David Cameron says "red warning lights" are flashing for another economic crunch. Photo: Getty
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David Cameron's warning of another global recession could help the Tories

The Prime Minister cautions that we are on the brink of another global economic meltdown, but this could be politically expedient for his party.

David Cameron warns that we could be on the verge of another global recession. He refers to "red warning lights" flashing once again signalling another economic meltdown could be on the way, in an article for the GuardianHis opening paragraph reads:

Six years on from the financial crash that brought the world to its knees, red warning lights are once again flashing on the dashboard of the global economy.

In the piece, he writes of the economy worldwide potentially slowing down due to current affairs crises such as the ebola outbreak, the tempestuous situation in Ukraine and the Middle East, the eurozone's difficulties, and slow growth in emerging markets, as well as mentioning "stalled" global trade talks.

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, has responded to this article suggesting Cameron is simply "making excuses for slower growth", referring to borrowing "going up so far this year" and exports falling "behind our competitors".

However, the Prime Minister's intervention is a tricky one for his opponents, because it is politically expedient for the Conservatives to suggest that the global economy remains precarious. Throughout his piece, Cameron uses the phrase "long-term plan", which is a clear echo of the Tories' slogan du jour "long-term economic plan". The way the party is fighting the upcoming election is to suggest that the only path to achieving financial stability is to stick with the government that has been tackling, with some effect, our economic problems for over four years, and not to risk changing the strategy by voting in a different party.

Cameron is undoubtedly preparing the country for the Chancellor having to explain, in the imminent Autumn Statement, awkward figures like why borrowing is increasing, and any corresponding harsh economic policies. However, as elements of a national economic recovery set in, and the Tories creep ahead in the polls, it seems the fact that they are still more trusted than the Labour party on the economy means that warning of future external destabilising factors could work in their favour. It has the added benefit of putting the economy, on which the Tories can speak with some authority, back at the top of the political agenda, as opposed to Ukip-friendly subjects such as immigration and Europe.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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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.