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Newslinks for Thursday 6th December 2012

7pm ToryDiary: The squeezed middle are NOT earning over £225,000 a year

4pm WATCH: MPs Bernard Jenkin and David Lammy join forces - in the Parliament Choir for Christmas

3.15pm WATCH: Balls on his much-mocked response to Osborne in the Commons

Screen shot 2012-12-06 at 14.51.103pm ToryDiary: A 10p income tax rate - arguments for and against

2pm Local Government: Social landlords should help with childcare to get tenants into work

10.45am LeftWatch: Balls has a far worse problem than his stammer

ToryDiary: Osborne gets a good press this morning but Britain is in serious economic trouble

Columnist Andrew Lilico is today's absolute must-read: "Osborne has responded to the disintegration of his fiscal strategy with a bold political attack.  He remains the best show in town - our best hoped for achieving anything in terms of getting the deficit down.  But with the growth outlook getting worse and worse, with austerity scheduled to last longer and longer, and with the political damage of now-near-inevitable high inflation getting worse and worse, I fear that being the best show in town will not ensure him an eager audience for too much longer."

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MPsETC: How Robert Halfon MP froze fuel duty and won a victory for "white van conservatism"

LeftWatch: Does Jonathan Freedland read ConHome before writing about it?

The Deep End: The new dash for gas should be good for the environment, but there is a complication…

Chris Skidmore MP on Comment: Beveridge - a modern conservative?

Local Government: Newly built neo-classical social housing in Islington

Ratings agency Fitch warns that Britain could lose its AAA credit rating after George Osborne admitted he will miss his target to reduce Britain’s debts and have to borrow an extra £100 billion - Telegraph

"The economy would shrink by 0.1 per cent this year, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which also cut growth forecasts for each of the next four years." - Times (£)

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Graphic from The Sun.

The Tories will go to the polls in 2015 promising another three years of austerity - Guardian

"Ed Balls, shadow chancellor, accused the Treasury of manipulating the borrowing figures by taking account of 4G spectrum proceeds before the auction has taken place. The £3.5bn booked in the statement looks conservative against the £22.5bn raised by a similar sale of 3G spectrum in 2000 at the peak of the dotcom boom." - FT (£)

'The Coalition is simply not radical enough'

Oborne Peter April 2012"The terrifying fact is that Mr Osborne did not extend austerity yesterday. He merely delayed it. To adapt a phrase from the euro crisis, he kicked the can down the road. In due course he, or more likely a successor, will have to come to the Commons and deliver the bracing cuts that were not announced yesterday." - Peter Oborne in The Telegraph

"The compromises of coalition government prevent the kind of radical, supply-side, tax-cutting agenda that might stand some chance of breaking the mould. What we seem to have is a kind of “New Labour-lite” approach to government in which the Treasury constantly shrinks away from what really needs to be done." - Jeremy Warner in The Telegraph

"This Statement will soon be forgotten, yet another wasted opportunity to salvage the UK economy from what looks ever more likely to be a lost decade" - Allister Heath in City AM

But Alex Brummer in the Daily Mail is not so harsh: "Too often, Chancellors hemmed in by Treasury orthodoxy fail to act co urageously. But in the past few weeks, Osborne has acted bravely in his choice of Canadian Mark Carney as the new governor of the Bank of England, and in his insistence on the dash for gas-fired power stations."

Business will cheer the Autumn Statement only if its promises are put into action - John Cridland of the CBI in The Times (£)

George Osborne's electoral battleplan

OSBORNE GEORGE BLUE"Osborne wants to be able to go to the voters in 2015 and tell them four things: first, that Labour borrowed too much before 2010; second, that the coalition has cut the borrowing back to half of the 2010 figure; third, to claim that the borrowing cut has been achieved by targeting those on welfare and the very well off, rather than the not so squeezed middle, whom the government has tried to protect as far as possible; and, fourth, that Labour would increase borrowing again, spend more on welfare and restart the whole miserable cycle. If he can do this, Osborne seems to believe that he may have an election-winning narrative." - Martin Kettle in The Guardian

Newspaper editorial verdicts:

  • "Mr Osborne has played a difficult hand with some considerable skill. And after Ed Balls’s truly atrocious performance yesterday, the Chancellor has proved himself an infinitely safer guardian of our nation’s future than  the alternative." - Daily Mail leader
  • The Sun Says: "After the disasters of Mr Osborne’s earlier “pasty tax” Budget, this was a genuine attempt to be more in tune with ordinary voters. Curbing benefits while lifting more of the low-paid out of tax is a welcome step towards righting the imbalance between work and welfare."
  • The Autumn Statement strikes a difficult balance between what needs to be done and what the public will accept - The Telegraph
  • The Times (£): "George Osborne got the big decisions right yesterday, but the dismal figures he announced still depend on luck"
  • The Independent: "The economy is expected to contract again in the fourth quarter of this year; there are ructions to come over Whitehall job cuts and the squeeze on pensions; and the prospect of Britain losing its triple-A credit rating has far from receded. And that is only the immediate future. Mr Osborne clung on yesterday. But only just."
  • The Guardian can find Thatcher but no Liberal Democrat qualities in the Autumn Statement.

