The last leaves are falling from the trees but George Osborne will be pointing to the green shoots on Thursday in his Autumn Statement.


If there is going to be a turning point for this awkward coalition government, this should be it. Apart from that sunny day in the Downing Street rose garden when the two posh boys (as I called them at the time) did the coalition deal, we have lived through unremitting economic gloom. Business investment dried up, the banks went into their shell, wages were frozen, interest rates went to zero. Only inflation seemed to go up.


Now at last the economic indicators are looking up and the North of England will be hoping for some sensible decisions from George Osborne to help our part of the world. Although places like Liverpool have shown more resilience than in the past, the North has suffered under the ConLibs particularly in the haemorrhaging of public sector jobs and the popular squeeze on benefits.


Unemployment has actually been slightly rising this autumn in the North West and the squeeze on living standards continues as the controversy continues over zero hours contracts. Youth and graduate unemployment remains a real problem in the North and the shortage of new houses remains.


So why might this be a turning point for the government. Simply because it looks as if the Chancellor will have all the economic indicators pointing in the right direction for the election in 2015. The news on headline growth and the deficit will be good. Economists are forecasting the following growth figures: 2013 1.6%, 2014 2.3%, 2015 2.5%.


Its expected George Osborne will revise down unemployment and inflation figures. There may even be expectations of real wage growth. We’ll then have to wait to see if there is aresponse in terms of business investment.


The Chancellor is likely to make much of new figures showing a reduction in public borrowing forecasts, perhaps down to £80bn by 2015/16.


Sweeteners for the voters will follow the already announced free school meals and marriage tax breaks. Petrol prices are likely to be held down again and personal tax allowances are likely to rise.


The headline measure is likely to be the transfer of “the green crap” that the Prime Minister referred to from energy bills to general taxation.


So will Labour be blown out of the water by all this. Ed Balls can no longer entertain us with his flat lining gestures in the Commons. Well not entirely, the living wage issue has been well handled by Mr Ed. The real wage gap from peak remains substantial and GDP per capita in 2015 will be way below the last good Labour year of 2008. Then there is the psychological issue that the Tories fear. If people think the economic pressure is off may they feel they can vote Labour again and get away from all that nasty Tory economic rigour?


The Lib Dems will remain associated with Budgets and Autumn Statements right up to the election but we will increasingly hear from them the message that they prevented even more vicious cuts from the Tories and lifted millions out of paying tax which, they claim, was not a Conservative priority.


After his statement, the Chancellor will pray that the polls will start turning like the economic indicators. Realistically all the Tories can hope for is to be the largest party in 2015. However if the voters want to punish them for three years of misery and forget Gordon Brown’s administration, then they will hand over a repaired economy to Mr Ed.







Why should I let Labour back so soon? That’s the question floating voters will expect an answer to from Brighton next week. We need exciting policies that really differentiates Labour from the Coalition. Perhaps its time for a bit of socialism. For instance take the bedroom tax or spare room supplement. Labour rail against it, there’s a shortage of smaller houses for the folk affected to go to. So will they promise to scrap it….no.


I don’t think we will be inspired by Brighton. Mr Ed is reported to be frightened of disclosing his hand too soon or of having policy ideas blow up in his face. The problem is that people are beginning to make their minds up about the next election. Some have already concluded that Mr Ed is a bit odd, betrayed his brother or the memory of the last Labour government is too green.


Then there is the modest upturn in the economy. That presents a problem for Labour. The Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls is now being depicted as a prophet of doom who’s been proved wrong and Coalition Ministers are saying there has been gain from the pain. The answer to this in Brighton will be that despite the upturn people are still getting worse off because inflation is ahead of wage rises. Who will win this argument?


It’s not all gloom for Mr Ed. Arguably he helped create the breathing space for an alternative solution to air strikes in relation to Syria’s chemical weapons Also I don’t expect the conference to be derailed by a row with the unions. Mr Ed is on to something in wanting real Labour supporters involved in the party rather than being token ones on union membership lists. Whatever the merits of the issue, a floor fight was averted at the TUC and it surely will be in Brighton.




I’ve been north of the border this week and have got the full force of the Scottish independence debate. With a year to go until this decision is made I went to the old fruit market in Glasgow where my old Radio Manchester colleague Victoria Derbyshire was conducting a debate. She had supporters of both sides and a large number of people undecided because in their heart they want to be free but fear cutting ties with England might hit their living standards.


In the debate broadcast on BBC Radio 5 Live, passions were highest amongst those wanting independence and their indignation about being ruled by Conservatives at Westminster when they are virtually non existent in Scotland was a major cause.




The Business Secretary Vince Cable got a taste for the spotlight when he did that Strictly cameo in 2010. He spent the whole of last week in Glasgow drawing attention to himself. He was going to stay out of the economic debate, then he arrived surrounded by cameras. Then he was rude about the Tories to the consternation of the right of his party, and he finished up saying the Coalition might collapse before the election.


Anyway my time in the Scottish capital was not wasted, so here’s the gossip.


I heard a rumour that the LIVERPOOL ARENA has extracted generous compensation from the Lib Dems following the party’s decision to pull out of their planned conference in the city next autumn because of a clash with the Scottish Referendum…….opinion is divided on whether North West MEP CHRIS DAVIES can hold his seat against the UKIP onslaught in next May’s European elections……HAZEL GROVE Lib Dems are warning party HQ not to interfere if Sir Andrew Stunell stands down and they have to choose a new candidate…..and CLLR BILL WINLOW is enjoying his role as Scrutiny supremo at Lancashire County Council. The Lib Dems are supporting the minority Labour administration and according to Bill he gets first sight of most of the policy ideas.


Now let’s see if Brighton rocks!