05/12/2013 03:11 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Mehdi's Morning Memo: Autumn Statement Day

George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, listens during a meeting with leading U.K. scientists at No. 11 Downing Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Prime Minister David Cameron voiced his support for Osborne, praising their relationship before tomorrow's Autumn Statement that's set to highlight Britain's strengthening recovery. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Bloomberg via Getty Images
George Osborne, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, listens during a meeting with leading U.K. scientists at No. 11 Downing Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013. Prime Minister David Cameron voiced his support for Osborne, praising their relationship before tomorrow's Autumn Statement that's set to highlight Britain's strengthening recovery. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The five things you need to know on Thursday 5 September...


The chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne will be delivering his Autumn Statement in the Commons later this morning. There'll be lots of good news for once - positive growth figures, falling unemployment, rising business confidence and the rest.

But most of the papers have gone with a not-so-good news story on their front pages. 'We're all in this together,' Osborne's one-time pro-austerity mantra, has now been translated into: 'We're all going to have to work longer.' Well, those of us in our 40s or younger, it seems.

"Work until you're 70," is the splash headline on the front of the Independent."State pension? Not till you're 70," announces the Guardian splash. The Times goes with: "Work until you are 70, Osborne tells young." "Millions of under-50s forced to work longer for a pension," is the Telegraph's front page headline.

The Guardian explains:

"Young people currently entering the workforce will have to wait until they are 70 before they can retire under plans to save £500bn over the next 50 years, George Osborne will signal on Thursday.

"The chancellor will also use his autumn statement to demand £1bn in additional spending cuts in the hope that voters will focus on Britain's 'responsible recovery' – the healthy economic growth prospects for next year, slowly restoring public finances and measures to cut youth unemployment.

"In potentially one of the most far-reaching reforms since the introduction of the state pension in 1908, Osborne will say the pension age for men and women will rise to 70 by the 2060s under a new formula linked to average life expectancy. This means that people born in the 1990s, who are now entering the workforce, will have to work until at least the Biblical life expectancy of three score and ten."

It's worth pointing out that raising the retirement age won't necessarily hurt middle-class professionals, in white collar jobs, but will hurt manual workers, who tend to have greater health issues and tend, on average, to die three years younger than their non-manual counterparts. As the Guardian leader notes: "[T]hose who aren't fit enough to work in their late 60s will be marooned on increasingly tight benefits, while poorer groups with below-average life expectancy can expect, unfairly, fewer years on a pension."

Austerity, meanwhile, is far from over. Osborne will tell his fellow ministers to keep cutting - the Telegraph reports:

"Whitehall departments face £1billion of cuts every year until 2016 as George Osborne extends his squeeze on public spending.

"The Chancellor has told Cabinet colleagues that slashing central government spending is the best way forward.

"The continued pressure on departmental budgets could lead to more Civil Service job losses in Whitehall. A similar announcement last year led to a wave of redundancies."

However, health, schools, aid, local government, HMRC and the security services will be exempt from these reductions - which basically means even bigger cuts for every other non-exempted department.

The FT, in its splash story, says the chancellor "will proclaim today that a budget surplus is in sight for the first time since the millennium, raising Tory hopes of significant tax cuts in the next parliament after nearly a decade of austerity" but adds: "The strong rebound [in growth] will feed through into big cuts in the OBR's forecasts for government borrowing, although most of the improvements in the public finances may be deemed cyclical, rather than reflecting a reduction in the underlying structural deficit".

On a related note, I've put together a list of 'the seven numbers' you probably won't hear Osborne mention in his Statement today - including '500,000', the number of people who've used food banks in the past year.

Oh, and it's worth checking out the new ComRes/ITV poll - just 15% of voters think their personal financial situation has got better in the past three months.


As Osborne stands to give his Autumn Statement, we may see Nick Clegg and Michael Gove come to blows behind him, on the front bench, over education spending figures. The briefing and counter-briefing between the Lib Dem deputy prime minister and the Tory education secretary has become pretty vicious. From the Huffington Post:

"The Liberal Democrats have accused Michael Gove's department of "lying" and "talking bollocks" as a furious turf war erupted within the coalition government.

"At stake is how Clegg's flagship promise of free school meals for every five to seven year-old... the Department for Education are understood to have briefed reporters that the Deputy Prime Minister was possibly planning to raid an extra places fund to pay for the move - then dismissed claims unspent cash was available to cover the cost.

"In a brutal counter-briefing senior Liberal Democrat sources accused the DfE of lying, going rogue, being hostile and 'talking bollocks'.

"Downing Street then made clear that it was Tory Gove's department that was out of line.

"'The position is absolutely the one the DPM's office have set out,' the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

The former Lib Dem cabinet minister Michael Moore, who was sacked as Scottish Secretary in the last reshuffle, has been speaking to my colleague Ned Simons:

"In an interview with The Huffington Post UK on the eve of today's Autumn Statement, Moore said: "We've seen over the last few months the beginnings of an economic recovery. But it's patchy. It's patchy in geography terms. In bits of London and the south of England it's much more obvious that this is happening."

"... He said it was 'thanks to us [Lib Dems]' that any economic recovery would been underpinned by investment in infrastructure and reform of the banking sector.

"The comments echo those made by Nick Clegg, who told the Commons on Wednesday: 'Without the Liberal Democrats there wouldn't be a recovery.'"


The Home Secretary wants to crackdown even further on migrants - from the Telegraph:

"Britain should be able to cap the number of EU immigrants it takes in, Theresa May will tell European ministers today.

"Amid widespread concern about the impact of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration, the Home Secretary will insist that individual countries should be able to limit those arriving from the Continent under European Union "free movement" rules.

"Ministers are currently powerless to stop immigrants from established EU countries and can restrict citizens of new EU member states for only seven years."


Watch this video of babies giggling at cats. You know you want to.


From the BBC:

A peer has been accused by a charity of misappropriating more than £600,000 of its funds while he was in charge, the BBC's Newsnight programme has learnt.

Lord Bhatia, a crossbencher, is accused of funding his own lifestyle with Ethnic Minority Foundation (EMF) money.

The peer, 81, was suspended from the Lords in 2010 after wrongly claiming thousands of pounds in allowances.

The BBC report adds:

"Lord Bhatia is suing for unfair dismissal, and has launched separate proceedings against EMF to recover more than £250,000 that he says he loaned to the charity."


From the Mirror:

"A Labour MP has revealed he is being treated for depression and hopes his openness will help end the stigma surrounding mental illness.

"John Woodcock said he was taking anti-depressants to deal with 'black moods' exacerbated by the slow pace of recovery from an accident last year which forced him to quit the shadow cabinet.

"But he said he believed he was still doing a 'decent job' representing his constituents in Barrow and Furness and hoped it would not be considered a 'big deal' by voters.

"Ed Miliband hailed the MP's 'brave article' - posted on The Guardian website - and sent his 'thoughts and best wishes' to the former Gordon Brown aide."


'Hasn’t the acting Prime Minister been outstanding today? Anyone listening on the radio would have thought it was my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney [David Cameron] at the Dispatch Box. I think that the right hon. Gentleman is turning into a Tory..." - Tory backbencher Peter Bone lavishes some surprise praise on Nick Clegg at PMQs yesterday


From the Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 40

Conservatives 34

Ukip 10

Lib Dems 10

That would give Labour a majority of 78.


Martin Kettle, writing in the Guardian, says: "The autumn statement is a political ritual without economic relevance."

Peter Oborne, writing in the Telegraph, says: "George Osborne has given the Tories a working plan for victory."

Tim Montgomerie, writing in the Times, says: "Britain no longer needs to envy Germany."

Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol