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Autumn Statement: Lots of Blue Meat to Appeal to the Tory Base

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GEORGE
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Well George Osborne has made his clear political choice.

The Autumn Statement contained lots of 'blue meat' designed to appeal to the Tory base.

If you run an SME or indeed are a climate change sceptic you will be very content with the Chancellor's message. If you rely on tax credits or work in the public sector and face several years ahead of below inflation pay agreements - you will not be quite so happy.

The pre-election detoxification of the Tory brand with its focus on the green agenda and public sector friendly messages - typified in the Cameron commitment towards the NHS - is now gone.

Today's statement was about firing up private enterprise and having a message that cuts through the pain of the economic headlines to voters who really do believe in prudence and a smaller state.

Today the government appears much more climate change sceptical - but then the Chancellor listens a lot to the guidance of Lord Lawson - who has made challenging the science on this issue a personal crusade.

The CBI and the Federation of Small Business will be cock a hoop. The unions - the day before the biggest public sector strike in a generation - will certainly not be. Expect today's announcements on future public sector pay awards to tempt many more to down tools tomorrow and in months to come.

This change of tone explains why Education Secretary Michael Gove used the word "militant" to describe striking workers. The ardent Cameroon who has played a vital role in redefining modern conservatism would never have used such words just a few months ago.

And the Lib Dems in the coalition are sticking firmly to the message as well - focusing on the need to ensure deficit reduction continues to create the conditions for low interest rates feeding through to lower personal borrowing costs. But they have nowhere else to go right now.

Much of the statement was leaked - as the Chancellor looked to get ahead of the curve on the media headlines.

The question is - will today's statement allow Cameron to secure a working majority at the next General Election - destined to take place in 2015.

This is the prism which master political strategist George Osborne views everything through.

The need to encourage the private sector is spot on. The need to ensure the public sector does not crowd out free enterprise in many parts of Britain remains the right approach but the current global economic situation makes this a real gamble. Can the private sector create the jobs quickly enough? I just don't know.

The old adage remains true - you win elections from the centre. The Chancellor has to hope that by 2015 - those former public sector workers have been morphed into private sector ones.

If not - and they remain part of a disengaged or dis-incentivised public sector or worse on the dole queue - then the electoral calculus will make it very difficult to see an outright Tory win.

But of course the Chancellor will have thought of that. Won't he?

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