AUTUMN STATEMENT SKETCH FROM THE GALLERY: Tories marvel at shrewd political operator - and even Ed Miliband smiled

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne delivers his Autumn Statement to MPs in the House of Commons. PA Wire - Credit: PA

The Chancellor is an old hand at these set piece events.

As he trotted off with the same old messages about how he had inherited a 'Britain on the brink', and repeated the Prime Minister's warning that there were 'warning lights flashing over the global economy', he could have been having a pint in the pub as he slouched, left arm resting on the despatch box.

The frantic arm signals from Ed Balls - a palm to the Chancellor to show that he believes that wages have stalled - were deftly ignored by the seasoned pro.

But it was not long before Osborne briefly stood up straight, in his most school-masterly, near condescending tone, he slowly delivered what he spun as better-than-expected news on the economy.

Barely masking his smugness he told the House of Commons, but mainly Mr Balls: 'the deficit is falling this year and every year'.


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'And not only that, but in the final four years of the forecast, borrowing is actually lower than predicted,' he boasted.

Balls ceased the hand signals. Scribbling on his notes and frantically getting involved in a text message exchange, he was, I suspect, trying to find out where the hole in that statement was.

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Behind George Osborne, the Prime Minister invoked the spirit of the Churchill - at least the insurance advert nodding dog - easing his head up and down in agreement.

And the Tory troops were, as usual, in full jeering mode.

Whipped up by the whips.

The Tory festivities begun at Prime Minister's questions in the preceding half hour. Norfolk MP Richard Bacon set the tone with a rather surreal question on the Norwich Research Park, cuckoos and the long term economic plans to the delight of his colleagues. One wondered if he had been honouring a bet.

Even Ed Miliband smiled at one point during the 90 minute marathon.

The Labour leader threw his head back in exaggerated laughter as George Osborne, when explaining details of a tax credit for the creative industry, repeated the old joke he has even made against himself likening him to the plasticine animation star of the Wrong Trousers, Wallace.

'The man behind Wallace's voice has retired. But after next May I am sure the whole House will unite behind a suitable and, by then, available candidate,' Mr Osborne said, and the audience reacted.

Even Ed Balls managed to smile through gritted teeth. And Nick Clegg was not there to enjoy the fun. He was out meeting 'real' people, his spinner told us.

From comedian to magician, those attending a lunchtime budget (or mini-budget) with George can usually expect a rabbit out of the hat.

He didn't disappoint.

In the press gallery journalists started scribbling and tweeting frantically. On the Tory benches the troops did not even have to be whipped up by the whips.

The Chancellor was announcing what will effectively lead to a house price boom with a stamp duty bonanza, for some.

The Labour mansion tax fox has been shot - they believed.

Tory order papers were being waved as they marvelled at a feat of electioneering.

Then many Conservative, and Liberal Democrat MPs, wandered off hoping it would not descend into omnishambles.

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