What Osborne didn't mention: wage growth has been revised down

The Chancellor boasted of higher GDP and employment, but the living standards squeeze is set to continue.

For the first time since he became Chancellor, George Osborne arrived for today's Autumn Statement brandishing unambiguously improved economic forecasts. In the triumphalist manner of Gordon Brown, he boasted of "the largest improvement" at any Budget or Autumn Statement for 14 years. Growth is now forecast to be 1.4% this year (up from 0.8%) and 2.4% (up from 1.8%) next year. Unemployment is forecast to be 7.6% this year (down from 7.9%) and 7.1% next year (down from 8%). Borrowing is forecast to be £111bn this year, £9bn lower than expected in March (although still £41bn higher than expected in 2010), and £96bn next year. 

But there was one set of forecasts that Osborne didn't mention: wages. Unlike every other measure, the OBR now expects earnings growth to be weaker, not stronger, than it did at the Budget. The forecast for this year was left unchanged (at 1.5%), while that for next year was revised downwards by 0.2% to 2.6% and that for 2015 by 0.4% to 3.3%. As a result, after already falling by an average of £1,600 since 2010, wages will continue to lag behind inflation in 2014 and will be flat in 2015. 

The danger for Osborne is that even as the UK grows faster than any other G7 country, most families won't feel the benefits, not least in an economy as unequal as Britain's. Labour will still be able to warn that this is a "recovery for the few, not the many" right up until May 2015. 

For that reason, it is far from certain that the UK's economic gains will translate into political gains for the Tories. When Osborne and David Cameron accuse Miliband and Balls of desperately trying to avoid talking about the economy, they should remember that, to most voters, living standards are the economy.

Today, in an attempt to show that he is not oblivious to the squeeze on voters' incomes, the Chancellor offered baubles including a freeze in fuel duty, a reduction in green levies, free school meals for infant pupils and a £1,000 cut in business rates for small firms. But for voters enduring the longest fall in living standards since 1870, that is very small beer.  

George Osborne talks to UK scientists in No. 11 Downing Street on December 4, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Our union backed Brexit, but that doesn't mean scrapping freedom of movement

We can only improve the lives of our members, like those planning stike action at McDonalds, through solidarity.

The campaign to defend and extend free movement – highlighted by the launch of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement this month – is being seen in some circles as a back door strategy to re-run the EU referendum. If that was truly the case, then I don't think Unions like mine (the BFAWU) would be involved, especially as we campaigned to leave the EU ourselves.

In stark contrast to the rhetoric used by many sections of the Leave campaign, our argument wasn’t driven by fear and paranoia about migrant workers. A good number of the BFAWU’s membership is made up of workers not just from the EU, but from all corners of the world. They make a positive contribution to the industry that we represent. These people make a far larger and important contribution to our society and our communities than the wealthy Brexiteers, who sought to do nothing other than de-humanise them, cheered along by a rabid, right-wing press. 

Those who are calling for end to freedom of movement fail to realise that it’s people, rather than land and borders that makes the world we live in. Division works only in the interest of those that want to hold power, control, influence and wealth. Unfortunately, despite a rich history in terms of where division leads us, a good chunk of the UK population still falls for it. We believe that those who live and work here or in other countries should have their skills recognised and enjoy the same rights as those born in that country, including the democratic right to vote. 

Workers born outside of the UK contribute more than £328 million to the UK economy every day. Our NHS depends on their labour in order to keep it running; the leisure and hospitality industries depend on them in order to function; the food industry (including farming to a degree) is often propped up by their work.

The real architects of our misery and hardship reside in Westminster. It is they who introduced legislation designed to allow bosses to act with impunity and pay poverty wages. The only way we can really improve our lives is not as some would have you believe, by blaming other poor workers from other countries, it is through standing together in solidarity. By organising and combining that we become stronger as our fabulous members are showing through their decision to ballot for strike action in McDonalds.

Our members in McDonalds are both born in the UK and outside the UK, and where the bosses have separated groups of workers by pitting certain nationalities against each other, the workers organised have stood together and fought to win change for all, even organising themed social events to welcome each other in the face of the bosses ‘attempts to create divisions in the workplace.

Our union has held the long term view that we should have a planned economy with an ability to own and control the means of production. Our members saw the EU as a gravy train, working in the interests of wealthy elites and industrial scale tax avoidance. They felt that leaving the EU would give the UK the best opportunity to renationalise our key industries and begin a programme of manufacturing on a scale that would allow us to be self-sufficient and independent while enjoying solid trading relationships with other countries. Obviously, a key component in terms of facilitating this is continued freedom of movement.

Many of our members come from communities that voted to leave the EU. They are a reflection of real life that the movers and shakers in both the Leave and Remain campaigns took for granted. We weren’t surprised by the outcome of the EU referendum; after decades of politicians heaping blame on the EU for everything from the shape of fruit to personal hardship, what else could we possibly expect? However, we cannot allow migrant labour to remain as a political football to give succour to the prejudices of the uninformed. Given the same rights and freedoms as UK citizens, foreign workers have the ability to ensure that the UK actually makes a success of Brexit, one that benefits the many, rather than the few.

Ian Hodon is President of the Bakers and Allied Food Workers Union and founding signatory of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.