Healthy news masks dark days after election

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There is no such thing as a give-away budget, or a generous autumn statement.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer can only give back, if he feels in the mood, some of the money which belongs to the British taxpayer anyway.

Nevertheless, I can pretty well guarantee that when George Osborne sits down after making his autumn statement in the Commons later this week, he will be acclaimed by deliriously happy order-paper-waving Tory MPs. Osborne seems to have that rare knack of making difficult news sound attractive. And he has already got most people on his side, even before he embarks on his speech, by announcing a £2bn boost to the NHS. But the inescapable fact remains that the deficit, despite the optimistic noises made at the beginning of this Parliament, is still with us in a big way – and judging by the borrowing going on, does not seem to be receding in any significant way. This means that immediately after the general election – at which point voters do not have to be wooed to any great extent – massive new cuts will almost certainly have to be made.

And, whichever party is in power after next May, these cuts will hit people noticeably in the pocket.

But will Mr Osborne have the courage or the candour to admit that in his autumn statement? I wouldn’t put my life savings on it.

It is heartening that David Mellor has now apologised for his disgraceful rant to a London cabbie, and has offered to make a substantial contribution to a cab-drivers’ supported charity, by way of making amends.

But that apology does nothing to lessen the contempt with which some current and ex-political figures regard the rest of us, whether they are in drink or otherwise.

In vino veritas, as the saying goes. Would Mellor have apologised if he had not been caught out? In addition to the volcanic Mellor there is Andrew Mitchell, of Plebgate fame, and Emily Thornberry, the Labour MP who epitomised the champagne socialist by deriding the white van man and the St George’s Cross. I remember years ago, David Mellor, then a raw and barely heard-of junior minister, saying to me his great ambition was to become famous. Well, mission accomplished, with knobs on.

In addition to all this, there are MPs who regard their constituents as “pond life”, although this is a view they naturally do not express in the public domain, so to speak.