When George Osborne stands up next week to deliver the autumn statement, he’ll have some good news to deliver. Not only is autumn, the dreariest of the British seasons over, but borrowing has come in lower than expected and the OBR will upgrade the growth forecasts.
But the return of growth, as I say in the magazine this week, poses a strategic dilemma for Osborne. If he declares the economic emergency over, the public might conclude it was safe to turn back to Labour. But equally he has to show voters that he’s sharing the proceeds of growth.
I suspect that Osborne will steer clear of too many sweetners. They’ll be the coalition answer to Ed Miliband on energy bills, moving various green levies off energy bills and onto general taxation and pruning back others, which they hope will stops bills going up next year—which should reduce the appeal of Miliband’s price freeze pledge. They’ll almost certainly be action on business rates, the main ask of both Tory MPs and business groups.
But fuel duty might be the headline grabber. Osborne has already pledged to freeze it and there is a growing expectation that he’ll go further than that.