George Osborne's Autumn Statement: live blog

Minute-by-minute coverage of the Chancellor's announcements and the OBR's new forecasts.

12:07pm Osborne ends with the message: "Britain is moving again. Let's keep going." (Please re-elect us.) 

12:04pm Employers' National Insurance will be scrapped on employees aged under 21, Osborne says. 

12:02pm Osborne announces that next year's fuel duty rise will be cancelled, praising the campaigning work of Tory MP Robert Halfon on this issue. But he doesn't deliver the cut that some predicted. 

11:59pm Through gritted teeth, the socially liberal Osborne confirms that the government will introduce a marriage tax allowance from April 2015 and that its value will be increased in line with the personal allowance (which will rise to £10,000 next year). 

11:58am He announces a £1,000 discount on business rates for all retailers valued at up to £50,000. 

11:55am Osborne says business rates increases will be capped at 2% for all premises (rather than 3.4%). 

11:53am Probably the biggest announcement from Osborne so far: the cap on student numbers will be abolished. 

11:51am He announces that anyone aged 18-21 claiming welfare without "basic skills" will be required to undertake training or "lose their benefits". 

11:47am Osborne announces a "priority right to move" for social housing tenants who need to move for a job.

11:46am A striking admission: "if we want more people to own their own homes, we need to build more homes". 

11:42am He announces the well-trailed introduction of capital gains tax on foreign property owners. At present, while British citizens pay CGT at 18% or 28% when they sell a property that is not their main home, non-residents are exempt. But with foreign investors purchasing around 70% of all new builds in central London, Osborne, still burdened by a deficit forecast to be £111bn this year, has spied a revenue-raising opportunity. 

11:41am Osborne has just used the stat often cited by Boris Johnson in defence of the super-rich: that they pay 30% of all income tax. That's true, but what he doesn't mention is that the 30% stat tells us less about what has happened to the tax system than it does about what has happened to the income system.

Over the period in question, the earnings of the rich have risen to previously unimaginable levels. As a recent OECD study showed, the share of income taken by the top 1% of UK earners increased from 7.1% in 1970 to 14.3% in 2005, while the top 0.1% took 5%. Quite simply, the rich are paying more because they're earning more. Is this really cause for us to thank them? If 11 million low and middle earners receive the pay rise they have been denied since 2003, they'll pay more tax too. 

11:35am Osborne has announced three new steps to enshrine fiscal "responsibility":

1. A new charter for budget responsibility committing the government to running a surplus. It will be put to a vote in parliament (a test for Labour). 

2. A cap on total welfare spending (as previously announced in the Spending Review). Osborne confirms that it will exclude the state pension and cyclical benefits such as JobSeeker's Allowance. 

3. Finally, he announces a further £2bn cut in departmental budget and a £1bn cut in the contingency reserve. 

11:28am He announces that the forecast deficit for this year has been revised down from £120bn to £111bn, but that's still £41bn higher than expected in 2010. 

Borrowing in 2014-15 is forecast to be £96bn, then £79bn in 2015-16, £51bn in 2016-17 and £23bn in 2017-18. That leaves him on track to halve the deficit (it was £159bn in 2009-10) by 2015-16, the same speed promised by Alistair Darling in 2010. 

11:26am On borrowing, Osborne announces that the OBR expects the government to run a budget surplus by 2018-19. 

11:23am Osborne boasts that employment is at a "record high" of 29.95m. That's true, but only because the population has risen. The rate, at 71.8%, remains well below its pre-recession peak of 73.1%.

11:21am Here are the OBR's revised growth forecasts: 1.4% (up from 0.6%), 2.4% ( up from 1.8%), 2.2%, 2.6%, 2.7%, 2.7% 

11:20am Tory MPs cry "apologise" at Labour as Osborne reminds MPs that GDP fell by 7.2% during the recession. 

11:19am Osborne tries to shoot Labour's fox by saying he will help families with the "cost-of-living" where he can. 

11:16am Osborne is up. He wastes no time in delivering his key political message: I have a "long-term" plan and "the biggest risk" comes from those who would "abandon" it. That's Ed Miliband and Ed Balls in case it wasn't clear. 

11:11am While we wait for Osborne to begin, here's 10 things to look out for today. 

George Osborne and Danny Alexander leave the Treasury on the way to parliament to deliver the Autumn Statement. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty Images.
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As long as Jeremy Corbyn's Labour opponents are divided, he will rule

The leader's foes have yet to agree on when and how a challenge should take place.

Labour MPs began plotting to remove Jeremy Corbyn as leader before he even held the position. They have not stopped since. From the outset, most regarded him as electorally and morally defective. Nothing has caused them to relinquish this view.

