Autumn Statement Panned on Inside Pages

Look only at the front pages and you would think Osborne’s Autumn Statement had been met with almost universal approval. Delve inside and the analysis is very different. The Telegraph’s business team in particular are scathing, with Ambrose Evans-Pritchard calling for “a change of course”:

“For sheer brass, it is hard to beat the mellifluous assertions of the Chancellor. “We do not shy away from the problems that remain unresolved in the British economy,” he began. From there George Osborne escalated to an outlandish claim. “Out of the red and into the black for the first time in a generation, a country that inspires confidence around the world because it seeks to live within its means.” This comes a day after Société Générale said the UK “cannot compete”, is on an “unsustainable” course and has carried out “zero structural reform” – a view held to varying degrees by a great number of economists around the world. Britain has a current account deficit of 5.2pc of GDP, in spite of the post-Lehman devaluation. It is the worst of any major country, and just about the worst in our peacetime history. The Office for Budget Responsibility has now raised its estimate of the likely deficit by 1.5pc of GDP annually to 2018. It is becoming entrenched. This is prima facie evidence that we are not in fact living within our means.”

Allister Heath meanwhile condemns the new wealth tax on homes:

“this improvement [to stamp duty] has been ruined by the fact that George Osborne has conceded the philosophical ground to the property and wealth-hating Left and turned stamp duty into a horrendously graduated tax. People with more expensive homes will pay cripplingly large amounts to the Exchequer for the privilege of buying a home, a move which is bad on all levels. The top marginal tax rate will hit 12pc; time and again, it seems, the Government adopts Labour or Scottish National Party policies. For decades, property transactions were rightly barely taxed; now they are a milch cow.”

And Jeremy Warner isn’t exactly impressed:

“Listening to the Chancellor’s statement, the overriding sense was of déjà vu. Rewind five years, and almost exactly the same things were being said. There was George Osborne announcing plans to close the Budget deficit within the five year lifespan of a single parliament. There was his then Labour opponent, Alistair Darling, saying it couldn’t be done, would send unemployment rocketing, would destroy the fabric of society, and to boot would undermine growth and therefore prove self-defeating. And here we are again today, listening to much the same script, only with the positions reversed; Mr Osborne has had nearly five years as Chancellor, and Labour is in opposition. It scarcely needs saying that in terms of what the Government said it would do back then, it has failed.”

The Sun’s Pol Ed has a pop:

“It’s also quite a left wing move… what effect will all this have on economy with a new housing and mortgage debt bubble now possible, you may well ask? Well that’s a problem for after the election, of course.”

As does their City editor:

“For the moment George is still borrowing tens of billions a year to make ends meet. The Government can borrow more easily than families because it sets its own interest rates. But this is still a colossal bet that we will all, somehow, get much richer soon, and be able to pay the debt back. The Chancellor’s failure to cut the deficit as much as he hoped is a black mark against him. Cute ideas about a “Google tax” or a cut to stamp duty on cheaper houses can’t disguise that.”

Osborne will take the splashes, but will hope no one reads too closely inside…




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