5pm LeftWatch: Ed Miliband kept "boring my ear off" and "pestering me for a picture"

4.15pm Local government:

4pm Lord Ashcroft on Comment: My inspirational night as a judge at the “Millies”

3pm WATCH: Let me be 100% clear, says David Cameron, no church or mosque will be forced to hold a gay wedding

2.30pm WATCH: Why are we spending £2 billion on windfarms in Africa? Nigel Farage gives extended interview to BBC Breakfast.

1pm Columnist Andrew Lilico: With £27bn more cuts to find, something's gotta give. Why not the NHS ringfence?

12.30pm ToryDiary: If Cameron lets churches conduct same-sex marriages, what happens to those that refuse?

Screen shot 2012-12-07 at 12.39.46Noon George Osborne wasn't the only Treasury minister who battled with BBC presenters over the Autumn Statement…  "You've really got to get your facts right before you bring me on," Sajid Javid MP told Five Live reporters. Continuing: "I'm shocked. You guys just haven't been briefed."

11am ToryDiary: The voters give their verdict on the economy: The Coalition is rubbish but Labour would be even worse

ToryDiary: The future of the Conservative Party Conference

Columnist Bruce Anderson: In austere times the winning politicians will be the ones who tell the truth

Lord Popat and Shailesh Vara on Comment: Britain found a home for Ugandan Asians

Local government: Pickles warns of new EU rules to cause planning delays

The Deep End: Authoritarian libertarianism may be a contradiction in terms, but it works

Cabinet colleagues tell Osborne that ratings downgrade is inevitable and he should tell voters it will not affect borrowing costsGuardian

  • The economic impact of a downgrade would not be that great – Larry Elliott in The Guardian
  • “It’s not the end of the world to lose the triple-A,” says Jim Leaviss, head of retail fixed interest at M&G Investments. “Unless we have a growth miracle, the UK will probably be downgraded – but there aren’t many large triple-A countries left anyway.” – FT (£)

Osborne still hasn't identified £10 billion of election year cuts…

"Mr Osborne wants to cut spending by £16bn in election year, and his Autumn Statement listed only £6bn of that sum: £3.6bn through a welfare squeeze and £2.4bn in day-to-day Whitehall spending." – FT (£)

…Osborne has kicked cuts into the long grass

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 07.43.26"In the event that the chancellor again decided to spare the NHS, schools and international aid from cuts, the IFS calculated that every other area of spending would have to fall by 16% in inflation-adjusted terms in the three years after the 2015 election." – Guardian

"The Institute for Fiscal Studies said Britain is on course for £7billion of tax rises and another £20billion in welfare cuts and spending reductions after the next election. IFS director Paul Johnson also predicted that pensioner benefits such as free bus passes and television licences, and the winter fuel allowance – which David Cameron has pledged to protect until 2015 – are almost certain to be slashed after the election." – Daily Mail

Fraser Nelson: Osborne often behaves as if he is playing a game of chess with Ed Balls rather than trying to save a country

Nelson Fraser Twitter Pic"Osborne recently observed that Barack Obama was re-elected after years of dismal economic progress, because he succeeded in blaming the other guys for the problems. His implication was that the Conservatives might get away with doing the same in 2015." – Fraser Nelson in The Telegraph

  • Ed Balls was right, concludes Mary Ann Sieghart in The Independent; We should be cutting less.
  • John Redwood doesn't see much austerity: "The OBR forecasts 1.2% growth next year, 2% in 2014, 2.3% in 2015, and higher rates in the following two years. All this could better be described as “gently recovering Britain” rather than “Austerity Britain”."
  • Samuel Brittan says the national budget should be divided into three sections: normal current expenditure; a capital budget; and a stabilisation fund – FT (£)

Frontloaded tax rises is one explanation for Britain's poor growth performance – Allister Heath in City AM

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 07.45.15No 10 director of communications understood to have been told by BBC boss that Today programme's interview of George Osborne 'could have been better handled'

"Downing Street complained to the BBC following the 13-minute encounter on Radio 4’s Today programme because of the ‘unacceptably hostile’ tone of the interview. Mr Davis is said to have been ‘spoken to’ by managers, although the BBC denied he had been reprimanded. Downing Street is thought to have received an apology." – Daily Mail

The Chancellor should give an absolute assurance that the Government will stop targeting the nation’s pension savingsTelegraph leader

Liberal Democrat critics say Nick Clegg was 'outgunned' in negotiations on George Osborne's Autumn StatementIndependent

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 07.46.10

"Vince Cable, the business secretary, has put himself at the helm of a Liberal Democrat backlash over the autumn statement, accusing David Cameron of being frightened off a mansion tax by Tory donors and criticising George Osborne for stigmatising welfare claimants." – Guardian

Andrew Lansley challenges Labour to come up with their own deficit reduction plan

"Andrew Lansley, the Conservative leader of the Commons, challenged
Labour over whether it would back the real-terms cut in benefits. “I heard nothing about how the Labour Party would control borrowing.
Where would the deficit reduction plan from the Labour Party come from? When the welfare upratings Bill comes before the House, will the Opposition vote for it or against it?”" – Quoted in The Telegraph

Moderate earners seen as the only winners…

  • "Those in the upper middle of the income scale will be slightly better off thanks to cuts to fuel duty and income tax;
  • The poorest half of the population will lose from the decision to increase benefit payments by 1 per cent for the next three years. The IFS said this would equate to a 4 per cent cut in real terms;
  • The richest 10th of the population will lose about £8 a week or 0.5 per cent of their net income because of stricter pension tax relief rules and below-inflation increases to the threshold for the higher rate of income tax."