A week before the first major elections of this parliament, Labour found itself conducting a debate normally confined to far-right internet forums: was Hitler a Zionist? For some MPs, the distress lay in how unsurprised they were by all this. Since Corbyn’s election last September, the party has become a mainstream venue for hitherto fringe discussions.

Many MPs believe that Labour will be incapable of rebuilding its standing among the Jewish community as long as Corbyn remains leader. In the 1930s, Jewish support for the party was as high as 80 per cent. “They handed you your . . . membership just after your circumcision,” quipped the father in the 1976 television play Bar Mitzvah Boy. By the time of the last general election, a poll found that support had fallen to a mere 22 per cent. It now stands at just 8.5 per cent.

Corbyn’s critics cite his typical rejection of anti-Semitism and "all forms of racism" (as if unable to condemn the former in isolation), his defence of a tweet sent by his brother, Piers (“Zionists can’t cope with anyone supporting rights for Palestine”), and his description of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”. The Lab­our leader dismissed the latter remark as a diplomatic nicety but such courtesy was not displayed when he addressed Labour Friends of Israel and failed to mention the country’s name. When challenged on his record of combating anti-Semitism, Corbyn frequently invokes his parents’ presence at the Battle of Cable Street, a reference that does not provide the reassurance intended. The Jewish community does not doubt that Labour has stood with it in the past. It questions whether it is prepared to stand with it in the present.

MPs say that Labour’s inept response to anti-Semitism has strengthened the moral case for challenging Corbyn. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of how the fear of “enormous reputational damage” had pushed him to the brink of resignation. As the New Statesman went to press, Corbyn’s first electoral test was looming. Every forecast showed the party on course to become the first opposition to lose council seats in a non-general-election year since 1985. Yet Corbyn appeared to insist on 3 May that this would not happen, gifting his opponents a benchmark by which to judge him.

Sadiq Khan was projected to become the party’s first successful London mayoral candidate since 2004. But having distanced himself from Corbyn throughout the race, he intends to deny him any credit if he wins. Regardless of the results on 5 May, there will be no challenge to the Labour leader before the EU referendum on 23 June. Many of the party’s most Corbyn-phobic MPs are also among its most Europhile. No cause, they stress, should distract from the defence of the UK’s 43-year EU membership.

Whether Corbyn should be challenged in the four weeks between the referendum and the summer recess is a matter of dispute among even his most committed opponents. Some contend that MPs have nothing to lose from trying and should be prepared to “grind him down” through multiple attempts, if necessary. Others fear that he would be empowered by winning a larger mandate than he did last September and argue that he must be given “longer to fail”. Still more hope that Corbyn will instigate a midterm handover to the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, his closest ally, whom they regard as a beatable opponent.

Those who are familiar with members’ thinking describe many as “anxious” and in need of “reassurance” but determined that Corbyn receives adequate time to “set out his stall”. One shadow cabinet minister spoke of being “caught between Scylla and Charybdis” – that is, “a Labour Party membership which is ardently Corbynista and a British electorate which is ardently anti-Corbynista”. In their most pessimistic moments, some MPs gloomily wonder which group will deselect them first. The possibility that a new Conservative leader could trigger an early general election is cited by some as cause for haste and by others as the only means by which Corbynism can be definitively discredited.

The enduring debate over whether the Labour leader would automatically make the ballot if challenged (the party’s rules are ambiguous) is dismissed by most as irrelevant. Shadow cabinet members believe that Corbyn would achieve the requisite nominations. Momentum, the Labour leader’s praetorian guard, has privately instructed its members to be prepared to lobby MPs for this purpose.

There is no agreement on who should face Corbyn if his removal is attempted. The veteran MP Margaret Hodge has been touted as a “stalking horse” to lead the charge before making way for a figure such as the former paratrooper Dan Jarvis or the shadow business secretary, Angela Eagle. But in the view of a large number of shadow cabinet members, no challenge will materialise. They cite the high bar for putative leaders – the endorsement of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs – and the likelihood of failure. Many have long regarded mass front-bench resignations and trade union support as ­essential preconditions for a successful challenge, conditions they believe will not be met less than a year after Corbyn’s victory.

When Tony Blair resigned as Labour leader in 2007, he had already agreed not to fight the next general election and faced a pre-eminent rival in Gordon Brown. Neither situation exists today. The last Labour leader to be constitutionally deposed was J R Clynes in 1922 – when MPs, not members, were sovereign. Politics past and present militate against Corbyn’s opponents. There is but one man who can remove the leader: himself.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred