10 pieces of bad news that Osborne left out of his Autumn Statement

The small print shows that the economy will shrink in the current quarter and that unemployment will rise next year.

As ever, you had to scour the small print to find the bad news that George Osborne chose to leave out of his Autumn Statement. So here, complete with references to the OBR document, are the ten stats that the Chancellor would rather you didn't know.

1. The economy is expected to shrink in the current quarter, with the OBR forecasting a contraction of 0.1 per cent. (p. 48 OBR document). It states that "headline GDP growth is likely to be negative in the final quarter of 2012 as the effect from the Olympics reverses." The day before the last set of growth figures were released, Cameron boasted that "the good news will keep coming". It's now clear that it won't.

2. Despite the government's promise to "make work pay", sixty per cent of the real-terms cut to benefits (they will rise by just 1 per cent for three years) will fall on working households. (Resolution Foundation) A working family on £20,000 with two children will lose £279 a year from next April.

3. The recent fall in unemployment is expected to be reversed as the jobless total rises from 2.5 million to 2.7 million next year. (p. 83 OBR document)

4. Were it not for the inclusion of the expected £3.5bn receipts from the 4G spectrum auction - which hasn't taken place yet - the deficit would be higher this year (£123.8bn) than last year (£121.4bn). (p. 5 OBR document).

5. The measures announced yesterday by Osborne are expected to increase GDP by just 0.1 per cent over the forecast period. (p. 51 OBR document). This was no Autumn Statement for growth.

6. Earnings are forecast to rise at a slower rate than inflation until the second quarter of 2014. (p. 86 OBR document). By then, the median full-time wage will be 7.4 per cent below its 2008 level.

7. Public sector job cuts will reach 1.1 million by 2018 (p. 83 OBR document), reducing government employment to its lowest level in post-war history.

8. An extra 400,000 people will be dragged into the 40p tax band by 2015-16, paying an extra £117 per year.

9. The government is expected to lose £16.5bn on its stakes in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds, up from an estimate of £14.3bn in March. (p. 162 OBR document).

10. Osborne's decision to cut the top rate of income tax from 50p to 45p means the 8,000 people earning a million pounds or more will receive an average tax cut of £107,500 from next April.

George Osborne leaves number 11 Downing Street for the Treasury on December 5, 2012 in London. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.