Osborne aims for 'new settlement'

George Osborne

It was indeed a "big" Budget - just as the chancellor said it would be.

It was delivered by a politician with "big ambitions".

George Osborne's stated aim was to create what he called a "new settlement". That's politician's code for re-writing the rules of politics to suit your side.

So it is that he did something rather surprising - slowing and softening spending and welfare cuts now having promised faster and deeper cuts in the run up to the election.

So it is that he adopted a series of Labour policies - a higher re-badged minimum wage, a levy on firms to pay for apprentices, an assault on the tax privilege of so-called non doms.

Read full article Osborne aims for 'new settlement'

George Osborne's 'big' Budget

11 Downing Street

"Big. Very Big". That's how one well-placed insider responded when asked to describe the Budget.

It ought to be. After all, this is the first Conservative budget in almost 20 years. The last was delivered by Ken Clarke in 1996. It has to deliver promises repeated for so long but yet to be delivered, like the cut to inheritance tax.

Read full article George Osborne's 'big' Budget

Door to RAF strikes in Syria opens

RAF Tornado GR4 returning to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus after an armed mission against IS forces in Iraq on 30 September 2014
Image caption The RAF began strikes against IS targets in Iraq last September

The defence secretary will open the door to RAF airstrikes against terrorist targets in Syria in a speech today.

Michael Fallon will tell MPs that a new parliament should consider afresh the case for attacking the forces of Isis or the so-called Islamic State not just in Iraq but in Syria as well.

Read full article Door to RAF strikes in Syria opens

Europe: Cameron accepts treaty delay

David Cameron

The BBC understands that the prime minister has accepted that it may not be possible to change the EU's treaties - the laws on which it is based - before the UK votes in a referendum on whether to stay in or leave the EU.

In recent meetings with fellow European Union leaders David Cameron has argued instead for what officials call an "irreversible lock" and "legally binding" guarantees that at some future date EU law will be changed to accommodate Britain's renegotiation.

Read full article Europe: Cameron accepts treaty delay

Europe: David Cameron’s gift to fellow EU leaders

David Cameron

When you turn up for dinner it's polite to take a gift but when David Cameron shows up in Brussels tonight he won't be bearing flowers or chocolates.

What he'll hand over to his host to share with the 27 other guests is the "British problem". This is the important moment that it becomes the EU's shared problem.

Read full article Europe: David Cameron’s gift to fellow EU leaders

Calais chaos – why it scares the prime minister

David Cameron

If looking at the pictures of young men breaking into lorries watched by helpless lorry drivers, worried onlookers and apparently impotent police officers didn't convince you…

If a late night exclusive handed to The Sun last night about a new immigration "enforcement team" didn't do it …

Read full article Calais chaos – why it scares the prime minister

Benefit cuts - coming soon

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith outside Downing Street
Image caption Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne held a meeting with the prime minister last week

"You identify a million people who you'd like to take £1,000 away from and I'll do it."

That's what a former Tory benefits axeman in the 1990s used to tell fellow MPs who urged him to find an easy £1bn cut from the nation's welfare bills.

Read full article Benefit cuts - coming soon

Labour leadership: Missing - a big idea

Labour leadership hustings


Something was very obviously missing from last night's TV debate between the candidates for Labour leader. It was an election-winning 'Big Idea'.

Read full article Labour leadership: Missing - a big idea

Balancing the books - do we need a new law?

Why pass a law to force yourself to so something you already intend to do? That was my first reaction to the news that the chancellor plans to legislate to oblige him to run a budget surplus in "normal times" - in other words to raise more in tax than he spends when the economy's not in recession.

So, is this announcement pure politics? After all, George Osborne knows that the first rule of political strategy is to "define your opponent before they can define themselves".

Read full article Balancing the books - do we need a new law?