The Chancellor is right to argue that debt will have to be reduced. There is no definitive answer to the question of the optimal level of debt, but debt in the UK has doubled since the onset of the financial crisis and, as a result, it would be harder to respond to a future severe downturn in economic activity through an easing of fiscal policy. Debt needs to be reduced to create room for it to be increased again if needed.
Despite the political rhetoric, if current economic policies continue broadly as they are, the UK economy does not have a bright future. In my view, and that of many others, our economy has at least five big problems. These major challenges will end the current upturn probably shortly after the 2015 general election, no matter who wins.
More is it at stake than immediate political positioning. The agendas adopted now will define the policy space for most of the next parliament... Perhaps the present consensus on the haste of deficit reduction is deserving of greater scrutiny than is currently afforded by much of the UK's political class.
In 2013, the government deficit, according to the latest available Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, was £92.9billion, which was 5.8% of GDP. All our major political parties are fixated on getting this deficit down by cutting expenditure and raising taxes. But should they be quite so determined to do so? Is austerity really the best way to cut the deficit?
Miliband is certainly an intellectual full of ideas and a clever strategist. But Osborne has proved himself to be an equally powerful intellectual, better at gaming strategy. Labour could outwit Tory strategists. Instead of fielding Miliband in a 'presidential style' election, it could play the party instead as a collegium.
Pension relief is one of the most common (and government-sanctioned ways) to avoid tax. Limiting it (especially if other exemptions and loopholes were also altered) could lead to further knock on gains for the public purse as higher earners find fewer simple ways to avoid taxation at their disposal.
In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor is claiming vindication for his economic strategy, saying that it has put Britain back on the road to economic recovery. However, while it does appear to be the case that the economy is recovering again, this is in spite of his economic policies, not because of them.
George Osborne's speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester dealt with themes we have come to expect from him: an emphasis on fiscal discipline and assurances that he is on the side of aspirational, "hard-working" people the length of the country. There were, however, also features we haven't heard before...