The clatter of old-fashioned typewriters is being piped through the Times newsroom. Photo: Getty
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The Times is playing typewriter sounds in its newsroom to motivate its journalists

Tapping into history.

Visitors to the Times’ new London Bridge offices could be forgiven for believing that along with its move, the Murdoch broadsheet has ditched its digital strategy in favour of a more traditional approach to newsgathering: tapping out copy on manual typewriters.

But they’d be wrong. The publication, at the behest of its editor, is having the tapping noise of old-fashioned typewriters piped into its newsroom every now and again through a big speaker.

The retro clatter is intended to boost the energy of Times journalists as they type, therefore motivating them to hit their deadlines. The noise starts off soft and slow and then apparently builds to a crescendo of typing, apparently in a trial to see if it will help reporters work faster.

The paper’s diary editor Patrick Kidd told the BBC’s Today programme this morning that the noise was unexpected: “suddenly it was playing in the background over loudspeakers… [it’s our] editor’s wish to pay respect to our history.”

He said at first he found this “nod to our history” to be “mildly irritating” but now finds it “soothing” and on a busy day found himself typing in rhythm to the sounds.

Kidd also expressed his hope that the clatter of old typewriters might signal a return of the “stale smell of cigarette smoke” and the “three-bottle lunch”.

I'm a mole, innit.

Photo: Getty Images
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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.