Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Autumn Statement gloom.....

I never look forward to George Osborne getting up on his feet in the House of Commons. It's not entirely his fault, and I do know that he's not getting to give the statement that he would like to because Liberal Democrats won't let him, but the economy is still incredibly fragile and there's every chance of a triple dip recession. 

We know that Osborne would love to taking Housing Benefit from under 25s, or restricting benefits to large families. He won't be doing these things because Nick Clegg has put his foot down. That doesn't mean, though, that I'm going to like everything Osborne is going to come out with. 

Stephen Williams MP emailed Lib Dem members last night and his message was one of compromise which smacked of us being prepared for things we don't like. Williams said:

I can’t yet reveal to you the contents of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

But I do want to share with you the context in which the discussions around the statement have taken place.

Both parties in the Coalition agree that delivering a strong economy and growth is the top priority right now. 

We also agree that Britain needs to balance its books so we don’t saddle future generations with a debilitating national debt.

But it’s no secret that when it comes to balancing the books, the Liberal Democrats have different instincts to most Conservatives.

Let’s be clear, there will be some difficult decisions in tomorrow’s statement. That would be the case no matter which party was running the country right now.

Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander have been negotiating hard with David Cameron and George Osborne to get the best possible deal for ordinary families across Britain.

Tomorrow we will see the results of those negotiations and the compromises they reached in the Autumn Statement.

Our key objective was to ensure the burden of clearing up Labour’s mess is shared fairly. Everyone needs to make a fair contribution, and that must include the richest too.

Whether they have done enough remains to be seen. I really will be furious if benefits aren't raised in line with inflation, for example. I also want to see more measures put on the wealthiest, individuals and companies, to ensure that they pay their fair share.

While Williams' email unsettled me a bit, Tim Farron was a bit more reassuring when he spoke to BBC News this morning.

He talked about our "battle with the Tories" to make sure that those on the lowest incomes are protected. He said that the figures today weren't going to be  glorious but it was important not to over-react in either direction, demanding either deeper austerity or an end to austerity. He said that economically the things that matter moving, if slowly, in the right direction in that we have low interest rates and falling unemployment.

He said there was a need for demand led measures which matter to people - like building schools, and he hoped to see some today. That's been trailed in the media so I suspect that he's on a safe bet there. I doubt he'd allude to something that definitely wasn't going to happen. Tim does not like to disappoint.

We'll know in an hour or so exactly what we're looking at. I'm not expecting to hear anything that lifts my mood, though.

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