Philip Hammond demonstrated none of the show of his predecessor in setting out the Government’s last Spring Budget, despite the odd quip at Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s expense. The changes announced were largely technical in nature, with no rabbits pulled out of any hats that we have come to expect from today’s parliamentary theatrics.
The Budget was Brexit-lite – MPs may even have been relieved to hear about something else – but the changes to expected borrowing and uprated growth figures were in keeping with recent expectations that forecasts had been overly gloomy. Despite that, he made no effort to spend away the additional revenue the Government expects to accrue, instead promising to guard against overly-rosy expectations that all will be fine through the Brexit negotiations and beyond. Whilst Hammond was robust in his outlining of the better than expected economic figures, he is known to remain concerned about the future.
Nevertheless the Chancellor found £2bn to support social care over the next 3 years, to further knock Labour off their stride. By making this his major policy announcement, Philip Hammond knows he neuters some of the sting the Government is feeling from attacks on Ministers’ handling of the struggling NHS. He also continues to undermine Labour’s central authority by doing deals with Labour local authorities including Corbyn’s putative rival the Mayor of London, who seeks to build a base for himself should the leader of the opposition decide he’s had enough.
But by and large the Chancellor delivered his last Spring Budget with the minimum of fuss, knowing that pride comes before a fall, and fully expecting the coming years to be more wobbly than experts currently predict.
Authored by: Michael Stott