1 Dec 2014

Couple of surprises’ up Osborne’s sleeve for autumn statement

Tory MPs have been telling me they suspect the chancellor’s getting all his infrastructure and NHS spending news out of the way early because he’s given up on getting a hearing for good news on Wednesday.

Their gloomy thinking runs that the OBR figures showing increased borrowing to cover disappointing tax revenues will be the central story of Wednesday.

Well it might, but it won’t be the whole story if George Osborne can help it.

I’m told he still has “a couple of surprises up his sleeve” for the autumn statement which Whitehall sources say they’re hoping could get 50 per cent of the coverage on the day.

Announcing the NHS spending three days earlier was a way of making sure that got a whole news story to itself.

Tomorrow is meant to be Danny Alexander’s day in the sun announcing spending on energy, flood defences and housing whereas today the PM and the DPM tail-gated each other chasing down the A303 to see who could be photographed by Stonehenge first.

It sounds like the overall package on Wednesday could be a slight fiscal tightening which would match the message the chancellor still wants centre-stage: the job’s not done and you mustn’t relax and think you can change tack.

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