George Osborne will give his Autumn Statement this week. Photo: Flickr/altogetherfool
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More borrowing and a stubborn deficit: what will we hear in the Autumn Statement?

George Osborne will deliver his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. What will it contain?

The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement on Wednesday. Although the government insists that it is leading the country through a recovery, deep economic difficulties remain and will cloud George Osborne’s announcements this week.

The Treasury still hasn’t managed to bring the deficit under control, and over the next five years, whatever government we have will have to borrow up to £75bn. Borrowing is going to be higher this year than last year, and the deficit is only down a third since 2010.

So in these gloomier than planned circumstances, how will the Chancellor frame the Autumn Statement to attempt to win the support of an electorate that will be voting in the next government in under six months?



We knew infrastructure would be a big part of the Autumn Statement, and probably next year’s Budget, mainly because of the hints dropped by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander over the past few months, and also Osborne’s vocal enthusiasm for infrastructure projects.

This has manifested itself in £15bn to be spent on new road funding in England, which includes:

  • A tunnel under Stonehenge, to tackle a notorious bottleneck
  • Improving M25 junctions
  • 100 road improvement schemes
  • Adding 1,300 new miles of extra lanes to motorways and A-roads

The problem politically with these plans is that they don’t exactly amount to a big, sexy infrastructure project, such as the “HS3” scheme that ministers have recently been discussing. Also, the amount of money the government is planning to spend on this was initially announced in 2013, meaning Labour can dismiss this as a “re-announcement”.



Whenever any politician comes up with a proposal for the health service now, it is highly politically significant because Labour is attempting to bring the subject to the top of the agenda, as it is the party most trusted with the NHS. Indeed, the Tories have reportedly been advised in the past by their election strategist Lynton Crosby that they should try to avoid talking about the NHS, so unlikely is it that the public will trust them with it following this parliament’s controversial Health and Social Care Act.

However, there is a funding crisis in the NHS that Osborne has to plan on fixing. But he will be approaching this in the Autumn Statement with very few fireworks. He will pledge to spend an extra £2bn a year on the NHS, to stave off the funding hole.

This has been welcomed by NHS England, but such a figure will only be able to keep the health service going as it is at present, rather than allowing for growth and new investment. It is also lower than the figure the Labour party has already announced it will spend annually on the NHS, £2.5bn. Also, Osborne is only gaining the extra cash from under-spending and further efficiency savings from other Whitehall departments. The Guardian has called this the equivalent of “rummaging down the back of the sofa”.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.