After an autumn in which Ed Miliband has made the political weather, the government desperately needed a competent autumn statement that would change the terms of political trade. Today, it looks like they got that.

George Osborne avoided trying to be too clever by half on the cost of living and instead stuck to the big economic picture, the government’s strongest suit. He also avoided any give-aways that would have suggested the fiscsal job was finished and that we were back to politics as usual. That the pension age will rise still further and faster was a potent reminder of how much needs to be done before Britain has an affordably sized state again.

The bonus for Osborne was that Ed Balls’ response was dire. I suspect that it will revive the whole question of whether Labour can win with Balls as shadow Chancellor.

This autumn has been poor for the Tories politically. The economy has grown strongly but Labour’s polling numbers are actually up. This is, in large part, because Ed Miliband has succeeded in reframing the political argument about the economy as one about the cost of living.

But with the energy companies’ announcements of their price increase and the coalition’s response to Miliband’s pledge to freeze prices now done, it’ll be harder to keep the conversation on this topic. If the broader economic debate starts to dominate politics again, then — as Balls’ performance today showed — Labour will struggle.

Tags: Autumn Statement 2013, Ed Balls, UK politics