Chancellor George Osborne. Photo: WPA Pool Getty Images News
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What is the deficit?

The deficit is the gap between government spending and income.

If a government doesn’t raise enough funds – mainly through taxes – to meet what it spends, it results in a deficit.

A deficit is often a symptom of a recession, as more money is spent on help such as unemployment benefits or even targeted bailouts to private companies (such as the money given to UK banks in 2008, which totalled around £500bn).

To make up the shortfall, countries often borrow money, creating national debt. The deficit is therefore an indication of how a country’s finances are doing in the short term; the national debt is a longer-term picture.

During the first financial quarter of 2015, the UK government debt amounted to £1.56trn, over 80 per cent of GDP.

The deficit in the last quarter of 2014 was £25.3 billion, down from £27.7bn in the third quarter. (Source: Office of National Statistics)

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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