The cost of Libya is a blow to Osborne's credibility

The £260m cost of the war undermines Osborne's claim that "the cupboard is bare".

Finally, we can put a figure on the cost of military action against Libya: £260m. Liam Fox confirmed the amount in a written statement to MPs, revealing that the campaign itself had cost "in the region of £120m". Another £140m will have to be spent replacing missiles and other munitions if the mission is to continue at its present rate.

It's a blow to the government's credibility and particularly that of George Osborne. On March 22 the Chancellor told the Commons that the cost of military operations against Gaddafi would be "in the tens of millions, not hundreds of millions". This has now been exposed as a dramatic underestimate.

But more significantly, the cost of the mission undermines Osborne's previous insistence that "the cupboard is bare". It is harder for ministers to defend library closures, Sure Start closures and the rest when the government is spending hundreds of millions of pounds on a war far from home.

The coalition has sought to present many of its decisions (the VAT rise, the tuition fees increase, the abolition of universal child benefit) as "unavoidable" but today's news is a reminder that it has choices too. Given that the government spent £694.4bn in 2010-11, £260m is, as Jock Stirrup, the former chief of the defence staff, said on The World At One, "very small beer". But it's the perception that counts. Public support for the mission, already at a record low, is likely to plummet further.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Work with us: Wellcome Scholarship at the New Statesman

Be one of our 2016 science interns.

Britain needs more great science writers – particularly from backgrounds which have been traditionally under-represented in the media.

To address this, the New Statesman and Wellcome Trust, in partnership with Creative Access, have come together to offer annual placements to student or graduates from an ethnic minority background*.

The final 2016 placement will take place this Autumn/Winter (the exact date is flexible) and will last for four weeks.

Over the course of the placement, the successful applicants will:

  • Work alongside the New Statesman web and magazine team, learning about the editorial and production process, and how articles are conceived, written, edited and laid out;
  • Undertake a data-driven journalism research project on a scientific topic, which will be published on the New Statesman website
  • Visit Parliament and learn about how science-based legislation is developed and debated in the select committee system
  • Have an opportunity to interview a leading scientist or policy-maker
  • Write a regular bylined science blog on the New Statesman website
  • Receive regular feedback and editing from the editorial team
  • Meet journalists at other titles in the sector (previous Wellcome Scholars have met writers for the Atlantic, and presenters for the BBC)

Over the course of the placement, you will be paid London living wage.

To apply for the placement, follow the steps below and apply direct to the New Statesman. 

Please write an 800-word blogpost on a recent or upcoming scientific development which you feel has the potential to change lives significantly, explaining clearly and concisely what stage the research is at, and how it is likely to proceed. It should be written as if for the NS audience - interested, intelligent laypeople.

Please also write up to 200 words on why you are right for this placement and what you would hope to get out of it. You don't need to send a CV.

Please only use Word files, or paste your text into the body of an email. 

Send your application by email to Helen Lewis (Helen @ newstatesman co uk) with the subject line “Wellcome Scholarship 2016”. 

Applications close on 30 September 2016. Interviews will take place soon after.

This is a positive action scheme under the Race Relations Act.