated if it is to be effective, writes Matthew Brett.

6. But what if Europe follows a different map? Times (£)

The Cameron-Hague plan for a new relationship with the EU forgets only one thing — all the other members, says David Aaronovitch.

7. Boris Johnson: brilliant, warm, funny – and totally unfit to be PM Guardian

For 20 years I've known London's mayor is a gold-medal egomaniac. If he gets into No 10, I'm on the first plane out, writes Max Hastings.

8. Cash upfront for the road to serfdom Financial Times (£)

Robert Shrimsley walks an employee through the fire-at-will policy.

9. David Cameron won’t win an election by adopting the politics of fear Telegraph

The Prime Minister must distil from a mish-mash of Tory policies a vision to unite the country, writes Mary Riddell

10. The Cost of Protecting Greece’s Public Sector New York Times (£)

Calls to slash a massive bureaucracy give way to the reality of the public sector’s political clout, writes John Sfakianakis.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
Show Hide image

Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.