Full report in the Financial Times (£).

> Yesterday's ToryDiary: The squeezed middle are NOT earning over £225,000 a year

Labour says squeeze on benefits will hurt striversBBC

  • Labour refuses to back 1% cap on benefits rises but minister insists the era of the 'generous' welfare state is over – Daily Mail
  • Yvette Cooper said the Chancellor’s 1 per cent cap on maternity pay rises over the next three years will hit women who take time off work after giving birth – The Sun

Polly Toynbee urges Labour to counter the idea of widespread benefits scrounging

Toynbee Polly"To turn the public mood, Labour needs to find its voice and tell
the stories that counteract Daily Mail scrounger anecdotes. For every
cheat claiming disability while running a marathon, there are thousands
of tales of the hard-working and the desperate-to-work queuing at food
banks. Labour MPs' surgeries brim with stories that need to be told, of
families evicted unable to pay soaring rents, of children trapped in
bed-and-breakfast single rooms, of "strivers" sinking through no fault
of their own." – Polly Toynbee in The Guardian

Remembering the liberating vision of William Beveridge Philip Collins in The Times (£)
offers a different perspective: "For too long Labour has been
associated with higher welfare bills when the whole point of Labour —
there’s a clue in the name — is that it should be a party for whom a
huge welfare state is not something of which to be proud."

"The £3.75 billion benefits cut is a trap the Tories have spent the best part of two years preparing. Yet it looks like Labour’s response will be to leap into it with gay abandon. “Osborne wants to pick on people he thinks are work-shy and feckless,” Balls said yesterday. Perhaps. But so does most of the electorate." – Dan Hodges in The Telegraph

Balls yesterday blamed his dire Autumn Statement performance on a childhood stammer and heckling Tory MPsExpress

Balls Ed July 2011"In truth [Ed Balls] has never been able to connect easily with either his
party or the British public for, like the senior Tories he is so fond
of deriding, he comes from a privileged background and
has little experience of the real world.  The son of a distinguished
scientist, he was educated at private school
before going to Oxford and embarking on a life in politics. That
political career may now been doomed thanks to his spectacularly poor
judgment. But the coalition must be hoping he remains in place as
Chancellor, for he is fast becoming Labour’s greatest liability."

> Yesterday's LeftWatch: Balls has a far worse problem than his stammer

Steve Barclay MP welcomes Starbucks' decision to voluntarily pay £20 million more in tax

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 07.50.45"This payment is
more to do with corporate reputation than corporation tax. Companies
have a duty to shareholders to maximise their profits, so it is
difficult for Starbucks to argue that they are making this payment on
tax grounds, rather than to protect their brand identity." – Quoted by The Guardian

The Economist offers reasons to be more upbeat

"The OBR’s forecasts no longer appear rosy. The misery in the euro zone may not end soon, but it may not get much worse either. China’s slowdown already shows signs of ending. America’s economy might be pushing ahead by the spring, if its politicians can avoid driving it off the “fiscal cliff.” A generally brighter global outlook would offer Mr Osborne his best hope of avoiding more bad news in March." – The Economist

Screen Shot 2012-12-07 at 07.57.34Within the OBR forecasts the UK contribution to the EU budget is expected to grow

The Economist leads this week in arguing again EU exit for Britain, decribing it as a "reckless gamble".

West Coast Main Line fiasco could cost taxpayer £50 millionBBC

Eric Pickles becomes first Tory Cabinet minister to publicly support leaving the ECHRSpectator

Lord Heseltine defends his growth report during House of Lords debateScotsman

Prime Minister salutes 'talent and dedication' at Sun Military Awards 2012The Sun

Police commissioners accused of cronyism

"Police and crime commissioners were embroiled in “cronyism” rows last night after appointing close friends to lucrative jobs as their deputies. Sixteen commissioners have appointed deputies on salaries of up to £65,000 without any formal appointments process. The Tory commissioner in Northamptonshire has published plans to hire 17 people, including four assistant commissioners, to help him." – Times (£)

72% of businesses oppose Scottish separationTelegraph

Salmond Alex Blue Tie"In a significant blow to Alex Salmond, José Manuel Barroso confirmed that any part of an existing member state that became an independent country would not inherit membership. Existing treaties “would no longer apply”, he confirmed, meaning Scotland would have to try and negotiate its own opt-out from the single currency and the Schengen free movement agreement. It would also lose the rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher, which is worth around £290 million a year to Scottish taxpayers." – Telegraph

"Nadine Dorries, the Tory MP who appeared on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, has accused journalists of invading her privacy and threatened to call the police if they turn up to her constituency office."Times (£)

And finally… You’ve heard of Girl Power — now here, perhaps, comes Princess Power!

"Of course, it doesn’t really matter what sex Kate’s baby is — any child is wonderful. But after David Cameron scrambles to change succession laws in time, it really would be fitting if we had our first female heir apparent." – Louise Mensch in The Sun


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