On Wednesday, it emerged that Britain's top-tier AAA credit rating could be under threat. As the UK economy falls further behind its debt reduction targets - prompting George Osborne to extend his demands for austerity until 2018 - there have been rumblings that the UK could be downgraded by the ratings agencies at the beginning of next year.
Are coalition ministers softening us up for a downgrade? On Wednesday, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said the rating was not the "be-all and end-all" for the British economy; this morning, on the Today programme, the chancellor said it was only one of many indicators that the economy should be judged on.
But here's a quick timeline of Osborne quotes, showing just how much importance he used to place on our triple-A credit rating:
One year before the election, when the rating agency Standard and Poor's were pondering over the the future of the UK's AAA credit rating, under the Labour chancellor Alistair Darling, Osborne claimed the UK's economic reputation was on the line:
"It's now clear that Britain's economic reputation is on the line at the next general election, another reason for bringing the date forward and having that election now".
The Conservative 2010 Election Manifesto
In his party's election manifesto, (which you can read here: pdf) the Tories placed maintaining the credit rating atop their list of economic 'Benchmarks for Britain'.
The pre-amble to these key plans? That "the British people will have eight clear and transparent benchmarks against which they can judge the economic success or failure of the next government. We will be accountable and open."
The manifesto read:
"We will safeguard Britain’s credit rating with a credible plan to eliminate the bulk of the structural deficit over a Parliament..."
Taking oral questions before the Commons in December 2011, Osborne defended his economic policy by praising the UK as the only Western economy to improve its credit rating:
"The UK is the only Western country that has seen an improvement in its credit rating in the past 18 months. When this government came to office, the country’s triple A credit rating was on negative watch, which is where it was put by the Labour party. I am delighted that it came off negative watch, but we must stay vigilant. The credit rating agencies have said that an abandonment of our deficit plan would definitely lead to a downgrade of the credit rating."
Appearing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Osborne took a credit rating warning as a sign that he needed to soldier on with his plans:
"It's yet another reminder Britain doesn't have some easy route out of the economic problems that have accumulated over the past decade, it's got to confront those problems head-on and that's precisely what I intend to do."
This July, Osborne hailed Britain's AAA rating as:
"A reminder that despite the economic problems we face, the world has confidence that we are dealing with them".
And on Thursday, the chancellor summed up his view on any potential downgrade, telling BBC Breakfast:
"It wouldn't be a good thing but the credit rating is one of a number of ways in which people look at countries".