In case you missed this morning’s Autumn Statement, a summary of George Osborne’s speech can be put as follows: Thanks to the coalition Government, the economy is growing and is in the best shape it has been in for ages, but we’re still cutting spending.
The buzz phrase of the speech was “difficult decisions” but thankfully Osborne and his team have been up to the job. This is a good thing, as there have been a lot of them to take. The phrase is used no less than nine times in a speech that lasted just under 50 minutes.
There have been difficult decisions to make on everything from reducing the budget deficit, ensuring the Government lives within its means and reducing the bill for benefits.
There were “difficult decisions to bring benefit bills down”, “difficult decisions to make sure government lives within its means” and “many difficult decisions to bring that deficit down”. There was even one “very difficult decision” to be taken on the subject of restricting welfare benefits – although what measurement scale is used to tell the difference between a difficult and a very difficult decision is not made clear.
Anyone forced to spend an extra year or two in work before they qualify for the state pension as a result of this morning’s announcement can take some comfort from the fact that this was also a difficult decision for the Chancellor to take.
“This is one of those difficult decisions governments have to take if they’re serious about controlling the public finances,” said Osborne.
The Chancellor will be relieved that the Autumn Statement is out of the way as he will get a few days break from the other type of quandary he has been facing in recent months: the tough choice.
One area to benefit from an increase in state spending is infrastructure. But this is also not a conclusion that the Chancellor has arrived at without laboured consideration.
“That’s involved making tough choices about priorities in spending and sticking to them.”
While it may be apparent that Osborne has been spending most of his time on the difficult decisions, thankfully he hasn’t had to spend too much time making hard choices. There was only one in the speech but it was no doubt made easier by the fact that at stake was nothing less than this country’s economic recovery.
“A responsible recovery, where we don’t pretend we can make this nation better off by writing cheques to ourselves, and instead make the hard choices.”
But if you think it is just the Government that has been facing a tough time recently, Osborne’s speech would have disabused you of that notion.
The public is relentlessly praised for being hard-working – well at least those sections of it who are not receiving the welfare benefits that Osborne and team have just had to make the hard decision to cap. Hard work, whether from businesses or individuals, school pupils or employees crops up some form or other 10 times in the speech.
Economic growth is also “hard-earned” or “hard won” but thanks to those earlier difficult decisions, voters will be reassured the Government “will not squander their efforts”.
And for fans of real Budget clichés, the Chancellor confirmed that “we’re all in it together” and he stated his is determined to “fix the roof when the sun is shining” – provided it is not too difficult, of course.