Hunt's 'Frozen' sequel has sucked out festive feels

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

There is a lazy and easy rhetoric at play every time a chancellor takes to their feet to deliver a financial statement.

You know what I mean: we've heard many phrases, many times before.

For example, the continuous reminders of "Brown's Borrowing Budget" are nearly 20 years old now; comments about helping the poorest in society while encouraging people to work themselves out of poverty are even older.

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They're the sort of political mantras that, if repeated often enough, bury themselves deep into the voter psyche, like the hero solo 'Let it Go' in Frozen - even if you haven't seen the film, you would recognise the song. 

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's 53-minute-long statement was full of positive, sensible-sounding measures to balance fiscal and monetary policy, and balance growth with shoring up the public purse.

It had many recognisable political mantras that acted as a siren song to voters.

It came across as measured, sensible, thoughtful - certainly more thoughtful and less sensationalist than others in recent years. 

But, as shadow chancellor and trained economist Rachel Reeves said: "What people will be asking themselves today is this: am I and my family better off with the Tories? The answer is no."

Rhetoric vs reality

Let us examine some of the scenes in this Autumn Statement sequel.

One: helping the poorest in society to become "economically active" and boosting universal credit for 600,000 people, while financing the Department of Work and Pensions to "crack down on benefit fraud". 

Good rhetoric, but the reality is that just over 40 per cent of people on universal credit are already in work - and forcing them to work longer hours in low-paid jobs to benefit from the promised 10.1 per cent uprating is a Dickensian move. 

Two: protecting pensioners. No doubt existing pensioners will be pleased the state pension triple lock is being kept. That means a 10.1 per cent uplift from April, set by September's inflation figures. 

But as Hunt declared the government would publish its review into the state pension age next year, how much longer will the current cohort of Gen X and Baby Boomer workers have to remain in work before they qualify for the state pension?

Three: helping those in social housing to cope with rent increases by imposing a cap so they do not have to pay inflation-linked increases. Again, excellent political rhetoric.

The actuality is that with a 5 per cent increase in council tax, a delay of implementation of social care reforms and no movement on personal allowances, those who do not qualify for full or significant council tax exemptions will end up still worse off. 

Four: signifying that the 'broadest shoulders' must bear the highest tax burden, and making the wealthiest pay more tax, sounds like something the average Briton would applaud. Tax the rich! Support the poor!