“I believe the UK's record budget deficit does pose a serious risk to our recovery.
“It would be damaging if we lost the confidence of the markets through delayed action and saw interest rates have to go up steeply.
“We are going to have to cut our spending and I agree with the 20 leading economists who said we need to start this year. The next government, whatever party that is, must set out a plan to reduce the bulk of the deficit over a Parliament by cutting wasteful spending and must not put off those tough decisions to next year.
“These factors threaten to undermine the confidence of international and UK business, UK consumers and the global financial markets. That could cost jobs and reduce investment in Britain.”
Together with the 20 leading economists’ letter to the Sunday Times, this latest coup suggests that the Tories are winning the intellectual and public debate about cuts. The Tories will be relieved that their conflicting approach to cuts has not discouraged supporters. On the other hand, the recent statements from Branson and the 20 may have been precipitated by the appearance of Osborne trotting merrily behind Darling. On a separate note, Branson has the knack of backing winners, having supported both Thatcher and Blair. Cameron will be praying lightning strikes thrice.