Phillip Hammond used his Conservative Party Conference speech to land a number of political points on the Labour Party, but he gave few details of any substantial policies which will interest voters seeking inspirational retail offers.
The Chancellor described Labour as “a party taken hostage by a clique of hard left extremist infiltrators, people who despise Britain’s values and talk down our country”, going on to say that Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell had been seen as curious museum pieces “but now the dinosaurs have broken out of their glass cases.”
It felt that Hammond was unleashing a historical lecture of market economics for beginners, and repeatedly referred back to the ideology debates of the 1970s. The speech was without any new policy announcements, as the Party had already briefed the media about the Help to Buy extension and the additional money for transport in the North.
His aim was to stake the Conservative Party’s claim to the centre ground of British politics, but he failed to give any positive solutions to the problems which face the party, businesses, or the wider economy.
Those in the audience from the financial services were left feeling like the Government’s focus is elsewhere, and they are right. Hammond also offered little new detail on Brexit, repeating his preference for a business-friendly departure from the EU, but not going further than the prime minister’s promise of a transition period of “around two years” for businesses to adjust.
The Government is desperate to portray themselves as the safe pair of hands in response to the growing momentum behind Jeremy Corbyn. But the issue of Brexit hangs over them (and the conference itself). It appears to be preventing any major new domestic policy announcements or optimism being launched. And all we are left with so far is the lesson of market capitalism versus socialism from an era long committed to the history books.