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Watson and Doctor Who team up in Labour's first party political broadcast

Martin Freeman, the star of The Hobbit and Sherlock, endorses Labour in the party's first party political broadcast.

Martin Freeman is the star of Labour's first party political broadcast, which airs tomorrow night on BBC Two at 5.55pm, ITV at 6.25pm and BBC One at 6.55pm. The ad also features the talents of David Tennant, star of Doctor Who and Broadchurch. The full transcript is below:

Hello. Now we are in the run-up to a General Election and over that time you’re going to hear loads of claims from people on the Left, on the Right, all over the place. It’s going to drive you mad. It’ll probably drive me mad but don’t switch off yet. You see, because I think in the end it’s simple; it boils down to a choice between a Labour government or a Conservative one. But it isn’t just a choice between two different plans, two different ways of getting the deficit down. It’s a choice between two completely different sets of values. A choice about what kind of country we want to live in. And I don’t know about you, but my values are about community, compassion, decency; that’s how I was brought up. So yeah, I could tell you the Tories would take us on a rollercoaster of cuts while Labour will make sure the economy works for all of us, not just the privileged few, like me, but it’s not just about that. I could tell you it seems like the Tories don’t believe in the NHS while Labour is passionate about protecting it - among other examples, guaranteeing GP appointments within 48 hours and cancer tests within one week. Guaranteed.

But it’s not even just about that. I could tell you that the Tories have got sod all to offer the young whereas Labour will invest in the next generation’s education and guarantee – that word again – apprenticeships for them. I could tell you that Labour will put the minimum wage up to £8 and ban those horrible zero-hours contracts while the Tories would presumably do more of their tax cutting for millionaires. But, real though all that stuff is and important though it is if you’re young in this country, or broke in this country, or if you’re unwell in this country – and let’s face it we all need the NHS at some point – or if you are just plain working hard and finding life tough, there is a choice of two parts. The bottom line is what values are we choosing, because in the end this choice we make really does matter.

Labour. They start from the right place – community, compassion, fairness – I think all the best things about this country. I love this country so much and I love the people in it, and I think you do too, but really, for me, there’s only one choice; and I choose Labour.”

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics. 

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George Osborne's surplus target is under threat without greater austerity

The IFS exposes the Chancellor's lack of breathing space.

At the end of the last year, I noted how George Osborne's stock, which rose dramatically after the general election, had begun to plummet. His ratings among Tory members and the electorate fell after the tax credits imbroglio and he was booed at the Star Wars premiere (a moment which recalled his past humbling at the Paralympics opening ceremony). 

Matters have improved little since. The Chancellor was isolated by No.10 and cabinet colleagues after describing the Google tax deal, under which the company paid £130m, as a "major success". Today, he is returning from the Super Bowl to a grim prognosis from the IFS. In its Green Budget, the economic oracle warns that Osborne's defining ambition of a budget surplus by 2019-20 may be unachievable without further spending cuts and tax rises. 

Though the OBR's most recent forecast gave him a £10.1bn cushion, reduced earnings growth and lower equity prices could eat up most of that. In addition, the government has pledged to make £8bn of currently unfunded tax cuts by raising the personal allowance and the 40p rate threshold. The problem for Osborne, as his tax credits defeat demonstrated, is that there are few easy cuts left to make. 

Having committed to achieving a surplus by the fixed date of 2019-20, the Chancellor's new fiscal mandate gives him less flexibility than in the past. Indeed, it has been enshrined in law. Osborne's hope is that the UK will achieve its first surplus since 2000-01 just at the moment that he is set to succeed (or has succeeded) David Cameron as prime minister: his political fortunes are aligned with those of the economy. 

There is just one get-out clause. Should GDP growth fall below 1 per cent, the target is suspended. An anaemic economy would hardly be welcome for the Chancellor but it would at least provide him with an alibi for continued borrowing. Osborne may be forced to once more recite his own version of Keynes's maxim: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.