Despite the headlines we are all worse off

"Official figures show that as a result of all the tax, benefit and public spending changes implemented by the Coalition since 2010, the average household will be around £1,140 worse off by 2015, with the top fifth of households £2,370 worse off." - Daily Mail

Some more Autumn Statement detail:

  • 1% benefit cap effectively pays for cancellation of 3p rise in petrol duty - Guardian
  • Osborne attacked for £4bn raid on benefits - The Herald
  • 400,000 more people dragged into the 40% tax band - Guardian
  • Road groups welcome £1.5bn investment but demand more - Guardian
  • 1.1million public sector workers will be axed by 2018 - The Sun
  • "George Osborne humiliated his Liberal Democrat colleagues in the Coalition by dismissing their hopes for a mansion tax" - Daily Mail
  • £2bn gap opens up in MoD budget - FT (£)
  • UN aid pledge will be honoured but less will be delivered than expected - Independent

Welfare squeeze may cause splits in Labour ranks (and was designed to do so)

Miliband Ed ITN"Ed Miliband will have to decide within weeks whether to back new laws sanctioning sweeping cuts to welfare benefits. George Osborne sought to reopen divisions within the Labour Party by announcing that MPs will vote before Christmas on coalition plans to slash £3.7 billion from the welfare budget by 2016. The move is designed to reignite a battle within the Shadow Cabinet over welfare. Blairites have been trying to persuade Mr Miliband to go further in cutting back benefits. Although welfare cuts enjoy broad public support, they remain contentious for Labour." - Times (£)

  • "Labour finds itself in an awkward position on many budgetary specifics. Its ambiguity on welfare, an issue on which it is almost impossible to out-tough the public, allows the government to portray Labour as the party of idlers." - Janan Ganesh in the FT (£)

Ed Balls' response seen as disastrous by the sketch writers

Balls Ed Portrait"Frogmen were last night diving on the wreck of a Westminster coaster, the high-tonnage Ed Balls, after she (okay, technically ‘he’) sank in less than a minute with the possible loss of all on board. The vessel foundered yesterday at the start of the Opposition’s response to the Autumn Statement." - Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail | Michael Deacon in The Telegraph

The Independent's Steve Richards writes that Balls "struggled" yesterday and lacks "populist phrases".

Max Hastings in the Daily Mail describes the Ed Balls recipe as "economic poison": "He has learned nothing from the past, proposing to borrow vastly more money that the country does not have to resurrect New Labour’s disastrous era of fantasy prosperity."

The Government is expected to be heavily criticised in a report into the collapse of the West Coast Mainline train contract - BBC

Gove clashed with MPs yesterday after exam watchdogs rapped his plan to scrap GCSEs - Sun

  • Teachers' salary rises should be based on performance in the classroom, rather than just time served - Patricia Hodgson in The Telegraph

Newspaper editors to back 'most' suggestions proposed by Leveson but reject any role for Ofcom - Guardian

David Cameron backs Nick Boles over house building plans - Telegraph

David Cameron accused of dithering on EU referendum - Express

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"The Conservative leadership appears to be made up of remarkably slow learners when it comes to public hostility towards the EU. The referendum that people demand must offer a quite simple binary choice: in or out. Anything else will quite rightly be seen as an insult to the intelligence of the public." - Express leader

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: Cameron and Boris both want renegotiation not exit --- but both seem ready to give voters an In/Out choice

Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons, criticises John Bercow for failing to wear the 'uniform' of his office - Telegraph

English councils have increased their reserves by £4.5bn over the last five years to almost £13bn, despite cuts to funding - BBC | ConHome's Local government page

Separate Scotland must apply to join EU, warns Brussels - Scotsman

And finally... Michael White focuses on the choice of tie of Osborne, Cameron, Clegg and Alexander

"The deputy prime minister wore a red tie to remind Lib Dem MPs and Labour MPs – to whom he needs to be kinder, just in case they ever form a coalition – that he is a radical deep down. Admittedly, quite deep down after another autumn statement that suggests the back half of the coalition pantomime horse carries the sh*t for the front half, but symbols matter, especially on TV." - Michael White in The Guardian

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