The headlines in George Osborne’s Autumn Statement are eye-catching.
First, the economy has improved remarkably since the independent Office for Budget Responsibility’s last forecast in March.
Economic growth this year is expected to be almost double what it thought only nine months ago: 1.4 per cent instead of a measly 0.6 per cent.
Forecasts for next year are sharply higher too, 2.5 percent instead of 1.8 percent.
But, in a sign that the country is still ailing, the forecasts for the following three years are actually lower than the March forecast showing that this is cyclical rather than structural growth – jam today means less jam tomorrow.
The budget deficit – the extra borrowing the Government needs to balance the books - will be wiped out by 2017/18 (a year later than he thought in March) but overall national debt will start falling as a proportion of the whole economy a year sooner.
Unemployment is overcast to hit seven percent much sooner than previously thought – in 2015 not 2017.
This matters because the Bank of England has tied interest rates loosely to that number so it means we may see a rise sooner than the Bank had indicated.
This is the first time George Osborne has been able to deliver an upbeat assessment of the economy although he cautioned that there’s still more work to do.
That’s a political message more than anything – "stick with us” is his message, don’t let Labour undo the hard work.
Labour’s main point, made by the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, is that the cost of living is rising under this Government.
Voters face an interesting choice in just 17 months’ time.