As a Treasury Minister, apprehension always hung heavy in the air on the day before a Budget. Would centrepiece polices come across clearly? Would problems we wanted to downplay loom large? Would the Budget go down well with our MPs, with the media and above all with the public? Today George Osborne has much to be apprehensive about. Four months ago in the Spending Review he insisted that the economy was on the up and so "the savings we need are considerably smaller". This week he's been touring TV studios warning that "the storm clouds are clearly gathering" and that billions of pound of fresh cuts now need to be made.
Last Tuesday night MPs were kept in the House of Commons until 2am, as the government forced through their Housing and Planning Bill in the early hours. Tory Ministers had snuck in more than 60 pages of new legislation at the last minute, including redefining 'affordable housing' to include homes for sale costing up to £450,000, and handing local planning over to private companies. No wonder Ministers are scared of debate on this bad Bill. This Housing Bill will be written up in the history books as evidence of a government that washed its hands of fixing our housing crisis.
In the last years of our time in government, Labour put in the biggest public investment programme in a generation into affordable homes to rent and buy. The Tories' slashed that back, which is why the number of low-cost homes to buy have fallen by 28% since 2010 and the number of homes for social rent fell to their lowest level in over twenty years... Now the challenge is to resist the further huge loss of much-needed affordable homes.
Six months since we lost the general election, and Labour has moved on but cannot lose sight of the hard truth that a large section of the public still doubt our ability to make the right decisions on tax, spend and investment. This was top of voters' concerns last May. Success in the elections next May, and in 2020, depends on getting to grips with it fast.
"Why on earth have you said 'yes'?" one of my close MP friends asked last night. Here's my answer. Jeremy Corbyn's win was overwhelming. He was properly nominated - by us as Labour MPs - and emphatically elected by more than 420,000 members and supporters. He is our new Labour leader. End of story. Respect for the result, means MPs need good reasons not to serve. And arguably the responsibility is greater on those of us who backed a different candidate to respond to Jeremy Corbyn's pledge to be "broad and inclusive" and a leader who "welcomes debate and wider involvement".
A backbench motion to outlaw so-called "Pilgrims" - taxpayer funded representatives from the trades unions - has been defeated in the Commons after La...