George Osborne was in good spirits when he turned up to address the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers. He received a warm reception. The sense was that the autumn statement had avoided the last Budget’s mistakes. As one senior Tory MP said to me afterwards, ‘it shows what he can do when he puts his mind to the job.’ This backhanded compliment sums up the mood among Tories tonight.
In his speech, Osborne stressed the importance of cancelling the 3p rise in fuel duty. He told them that they should tell voters that this shows that the government understands how hard family budgets are being squeezed right now and is trying to help.
Tory MPs are also pleased with the politics of a Commons vote on limiting the increases in working age benefits to 1% for the next three years. They are convinced that if Labour oppose this move, it will help the Tories win votes.
Take today’s statement alongside Cameron’s sure-footed response to Leveson and one can make the case that the Tory leadership is showing grip at the moment.