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Osborne's Growth Plan Looks Like an Election strategy

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Reactions to Budgets and Autumn Statements tend to be short termist, whilst their implications are long-term. George Osborne was playing the long game in his Autumn Statement, and we should try and see beyond the short term headlines to the 2015 election.

Having seemingly avoided some of the short term bear traps that made his last Budget into an omnishambles - and subject to what the wonks find in the detail over the next few days - the Chancellor's long game looks to be smart. In fact, it looks very much like a growth plan, and tells us a lot about the emerging Conservative 2015 election strategy.

Ignore austerity

Ignore for now all the stats and arguments about deficits, debt and austerity. They do matter, but don't tell us anything we didn't already know.

What's much more interesting is the attempt to hang an 'Open for Business' sign over the UK's door. Corporation tax cut even further to 21% in 2014, giving the UK the lowest rate of any major western economy (according to the Chancellor). Tax breaks and allowances for small and medium sized businesses, encouraging them to buy more kit to become more productive. Loans and funding to encourage more exports.

No Thatcherite

George Osborne showed he is a believer in state action to stimulate economic growth - this is no Thatcherite budget. However, unlike his opposite number Ed Balls (who, by common consent, had an off-day), Osborne doesn't like to spend our money directly. He'd rather use it to free up businesses to grow - an approach that sits well in ideological terms with his Lib Dem Orange Book colleagues.

But this isn't just a cosy coalition compromise. It's the Conservative 2015 election strategy emerging. Osborne and Cameron want the Tories to be seen to have equipped the UK to "succeed in the global race" by inventing more, making more and exporting more.

Game on

It's a risk because it will annoy a lot of the Tories' natural base, who would prefer radical deregulation and tax cutting to set businesses free - not state action, which is what Osborne is taking. George and Dave have to hope that their middle way creates a sufficiently big feelgood factor by 2015 to win over swing voters.

We'll not know for a while whether their approach can deliver those voters. But what's clear - in case you hadn't noticed during party conference season - the 2015 general election campaign is very much on.