THE Tory UK Government spin machine would have us believe it is at last taking action to mitigate the crushing effects of the cost of living crisis … and reading yesterday morning’s headlines you might be fooled into believing them.

The Daily Mail front page was just one “celebration” of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement, which it said included the “biggest tax cuts since 1980s”.

In fact various news stories yesterday added up the grim message that once again we will actually be significantly worse off after Westminster once again turns its back on households struggling to stay afloat in a crisis caused by the UK Parliament’s ineptitude.

Hunt’s “generosity” extends to cutting the rate of National Insurance from 12% to 10%, a move he denied was a “pre-election giveaway”.

In truth you would halve be delusional to believe the Tories have given away anything at all.

READ MORE: Richard Murphy: Why this Autumn Statement is a disaster for Scotland

In fact the £20 billion the National Insurance change is worth compares to £90bn added to the tax burden last year which are about to come into effect. We’ll all be paying 4.5% more in tax as a share of GDP by the end of the 2020s … the highest share in 80 years.

That’s not all. Energy prices will rise by 5% in January, from an average of £1834 a year to £1928. Why? Because energy suppliers’ costs are increasing, and we all know that we can’t have that.

So we’ll all have to go without while the oil companies pocket unimaginable profits it can pass on to bosses and shareholders.

Meanwhile, the rises in pensions and benefits Hunt points to in his Autumn Statement miserably fail to keep with the higher prices being charged for virtually everything we buy.

Hunt may believe the economy as “turned a corner” but we know that fake optimism is just one of the tools in his box of tricks designed to hoodwink voters into believing the Tories have their best interests at heart.

The National: Tory Chancellor Jeremy Hunt

Even the useless “cuts” are being spun as generous enough to prompt speculation the Tories are planning an earlier General Election. Predictions of a May poll have been gaining credence over the last month or so.

It’s difficult to believe there is any argument strong enough to convince voters to allow Rishi Sunak another run in Number 10, although his party’s predilection for dumping leaders makes it far from certain that a Tory election would see the beleaguered Prime Minister remain in post for long.

The chances of Labour taking power are still ranked highly but with every passing week Keir Starmer seems more and more likely to end up self-destructing. His woeful performance on articulating a coherent line on the killings in Gaza is his most abject failure. He shamefully continues to oppose backing a ceasefire while even his own MSPs have supported the Scottish Government in backing one.

READ MORE: Five key points of the Autumn Statement: Is a spring General Election on the cards?

While the crowds marching for a ceasefire grow bigger, Starmer’s election victory must grow less likely. He seems determined to remain out of step with the mood of the country.

The research consultancy Stonehaven on Wednesday published data suggesting that Sunak’s party needs to gain just six points in the polls to deny Labour a majority at the next election. But even so Starmer can surely find other party support to make sure the Tories are booted out.

For these and other reasons I don’t buy the May election theory. I can’t see why the Conservatives will go to almost certain election defeat one minute before they have to.

That means months of more misery as prices rise inexorably and the UK Government sits on its hands. And Scottish voters will surely realise that independence isn’t a side issue in the middle of a cost of living crisis but a central plank in the strategy to recover from it.