Lean and mean, or an election bonanza?

George Osborne’s Autumn Statement – the last major set of financial measures to be announced before next year’s general election – got a mixed verdict from the media.

At one extreme, the Guardian called it ‘lean, mean and extreme’, echoed by the Mirror’s claim that all it offered was five more years of austerity. At the other extreme, the Telegraph said the prize of a smaller state was within reach and the Mail hailed the stamp duty changes as a bonanza boost to the property market, though the Times said he had staked the election on a consumer boom fuelled by rising house prices. More forensically, the Financial Times pointed out that it was only the assumption of lower interest rates on still-rising government debt that enabled the Treasury to forecast lower government spending in 2018-19. The Independent said Osborne’s targets to reduce government spending included £30 billion of unspecified cuts. Most commentators said the proposed scale of cuts over the next five years would be extremely hard to deliver.