Well I never! I’m always surprised by the twists and turns in politics. Sitting in the Commons listening to George Osborne’s Autumn Statement this week, I never expected such a confident tour de force by the Chancellor or that the Shadow Chancellor in his response, would quote Mao’s Little Red Book!
Politics and especially these big set piece occasions, are often about expectation management - not least amongst the media.
Labour’s response was pitiful and they fell even lower in my estimation, if that’s possible, with a rambling, incoherent and policy free rant by John McDonnell, whilst as expected, George Osborne confounded predictions of having his back against the wall delivering a statement that would be gloomy and downbeat. It was anything but.
By contrast, McDonnell promised more debt, borrowing, nationalisation and printing money to finance a phoney boom.
So what matters to Peterborough people? I’m glad that the working tax credit cuts were cancelled, as I with other Conservative MPs had lobbied the Treasury hard to ameliorate the “cliff edge” impact on many working families. My party are the party of working folk who want to get on or we’re nothing. Labour campaigning arm 38 Degrees wasted their (trades union) money on a gimmicky poster in the city centre this week. It was always going to happen.
I especially welcome ring fenced money for the challenges of a growing social care bill for local councils like Peterborough - to raise and spend a dedicated precept - and more money for focused mental health provision and women’s health issues, as well as the commitment to protect Cambridgeshire’s police budget. Crime has dropped by a quarter locally over the last ten years but we need to keep the focus on frontline community policing.
The Chancellor announced an extra £10 billion for the NHS by 2020, funding for childcare for working families of 3 and 4 year olds, the schools budget protected and an apprenticeship levy to deliver 3 million new apprenticeships. At the other end of the age scale, Mr Osborne committed to the biggest real terms rise in pensions in 15 years. I was personally delighted at the historic commitment to 400,000 new affordable homes in the next five years – including thousands of discounted Starter Homes. Peterborough has led the way in housebuilding in the last few years but we have to do more to tackle the housing crisis and need to refocus our strategy on building fewer homes for the welfare dependent with no link to the city and more for hard working young people with strong family links in Peterborough and this we’ll deliver, not least to attract new jobs and businesses to our area.
Since 2010, this Government has presided over an employment miracle: record numbers of new (full time) jobs, unemployment in the city is at an eight year low and youth joblessness has been slashed by two thirds and across the UK, we have the fastest economic growth in Europe but we still haven’t yet fully delivered the aim of a low welfare, high wage economy and we still have tough choices to make.
That said, this week’s Autumn Statement was a great start.
Response posted by 38 Degrees:
Stewart Jackson writes that the campaigning group 38 Degrees was a ‘Labour campaigning arm’ and funded by trade unions. This is untrue. 38 Degrees is politically independent and funded by small donations from members of the public. You can see its accounts here: https://home.38degrees.org.uk/about/donation-policy/