This column is sometimes accused of being too downbeat about Britain’s economic prospects. I’ve just been joined in my apparent gloominess by none other than George Osborne.
The UK faces a “dangerous cocktail” of economic risks in a “very challenging world” the Chancellor declared last week. Addressing business leaders in Cardiff, far from talking up the UK’s prospects, Osborne issued a stark warning. “Anyone who thinks that it’s mission accomplished with the British economy is making a grave mistake,” he said.
Keeping up with last week’s Autumn Statement was all about staying upright, with your eyes wide open, in a blizzard of statistics. The numbers come thick and fast.
George Osborne plans to spend an extra £10bn on the NHS by 2020, he told us last Wednesday, while building 400,000 affordable homes. The police budget is protected and, burnishing his “one nation Tory” credentials, the Chancellor channeled further billions into foreign aid – now on course to receive more funding, by the end of this Parliament, than our very own Home Office. Then we had the headline-grabbing “rabbit”, as Osborne stunned the Commons by scrapping most of the controversial cuts to tax credits announced in his July post-election budget – wiping out a £4.4bn saving.