Osborne to borrow more than Labour was projected to

Chancellor forecast to borrow £19bn more than the Brown government was expected to.

George Osborne rattled through the OBR's borrowing forecasts in his autumn statement - and with good reason. They show that, as a result of lower growth and higher unemployment, he will be forced to borrow £158bn more than forecast a year ago. Even more strikingly, Osborne is now set to borrow £19bn more than Labour was projected to (see Table 4.5 on p. 38 of the OBR's June 2010 release). With glorious irony, the national debt will now be higher under the coalition (78 per cent of GDP in 2014-15) than it would have been under Labour (74 per cent of GDP).

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Labour's smart line of attack is that while Osborne is borrowing to meet the cost of unemployment, they would have borrowed to fund growth.

It's true that external factors may well have forced a Labour chancellor to borrow more than forecast but here's the question Osborne and his allies will have to answer: why aren't the bond markets panicking? They claimed that borrowing a billion more than planned would take Britain to the "brink of bankruptcy". But the fact that Osborne is set to borrow a huge £158bn more than forecast in November 2010 shows this up as the myth it always was.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Tom Watson rouses Labour's conference as he comes out fighting

The party's deputy leader exhilarated delegates with his paean to the Blair and Brown years. 

Tom Watson is down but not out. After Jeremy Corbyn's second landslide victory, and weeks of threats against his position, Labour's deputy leader could have played it safe. Instead, he came out fighting. 

With Corbyn seated directly behind him, he declared: "I don't know why we've been focusing on what was wrong with the Blair and Brown governments for the last six years. But trashing our record is not the way to enhance our brand. We won't win elections like that! And we need to win elections!" As Watson won a standing ovation from the hall and the platform, the Labour leader remained motionless. When a heckler interjected, Watson riposted: "Jeremy, I don't think she got the unity memo." Labour delegates, many of whom hail from the pre-Corbyn era, lapped it up.

Though he warned against another challenge to the leader ("we can't afford to keep doing this"), he offered a starkly different account of the party's past and its future. He reaffirmed Labour's commitment to Nato ("a socialist construct"), with Corbyn left isolated as the platform applauded. The only reference to the leader came when Watson recalled his recent PMQs victory over grammar schools. There were dissenting voices (Watson was heckled as he praised Sadiq Khan for winning an election: "Just like Jeremy Corbyn!"). But one would never have guessed that this was the party which had just re-elected Corbyn. 

There was much more to Watson's speech than this: a fine comic riff on "Saturday's result" (Ed Balls on Strictly), a spirited attack on Theresa May's "ducking and diving; humming and hahing" and a cerebral account of the automation revolution. But it was his paean to Labour history that roused the conference as no other speaker has. 

The party's deputy channelled the spirit of both Hugh Gaitskell ("fight, and fight, and fight again to save the party we love") and his mentor Gordon Brown (emulating his trademark rollcall of New Labour achivements). With his voice cracking, Watson recalled when "from the sunny uplands of increasing prosperity social democratic government started to feel normal to the people of Britain". For Labour, a party that has never been further from power in recent decades, that truly was another age. But for a brief moment, Watson's tubthumper allowed Corbyn's vanquished opponents to relive it. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.