Hammond’s speech: Timetables come in, and timetables go out, but the jokes don’t improve
Philip Hammond’s first Conservative Party Conference speech as Chancellor was never going to be a laugh a minute. The MP for Runnyemede was clearly delighted to be giving the speech, and made no attempt to hide his excitement that he is now in the position he thought he was destined to be in since serving as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 2010.
His speech today included plenty of hits on Labour, pulling out the well-used criticisms of Liam Byrne’s “no money left” treasury handover note and recycling anecdotes about Gordon Brown’s divestment of gold reserves. He also picked up on the conflicting messages from the Labour Party Conference between Jermey Corbyn and the former Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie.
In the workman like speech by Hammond , there were plenty of poorly written and delivered jokes. But then the audience weren’t there to be entertained and amused. They were there to learn more about the fiscal plans Hammond has in mind for the UK.
On Sunday, Theresa May had put a new date in our diary for the start of the process of quitting the EU, with Article 50 due to be triggered before the end of March 2017. Therefore, people came to hear Hammond state that he is slowly erasing the 2020 date from George Osborne’s surplus plans.
He announced that the Autumn Statement would see more borrowing, committing £2bn for housing, and £220 million to support innovation and technology. Hammond said "Our economic future must not be defined by Brexit alone”. But it looks like businesses and voters will need to wait longer until we know his full plans for dealing with the deficit, raising our productivity, rebalancing our economy, and rebuilding our infrastructure.
By Henry Groundes-Peace