Peter Hoskin

Counting down to the spending review

Counting down to the spending review
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Only one week to go, folks, until the main event itself: the Comprehensive Spending Review. And judging by this morning's papers, the Treasury have almost settled on their final acts. Only the welfare, eduction and defence budgets have any significant question marks hanging over them.

Those question marks, though, are fading fast. A story in this morning's Times (£) reports that David Cameron has endorsed the building of two aircraft carriers, but has decided to delay the Trident upgrade until after 2015. No, strictly speaking, he's not going back on this. Rather, the idea is that the coalition will keep on working towards a replacement for Trident between now and the next election – but will hold back from signing the very final contracts until five years hence. In theory, this means that the next government could row back on the upgrade.

Whether you agree with them or not, neither of the decisions do much to dampen speculation that the defence cuts are more about politics than security. Scrapping the aircraft carriers – which are already under construction – would have been a difficult sell in the face of headlines about job losses. And delaying the Trident upgrade always looked the easiest method for breaking one of the coalition's most stubborn knots. This is one of the few areas, so far, where a majority government might have concocted a more definite, surefooted answer.

And with the austerity comes the dismay. The Sun reports that defence chiefs are spitting bullets over the scale of the cuts faced by the MoD. And, last night, Air Chief Marshal Timothy Anderson warned that cuts to the airforce would make us "unable to respond effectively to a 9/11-style terrorist attack from the air". Yet this is merely the prelude to the theatre we can expect to witness next week. Brace yourselves.