The Autumn Statement is one of the great parliamentary occasions. The Chancellor reports back on the state of the country’s finances and on whether or not the predictions he made in the budget earlier in the year are working.
Last week’s statement proved no exception and was given extra drama by the decision to try to spring a surprise. George Osborne clearly planned to set a trap for the Opposition and held back his announcement until the end.
When it came, the changes to Stamp Duty proved not just to be a variation of the rate but an overhaul of the system. Far from proving a trap the Opposition supported the move, not least because it sits alongside our commitment to a ‘mansion tax’ to raise much needed extra money for the NHS.
Using the Autumn Statement to put the economy back at the heart of political debate itself carries risk.
True it allows the government to talk about the improvements it believes are happening. It also draws attention to broken promises.
Also, borrowing £219bn more than planned is, for the government, an unwelcome contribution to the debate about balancing the books.
The key question will not just be whether voters are better off by the middle of 2015 but do they feel better off.
As this is my last column before Christmas, may I thank all those who do so much for our community and wish you all a Happy Christmas.